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Tips for Starting Out in City of Heroes

Michael Bitton Posted:
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While many of you are returning to City of Heroes on certain private servers, I’m sure there are some of you out there who are playing the game for the first time. As a game that came out before World of Warcraft took over the genre, CoH does a ton of things differently and that can be overwhelming, so here’s a couple of tips to get you started out on the right foot.


This is the very first choice you’ll make when creating a character in City of Heroes and it’s a fairly important one. If you decide to jump into City of Heroes proper by selecting Freedom, you’ll simply pick a side (Hero or Villain) and enjoy the classic CoH experience. Going Rogue, however, is set in an alternate dimension and features some more involved questing experiences where you’ll be making a decent amount of choices that sort of determine your character’s morality in a more organic way. If you do decide to start the game in Going Rogue, keep in mind that you’ll be locked there until you hit level 20 and choose an alignment.

If you’re playing solo and want a more story driven experience, Going Rogue is a fine way to experience the game. But if you’re planning on playing with friends, it’ll be a lot easier to team up if you don’t have to worry as much about what side of the game they’re on.


If you’re just starting out, you’re likely to be overwhelmed with all the choices you can make in character creation and you’ll naturally wonder if the character you want to play is viable. It’s true that there are some meta combinations to go with (such as the classic Fire/Kinetics Controller for farming), but you can make just about anything work in City of Heroes, so I wouldn’t stress the details. What’s more important is that you’re into your character concept and enjoy the moment to moment gameplay of whatever you come up with. Some of your ideas may be tougher going at first, but if you’re really invested in a particular character, endgame gear and the Incarnate system will let you shore up just about anything’s deficiencies.


City of Heroes is a social game that emphasizes making group play as easy to get into as possible. But maybe you’re just a lone wolf and want to play solo. Well, in that case, you might want to stay away from a couple of character archetypes. The Tanker, Defender, and Blaster archetypes can be difficult to play solo. The first two are very team oriented and don’t deal a ton of damage. You’ll probably be able to hack it, but it’ll be slow going if you insist on playing alone. The Blaster is simply incredibly squishy, so it’s doable, but better once you understand the game more and have an idea for which combinations will have an easier time in solo play.


If you pull up your map (press ‘M’) once exiting the tutorial, you’ll notice a couple of icons with a $ symbol on them. One of these will be labeled “P2W Vendor” or “T4V Vendor” if you started out in Going Rogue. You should head to this vendor as the first thing you do. This vendor basically sells and gives away a bunch of the previously locked behind MTX or pre-order/deluxe edition promotional items found in the live game. 

There are some high priority abilities and items you can pick up here that will make the early game significantly easier for you. Claim one of each Prestige Enhancement here and slot them into your attack abilities. I’m not going to explain the ins and outs of Enhancements here, as that would be far too involved, but suffice it to say that you won’t have to worry about damage or recharge in an ability or two for most of your leveling experience if you slot these in. Each enhancement has a proc effect that will stop functioning at level 21, but the bonus damage and recharge will never expire.

Aside from Prestige Enhancements, be sure to pick up Ninja Run or Beast Run under Travel -> Movement. These will give you a decent travel power you can use in the early game to get around the map. You can choose an actual travel power at level four now, but having either of these will let you defer that decision for a while if you’d prefer to take more interesting power picks.

There are also some attacks you can pick up at the vendor, including the Undead Slaying Axe, the Blackwand, and Sands of Mu. These are also pretty useful in the early game and will help you fill out an attack chain.


City of Heroes (and Villains) has a ton of content and it can be incredibly easy to outlevel things and miss your chance to do various story arcs, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to do it all before this happens. Once you can enter Ouroboros, you’ll be able to use the game’s Flashback system to repeat any story arc in the game and you’ll get all the same rewards (including Badges) that you would if you had done it normally.


If you want to play with friends or even with random players, you don’t necessarily need to worry about what level your character is. The game will automatically scale you (up or down) to the group leader. There are some nuances to keep in mind here, such as the fact you may not have as many powers as an actual level 50 player if you join up with them at level 1, but the main point here is that you don’t need to keep a roster of characters at various levels to play with friends. Just join up and play!

There’s a ton more we could talk about here today, but this should be enough to get most of you started with the game. Got some of your own tips or thoughts for players just starting out? Share ‘em with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

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