Summary: Tired of killing rats for a living? Is your city infested with evil? Are dark societies putting the squeeze on your neighbourhood? Do supervillains terrorize the local populace? Then you need to check out this preview of City of Heroes and fight those villains at least on the computer! This massively multiplayer hero game is the stuff of life, says Jason McMaster. Stay tuned and find out why, same 'Squad-time, same 'Squad-channel!
City of Heroes is a game based on, well, a city with a lot of heroes. Which sounds like it would be boring, but there are MORE than enough bad guys to fight. Ranging from deranged Nazis to maniacal grave robbers, there is definitely a wide variety of faces to flatten and quite a few scenic spots to do it in. Visit scenic City of Heroes: come for the sights, stay for the two-fisted justice! How do you get there? Let me demonstrate…
You start by making a few simple choices of what background and type of hero you would like to be. There are five choices in each category that each come with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. For instance, my character, Shady Deal, is a Mutant Scrapper who has decent hit points, does a lot of damage, but doesn't have a ranged attack, so no matter what I'm going to be hit by something. Depending on what route you choose, the abilities vary greatly.
The background choices serve mostly to give your character some color. Like me, you could go the route of a Mutant CPA who is out on the street seeking revenge, or possibly a scientist who really doesn't like street thugs. No matter what your background may be, the power sets come from your choice of Archetype.
There are five different Archetypes to choose from and we'll go into some detail about those below, but first a few things to know about them. The Archetypes are what decide what power sets you have access to as well as your hit points/damage output. They also seriously affect your gameplay; this is basically where you would be choosing a class in any other game.
The Archetypes you can choose from are: Blaster, Controller, Defender, Scrapper and Tanker. Among those different Archetypes you can basically divide it a bit more, by pointing out the offensive and defensive heroes. We'll start with the offensive heroes.
The Controller is a sort of unique character as in that he uses mind control as well as a few other interesting powers to combat evil, a la Professor X. He doesn't have many attacks, but he can immobilize and mess with enemies in many different ways. Defenders sit in the back and buff the team as well as taking pot shots at villains from afar. He isn't as useful in combat as the offensive characters, but he has a better attack than the controller.
Once you get your Archetype, you then move onto the power tree. You can choose from many different power types ranging from Negative Energy to Guns, all of which give you a couple of low level powers to start with. You have the choice of a primary and secondary power tree, allowing for a greater level of customization.
After choosing powers you move on to picking what body type you want, as in Male, Female or Huge. After choosing your type and adjusting your weight you can then start using what has to be one of the most addictive steps in character creation history: Costume Creation.
I've never seen a game that gives you this many choices as far as the way your character looks. From what hat you wear to if you're a robot or not, you can customize almost every feature of your character. In fact, I've seen Lion-O wandering the streets, and let me tell you, he's very angry.
When you've created your costume and filled out your ID card (Name, Battle Cry and Description), you're ready to hit the streets. The game gives you the option of entering a tutorial zone to get the basics of how to play, which isn't a bad idea as it not only gives you a quick start it also provides you with some early experience. Once you've finished the tutorial, it's time to hit the streets and meet up with your first contact.
Missions come in different varieties, and more than likely the first one you'll be assigned is a "beat up some thugs in your area” deal. This is, usually, an easy task since you'll want to beat up thugs in your area anyway. Each of the different villain types is associated with a gang or organization of sorts. So say, for instance, that you were assigned to beat up some Hellions, you would just wander around looking for enemies with the
Certain other missions will send you to a very specific place, such as an office building or the sewers. Once you enter the door/grate to where you're going, the game spawns an adventure area for you and your team alone. Though, not a new concept, this has to be the best implementation of it yet. The instanced areas are both interesting and large, but most importantly: they are filled with villains to trounce.
Depending on the mission and your level, some of these areas, by my count, have at least fifty guys in them, and some of them end with having to defeat a boss. A couple of missions I've been on require you to clean out an office building, complete with elevators to several different floors, of bad guys in limited time. Some of the missions in the game can be tackled solo, but it always helps to have a few friends along.
Teams can be formed much in the same way as many other games, but there is a definite advantage to them in this game. The experience level still stays pretty high, and when you bring a team to a mission it seems to up the amount of thugs present. This leads to some of the most satisfying combat in any game, especially a MMORPG.
The enemies in the game are very colorful and interesting. For instance, ever seen a man with a television set on his head? I have, and he tried to kill me. I've been shot by Nazis, vomited upon by zombies and punched in the groin by a few evil mages. Then I started playing City of Heroes! I'll be here all week, don't forget to tip your waitress!
Enhancements are City of Heroes loot. Whenever you vanquish a ruffian, there's a chance that he'll drop an Enhancement which allows you to improve one of your powers. Each power has at least one Enhancement slot. Different powers allow for different types of upgrades. For instance, if you have a long-range attack you could find Enhancements that allow for more damage, accuracy or a smaller usage of your stamina. On top of just having slots, you can combine Enhancements to improve upon those that were previously installed.
Other than Enhancements, villains also drop Inspirations. Inspirations act as a one use self-buff that can be a serious life-saver. Inspirations come in several different forms such as the ability to revive yourself when you fall in battle or increase your attacks damage or to hit rating. They only last a short while, but can mean the difference between winning and losing. And we all know that winning is the most important thing in life. Speaking of winning…
Combat in City of Heroes is amazing. Each of your powers can be bound to a number key for activation and, unlike Everquest, the fighting experience is very fast-paced. Your powers recharge very quickly combined with the different power visual effects make this game not only fun to play but fun to watch. Truly a game fit for a super hero!
Though not as in-depth as a fighting game, the action in City of Heroes is definitely a step above any other MMORPG to date. The sheer amount of thugs that you can engage at once is almost too much to take in. Almost. It's very cool wading into a group of guys with bats and guns and dishing out the justice.
I could go on all day about the different nuances and mechanics of City of Heroes, but it's really something you have to experience to fully appreciate. It's hard to describe a game like this in writing, because some games rely on a hard-set rule system while others rely on atmosphere. City of Heroes is one of the latter.
There's something enchanting about sprinting down a sidewalk, leaping over a fence into a back-alley and putting a stop to a purse-snatching, or running through the broken down streets of the Perez Park area and lunging into the woods of the park to find a coven of baddies performing an arcane ritual in a grove. There's a feeling you get when standing on top of a skyscraper at midnight, looking down upon the city and hoping for a chance to save someone's life. There's definitely nothing like it, and I don't think there will be for some time yet. It's quite an experience.
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