As soon as you begin playing City of Villains it is easy to enjoy and not overly difficult to understand. Still, there are a few things that can make the learning curve a little bit smoother and a few others that will have you saying later on, "I wish I knew that when I started". So, here's a beginner's guide to creating your first villain:
City of Villains and City of Heroes are before you. Though they were released one after the other (with City of Heroes being the original game), having a copy of one now gives you access to both games. Essentially, they are just two versions of the one game in different city settings, with different character selections and power-sets for each.
The first step in creating your villain is, of course, choosing to create a villain! Let's leave the heroes out of this. We're talking evil here. The background screen should turn a blood-red color and we get the bad-guy music. This brings us to the selection of Archetypes. Each one of these has strengths and weaknesses and a special ability.
BRUTE: Strong melee character with access to defensive power sets such as shields and barriers. The special ability is Fury. Fury builds up every time the Brute attacks or is attacked. As Fury builds, the Brute deals more damage, but Fury will decay when not actively fighting. The Brute is the villain that can stand there toe-to-toe and beat up their foe.
STALKER: The Stalker is a melee-based Archetype but not resilient enough to win a head-on fight. Fortunately, they don't have to. The Stalker is given a stealth power and if they attack from their hidden state they can deal extra damage. They also gain access to an "Assassin" power that deals incredible amounts of damage if stealthed and not interrupted. Still, they have less health than most and though they have access to defensive powers for the most part you need to be prepared to run if you get too much attention.
MASTERMIND: A Mastermind brings his/her own army! Though not very powerful on their own, Masterminds bring Pets to the battle. If you see someone running around town with half-a-dozen robots trailing behind them, that's a Mastermind. As they level, Masterminds gain access to more powerful minions and can have more pets active at one time.
DOMINATOR: The dominator can cripple their enemies with powers that hold or stun, as well as having access to some deadly high-damage attacks. Steadily as they fight Dominators gain their special-ability: Domination. When the Domination bar is full this villain can unleash its power and have a minute or two of extreme power. If you like freezing your enemy in their tracks and then blast them to shreds you'll probably like a Dominator.
CORRUPTOR: This archetype combines powerful ranged attacks with access to powers that heal or buff their allies, or perhaps de-buff their enemies. (It is worth noting that some of the Corruptor healing/buffing sets are shared with Masterminds).
Though perhaps harder to play solo, a Corruptor can be an essential part of an effective team. The Corruptor special ability is Scourge. This kicks in when the enemy is low on health and lets the Corruptor deal double-damage until the foe is defeated. Think of it as kicking your enemy when they are down!
On the same page as your Archetype selection appears a list of Origins. Basically these reflect the story of your character. A robot-type character might be a Technology character, or perhaps your character gets their powers from a mutation. These are mainly for story but will affect items your character can use later.
Once you have picked an Archetype and Origin, the process continues with selecting Power-Sets. These come in two groups for each character and are labelled "Primary" and "Secondary". Which Primary and Secondary power-sets you have to choose from depend on your Archetype and it is worth noting that while some Archetypes seem to have the same sets, they may actually do different things. A Brute's "fire" set, for example, will be a set of melee fire attacks while a Corruptor's "fire" set will be thrown fire-balls and blasts. If, say, a Brute and Stalker both have access to a defensive set the actual effects will still vary with the Brute shield absorbing damage more effectively.
So we have picked an Archetype and now know what to look for in power sets. Look through them and I'm sure you'll immediately have a few you want to try. Pick the Primary set and then pick either the first or second powers that are now both available. Then move on to the next screen. Now we are looking at Secondary sets that, depending on your chosen Archetype, may look to include similar powers but don't be fooled - they are in fact quite different. An Energy-based Primary might be very different to an Energy-based Secondary. You are not limited to a Secondary set because it is like the Primary you chose - you can mix sets maybe having one fire and one ice, for example. With the Secondary set you don't get the option to choose from two powers it will automatically give you the first one.
It's probably worth taking the time to go back and forth through this process to have a look at all the options available to each type of character. This is part of the joy of City of Villains! There are so many options that you can try many sets until you have a character that suits your best concept for an evil-doer.
Here it comes! The Costume Creator is perhaps the most appealing phase of the character creation process. It begins with choosing body-type, height, and scales. Pick carefully as only scales can be changed at later levels; you're stuck with whatever body-type and height you start with. The body-types are: Male, Female, and Huge.
*NOTE: when choosing height be prepared that most people play really tall characters compared to real life. In this game the average citizen walking down the street is about 6 feet 4 inches tall.*
Scales let you fine-tune the specific details like waist-size, shoulder-width, leg-length etc.
The next screen is where the magic happens. It is here that you have hundreds of costume-pieces to combine and color as you see fit to create the world's most malevolent villain. You can choose from two colors on each piece and most choices can be refined through drop-down menus. For example, if you chose to give your character a full helmet, you will get to choose from medi-evil styles or high-tech head-protection. Need something else? Try adding some horns or breathing gear. (You will see characters in the game with costume pieces that you didn't have access to. Some of these like capes are unlockable at higher-levels, but others will be rewards for veteran players and some made available through real-life purchases of "perks". Regardless, without all the extras you should have enough options to create some amazing characters.) Unlike height and body-type you will have the opportunity to change your costume several times as you level.
By the time you get to the last detail on your costume you are ready to finalize a name, a background (can do background later) and enter the Rogue Isles. Get stuck in and cause some crime!
In Part 2, we'll have a look at levelling-up and building an effective criminal. We'll also look at Party Dynamics and how to fill your role in a team.