These last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with City of Heroes from Cryptic Studios. I have to say that for a game that launched over three years ago (April 2004), it’s really got quite a bit to recommend it.
I should really start this by saying that this is by no means a full review of the game. These At A Glance articles are designed so that the writer plays the game’s trial (in this case, 14 days), and reports back with their impressions, so here goes:
Right out of the gate players are met with the feature that, in my opinion, is the biggest highlight; character creation. Every MMORPG has it, but outside of the “virtual world” games (Second Life comes to mind), I have never seen such a diverse and interesting creation system. Cryptic Studios has done a fine job of allowing the players to feel like their characters are totally unique. Whether you want to make a costumed superhero, a “regular guy” or some kind of monstrosity, you can do it, and quite easily. A person can easily spend an hour or more choosing every detail of their character’s appearance… if they choose to. It’s also relatively easy to make a unique character in a minute or two.
The first choice that you are given is the same as it is in most MMOs. You choose your gender. It says something about the nature of the game though that your options are: Male, Female or Huge.
One thing that I really like about the creation system is the “build” area. While they do offer four default builds: slim, average, athletic and heavy, they also provide players with sliders that allow for even more specific customization.
Once you’ve got your body type selected, it’s time to move on to the finer details. Costume selection is incredibly intricate, with lots of options for everything from zany headgear to some really mean-looking boots. Everything you could want really, when it comes to making a character for a world of superheroes.
The only time I was disappointed in the creation system was in the faces. While they have over 50 different faces to choose from, I still found it lacking (even if it still provides more options than many MMOs). I think when it really comes down to it, I like facial sliders that allow you to make something truly unique. That being said, you rarely notice the details in the faces of the players around you, and you don’t look at your own mug too often, so it may not matter to people who aren’t as picky as I am.
Okay, I jumped the gun a little bit in talking about the looks of your character before I talked about the first phase of character creation: Class Selection.
The class selection process likewise impressed me with its diversity. While it doesn’t offer as many choices as character appearance does, you’re still given more choice than I’m used to.
First, there are five Archetypes for characters:
There are also two “Epic Classes” available that are unlocked once you get one character to level 50, the Peacebringer and the Warshade.
From there, players are prompted to choose an origin. We all know that half the fun of superheroes lies in where their powers come from (I still think the whole “yellow sun” thing is kinda lame). The options are pretty classic:
Once you’ve established your archetype and your origin, it’s time to decide what form your powers take by choosing a Power Set. Each of these power sets comes with one of two available attacks. As an example, below are the power sets for the Blaster and for the Defender. Each Archetype gets its own Power Set.
The reason that I spent so much time talking about character creation is because the system is so much fun. As I said earlier, I’ve seen people (and have to admit I’ve done this myself) spend a great deal of time perfecting a character. Also, a detailed creation system opens up a trap that I’ve fallen into: alts. I (and most everyone I know who plays the game) have a number of different alts. Different look, different Archetype, different experience.
Enhancements and Inspirations
The role of gear in most MMOs is to provide statistical enhancements to characters as they advance through the levels. CoH, being the game that it is, doesn’t use gear in the same way. Instead, mobs occasionally drop enhancements. The name really explains what they do. There are a number of different kinds: some that improve damage, some that improve targeting, some that improve stuns, some time between uses, some… well, you get the idea. Each character has a set number of enhancement slots (which improves through leveling). Once you choose a type of enhancement for any particular slot, it binds.
Inspirations are similar to Enhancements in what they do for the character, but are single-use only. Think of them as potions. If you do decide to play, my advice is to use them whenever you need to, as they drop like candy.
Ok, I want to take a second to talk about questing (called missions in City of Heroes). For those who might be wondering. Yes, Heroes is class-based and yes, Heroes is also level-based. Really, the mission system is pretty much like any other, with a few little differences and touches here at there. All of your standard quest types make an appearance, including the delivery quest (although, to be fair, this only happened once in my level 10 character’s career) except gathering, While there is crafting in the game, components (salvage) are gained in a non-traditional way.
In City of Heroes, most of the missions that you’re going to come up against are instanced and honestly, I think that’s probably a good thing. This allows the mission to scale to the power of your character or your supergroup, making each encounter exciting and interesting.
One of the stand-out features that I’ve found in the mission system of CoH is the ability to call your contacts.
In the early stages of the game, players gain new missions from contacts (quest givers) who send them all over Paragon City. Traditionally in MMOs, there are quest givers who give you the quest and quest redeemers who you need to talk to in order to finish the quest, and often in order to get new quests. That’s always been one of my pet-peeves in MMOs, the amount time I spend going back and forth between givers and redeemers. Well, in CoH, you rarely have to return to a redeemer in order to finish a mission (except for those delivery quests… which is obvious). Instead, once the mission is completed, you gain the pertinent XP and have the option to exit the instance.
This is where the calling feature comes in. If you have done enough quests for your contact and he / she has come to trust you, you gain the ability to call them rather than returning to them. This allows you to exit one mission instance and head straight to another one with no middle man, a feature that I definitely appreciated.
Phat Lewt (Rewards)
CoH has what I like to call a streamlined loot system. Personally, I’ve never really liked slowing down my gameplay to loot a corpse. In CoH, any loot that is dropped by your opponents just lands in your inventory. No slow down, and a really pleasant ding-type noise whenever it hits. Enhancements, Inspirations and Salvage all drop at irregular intervals (with Inspirations dropping most often).
City of Heroes is, in my opinion, one of the most casual-friendly MMOs on the market. It’s the kind of game you can log into for 30 minutes or for 4 hours. It’s the kind of game that you can easily solo, or you can play with a group (always more fun if you have the time). I could go into more detail on more aspects, but this is already turning into more than just a glance, so I will leave you with this recommendation:
If you’re looking for an MMO that does things a little bit differently, CoH is worth a shot. You can get a CoH 14 day trial here at MMORPG.com, just follow this link and give this three year old game a shot.