City of Heroes:
First Impressions

By Shamus
on Oct 7, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews, Nerd Culture

The character creator in CoH is the antithesis of the one in Tabula Rasa. When it comes to concept, appearance, and gameplay, CoH offers so much variety and so many possibilities that at first I was paralyzed with choice. It took me over an hour to get into the game. It was like I was standing in the middle of an amusement park with no lines and I couldn’t bring myself to just pick a ride – I wanted to try them all. At once.

This game makes a very compelling first impression.

Archetype

coh_cc1.jpg
Here is where you pick your class, more or less. The various archetypes fit the standard MMO roles, but also define certain character concepts. This choice has the largest effect on gameplay but – in contrast to nearly every other MMO out there – has no impact on how your character will look.

  1. Blaster: Your ranged fighter class. High damage output, but a little fragile. This would be your Archer / Puller in a classic fantasy setting.
  2. Controller: Your crowd control class. Good for disrupting large groups of enemies so you can fight them a few at a time. Very fragile, but very interesting powers.
  3. Defender: Ye Olde healer class. Buffs in this game are potent. When someone boosts you with healing or “buffs” you with their powers, you will feel the difference right away. I haven’t played one of these guys yet, but I love having them around.
  4. Scrapper: The fisticuffs class. Good damage output and fairly sturdy. The downside is that they have no ranged attack and (worse) they can usually only hit one foe at a time. This becomes a problem when you start facing crowds later on. This is my favorite class so far.
  5. Tanker: The damage absorption class. Moderate damage output, but very hard to kill.
Origin

Here is where you choose how you got your powers. Early in the game this affects who your initial contacts are and what sort of missions you’ll get in solo play, and a few other minor things.

  1. Science: You became a superhero through scientific experiments / accidents. Examples: Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, The Fantastic Four. Geeze… nearly everything created by Stan Lee, really.
  2. Mutation: You became a superhero through mutation. Examples: The X-Men.
  3. Magic: This is a catch-all for supernatural stuff ranging from demon powers to witchcraft to mythical gods to regular old wizard-style hocus pocus. Examples: Thor, Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider, Hellboy, Spawn, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel.
  4. Technology: Your powers come from a machine or device unique to you. Examples: Iron Man, Green Lantern (assuming his ring is a device) and Cyborg.
  5. Natural: You don’t have super powers. You just train hard and maybe augment yourself with a few high-tech gadgets. Examples: Batman, Punisher.

(I notice it’s hard to fit Superman into just one of these. But then, you couldn’t fit Superman into a single archetype, either. He’s a scrapper and a blaster and a tanker.)

Pimary & Secondary Powers

coh_cc2.jpg
Each archetype has a list of primary and secondary powers to choose from. For example, a scrapper can use martial arts, claws, swords, etc. These aren’t just re-skinned versions of the same powers, either. Some are faster with less damage, some hit harder but move slower, some stun and some knock foes back. They each have their own rhythm and different strengths and weaknesses. So a scrapper with dual swords and regeneration is going to feel very different from a scrapper who uses claws and fire shields.

The permutations seem endless. While some combinations are better than others, all are playable.

These vary based on your archetype, but not based on origin. So, you can be a “magical” superhero that uses an assault rife, if you really want. Powers are designed to be balanced, not to force your character into someone else’s idea of “cool”.

Appearance

Have you ever wanted to see a superhero in medieval armor with kneee socks, a top hat, and an assault rifle? Yeah, me neither. But you can.
Have you ever wanted to see a superhero in medieval armor with kneee socks, a top hat, and an assault rifle? Yeah, me neither. But you can.
This is where you’ll lose an hour or so if you’re the creative type. I’ve spent as much time with this part of the game as I have actually beating up bad guys. You can make anything from a huge robot to a Japanese schoolgirl to a greasy old man in a wife beater to a tiny little elf to a dwarf with a battleaxe. The appearance is completely independent of powers, so the huge robot can be fragile with mind-control powers and the miniscule elf and be an invincible tank, if that’s what you want.

Character Bio

You can edit the bio and catchphrase once you enter the game, so don’t agonize over it too much here if you’re anxious to get started.  Good luck finding a free name, though.
You can edit the bio and catchphrase once you enter the game, so don’t agonize over it too much here if you’re anxious to get started. Good luck finding a free name, though.

This is the icing on the cake. Once you’re done, you can come up with a name and a backstory for your character. I love running around, clicking on random people in the game and reading their stories.

This is one game where you don’t begin in rags and then grind your way into magnificent apparel. With a few small exceptions (no capes until level 20) you can look any way you like, right from the start. The characters are incredibly diverse. I don’t find myself saying, “Oh, another one of those guys again.”

To be honest, I think a goodly number of the superheroes I meet aren’t very appealing to me. They might look stupid or have unappealing stories. But the beautiful thing is that everyone feels awesome. I’m sure lots of people look at my character and think, “That’s dumb.” But it’s fine, because all of us have exactly the hero we want. No matter what I think of it, the guy playing that goofy character loves it enough to walk around and show it to the world. It’s crazy and it’s chaotic and it’s ridiculous and it’s absolutely brilliant.

And if all of that isn’t enough variety for you, keep in mind you can be a villain as well, which will give you access to all new archetypes, missions, weapons, powers, and start locations.

