One area that can often be confusing for new City of Heroes players is the game’s many Archetype choices. Archetypes in City of Heroes are similar in some ways to classes in other games, but due to the freedom CoH offers, it’s best to think of them as a sort of framework for what powers you’ll have available to you.
Each of the game’s fourteen Archetypes are unique even in cases where they share the same sets of powers. While a Blaster might share the same primary power sets with a Corruptor, their unique mechanics and damage scaling are entirely different. For example, a Corruptor selecting Fire Blast would only deal ~75% of the damage a Blaster would with the same powers.
Last week we covered the five Archetypes added with City of Villains in 2005. Today, we’ll be digging deep into Kheldians, the Epic Archetypes added to City of Heroes in Issue 3.
Before we begin, let’s talk about Epic Archetypes more broadly. Epic Archetypes aren’t any better than other ATs (Archetypes) in City of Heroes, but they’re a bit more versatile. They also require a bit more game knowledge and planning from the player. Unlike other ATs, EATs (Epic Archetypes) have significantly more powers to pick from, but they’re restricted by the same 67 Enhancement slots that other ATs get over the course of their progression. EATs also have their own storylines to follow throughout the game.
This added complexity is why both sets of Epic Archetypes were originally only unlocked once a player has reached max level (50) with a character on the associated EAT’s side. Fortunately, you’ll now be able to create one right away and we’re here to help you better understand what you’re getting into with these guys if you do.
Kheldians are energy beings of alien origin who have short lifespans. To extend their lives, they typically form symbiotic relationships with human hosts. There are three types of Kheldians in the lore (with two playable in-game).
There are the Peacebringers, these are light based Kheldians who form the aforementioned symbiotic relationships with humans to extend their lives.
Then there are the Nictus, who used science to become beings of darkness, feeding off of the life force of others to sustain themselves.
Finally, there are the Warshades. These are redeemed Nictus who form symbiotic relationships with human hosts much like their Peacebringer brothers. They are still beings of darkness, however, and they do require the life force of their enemies.
The two playable Kheldians are the Peacebringers and Warshades. Both of these EATs are hunted by Nictus throughout the game and this plays out by having enemies called “Voids” and “Quantums” spawn in missions, even if the mission belongs to an ally. These enemies must be dispatched by the Kheldian or its allies quickly or the Kheldian will be killed. It typically only takes a couple of shots from a Quantum to take out a Kheldian.
Both Peacebringers and Warshades also have access to alien forms called Nova and Dwarf form. The Nova form is a flying squid-like creature with the innate ability to fly and fight on the move. It deals high ranged damage and can be best compared to a Blaster. The Dwarf, is a giant lobster looking alien form that functions similar to a Tanker. It’s possible to play Kheldians purely in human form, tri-form, or focusing on two of the three forms in a dual form build. It’s up to you.
Now that we’ve gone through what makes the two playable Kheldians similar, let’s dig into their individual capabilities.
- Cosmic Balance: The easiest way to understand Cosmic Balance is in the name. Peacebringers help to balance out their teams. The Peacebringer gains damage for every nearby support Archetype (Tankers, Defenders, Corruptors, etc.) and gains damage resistance for nearby offensive Archetypes (Blasters, Scrappers, Brutes, etc.). Control Archetypes such as the Dominator and Controller afford the Peacebringer some protection from crowd control.
- Energy & Combat Flight: Peacebringers can fly at level 1 and gain Combat Flight (Hover) later on. This allows them to skip taking Flight (or Sorcery) Power Pools.
Primary Powerset: Luminous Blast
Secondary Powerset: Luminous Aura
Peacebringers are the more straightforward of the two Kheldian Archetypes. In human form, they are essentially a Scrapper with the ability to use a couple of ranged attacks and even heal their allies. They don’t require any complicated mechanics to utilize properly. The only thing you’ll need to worry about is getting enough recharge in your build to make Inner Light (think Build Up) and Light Form permanent. Once you’ve got those two taken care of, you can play the Peacebringer like a Scrapper with light powers.
I won’t get into the Nova and Dwarf forms here as we explained those earlier and the Peacebringer doesn’t have any complicated uses for these forms to consider.
Peacebringer’s easy-to-learn nature makes it a great starter pick for anyone looking to jump into Epic Archetypes. While all EATs excel in teams, the Peacebringer is significantly easier to play solo.
Dark Sustenance: While Peacebringers bring balance to their teams with Cosmic Balance, Warshades double down on what’s available with Dark Sustenance. Warshades gain damage resistance for nearby support Archetypes and a damage bonus for nearby offense allies. A bonus to crowd control protection for nearby Control ATs works identically to Cosmic Balance. Yes, this inherent power is as useless as it sounds.
Shadow Step & Shadow Recall: Instead of free flight and hover, Warshades gain access to Teleport (and Teleport Friend) at level 1.
Primary Powerset: Umbral Blast
Secondary Powerset: Umbral Aura
Warshades take full advantage of the promised versatility of Epic Archetypes and they’re rewarded with a significantly higher performance ceiling over Peacebringers for their trouble. The human form Warshade can field ranged blasts like its Peacebringer brother, but instead of pairing these with melee attacks, it gains access to significant crowd control abilities.
What makes the Warshade more complicated to play is its reliance on large groups of enemies and their corpses.
Instead of a simple form of Build Up like the Peacebringer’s Inner Light, the Warshade gains access to Sunless Mire, which can be best compared to Dark Melee’s Soul Drain. The Warshade gains damage and accuracy (to hit, specifically) for each enemy hit with Sunless Mire and with enough recharge, it can have this up permanently. This allows the Warshade to save Enhancement slots typically used on improving a power’s accuracy, a key benefit for an AT starved of slots. Taking things further, the Warshade’s Dwarf form also has access to its own version of Sunless Mire and you bet you can stack them!
Eclipse, the final power in Umbral Aura, is an incredibly powerful ability that can take the Warshade to the 85% resistance cap and improve their resilience in combat from that of a paper tiger to a walking god. The catch? The resistance bonus you get depends on the number of enemies hit, just like Sunless Mire.
Warshades also get a second nuke power in Unchain Essence, or corpse explosion, for those of you familiar with the Diablo games. This is where things start to get both rewarding and complicated for the Warshade. If you have a fresh body, you can detonate it for a huge explosion (and disorient), but if you don’t, well you’re out of luck.
The same applies to a couple of other key abilities the Warshade has access to. Dark Extraction allows the WS to extract the essence from a body to create a pet that follows them around and helps in dealing damage. With enough recharge, the WS can have multiple of these pets out at once. Warshades also rely heavily on a power called Stygian Circle, which restores both endurance and health to the WS based on the number of nearby corpses. This is an incredibly powerful ability, but, again, it relies on having bodies.
What’s the big deal with the bodies? If I’m killing things, I’ll always have bodies, right? Not quite. There are plenty of enemies in the game that simply don’t leave a body (such as spirits and ghosts) and if you’ve played a Warshade long enough, you’ll frequently find yourselves in situations where being able to pull off an Unchain Essence or Stygian Circle could save your life, but bodies have despawned or you haven’t quite killed enough enemies yet.
The reliance on tons of enemies and tons of bodies to go with them means that the Warshade either needs to play in teams for the additional enemies or turn its difficulty up just to be able to stack enough damage and resistance to function in battle. This can make solo play miserable at times. It gets significantly better once you are in the endgame and can stack enough recharge bonuses to make powers like Sunless Mire and Eclipse permanent, but things can be rough before then if you’re playing on your own.
Both Warshades and Peacebringers (outside of Light Form) are also susceptible to crowd control, making for another area of frustration that players will need to overcome either through the Incarnate system for the Warshade or by getting Light Form permanent on the Peacebringer.
I do not recommend the Warshade as a solo Archetype unless you’re a masochist like me and will suffer through to the endgame to get geared up enough to function on your own.
I originally planned on covering both sets of Archetypes (and perhaps the Sentinel) this week, but Kheldians turned out to be a considerably larger project than I thought. Check back next week for our deep dive into City of Heroes’ Villain Epic Archetypes.