Revisiting City Of Heroes

About the same time I left Everquest II in search of new games to play, I decided to return to an MMO that I started playing back in 2004. Recently City of Heroes, the massive multiplayer online game of super heroes and villains went free to play. It had been almost six years since I last walked the streets of Paragon City and was looking forward to seeing if any of the jazz of the game remained.

Even better for me than returning, I also talked a number of friends into trying the game as well. Since it was free, the other guys had really nothing to lose. Of course, I did have to set up their accounts and even create a few temporary characters to play, but in the end it was well worth it.

The game is very straight forward and easy to play. The graphics have been tweaked over the years, but they still show the age of the engine. What is good about that is any computer even those that are five years old can play the game on near maximum settings.

One of the great jobs of the game is creating a super hero, or if you wish, a super villain. There is also a tertiary subset of characters outlined in an expansion from several years ago called Rogue which softens the edge on good and evil and replaces it with generic good and bad guys called Vigilante and Rogues. Based on a soft alignment system, characters flow between these polar opposites as they do missions.

Characters are broken down into Origins. Origins are Natural, Magic, Science, Mutation, and Technology. As one can tell by the names, the origin simply suggests where the powers of the character originates from. Later in game play, players can find Enhancements devoted to a particular Origin that is better than generic power-ups. That is, if I created a Magic Origin super hero I could only use Magic Enhancements and the others such as Natural, Science, Mutations, and Technology I would need to sell.

A character must also select an Archetype which is similar to a class in generic RPG systems. Just as fantasy games have clerics, warriors, magic users, and thieves, City of Heroes have tanks, blasters, controllers, and defenders. There are subsequent evil names for the same archetypes. Archetypes create a class in which specific powers are granted. Thus, a character is created as a blaster he would not gain the powers of healing, though he could select a third and very weak tier of powers that allows some healing capabilities.

After the Archetype is decided, along with the Origins, the player needs to select a primary  and secondary powers. There are innumerable powers for each archetype and the combinations seem rather open ended. After 4th level the character gains a third and subsequently every 2 levels another chance of selecting a tertiary power set.

Most players will select a super movement power at 4th level, though the longer one plays the game, and subsequent characters are developed one realizes that it is better not to select a super movement power until later. Super Movement can be flying, teleportation, super speed, super jump, or even invisibility.

Tertiary powers also allow the character other sorts of super abilities, such as healing, leadership, and hand to hand fighting.

After the powers are selected is where the real fun of the pregame begins. My friends who decided to play the game after some arm twisting found this portion of character generation the most fun and rewarding. In this portion of the game the player determines how the character looks from sheer size and mass to the minutia of a hundred selection of helmets, capes, gloves, pants, belts, and boots. The combination seems utterly endless and my friends could sit for hours swapping one model for another. In addition, you can change the color of each piece. One can build a unique super hero motif or sadly create a kaleidoscopic nightmare like my friend has done:

After one is completely finishing the looks of the character, adding additional special effects completely tinting in a variation of colors, you start the game.

There are 50 levels to the game, with beginning players start at either first level or 4th level if they complete a minor but aggravating tutorial. Every even level up to 30 gains an additional super power. Odd levels gain additional slots in which players can augment the power with enhancements. Enhancements generally add an additional benefit to the power including such things as a bonus to strike, more damage, less fatigue in using the power, and so forth.

Although the game is more than six years old there is a deep and thriving community of players. Having the game free to play allows for easy access to the core features but long term players will want to get a subscription to the game at a cost of $12 a month. One can play for free easily and never get a subscription, but you are limited to two slots for characters and the inability to trade with other players, or buy or sell things on the market. Not essential, the VIP service as it is called is probably worth the twelve dollars a month.

There is also a cash shop, similar to other games of this sort, where instead of becoming a VIP you can add services and abilities ala carte. Meaning that you can buy the ability to trade for a limited time or open up additional slots for characters for a one time charge. I am going to try this after a couple of months of play because I generally only play two to four characters and have not really used the trading system all that much.

One can group up with other super heroes/villains and go on large missions gaining bonus experience and rare enhancements that are not generally found simply beating up the NPC monsters. Missions are fun and quick, allowing players to avoid the great time sinks that exist in other games.

Aside from that, one can create a super hero/villain organization and construct a special base that can hold innumerable items to help others in the league.

I am thoroughly enjoying myself as a returning player. My friends also enjoy the game too from character generation to playing hours on end. All of us have moved to a VIP status and are constantly making new variations of archetypes with origins.

I have too many characters to list here, but recently I have been playing on the Defiant server with several villains.  I have a 14th level villain called The Butternut Kid, a 10th level defender called Doctor Cloudstuff, a 10th level robotic controller called IQ-9, and a 11th level blaster named the Dinosaur Hunter.  I also have several heroes, with a 38th level Brute called Meganaut and a 28th level blaster called The Wild Wild West.  Names can generally be whatever you want, but of course there are rules against insulting and vulgar names.  Names have to be unique as well, so some of the more popular names have long ago been taken.  With creativity, one can still invent interesting names!

I think you will enjoy the game too, as I have come to a strong conclusion that there is still a ton of JAZZ in this game. Go crack some heads and join the leagues of new super characters searching for fame and glory.

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