Aim High: You can’t fly until level 14.  Lots of the characters run around in revealing and not particularly protective suits. But this is one game where this sort of thing makes perfect sense, because that’s what comic book heroes are like, and this game isn’t trying to be taken seriously. It’s metal suits, platform boots, spandex tights, and wonderful ridiculous fun.
Aim High: You can’t fly until level 14. Lots of the characters run around in revealing and not particularly protective suits. But this is one game where this sort of thing makes perfect sense, because that’s what comic book heroes are like, and this game isn’t trying to be taken seriously. It’s metal suits, platform boots, spandex tights, and wonderful ridiculous fun.

I don’t know what replay value the game has down the line, but I found the first ten minutes of City of Heroes gave me about ten hours of gameplay.

Enraged Nitpick: When you press the button to create your new character, it gives a popup asking if you want to enter the Tutorial Zone, then it asks you what starting area you want, and then it checks to see if your chosen name is taken? Given the fact that trying to name your character is basically mounting a brute-force dictionary attack on the name database, making you click those two popups over and over is just asinine. A smart person would have designed it to do the name check first. Sheesh.

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202020205There are now 85 comments. Almost a hundred!

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  1. krellen says:

    Superman is of “Natural” origin, because he is an alien to the planet using what powers simply come naturally to him.

    And Tankers (and Scrappers) can get laser-eyes at high levels.

    Origin used to matter a whole lot more, but then they introduced the Invention system, which anyone can use. Inventions are basically superior to other enhancements in every way conceivable, and I marvel that there are still people that don’t use them.

    EDIT: and I most wholeheartedly agree with your nitpick. The naming situation is one of the worst; too many “empty” names are taken up by people not even playing any more.

    On the other hand, the tighter pool of names did lead me to naming my Tanker “Lapin Lazuli” instead of “Blue Bunny”, a name which brings me great joy in its cleverness, so it’s not all bad.

  2. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Glad you’re enjoying it so far.

  3. MintSkittle says:

    Yeah, name hunting is really annoying. I usually flip through some of my books and pull a random name from there, or modify a taken name slightly so that it’s still phonetically what I wanted, or add a middle/last name related to my chosen powers.

    EDIT: Or load up a game with a random name generator and click through it a few times and write down ones you like for later use.

  4. Plasma says:

    WRT Superman, I use the following analogy:

    Imagine you are a perfectly normal human who is transported in a rocket ship to the moon. On the moon, you, like all humans under those circumstances, gain super jumping power. Are you natural, because you have no abilities not inherent to your species given certain conditions? Are you science, because it’s your situation that gives you your powers? Are you technology, because the rocket ship gave you your powers (and your space suit allows you to breathe on the moon)?

    Officially, you on the moon and Superman exposed to a yellow sun are both still Natural origin. That doesn’t mean there’s not a raging debate, of course. Superman has been retconned so often that I’ve seen cases made for all five origins for him, in fact.

  5. I am astonished that, several *years* after CoH was released, that pretty much every other character creator for games out there is so limited.

    The cool thing?? Cryptic, which made CoH and is now working on Champions Online, says that the character creator for Champions Online will be *better* than that for CoH. Why not just ship Champions Online with the number of a local crack dealer if they are looking to make something this addictive.

  6. Nick says:

    Damn you, you’re going to be the end of me, Shamus! After being away for a few years, I just reactivated my City of Heroes account after seeing your first post on it. Dusted off the old cape and was back to slicing and blowing up villains!

    Great, there went any little productivity I’ve had outside of work now…

  7. Ludo says:

    Just for the record, there is a “name availability checker” on the characters page, where you choose to play an existing one or create a new one.

    Or at least, there is on the European servers (I didn’t checked on the american or the korean ones).

  8. Shamus says:

    Ludo: Yes, but I usually decide the name after I’ve designed the character.

  9. FrozenCapybara says:

    As a longtime City of Heroes player, I love reading your comments – it’s neat seeing it through a new player’s eyes.

    That said, two notes:
    1. There’s a little “check name” button on the character list screen that will let you check to see if a name is available. It doesn’t help after you’ve created your costume, and I completely agree with your comments about name-checking order (that drives me up the wall whenever I roll a new character), but if you’ve got a name in mind you can at least check it before you go through the whole creation process.

    2. Be mindful of calling defenders “healers” – you’ll get crap from a lot of players for that. Most defenders have at least one heal power… but not all of them do, and most of them are primarily buffers. Empathy (the standard “healer” powerset) is kind of looked down on by a lot of veterans as being a weak defender set. Personally, I think this is less due to the powerset and more due to the fact that there are a lot of crappy empath players out there – Empathy is actually a really great set if you take the buffs and don’t focus entirely on healing – but nonetheless, “healers” tend to be looked down upon.

  10. Sam says:

    All this is making me want to try CoH more and more.

  11. Froody says:

    You’ve done, you picked my interest for a MMO with one single post, something your entire WoW series couldn’t do… congrats, downloading Trial now… ^^

  12. Nilus says:

    Making me want to start playing this again. It really is a blast to make a guy and play them. All though I do remember it getting repetitive after a while.

    As far as Superman goes. Depending on what age of comics and who is writing him Superman is every class and every origin. The guy can and has done just about everything. Which is why he is in mine and many other peoples opinions, such a boring character. He is so awesome that the only thing that can hurt him is a magic green rock.

