The 10th anniversary of City of Heroes’ release came and went with not much more than a whisper. The game is dead and so the usual jubilation and of course, events to go along with such a momentous occasion, were nowhere to be found. It’s a bittersweet thing to reflect upon. There just wasn’t anything like City of Heroes, and to this day, there still isn’t.
I recall being incredibly unlucky in my hopes for beta access to City of Heroes. I absorbed every bit of news on the game to come out of Cryptic Studios. All I wanted to do was try the game. Just once. It wasn’t until I received a beta invite on my birthday in April of 2004, shortly before the game’s release, that I would finally have that chance. I created the most simplistic of characters: a demonic looking Fire/Fire blaster covered from head-to-toe in red. I didn’t even really have a concept for the guy. I just wanted to get in the game and singe some purse snatchers.
Of course, I fell immediately in love with the game once I began running around Atlas Park, and this began what would become a five year adventure for me. Star Wars Galaxies may have been my first love, but City of Heroes was the game I stuck with longer than any other. There were a couple of lapses, sure, but I was excited for each and every game Issue and I hung onto each word of the official comic while it ran, eager to find out what would happen to the game’s signature characters and how, if at all, these events would play out in the game proper.
I loved my hero characters, but heroes are always reactive. Bad guys do bad things and heroes are there to save the day. Villains are fun to think about in general, but for an MMO, they presented some unique gameplay opportunities I hoped we’d be able to see in the universe Cryptic Studios so finely crafted. Cryptic and NCsoft agreed and we eventually got the game’s first standalone expansion in City of Villains.
I’m probably in the minority here, but I ended up calling the Rogue Isles my home and I rarely went back to Paragon City. City of Villains was just a much more polished experience and its archetypes were far more interesting and less one-dimensional: the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic of playing a Dominator, the boiling rage of a Brute, and of course, the charm of being a Mastermind of your own themed minions. Mayhem missions, robbing banks, Lord Recluse and the infighting amongst his rogues gallery of allies were all a delight to partake in. Oh, and that goddamned Blue Steel. He always got away!
I miss socializing with other players in Pocket D. I miss heading out to the crazy ski slopes during the Christmas event and rescuing the creepy looking Baby New Year from those little bastard Red Caps. I miss inspecting the numerous crazy looking characters I’d come across and reading their often hilarious character biographies. And then there were the Fire Tanks who early on in the game were able to herd up an entire map into a dumpster and burn them to death, I mean, defeat. I sometimes miss that, too!
What I don’t miss are the players who took Flurry and Jump Kick from Super Speed and Leaping, respectively. Anyone reading is sure to remember those guys from their ‘favorite’ PUGs. I cringed every time I saw a Jump Kick go off.
It’s still a puzzle to me that City of Heroes/Villains never took off in the way I really felt it deserved to. Cryptic didn’t have the advantage of the DC Comics or Marvel licenses when it made the game, but the world the team came up with was both breathtaking and most importantly, memorable. Players were fully invested in Cryptic’s world, myself included. Story arcs like the Freaklympics had players howling. Of course, there’s also the classic Lt. Ferguson line, "I assure you, my good man, Nemesis is most definitely 'down with the street.' Word up, my homie, as it were."
The game was rich with content, especially towards its later years. There were tons of zones filled with quests to do, a ridiculous amount of group content in Task Forces and Strike Forces, a huge selection of costume and power options, and the most dedicated and passionate team of developers behind the curtains, creating all of this great stuff for players month after month.
One thing that City of Heroes did that I don’t feel any other MMO I’ve played has done is fulfill that MMO promise to be constantly growing. An Issue for City of Heroes may have only come a few times a year, but it almost always grew the game in a meaningful way. These weren’t just content updates; they often added significant and entirely new features. Heck, the game’s third issue added not one, but two shapeshifting alien archetypes for players to play. Players were always looking forward to see where the game would go next. The developers were continually looking to push the envelope with City of Heroes.
I could probably go on forever about City of Heroes, but what really makes the game’s closure a constant sore for me is the fact that nothing has really emerged to take its place. The comic-based MMOs out there all have their strengths, but frankly, they pale in comparison to what Cryptic and Paragon Studios were able to accomplish with City of Heroes. I do wish the fan projects out there (e.g. City of Titans) the best of luck and I’m excited to see what they manage to pull off.
What do you miss most about City of Heroes? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB