It’s the classic MMO question: If I’m saving the world, why are people charging me money for gear? Shouldn’t they just give me the stuff?
City of Heroes fixes this nicely with the influence system. You earn influence instead of money for fighting bad guys, and you use that influence to get items from vendors. In essence, they are giving you stuff for free. The system of influence represents the fact that they’re not going to just hand out free goodies to every idiot in tights.
This is another system which nicely merges comic book conventions with MMO gameplay.
Of course, heroes never die, they just get knocked out. When you go down, you can use a wakie to revive yourself. (Assuming you have one, and you should always have at least one.) When you’re revived, you stumble about helplessly in a daze for fifteen seconds or so before you recover, and even then your health will be low and you’ll be out of endurance. You’ll need to rest a bit before you rejoin the fight, and it’s pointless to revive yourself if enemies are near, as they’ll just swat you back down.
If you can’t get a wakie or the bad guys hold you down, you can click a button to go to the nearest hospital.
I hate XP debt, but the debt you accrue in City of Heroes is fairly tame. It can be erased in a couple of minutes. None of your property is damaged.
It’s the classic MMO problem: You finally talk your buddy into playing your new MMO with you. He joins up, but he’s level clueless and you’re level asskick. You want to keep playing with the character you’ve been working on, but you want your friend to join you. So you roll an alt and forego the fun you were having. Or maybe he hooks up with another group while waiting to catch up. You never end up playing together or doing so turns out to be more hassle than it’s worth. It’s a stupid obstacle to having fun.
In City of Heroes, you get around this by making your friend your sidekick. When you take on a sidekick, they are “promoted” to one level below you for the purposes of calculating hit points, hit rolls, and so on. He’ll still only have access to his limited palette of powers, so he won’t be quite as effective as a normal character of the given level, but it works and it lets you play together. You can only have one sidekick at a time, and your sidekick can’t get too far or they lose the boost, but it’s still a great way to let friends of different levels play together.
Once again we have great gameplay ideas merged gracefully with comic book concepts.
Every power has at least one enhancement slot:
|A power with a single empty enhancement slot.|
This is the power “Explosive Blast”, which lets my character shoot sparkly blue particle effects at bad guys so hard that they fall over. (And sometimes die.) It has one enhancement slot. Into that slot I can, tautologically enough, slot an enhancement.
This is as close as the game comes to having “armor” upgrades like in a traditional MMO. Here, these upgrades are mostly abstract. An enhancement sort of looks like a coin. Bad guys drop them and stores sell them. (And by “drop”, I mean they just appear in your inventory. Real Heroes don’t waste time going through the bad guy’s pockets looking for goodies.)
Into the slot above I could place enhancements to make that power do more damage, burn less endurance, fire faster, reach farther, or be more accurate. The enhancements use the same coloring system that inspirations do, so no matter what the thing is called you can know that red=MOAR DAMAGE, yellow=more gooder hits, etc.
|I’ve put a run speed boost into my sprint ability slot. This one lets me run around 30% faster. This enhancement is level 25, and I’m level 26. When I hit level 28, this enhancement will become useless.|
Enhancements have levels just like heroes do. You can equip enhancements up to three levels above you. They will remain useful until they fall three levels behind you, at which point they turn red and stop working.
Every odd level you can add two enhancement slots anywhere you like. You can use this to boost the powers you use the most or that you think are most crucial. Each power can have up to six enhancements. Note that since you get a power every even level and two enhancement slots every odd level, there is no way you could ever hope to max out all slots for all powers.
|This is a power I use often, so I gave it the full six possible slots. The enhancement in the middle is too far below me in level, and has thus turned red and stopped working. Like a burned out lightbulb, I really should get around to replacing that one of these days.|
|The invention workbench at the university. You pay to get the recipe for an item, which you can then use once, and if you want to make another you must pay for the recipe again. This sounds less like inventing and a lot like a patent license.|
Some enemies drop salvage. Once in a long while you’ll get a recipe. There are a lot of different salvage parts and a lot of different recipes, and you’re limited in how many of each you can carry. You also have a vault you can use to offload some of your salvage until you’re ready to use it. If you go to an invention station and you have a recipe you’re interested in, and you have all the salvage bits required, then you can craft the item.
But getting the a recipe and right parts all together at the same time requires either luck, or mucking about at the auction house. Nevermind if the recipe is one you’re actually interested in. You might need to consult the wiki to figure out, long term, what parts you should be hoarding and what parts you should be selling to vendors and what parts you might want to put up for auction and for how much.
I should add that your vault, the auction house, and the invention station are nowhere near each other, and you’ll likely spend a lot of time trotting around the city and hopping through a few loading screens before you have your invention in hand.
So after you blow half an hour traveling around, reading the wiki, and fussing at the auction house you’ll have an enhancement that makes one aspect of one of your powers %15.3 more effective than the stuff you get in the store. Given that when you’re on a team (which is the fastest way to level) making one of your powers use slightly less endurance or deal slightly more damage isn’t going to contribute that much to the total effectiveness of the group as a whole. I seriously doubt you can get a favorable rate of return on this at anything other than the highest levels of the game. You would need to play for a long time before having one aspect of one power of one teammate could save enough time to pay for the half hour of travel and fussing around to took to make the damn thing. Maybe at the higher levels of the game it makes sense, but for most of your hero’s life you’ll outgrow the enhancement long before it pays for itself in time. (Unlike other enhancements, inventions don’t quit working when they fall behind you in level, although they don’t get better, either. Eventually the stuff you find will be be better than the stuff you made.)
It’s probably a fun activity if you’re really into pushing your numbers as high as they can go and experimenting with different builds, but I’m convinced that it’s not worth the time if you just want to level. It’s probably best to wait until you’re approaching the level cap before you sink time into it.
To be fair, you can ignore the invention system if you don’t like it. It was added well after the release of the game and the foes were not strengthened to compensate for it.
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