  13. Paramnesia says:

    @FrozenCapybara (and anyone else who is familiar with CoH)

    How are skills arranged in CoH? Are you set on a path once you pick it? In the fantasy MMOs I’ve tried, often you have to pick and choose how to spend attribute points or game currency to advance your skills and there is no going back. This, if you realize you don’t like the particular build, you’re stuck with it or you have to reroll. For example, if I play a Defender, at some point in my career path am I stuck being more a healer — I’m going to resort to that term since I’m not familiar with CoH’s terms — versus a buffer.

    I’ll be interesting to see how Champions Online is received, particularly by CoH/CoV fans. It’s also a bit surprising in my opinion, considering so many kids grew up wanting to be their favorite comic book character, that it took so long for a superhero themed MMO to come alone, unless there was one prior to CoH I don’t know about.

  14. rose glace says:

    >it gives a popup asking if you want to enter the Tutorial
    >Zone, then it asks you what starting area you want,

    tsk. there’s a badge in the tutorial. if you’re a ravening
    completist, you can’t skip it. :-)

    (rose glace is a lvl 50 ice/ice/ice tank on justice)

  15. rose glace says:

    > How are skills arranged in CoH? Are you set on a path once
    > you pick it?

    to a certain extent, you are. your class and powersets
    are fixed (scrapper: katana/regeneration, stalker: ninja
    blade/ninjitsu, tanker: ice armour/ice melee). the powers
    chosen within those sets are comparatively fixed, but
    character respecification (which is available in-game
    via a task force, an item drop, at the “mall” or via
    an infrequent gift from the dev team) lets you re-choose
    your powers and how they’re configured.

  16. Lukasa says:

    The “Defender as Healer” debate is made worse by the fact that at lower levels, people truly expect Defenders to be Empaths. I’ve seen talented low-level Defenders with things like Storm who are unable to find groups to run with, as they get refused when it is discovered that they aren’t an Empath.

  17. Shamus says:

    I’m still very newbie on the game, but my own take on the “healer” class as it applies to characters in their 20’s:

    Healing seems to become useful when the group is pushing their limits. If everyone is fighting purples, then you need a constant infusion of healing to keep people standing. If the group is fighting oranges, then the bad guys shouldn’t be doing enough damage to require that healing and you’d be better off with buffs to help you tear through them quicker.

    The question I’m still wondering about is if fighting purples is even worth it. Sure, they’re worth lots more XP, but would you do better fighting something easier that you can kill faster? The answer, I suspect, is something irritating like, “It depends”.

  18. ngthagg says:

    I would actually put Superman in the Magic category. A space alien brought to earth isn’t too different from a demon summoned to earth, as I see it.

  19. krellen says:

    Healing is so colossally unimportant in CoX that my Mastermind often runs as a healer, despite her only healing power being the Medicine Ancillary pool power “Heal Other”.

    Staying alive in the game is far more often related to boosting your defences and resistances than in how quickly or well your team can heal. Superheroes don’t get “healed” – they avoid blows and absorb damage.

    Shamus: Fighting purples isn’t worth it. They take so much longer to take down than even reds that there’s really no point to it.

    Exception: Heroes and Archvillains. But that tends to be one purple in a bunch, not a bunch of purples.

    ngthagg: Superman is Natural origin because the game specifically says Natural origin includes “aliens from another planet using powers completely natural to their species”.

  20. Taellosse says:

    CoH is the only MMO (aside from Guild Wars, which operates on a different model) that I actually have purchased, though I did not maintain my subscription for very long. Unfortunately, while I wholeheartedly agree that the character creation system is GREAT, the game itself sort of fell down for me. It felt really repetitive, which I guess is a fairly standard weakness for MMOs. I’m one of those misanthropic non-socializers when it comes to gaming, though, so I was mostly missing out on the whole teaming-up aspect of the game.

    I got it relatively close to it’s original launch, though, so the game may have changed a good deal since then. I did take part in a one-month free re-activation deal they did a year or two back, and I noticed they’d made the character creator even more flexible than when I’d played before (it was now possible to scale facial features and body size, which made them much less similar, one to another), but the game itself seemed about the same.

  21. Noah Lesgold says:

    krellen: Superman is science origin because his powers aren’t natural to his species – he was acted upon by an external energy source. Basically he’s the Hulk with non-tattered pants.

    Paramnesia: Archetype and power set selection (and gender) are set in stone. Everything else is negotiable, between respecs and the costume editor stores. A force field defender is pretty much always going to be focused on shielding herself and her allies, but an empath has the option of dividing her focus between heals, buffs, etc. And, frankly, if you are crazy, you can use power pools (more generic powers available to all archetypes) to completely buck the standard plan for your archetype, though you’ll be sacrificing effectiveness to do it (you can make a blaster with no ranged attacks apart from the one you have to take at level 1, if you want to).

    Regarding that, incidentally, the fact that the game is pretty easy (once you get the hang of it) has encouraged people to do some crazy things – I once had an alt in a supergroup where you had to roll a controller and then never use any of your primary or secondary powers, just pool (and controllers are worst in the game at pretty much everything besides control). It was surprisingly entertaining.

    The terrible thing about COH is that not playing the game has not done anything for my altitis – at least every couple weeks I come up with a great concept for a character that I would create in a second if my account were still active and my computer could run the game well. When I someday go back to the game, I am going to fill up around 2 servers in less than an hour. :-)

  22. Chris says:

    Definitely don’t forget to roll a villain. You’re missing out on half of the crazy characters people come up with if you never cross over. Most of the character creator options are the same, but creating a villain definitely spurs some creative juices.

