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Laura Genender Posted:
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Is it really that different from City of Heroes?

Scene. A dirty prison yard, littered with discarded newspapers. The lighting is horrible, police sirens blare in your ears. It’s a breakout, and according to local thug H.T., the one being broken out is you.

Welcome to City of Villains. From the moment you load your character you’re hip deep in action, doing dirty work for shady contacts in order to further your career and gain infamy among the populace. The tutorial zone, ‘Breakout,’ tells the story of your escape from prison; from then on you make your own path, choosing which NPC contacts to do missions for, what zones to frequent, and which jobs you take.

As is expected, City of Villains (CoV) has a lot in common with its sister game, City of Heroes (CoH). In some ways, CoV is disappoingtly similar; for instance, many of the missions require the same action (kill all the hostiles, kill the boss at the end, activate the item, etc) with only minor changes to storyline (the hostiles are cops instead of thugs, the boss is a hero instead of a gang leader, you’re activating a bomb, not deactivating it) to freshen it up. But the differences are there, and noticeable enough to be crucial to gameplay.

Cryptic did a particularly masterful job on the archetypes; they’re close enough to the CoH archetypes to balance in PvP, but different enough to foster new tactics and game play. Instead of Tankers, Scrappers, Blasters, Defenders and Controllers, players can play as Brutes, a tank-like melee class; Stalkers, a stealthier class centered on high damage and sneaking around; Masterminds, a summoner class; Dominators, a class with many status effect skills; or Corrupters, a hybrid damage dealer/buffer.

The fun isn’t over once your archetype and starting skills are picked. Like CoH, City of Villains has a huge selection of costume pieces, even including beastlike heads and legs, chains and barbed wire, and disfiguring scars or tattoos. I spent hours just making my first character…and second…and third… costume creation might be the most addicting aspect of the game!

The ‘Breakout’ tutorial is another one of the big improvements in Cryptic’s new game. While City of Heroes’ tutorial got the job done, it was a bit boring and felt detached from the rest of the game. The jailbreak feels real and fast paced, and feels less like learning and more like playing. Sure, H.T. is teaching you how to talk to a contact and get a mission, but he’s also sending you to get him some… ah… “pain killers” while he’s at it.

A few of the new missions are fun, especially if you read the storylines instead of rushing through them. Wave attacks of security guards will try to stop you from cracking a bank vault, a nice variation from killing enemies that stand still and wait for your entry. Superheroes will show up in movie-esque cutscenes, just in the nick of time, only to be cut down by your Mastermind’s small army of henchmen. The missions get repetitive, though, and many players stop taking the time to read the storyline when they talk to their contacts.

Graphics could have been given more attention; many of the buildings and people are ripped straight from CoH. But while redundant, Cryptic managed to create an entirely different mood in CoV. Instead of pristine streets and shining blue skies, the Rogue Isles are always cloudy, and the streets littered with trash. Barren trees and burning buildings dot the landscape, and futuristic forts serve as headquarters to villains.

And then, of course, there is base building. Supergroups, the CoV and CoH equivalent of guilds, can build bases for their groups. These bases serve a variety of uses; you can resurrect to your base instead of nearby hospitals, teleport out from your base to known locations, hold and defend items of power which give various buffs, or simply enjoy having an aesthetically pleasing villa of your own. Bases are as customizable as characters; you can live in the laboratory of a mad scientist, the castle of an evil wizard, a chic apartment, a dreary dungeon… the possibilities are endless.

Like City of Heroes, CoV provides an environment for players to grow, following unique storylines to different destinies, making friends and cool costumes along the way. Hopefully future issues will provide more of the original mission play that City of Heroes' players hoped for, but when all is said and done, Cryptic did a good job of producing a fun and downright devious game.

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Laura Genender