Cryptic Studios' Champions Online has been free to play for some time now and has been doing pretty well since the change, especially since Steam's addition of a free to play section that includes the game in its storefront. Yesterday, NCSoft announced that Champions Online's Cryptic-developed predecessor City of Heroes, now wholly owned by the publisher, is joining the ranks of the free to play MMOs later this year.

The game will be rebranded City of Heroes Freedom and promises to "redefine City of Heroes based on the cornerstones of content, rewards and choice."

Similar to how Champions Online now operates, current subscribers to the game will become "VIP members" with full access to all game content as well as a monthly stipend of "Paragon Points" to spend on microtransactions. Said microtransactions will include new costumes, power sets and items to enhance gameplay.

Free to play players are able to work their way right up to the level cap of 50 and are able to create two characters total across all servers, rather than the 12 per server of VIP players. They can also join in "most" of the instanced cooperative and competitive content, though some will be reserved for VIP players. Free players will not, however, be able to use the Alignment Change or Day Job system, nor will they be able to use the excellent user-generated mission Architect system without purchasing the ability to do so. They also won't be able to join Super Groups, use "tells" to send private messages to players, send in-game mail or post on the official forums. They also won't be able to get live customer support, though will still be able to access basic self-help support and knowledge bases.

Players who are former subscribers to play City of Heroes, or those who purchase any amount of Paragon Points, become Premium Players. This gives them slightly less limited access to the game as well as access to any content and items previously purchased or unlocked, including "Veteran Rewards" for being a long-term player.

You can see a full side-by-side comparison of the three different account types here.

No word on a specific release date for Freedom as yet, but watch out for it later this year.