  23. Joshua says:

    @Paramnesia- The only thing you can’t change down the road are your Sex, Model Size, Height, Archetype, Origin and Primary and Secondary Powersets. Everything else is fair game.

    You can change your costume at any time by going to a costume store in-game and paying influence (gameworld money substitute) or spending a free costume token (you earn these as rewards for being a subscriber every 3 months or so, or as a bonus they award to everyone around certain holidays like Christmas or the launch anniversary). You can also earn additional costume slots for alternate costumes once every 10 levels, plus an extra one during the Halloween event.

    You can change your powers, rebuilding from the ground up, by completing a special mission at levels 24, 34, and 44, or through the subscriber rewards (about once a year); they also give them out if they make a significant change to the way the powers work, which tends to be about every “Issue”.

    Finally, you can change the Enhancements that you put into your powers (granting them additional accuracy, damage, duration, range, etc) at any time just by dropping a new enhancement in; you can only recover old Enhancements to put them somewhere else or sell or trade by doing a full respec.

  24. Minion says:

    Dark/dark defender for the win! Yea, it’s hard as a defender to team when lower levels. But as you get higher that problem goes away. It definitely can be harder as a debuffer than a buffer which is silly. When I run my lvl 50 ddd it’s rare to need to heal anyone since the bad guys just ain’t hitting anyone. :)

    Re: power sets. Issue 13, I think unless it’s being popped into Issue 14, will let you swap out powers. I think the power sets stay the same, but you can have your solo skills and your team skills and trade them for which you are doing. Since a team built def is hard to solo I glee for that.

    I love that CoH is changing stuff and doesn’t seem to have problems fixing what seems broken. Issue 13 and 14 have me holding onto my subscription even if I probably should save the money. Leveling pacts? So I no longer out level my husband’s char when we make a duo? Made of awesome.

  25. Nick says:

    There were some animosity for Empaths early in the game because it seemed every other defender or controller were skipped over for them in groups. It could especially be frustrating as a controller, as at first, it isn’t a very soloable character (and who wasn’t irritated when you get a group locked down and you start taking it out on the first guy when some blaster would run by, blast the entire group, take the credit for the kills, and move on), and it seemed non-empath (or at least, non-healing) defenders/controllers were tolerated in groups rather than valued. Though a few smart regen scrappers learned how god-like a good kinetics controller/defender can make them…

    Of course, controllers then became near gods after level 32. My girlfriend at the time was playing a Dark/electric defender and I had a gravity/kinetics controller, and after level 38 (when I got fulcrum shift), we would steamroll through purple groups. I would have 3-4 singularities out at one time, she had 4-6 dark servants (thanks to my kinetics endurance and recharging enhancing powers) and nothing could touch us. And thanks to my kinetic’s fulcrum shift, the more enemies there were, the more powerful we become.

    Till the devs nerfed pets, which I saw coming. I think they at least gave the controllers some pre-32 usefullness, but when it took only 4 gravity controllers and their pets to lock down a monster-scale villain (and lock down in that it couldn’t do anything, attack, move, etc., though we didn’t generate enough damage ourselves to take it down ourselves) I thought we would be seen as hitting the ridiculous scale. Those were the days when fire/radiation controllers were seriously uber. Now, pets are limited to one at a time (or one batch). Before, pets were on a 2-minute timer, and the power was set on a 2-minute recharge. With enhancements and powers that decrease recharge time, you could have 3-4 out at once. With a group of kinetics… well, I think I got 8 out at once in that group… :) Was alot of fun, though way too powerful.

    But that was then. It’s been a while since I’ve played, and hopefully the devs have balanced out the game much better now. I got some playing time in last night, found that my old supergroup on Liberty was still active, and had a bit of fun with my old scrapper cutting through mobs.

  26. Templar says:

    Dark/dark defender for the win!

    quoted for truth! (and justice, and all that other good stuff ;D)

    Fact of the matter is, even the “healer” Defender powerset; Empathy… only has *three* actual healing abilities. Buffing your teammates, and debuffing the badguys, is INFINITELY better and more useful than healing… particularly in the post level 30 game, when most of your teammates have more hit points than you can sustain with your three healing powers. (any empathy defender on a level 50 mission with more than one tank, can undoubtedly sympathize with that… you quickly get a sense of “why bother?” when your best healing power doesn’t actually recover enough HP to visibly see the tanks bar increase… at all. but ah! “recovery” and “regen”… thars gold in them thar hills! ah the “endurance crack”… we do love you Empathy Defenders, we love you long time!)

    on that note, having a Dark/Dark Defender along for the ride, means that every. single. power. he hits the badguys with, will decrease their accuracy… a lot. (or a Rad/Rad ‘fender, who boosts your defense so high that you can’t be touched… or… etc..)

    say it with me now friends; “you don’t need healing… if you aren’t being hit”

    My D/D/D is arguably the single most solo-able character i ever played. Even more so than my tanks and scrappers. Load those enhancement slots up with “To Hit Debuffs” and nothing… nothing can touch you. I’ll admit, the fight takes a little longer because he can’t dish out the damage nearly as well… but man… I am the living shadow! i am the night! i can not be stopped!

  27. lowlymarine says:

    Damn you Shamus! I started playing the Tabula Rasa trial last week because of you, and you’ve already got my next couple of weeks dedicated to trying out CoH! If you keep this up, I’ll never get to play a game I actually already own ever again. Excellent writeup!

  28. Has anyone besides me ever noticed how City of Heroes shows its Korean roots in the behavior of the citizens on the street?

    When you rescue someone on the streets of any city, they will BOW to you!

    I don’t think that’s something you would see in New York city, no matter how many lives you saved!

    Leslee

  29. rose glace says:

    >The question I’m still wondering about is if fighting purples >is even worth it.

    it does depend. some teams can handle purple-to-everyone
    spawns without slowing down. some, well, can’t.

    there’s also the issue of challenge. one of my characters
    (a tank) needs to crank up the difficulty level and then
    aggro about four groups at once to get her health to budge
    off of 100%. a team with purple spawns is just about right
    for a challenge….

  30. Kevin says:

    There’s a little bit of Grand Theft Auto to the street life of City of Heroes that I did like. I loved walking up to a guy who had done nothing bad other than con the wrong color and just start beating him down in public.

    Superman’s origin is Plot Device.

  31. Traska says:

    Ah, the origin debate.

    Superman, as has been stated, is a Natural origin. He hasn’t been altered (science), he is neither robot nor cyborg nor possessing of a battlesuit (technology), he uses no magic nor was he empowered by it (magic), and he is exactly like every other Kryptonian (mutation).

    You take any Kryptonian, bring them to a yellow star system, and you have a powerhouse. The fact that he doesn’t have those powers on Krypton is irrelevant. They are as natural for his species as his arms and legs.

    Also, I’d classify Punisher as technology, actually, since his weapons are what defines his ability. While it’s true that he’s a good brawler, he is an artist when using military hardware.

    While WW certainly is Magic (as she was sculpted from magic clay), the other Amazons are Natural, as they constitute a separate non-human species living on Earth (again, all Amazons are roughly the same in power level).

    Finally, a summoned demon could very well be a Natural, too, if they don’t wield magic. A demon Brute (the CoV answer to Tankers) could definitely be a Natural… if s/he doesn’t wield magic and his/her powers are standard for all demons of that type.

    Okay, that was a little more pedantic than I expected, but that’s what happens when you love comics *and* the game.

  32. Nilus says:

    Shamus, you owe me money. All this City of Heroes talk made me want to play again. Unfortunetly my PC has been bust for a year so I finally decided to fix it today. Lucky for me it was just the power supply, but to get a new one I had to go to the most evil place on earth….Fry’s. I ended up coming home with a better power supply then I had, a new video card and a copy of the COH/COV combo pack because it was 15 bucks there, which is about the same cost as a months worth of play of the game anyway and I did not actually have CoV.

    Damn you Shamus!!!!!

  33. Kristin says:

    My scrapper (spines/regen) actually does have two ranged powers and two AoE powers.

    My scrapper is a soloing GODDESS.

  34. Danel says:

    Heh. I’ve actually been unsubscribed to CoH for a little while now – largely because YOU persuaded me to try WoW and I’m not going to try subscribing to two MMOs at once – but I keep getting tempted to go back. I’ve heard interesting things about the Halloween event this year.

    From the way I understand it, Martial Arts in particular is the most single-target primary for a scrapper – I’ve seen broadsword scrappers boasting upon the forums about their group-beating abilities. MA is kind of a boss-killer primary, from my experience – high single-target damage.

    Are you going to try Redside, as well? It’s worth it just to try a Mastermind, I have to say, though Brutes are great fun as well. While you’re Blueside though, you must try the Faultline missions if you haven’t already – definitely some of the best low-to-mid content in the game, and a semi-rare chance to fight Arachnos (at least in Paragon City), who are an interesting villain group, though really horribly overused for Villains.

  35. ryanlb says:

    If there were any MMO that would get me to play with others it’s this one. And possibly World of Warcraft. And SW Galaxies.

    If only I had the money for it, I probably would very much enjoy this game. Although I have the creativity of a photocopier. My characters would very much be pretty obvious clones and amalgamations of existing comic book characters.

  36. Nilus says:

    Don’t waste your time with SW Galaxies. Its a text book case on how not to make a MMORPG especially a licensed one. I played in the beta and it was bad. I played again at release and it was actually worse. I tried it once more when they totally revamped the game a year or so ago and despite fixing some stuff(you could actually be a force user from the start) it still was just not up to par with the other MMORPGs out there.

    I remember debating the game on a forum years ago. Someone was going on about how SW Galaxies craft system was amazing and how fun it was to be a merchant or a entertainer. I responded with thats great for some boring generic fantasy game but this was suppose to be Star Wars. I wanted to run around with a Lightsaber and a blaster shooting stormtroopers and saving princess.

  37. Derek K. says:

    “Healing seems to become useful when the group is pushing their limits.”

    At that point, heals are the last thing you want, actually.

    Unless you have a full on devoted empath and very good placement of allies, healing won’t keep up.

    You need buffs and, more importantly, debuffs and controls. If you have a foe doing 1/3 your life per hit, and you can heal 1/3, you’re breaking even. If you have a foe doing 1/3 your life, and he gets locked down, you’re breaking even too, except that your defender isn’t spamming heals to keep you there – they’re now doing something useful. ;)

    @Nilus: Don’t even start. SW:G at beta and SW:G post NGE are neither representative of Star Wars Galaxies. And it’s *because* people wanted to be lightsaber princess savers that the game died. The problem is that the SW of the movies only lends itself to an MMO for certain people – there are almost no jedis, just people. Your interest has to be in the world, not the sabers. Now the KOTOR MMO will satisfy the saberlovers. I’ll be the wookie scout in that one. ;) And the crafting was both spectacular, and so far beyond other games (For a while, I was a commissioned hunter for an armor smith. It was one of the few times I’ve ever said “This could never happen in a single player game. This justifies MMOs). :p

  38. Glalev says:

    Hey Shamus, one thing you should try, just for laughs.

