“Yes, I play City of Heroes/Villains”. That is what I end up saying every time I go to buy a game time card at my local EB or GameStop. With the upcoming release of the Going Rogue Expansion Pack and DCU Online on the way I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss what keeps bringing me back to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles since I started playing March 20th, 2005. City of Heroes began in April 27, 2004 in North America and in Europe (by NCsoft Europe) on February 4, 2005 with English, German and French language servers. They started when MMO’s were just beginning to gain mass appeal, with the biggest competition coming from titles such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies and we all know what happened to Galaxies. Billed as the first super-hero MMORPG it quickly caught on with people who were tired of fighting ogres or enemies in a galaxy, far, far away. Since its creation NCSoft and Cryptic Studios merged to become Paragon Studios in 2009 to become a dedicated IP for the game.
At first I was very skeptical of having to keep paying for a game that I just bought. Call me old school, but I used to think that you should only pay for a game once and updates should be free. It was some co-workers of mine at the time that kept telling me I should give it a try. So after many weeks of badgering I downloaded the 14 day free trial and was hooked. Suddenly all of those reasons I had before melted away as I smote bad guys and righted wrongs. Then when City of Villains came out, I could finally embrace the dark side, sans lightsaber, running rampant through a whole new zone and mission maps. What keeps the game fresh is the semi constant releasing of free updates called “issues” that constantly adds new content to the game.
What really sets the game apart for me is character customization. Unlike other games where the most you can change is the face and hair, COH goes far beyond those simple restrictions. Not only can you adjust the face and hair, but there is a wide arrange of costume options (notably far more for the female body type) to choose from. The customization increased with the release of issue 16 (Power Spectrum) where the addition of changing the color of certain power sets was given. Mind you there are some powers that are still off limits; most noticeable are the archetypes that are unlocked after a hero or villain reaches level 50. By allowing this amount of creative freedom it really lets the player have a wide variety of looks for their character and lessens the chance that someone else is going around looking like you. This does not stop people from trying to recreate their favorite comic book character, but be forewarned. The game developers do frown upon that and you run the risk of being “genericed” by them. This mean your character will not only get a completely new outfit of their choosing (which can’t be changed back by you), but you might lose your name as well.
One of the funniest incidents to arise when the game came out was Marvel suing the company over copyright infringement due to the character creator. Their beef was that the game allowed players to make their heroes look too much like copyrighted ones such as Wolverine or the Hulk. They went even as far as taking NCSoft to court over this issue. Suffice to say they did not win the battle and no changes were made to the creation engine. As mentioned before the company makes sure that you keep your creations original and not clones of copyrighted characters.
Here’s a brief summary for all those who still are not familiar with it before I get any further. The way the game works is right at the start you get 5 archetypes to choose from, whether you want to be a hero or villain. Each archetype choice depends on the type of game play you enjoy in a MMORPG.
For the hero side if you want to be an up-close fighter then scrapper or tanker is good for you. Both are primary a melee set with various types of defense power sets thrown in. If you prefer to be more of a range fighter then you are looking at a blaster, defender or controller. The advantages to the controller power set is more holds and buffs to fellow players where defenders can include buff, but functions more of an offensive power.
A tanker (foreground) confronts one of the game's arch villains, the mad scientist Dr. Vahzilok, in City of Heroes
When it comes to villains the same rules basically apply, just with different names. For those who prefer melee combat and high defenses Stalkers and Brutes are the way to go. For more of a range fighter with some healing buffs then Corruptors are more your game. Then things get interesting when it comes to villain archetypes. Masterminds give you the leader of the pack feeling as you can control a gang of thugs, zombies, robots, ninjas or military minions along with a range power of your choice. With Dominators you get various hold powers along with a newly introduce healing aura of sorts.
As you level up in both games you increase your powers potentiality with enhancements of various types, including damage, accuracy or defense. The game allows you to customize each power slot to what you want to emphasize more, offense or defense. There is even an option to do a respect on your character if you have tried a power in a set and it is not to your liking. The only powers you cannot change with a respect are Epic power pools for heroes and patron power pools for villains. There is a lot more to say about the game, but I will save that for another post.
What really keeps me playing COX (City of Heroes and Villains combined) is the community within the game. To me a good part of what keeps you coming back to a game, especially with MMORPG’s, is the people you play with. In the years I have been playing I still have a great group of people I meet with on a nightly or weekly basis that are fun and good game players. Nothing frustrates me more than joining a pick-up group full of strangers and dying over and over again because of player stupidity and poor judgment. Although watching the infamous “Leeroy Jenkins clip from W.O.W” may be funny, living it in game is another story. Luckily the death penalty of debt in the game is far less impactful as it used to be. To me a good MMORPG lives on the support of the users and can make a difference between it surviving and dying. Key to the success of the franchise is the developer listening to the users and making changes from their suggestions. The power color customization is prime example of something the fans wanted for years and the developers worked on to make it happen.
I know for many MMORPG users World of Warcraft is still widely popular and still has more than the estimated 124,939 subscribers that COX has, but that does not mean it makes it a better game. I for one like the ability to get a travel power early in leveling and not having to run back to my body when I run out of health. Nothing to me is more frustrating than wasting time trying to get back to a mission or instance door to try again. Not to say COX is perfect, there are times when I get tired of playing the same maps over and over again and well fighting in caves is just in a word, annoying. Still for all that bugs me there is enough that keeps me coming back, even if I take a breakfrom it every once and awhile. To me that, the true test of any MMORPG is what makes you come back to play it on a regular basis.
Well there is a lot more I can say about COX, but I don’t want to be long winded on my first post. In future posts I will give my take on the special events that take place in game such as the Winter Event which just ended. With Going Rogue expansion on the horizon look for more in depth coverage and possible developer interviews in the works for a future post as well.
So as I and many fellow heroes and villains anxiously wait for issue 17 and the release of the Going Rogue expansion, I state that “yes I am proud to be a denizen of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. I enjoy every minute of it, whether I am punishing evil or beating up the good. Yes, I do play City of Heroes and will play for months to come.” In the words of the Great Stan “the Man” Lee, Excelsior!
Russel is a freelance writer, regular MMORPG user and professional podcaster – Ramble With Russel (http://ramblingruss.libsyn.com)