Hi! Today we have a guest post by Yngwe, a wonderful person I met in Eff the Ineffable who was gracious enough to offer me this guest post. I have to admit, I’ve been a terrible blogger by not even noticing he had sent me the post for a whole week and I do apologize to all of you from holding back this piece of wisdom from all of you for so long. I’ve dabbled a bit in Cities of Villains a long time ago but never enough to talk about it so it’s with great pleasure that I present you with this review from someone who knows the game.
A City of Heroes Freedom Review
Greetings monkey-readers. This is Yngwe, formerly a raiding hunter from Eff the Ineffable. I (maybe finally) quit my WoW-playing career early into 4.2. Since then, I have been spending my time playing City of Heroes. I will be soon jumping on the Star Wars bandwagon, so I thought I would share my thoughts on CoH while they are still fresh.
In the interest of full disclosure: (1) I am a superhero geek. The fact that we are blogging or reading about video games gives us all some serious geek cred, but I really am a comic book/superhero geek at heart; (2) CoH has multiple subscription levels. My review is based upon a VIP-level subscription at $15/month. There are various free-to-play or sort of free options available as well.
A little background on the game: CoH was originally released in 2004. A little over a year later, its first expansion, City of Villains, was released. That expansion came with a bunch of new zones and doubled the number of archetypes you could create, as well as giving players the option of playing a hero or a villain. Finally, in 2009, CoH’s second expansion was released, entitled Going Rogue. Again, some new content in this one, but the big draw seemed to be the ability of players to switch alignments from hero to villain and back again.
Now for the good, the sort-of bad, and the occasionally ugly.
CoH is one of the best teaming experiences available in an MMO. I realize that is a bold statement, but I honestly believe it to be true. Why? Unlike many MMOs, CoH gives you a huge range of flexibility in assembling and running your team. The holy trinity exists in CoH, plus dedicated crowd control archetypes (ATs), but no member of the trinity is required. Can’t find a tank? No problem, a tough Scraper can take the boss, while your controller locks down all of the minions. No healer? Well, you’re probably going to make up for that with insane damage, so the enemies will drop before your team does.
The flexibility extends beyond ATs to include group size. Any mission can be teamed. Max team size is 8. The game auto-scales the number and strength of enemies based on the number of heroes in the group. Are you still blowing through the content? You can visit a Field Analyst and manually adjust difficulty settings to get the challenge to the just-right level. I have had a good time in groups of all sizes.
And what happens if your toon is level 32 and your friend’s toon is level 16? CoH has figured that out as well. Unless the option is turned off, team members’ levels will auto-adjust to that of the team leader, with the caveat that people who are “side-kicking” are one level lower than the team leader.
Some of the more involved content, like Task Forces and endgame Incarnate Trials, will require a certain number of team members to start, but even these give you more flexibility than I was used to in WoW. Task Forces typically require at least four members, and Trials may require 12-24 or 8-16, depending on the Trial. Bottom line, CoH gives players far more freedom to play the game in a team setting than any other MMO that I have played (granted, not that many).
Player Originality is Rewarding. And I don’t mean that you get shiny purples for being creative in-game. That typically does not happen. What I mean is that there is a culture of creativity in CoH that things like transmogr-whatever is just scratching the surface of in other games.
When you create your character, you not only come with the costume, archetype, origin (were you born a mutant, from an alien planet, bitten by a spider?), and power sets, but you are also give the freedom to write up to 1000 characters describing your character’s background. When you look up a character’s info, you will often find that people put a lot of thought into who their characters are. You are just as likely to find a character built around a specific concept as you are to find someone built to kill everything 0.5 seconds faster than someone else.
Why is this rewarding? Well, no one ever walked up to me in WoW and said, “Cool costume,” (although Alas did once claim I was pretty). Player groups in CoH do regularly hold costume contests with large monetary rewards. Bottom line is, there is a culture of creativity in CoH, and creativity is about as far away from a grind as I could imagine.
Again, however, creativity does not end with your character. Super Groups (guilds) can create their own bases and choose from a variety of themes. Our SG’s base looked very Indians Jones-ish. In addition, players can create their own missions and run their friends through them using the Mission Architect system. These player-created missions are used primarily to power level characters and make money, but well-crafted ones make the grind much more interesting and challenging.
Story. I would put the story behind CoH on par with WoW. By that I mean that sometimes I will read it, other times, I find it not that interesting. The alignment system introduced with Going Rogue has helped the story out greatly in my mind. For example, you can run morality missions to switch from one side or the other or to get rewards for your dedication to one side. Running these missions gives you moral choices, and you often run into NPCs on their own story-arc. In the past couple of months, I have been double-crossed by an NPC that previously fought by my side, and I have seen one of the tougher Super-Villains redeem himself. These little touches really help sell me on the story.
Repetition and Variety. Being a seven-year old game, there is a ton of content. This is largely a good thing. There are loads of missions and dozens of enemy groups to fight. Each group has a host of Arch-Villains, bosses, lieutenants, and minions to fight, and they have a fairly wide range of abilities. Some sap energy, create illusionary decoys, summon more mobs, or self-rez. The variety in enemies you fight is top-notch.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, the settings in which the fights happen are extremely repetitive. 90% of missions are “door missions,” meaning that they occur within their own little instance. The problem is, when you fight in a warehouse, it looks like every other warehouse. Same thing with caves, office buildings, and enemy bases. By and large, if you are running with a large group, the fun-factor and speed with which you mow down enemies swallows up the repetition issue. If you are soloing, however, the repetitive settings will get to you after a while.
Outdated Systems and Graphics. While being seven years old mean there is a lot of content, it also means that some things are outdated. For example, you cannot attack and move at the same time. My main character wielded a mace. Once he starts the swing, which takes about 1-2.5 seconds, depending on the move, he is rooted in place for the duration. The other common complaint about combat is that almost all abilities are on a cooldown, so you will often find yourself staring at a button waiting for it to refresh. This is especially true at early levels when you have few attacks. I do not find this a problem above the early-30s.
Also, the UI is not a polished or customizable as other games. My main complaints are the tiny size of the channel buttons and the inability to customize the look of my mouse pointer. The default pointer is so small and nondescript that I will often lose it in the background during the heat of battle. CoH also gives you a lot of options for finding team members, but some of them could be more user-friendly. For example, you can search for a player by name, but you have to spell the name exactly to get it to come up.
Bottom Line. I would highly recommend this game to two groups of people. First, if you like superheroes at all, you may fall in love with this game. You really do feel like a superhero in the game, and the teaming aspect can be great. Second, if you are part of a small group of people looking for a F2P game to try with friends, I think this game caters to you perfectly. You will be able to jump in and play together through most of the content the game offers.
Although I have only played at the VIP level, I will make one recommendation for new people trying out the game F2P. That is, spend $5.00 in the cash shop. You will be able to unlock some new costume pieces that you may want to use or perhaps a new powerset. More important, however, is that spending any cash elevates you to Premium status. Premium status grants you two very important abilities: being able to join SGs (guilds) and being able to send tells. I could not imagine trying to group up without the ability to send tells, so I recommend spending a little cash to get this ability before trying out the game.