    Make a tiny character, make it a blaster with the energy manipulation secondary powerset and then run up to a villain and use the starting power of that set.

    There’s just something awfully amusing about a tiny character punting villains across the room/street in one hit.

  39. Mark says:

    A Kryptonian exposed to radiation is Natural, but a human exposed to radiation (Fantastic Four) is Science? Why the difference?

    If Superman is Natural, so are Hulk, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. After all, it’s perfectly Natural to develop powers when you’ve been genetically engineered, exposed to radiation, or mutated, right? In fact, wouldn’t that make all superheroes Natural? Anybody in the same circumstances would have the same powers.

    No. The question is, what circumstances give the character powers? If there are no circumstances, the origin of their powers is Natural.

    If all Kryptonians were like Superman all the time, under any circumstances (that is, they were that way naturally), then yeah, I’d say Natural. But there is a scientific phenomenon that gives him powers. Science!

  40. mistergreen says:

    Yes this years Halloween event will not only have the standard Trick-or-Treating, run to doors and click on them to see if you get a treat (Temporary costume, Tier 3 Inspiration, temp power) or a Trick (mobs consisting of vampires, witches, werewolves, zombies, pumpkin heads) all of which upon defeating enough of them award you with a badge. Not to mention the two giant monsters of Echolai and Jack in Irons. This year they are tossing out a Zombie invasion with some gnarly looking zombies and of course all new badges to go with them.

  41. Loneduck3 says:

    I imagine you’ll cover this later, but I’m curious. How does CoH/CoV handle loot? I mean, you plainly don’t get better armor and weapons. So is there an endgame, what if any drops are there?
    I played a trial, but I don’t recall any of the drops being useful. Of course, I was rather newbish, so it may have just been ignorance on my part.

  42. Khorboth says:

    You should certainly try villains as well. I feel like the game itself is actually somewhat better. The plots are better, there is less pointless running around, the opponents are deeper, and the zones more interesting on average. Also, there is more variety in the villains archetypes than in the heroes. Either way, I’m glad you’ve gotten to it.

    I totally agree with your nitpick. Let me just add… Can’t they make the scrollwheel behave consistently from one window to another?

    @Loneduck: Loot is a weak point in Cox. You get generic “enhancements” which will enhance on aspect (like damage) of a variety of powers. Except for the very top-end stuff, you could buy it all from vendors just as easily as getting it for defeating foes. Later, they introduced the “invention system” which amounts to collecting/buying a few items and paying the workstation to make you something somewhat better. They’ve now introduced some elite recipes which are substantially better than what you can get from a vendor, but they’re far from necessary.

  43. Adeon says:

    Well, I’m going to download the CoH trial and give it a go (probably should have started the download this morning so that I could actually play it tonight). I’ve thought about playing it in the past, but I’ve never really had a good experience with MMOs since they rarely keep me amused for long.

    @Derek K:
    I tend to agree with Nilus, if I’m going to play Star Wars there should be Jedi (or at least large spaceship battles). To me the Star Wars universe is about the epic battle between good and evil and the Jedi epitomize that. When I hear the words Star Wars I don’t think normal people I think lightsabers. I don’t know if SW: Galaxies was a good game or not but I was always surprised that they made a game which didn’t include Jedi as a base class since I suspect that there are a lot more people who would play it to be a Jedi then who would play it just because it’s Star Wars. I realize that a Star Wars MMO where everyone is a Jedi would not really be true to the source material, but the fact that Sony ended up changing the game so that it was an option suggest that they felt it was what their customers wanted.

  44. Rick says:

    The difference between Superman and Spider-Man (and the Hulk, the FF…) is that Spider-Man was intrinsically changed by the spider bite. Superman was not intrinsically changed by being displaced from Krypton to Earth; if he were to return to Krypton (assume for the sake of argument that that’s possible), he would be no different from any other Kryptonian.

  45. MechaCrash says:

    The closest thing the game has to loot is the invention system, where you can make fancy enhancements. Generally speaking, using those is better than using ordinary enhancements, and you can also get set bonuses if you use a bunch from a set. That’s a relatively recent addition to the game, though. Before that, the closest the game had to loot were Hamidon Enhancements, which enhanced two things for the price of one slot. The question was if you’d get something useful to you (such as one for accuracy and damage) or if you’d get something…less useful (like range and damage).

    As for the endgame…again, not much of one. All you’ve got are Hamidon raids (level 46+, I think), and the Statesman and Recluse Task Forces (level 50 only), plus when you hit 50 you can get the epic archetypes. Kheldians for Heroes, and Soldiers of Arachnos for Villains. However, I feel that the lack of stuff to do at 50 is more than counterbalanced by the fact that there’s interesting stuff to do before 50. All of which you can go back and do if you go past it.

    Or, to be brief: if you want a loot-focused raiding game, this isn’t it.

  46. Omro says:

    But then, you couldn’t fit Superman into a single archetype, either. He’s a scrapper and a blaster and a tanker.
    No, superman is a spoiler.

