City of Heroes - Impression

City of Heroes
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: NCSoft
ESRB: Teen
Release Date: 04.28.04
Cape Mission Done!

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Heroic Lineup

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Men in tights, tight tights

Soaring through the e-sky isn't just for e-mail and connections anymore. There's a new kid on the block for European gamers, and that kid just happens to be 7 feet tall with huge biceps and the ability to shoot lightning bolts out of his eyes. Although the United States has had PC's superhero MMORPG City of Heroes for over a year, the UK recently finished their beta test and RPGamer was given a key and 3 days of high-flying, spandex-wearing, problem-fixing superhero action.

Cryptic Studio's City of Heroes is not like many of the online games circulating the internet. No, this game abandons the idea that difficult combat, 2 week quests, and deep backstory are a must. In fact, the story pretty much starts off fresh for the chosen superhero archetype. You will only know there was recently a largescale alien invasion. You'll only learn more when you take a visit to the official website for a larger story revealed in the form of a very quick, but very detailed timeline.
"Everything about City of Heroes screamed "fun"."

When I started the game, the first thing that I had to choose was the body type. Choosing between a petite female, an Adonis male, or an over-sized man was interesting enough, but I had still more customization to go. After choosing the body type, the option for choosing a body height for my hero came up; and the choices ranged anywhere from a miniscule few feet tall to a gigantic 7 feet. After the height came a very long process of choosing a look for my beautiful female superhero. Choosing from over thousands of combinations was not easy; add in the huge color selection and every hero has every reason to be more unique than the other. After the selection of looks came the selection of class, or archetype, for my armored superheroine.

The list was both in-depth, and put together with an obvious attention to accessibility and ease. Choosing from 5 different beta-only classes was a hard choice, especially when I saw the choices. You can choose between the powerful Blaster; the weak, but cunning Controller; the helpful Defender; the fearless Scrapper; or the stout Tanker. Only two archetypes were unavailable for selection in the beta, and they were the Peacebringer and the Warshade. After selecting my archetype (which also determined my stats) I had to choose my origin. This option would determine what "enhancements", or permenant power-ups, I would be able to use in the future. The origins were not restricted for the beta and included superheroes that were granted powers through science, mutation, magic, and technology. There was also an origin type called "natural", which involved someone that had no powers but was still extraordinary.

After all of this customization came even more customization! Yes, I was allowed to choose my starting powers. Since I chose a Mutation Blaster, I was presented with multiple elemental trees, as all archetypes are. However, in these trees were special powers unique to my archetype. I would not be able to control minds, but I could fire off very powerful elemental forces in direct "blasting" form.

Finally, after all of the customization came an in-depth tutorial area that consisted of testing the controls and testing my newly created character's powers. Only after the optional tutorial was I given access to the world of Paragon City, and its two starting cities: Galaxy City and Atlas Park.

The controls for City of Heroes felt quite unorthodox, at first. The movement keys were bound to W, A, S, and D respectively with Q and E being the sidestep keys. For a beginner MMORPG player, this may initially be a burden. Thankfully, they've thought of you too with the tutorial section. As soon as you enter your chosen city, the fun begins as you're told that you get to visit your first contact and get your first quest! Although City of Heroes has quests, they are rarely unplayable. In fact, most of them are quick seek-and-destroy missions meant to quiet down gangs. The not-so-good part is that often these areas are full of instantly-aggressive groups of enemies that will attack.

Luckily for you, all of your powers are available at the press of a number key. Instead of having to click to fire a thunderball or activate flying, just press the right number and away you go. City of Heroes also combines two seperate failsafes to make sure no mutant can attack too quickly and too frequently. The first is the very familiar endurance system, also known as "MP" in many RPGs. The second failsafe is a skill recharging system which causes your power to be unusable after the casting for an extended amount of time. This recharging time can be lowered with "enhancements" which are put in selected powers to acheive many different desired effects. Enhancements range from making powers more powerful, to taking less endurance, to even being able to run or fly quicker and jump further. To add even more depth to battles is temporary power-ups called "inspirations". These power-ups are obtained from fighting enemies on the streets. They will often give you temporary boosts or assistance such as more hitpower, lower endurance costs, higher recharge rates, or any other number of status boosts.

Levels are also handled with two different systems. With every other level being a power level, you're able to select a new super power from preselected trees. With the non-powerlevels you must choose which existing powers will be granted a maximum of 2 additional enhancement slots. Don't worry; you can pick two different powers for which to give an enhancement slot. Starter levels are also filled with hints and hidden abilities like being able to rest to regenerate faster. As the "security level" of your hero gets higher, you can unlock three additional skills such as flight, faster running, "buffs" strengthen you and your party, and various other skills.

To add on to the character customization, City of Heroes allows players to don a cape and redesign at security level 20. Of course, getting the cape requires a quest, and redesigning could also require a seek-and-destroy quest. Don't expect to be able to redesign for free, because you'll have to use a considerable amount of your money ("influence") just to be able to change one part of your outfit.

In all, City of Heroes was a long-needed breath of fresh air in my gaming history. There were no annoying weapon quests, half-done battle interfaces, or rude users. Everything about City of Heroes screamed "fun". From being able to create my own super hero, to being able to design looks, to even chatting while sitting around in level-up areas, City of Heroes delivered. Especially with a great community of Europeans who were all very nice to a lone American playing in their waters. If you're looking for a great game that is just about fun, pick up City of Heroes as soon as you can. You won't be disappointed, especially if you love comic books and superheroes. This game goes a long way to finally filling the expectations and desires that other games never quite managed to measure up to. European or American versions--both are sure to be loved games in your library.

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