#581 City of Heroes

Posted: 31st August 2012 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

175th played so far

Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: NCsoft

Up next in our desperate panic to play certain games before any decent support sees them fall off of the face of the planet (Reset Generation, where are you?) is City of Heroes. Whilst this is a successful MMORPG (as well as the third we’ve now covered) this is a genre that is under threat because, at any moment, there could be server issues or something similar and POOF there is a game we are unable to ever play. At least with Steel Battalion there is a way to play it… it’ll just cost us a hundred quid to do so.

Our Thoughts

Being the third MMORPG out of the block City of Heroes is always going to be in danger of comparisons that have gone before it. We both fell in love with Guild Wars and found World of Warcraft somewhat wanting meaning that there was some middle ground that City of Heroes could fall into. However, this does have the disadvantage of being the older of the three and in some ways it shows.

Before we get into that there is one thing to be said about City of Heroes in that (until DC Universe Online) this stood alone as the only majorly successful MMORPG set in the world of superheroes and supervillains. MMORPGs are usually in a fantasy setting, with this being one of a few exceptions.

The concept of this game is quite straightforward – you’re a superhero (or villain, in later expansions) and you fight many villains – lackeys and proper supervillains – to restore Good To The World. (We’re ignoring City of Villains for the moment – while it’s now included, it wasn’t in the original game, and we couldn’t get ourselves to play through it again).

Let’s start at the beginning, character creation and customization. This part got us quite excited. There are lots of options, both in looks, meaning that how you look depends a lot on what you select, not just on what gear you buy, and in powers. The latter sets you up in a broad archetype, but there are a lot of initial options here that you can rapidly expand to include more. For example, I started with a stalker-type character, who gets a weapon style (of which there are several), with initial powers in each, and a secondary armor type power – I went for hiding, but different elemental armors and regeneration are also options. These are the ones you initially progress in, but a few levels in I could add extra power types to add to those. It’s quite impressive and big.

I hoped this variety and multitude of options would carry over to the game as well. Unfortunately, it feels less so. Combat, one of those central parts of any MMORPG like this, is quite boring. You only have your normal powers to attack – no basic hand to hand or such – and while some of these recharge at an okay speed, you spend a lot of time waiting for them to do rather than staying in the action. Your opponent continues to attack, of course, but at least at the earlier levels, the wait gets boring. While in most fantasy MMORPGs, you get a normal attack instead (hack with your sword, fire your bow) and other genres have similar options, City of Heroes seems to have forgotten. This alone makes World of Warcraft and Guild Wars feel better and faster.

But as an MMORPG, the writing and world would still be interesting, right? Fun missions, good characters and so on? Not really. The missions are boring – pretty much all of them are of the “Kill five enemies” variety, with the differences mostly cosmetic. There’s a few other options – mostly an infiltration to get to a place to do something, possibly fight a proper villain there – but it’s a bit limited.

While I know other games do this too, it feels a bit too obvious here – while there is a clues system, it is almost just a quest item that’s dropped. You don’t have to search them or combine clues to get somewhere, you just go from battle to battle. That makes it a bit boring and it feels like the potential that’s in the system, as well as that of the contacts you gether, isn’t well used. I understand this might come at higher levels, but we didn’t see this in the levels we played and because of that got easily bored with the game. On a whole, the game failed to draw us in on these low levels, making it unlikely we’d be willing to play further – City of Heroes isn’t the crack it ought to be.

The game also seems to encourage grouping at a low-level – just as you start, you already want it (and this may take care of some of these issues). Two problems here for us – first, true, we prefer soloing, and while the game seems to have room for that, it is a lot tougher. But second, as the game’s been out for a while, we didn’t have a lot of people who’d be around at this time. We seemed to have joined the game too late.

Last, the game went freemium about a year to go (go to their website to get the client). While I understand they wanted to sell stuff, it seemed to be a bit too much in your face – some seemingly basic things seem to require payment, including several character types – which is at times fair enough – it seems a bit too much in your face sometimes.

Final Thoughts

It’s awesome to play a superhero. I really loved racing around the town, beating up thugs and using my powers. Long term though, combat got too boring, powers were too sparse early on and we either needed to have played further, or missed out on some options to really enjoy the game.

However, getting to the point where it’s fun enough to play will take too long for us. The missions aren’t engaging or interesting enough to keep going and it all gets a bit too difficult. Sorry.

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