  47. RKG says:

    Shamus this is important
    DO NOT LOOK INTO THE BADGE SYSTEM !!!!
    If you are every bit of the video game completionist you say you are, the hunt for badges will drain what little time you had left to do other things.

    Seriously though, when the missions become repetitive in the mid 30’s reroll and go badgehunting.

    While the roles of the heroes pretty much fit the standard mmo roles, the villain side mixes it up differently. I hope you will play that game as well.

  48. DKellis says:

    To be perfectly honest, despite being one of the voices asking him to review the game, I don’t expect Shamus to stay with CoH/V for long. The instances are repetitive, and CoH players might know what I mean when I suspect that the five-tier cave room will be justified reason to uninstall. I’m a die-hard fan and incredibly biased, but I recognize that some bits of the game could use improvement.

    I just wanted to read the opinions on the costume creator. Because it is that good.

  49. DaveMc says:

    Shamus (comment 17): The question I’m still wondering about is if fighting purples is even worth it. Sure, they’re worth lots more XP, but would you do better fighting something easier that you can kill faster? The answer, I suspect, is something irritating like, “It depends”.

    Well, it depends . . . :) I generally find it not worthwhile, if you’re trying to maximize XP per min, for the very reason you cite: more XP per villain, but fewer villains per time, for less total XP per time. Some high-damage groups can pull it off, though.

    It’s nice to see you having fun in one of my favourite games! I echo the comments of others in wondering why no other game I’ve encountered has a character creator that’s nearly as nice as COH’s . . . A single-player superhero game where you could customize your hero as much as that would be fantastic.

    P.S. One utility I’ve found very helpful is a thing called HeroStats, readily findable through the Google. It pops up an in-game window that keeps track of your XP per minute, as well as timers showing how long until powers recharge and until buffs wear off – I now find it confusing to play without that window, since I don’t know exactly when my Unstoppable (or whatever) is going to fade. Some people fret about third-party programs being out to steal your password, but I’ve been using Herostats for about two years without any problem.

  50. Vao Ki says:

    On the subject of healers, esp at later levels:

    I played a controller who ended up being our primary healer.

    Yes, the controller in the group was the healer. I had 1 heal, and yet I was expected to save the scrawny, glass-jawed, over-aggroing blaster consistently.

    We needed heals because we tried to tackle things above us. Even when healing I was able to manage controlling the fight well enough for my heals to matter. Without my control powers we would have been toast.

    As for whether taking purples is worth it? If the group is good and balanced, then why not?

    Our group of 5 MMs was bored without at least tacklings reds, though we preferred purples.

    Villains are more fun anyway.

    Come to the dark side Shamus…

  51. Count Stex says:

    Second shout out for HeroStats.. COH is a bit picky about UI Addons, so this is about at close as you can get.. well no, maybe the map thingy where it adds badge locations to the maps is the closest but anyway, it a valuable tool! My wife and I always make sure it’s running before we head off into that wonderful city.

  52. While I haven’t played for a couple of years, I was a subscriber for 2 years (Simian Defence Force – Raise high the Fist!!) and still keep tabs on what they are doing. One of the most recent updates (or maybe it is the one about to come up) will allow you to have two sets of power choices, enhancement slottings, etc that you will be able to switch back and forth between.

  53. Jamey says:

    I play on Victory primarily, Virtue secondarily, so you won’t likely see me running around :) But I went with a theme of food related names, and was able to get most of them first try. “El Charrito” is my Fire/Fire Tanker, Science origin (only because “Cooking” was not an option). He formulated a special spice to add to his food that allows him to project his intestinal distress onto the environment around him :)

    Killing Purples: Not worth it, ever, in an XP/minute sort of way. If your team can pull it off (or if you’re just a couple levels below the rest of the team, so they’re just purple to *you*) is good, you’ll get a lot of XP. Or, if you’re a combination that’s ultra powerful it can be a fun challenge. But using Herostats across many different characters/setups I found that in about 85% of cases, fighting Blues actually gives the highest XP/minute. If it’s not blues (the other 15%), it’s Whites. Generally, the XP reward goes up at a lower percentage than the additional time to kill them as you step up the scale.

  54. karln says:

    But then, from what I hear (I don’t have a character above 20 yet, I have bad altitis) the fun of CoX is mostly in playing through the levels, not at level 50, so XP/time is mostly useful for skipping through levels you’ve been through too many times already. If you’re doing content that’s new for you, it’s probably best to pick the difficulty level you find most fun :D

    My Mastermind has been having a blast on Malicious from level 5 or so, and Vicious after getting his third Zombie. Vicious sounds like I may be getting less XP/min now since it provides fewer mobs than Malicious but at higher levels, but at least I’m not bored :) On Villainous (the ‘normal’ level) the game rapidly reduced to watching the zombies wade in and clean up, and after Zombie 3 joined us Malicious was going that way too. Now I’m actually required to use my fine controls.

  55. Luke Maciak says:

    Now I want to try this game, just to mess around with the character creation system. :P

    Oh and re: Star Wars Galaxies – I never played the game but I did play the D6 Star Wars RPG and I do not think any of my characters actually ever seen a Jedi.

    Well, except for a very short lived Rodian smuggler who teamed up with two Jedi PC’s on a one-off adventure which ended in TPK. I think the GM just got annoyed that our solution to just about any problem that day was “Jedi mind-trick it, and if that doesn’t work cut through it it with a lighsaber”.

    So I’d argue that SW universe can sometimes be more fun without the focus on the Jedi. Again though, I haven’t played Galaxies so no clue how it worked there.

  56. krellen says:

    Any Star Wars game that doesn’t allow Jedi is doomed to failure. That isn’t to say people won’t pick to play non-Jedi – many will! – but the option has to be present for it to really feel like Star Wars.

  57. Joshua says:

    The thing about loot in CoH is that it’s almost completely unnecessary for your character (and is completely unrelated to your character’s appearance, except for some special decorative costume pieces you can get as drops). You do have to get and slot enhancements, or you will be underpowered (still able to complete missions, but they’ll take longer and you’ll spend more time recovering health and endurance than you’d prefer), but with the addition of salvage and recipes to the game that takes almost no effort. If you do nothing but sell everything that drops, you should have more than sufficient to keep the ordinary enhancements you can buy at the trainers and contacts up-to-snuff throughout the game, despite them wearing out as you level up.

    In return for a small amount of effort, you can easily craft or buy generic enhancements that’ll never need replacing and basically let you opt out of the whole buying/slotting/crafting part of the game.

    On the other hand, if you’re willing to put more effort into it, you can amp up your character fairly substantially, either plugging holes in the build (such as making yourself largely immune to knock-back, noticeably increasing your regeneration or recovery rate, etc.)

    And if you really get into the whole crafting and trading part of the game, you can make characters that are absurdly over-the-top, at least as far as anything the PvE game requires.

  58. Veylon says:

    There’s also a standalone hero designer, in case you want to see what is possible to create. The company doesn’t put it out anymore, but I found it on the torrents. It’s a lot of fun!

  59. Nilus says:

    Well I made my new guys on Freedom. Cyber Samurai X2(she is based of my original character I made a long time ago on Guardian). I seem to recall when I played last you didn’t get to select what your weapon looked like(everyone with a Katana had the same Katana and I don’t think 2 weapons was an option either, man its been a log time since I played).

    Is anyone suprised that your characters are saved for as long as they are. I went on the server I use to play on and all my old characters are still playable.

  60. DKellis says:

    A bit of elaboration on “small amount of effort” and suchlike needed for enhancements:

    Short version: You’re going to need to be significantly lucky with certain high-demand drops (not very lucky, but quite lucky nonetheless), or very savvy with the in-game economy. The latter can come about from innate ability or prior knowledge, but the whole buy-low sell-high thing is dependent on one’s knack for market speculation.

    Long version: Basically, the time of “swimming in income” is in the 35-40 range. The “default” enhancement versions (at least, what players consider to be the standard), Single Origins, become available at 22, and it is next to impossible to obtain a full set by then without an outside source of inf (I consider the in-game economy an “outside source”).

    The “never expires” Invention Origin enhancements cost more than their equivalent at that level range. (The only time they can cost less is if you’ve already created enough of them to “memorize” that particular type, which makes it all kind of circular.) This is just the crafting cost, without taking into account the cost of the materials and the recipe, which vary greatly.

    The good news is that you don’t need Single Origins the moment they come out, and you can use the half-as-good Double Origins (or the “everyone sells these vendor trash” Training Origins) all the way to endgame, if you don’t mind not being as effective. This especially applies to teams, where weaknesses are easily shored up, and it’s often hard to tell if a teammate is not blinged out. (I know some people can, and occasionally I notice it myself too, but I’m talking about in general here.)

    The game has not been rebalanced to take into account Inventions-that-make-people-uber. In fact, the devs specifically don’t want to do so, because they don’t want to create a have/have-not situation. (How well the game is balanced anyway is a whole different argument.)

    In conclusion, “small amount of effort” is entirely subjective; it’s not a token effort. Patience, study, and luck are still needed.

    Also, tangential: a lot of people (myself included) prioritize slotting for accuracy. This is because people hate missing and wasting endurance; despite various bits of code put in to favour the player, tabletop gamers still know very well the wrath of the Random Number God.

  61. karln says:

    CoH does seem to make players much more miss-prone than the other MMOs I’ve played (WoW and GW). Certainly in GW you never miss unless your opponent does something specifically to make you do so; perhaps in WoW you miss more than I remember but if so, it certainly was never as annoying. All my relevant powers have accuracy enhancements up the ears these days.

  62. krellen says:

    I’ll note that you miss more in CoH because more focus is put on defences than on healing and health – this is true for both players and enemies.

  63. MechaCrash says:

    While slotting for accuracy is important, you shouldn’t short-change other aspects for it. One SOs worth of accuracy (or about 33%) will be fine for the majority of situations. If you routinely fight +3 enemies, then using two SOs worth of accuracy (or 66%) could be useful…but if you need more than that to hit reliably, it’s probably something you shouldn’t be fighting in the first place because power scaling kicks in and makes your attacks do squat.

    This only applies to powers with regular accuracy, though. Some have bonuses or penalties to accuracy.

  64. karln says:

    Actually now I think about it, the characters I play most tend to really /need/ to hit reliably in order to keep things under control: a Controller, a Dominator, and a Dark/Reflexes Brute (the Mastermind can get away with a few misses but things still go belly-up sometimes in tough fights when his hit-the-enemy-to-heal-everyone misses several times in a row). Maybe Blasters and Scrappers and such don’t mind missing 1 in 5 or however many it is.

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