City of Villains - Reader Retroview  

Being Bad Can Feel Good!
by JCServant

Click here for game information
More than 80 Hours
+ Awesome character creator
+ Invention system optional
+ Lackey / Sidekick system
- Story is shallow
- Occasional glitches
- Instanced missions become repetitive quickly
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   Released in 2005, City of Villains allowed the MMORPG community to play as a comic book villain of their own making. With a robust character creator, improved graphics and physics, five new classes and a new invention system, City of Villains improved upon the original City of Heroes. Eventually, the two games combined. Now a subscription of one allows you play the other as well. Thankfully, due to some great ideas and the unique comic book atmosphere, City of Villains (CoV) provides a great MMROPG experience to players looking for something different.

    For those who have not had to pleasure of playing, CoV allows you to create the superhero or super-villain of your choice, and play online in a persistent MMORPG. Each ‘side’ of the game has five different classes to choose from. The “Heroes” classes fit your typical MMORPG stereotypes (The tank, blaster, scrapper, etc). The “Villains” classes have a few hybrid classes as well as a stealth/assassin class missing from the heroes. The character creator has tons of options. You can create just about anything you can imagine with the editor. After choosing you physical characteristics (Height, sex, weight, etc.) and your uniform (which ranges from typical tights to robot parts to leather) you will choose your beginning powers and be swept into the city of your choice.

    As with most MMORPGs lately, there are structured quests (known as missions) in CoV with stories that you can obtain from NPCs. They provide the background story for what you set out to do. However, I found most of them to be quite dry and boring. Eventually, I found myself simply skipping past what was said so I could get to the next mission faster. Completing missions in CoV is user friendly. I never found myself lost as to what to do when I had a quest. Unlike some other MMORPGs, quest targets are clearly shown on the maps. Once you are in an instanced quest, your objective is shown at the top at all times.

    You will choose a few powers at the beginning. During battles, you activate these powers by pressing hotkeys or clicking on icons. You have to wait for powers to cool down in between attacks. CoV plays a bit faster than other MMORPGs, and you can typically take on two or three ‘mobs’ at the same time. Unlike some MMORPGs, CoV has little ‘down time.’ Your energy regenerates quickly, and you always have a rest option when you get done with big fight to recover quickly.

I’m drinking milk, and one day, I’m going to be as big as him! I’m drinking milk, and one day, I’m going to be as big as him!

   Most missions are instanced. They are also customized by the number of people in your party. If you bring a lot of friends, you can expect that instance to be extremely crowded with lots of baddies that must be defeated. Go by yourself, and you will find correspondingly less foes to defeat. You may also adjust the overall difficulty of your missions, adding more foes or making them more or less difficult. This allows more experienced players to earn more experience faster. The vast majority of missions can be finished quickly, in about 20 minutes. However, ‘tasks forces,’ which are strings of missions for groups, can take much longer while offering nicer rewards.

    These customized instance missions makes grouping fun and exciting by insuring a good balance of risk and reward. However, CoV goes a few more steps to make grouping extremely viable for any group of people. A higher level friend can “Lackey” his lower level friend, essentially raising him to nearly the same level while they remain in close proximity; a feature sorely lacking in many other MMORPGs. Also, to encourage grouping, CoV awards bonuses to experience earned in a group setting which is much faster and easier than running alone.

    Instead of dropping gear, your foes will occasionally drop enhancements. Slotted into your powers, these enhancements can make your powers more effective. Foes also drop salvage which can be used to make your own enhancements or new uniform parts. This part of the game is entirely optional. Those who dislike inventory management or putting things together can simply sell those parts. Since the benefits of the custom built enhancements are small improvements over the standard enhancements you can buy, players who do not put the time and effort into them will not be at a significant disadvantage. Those who do use the system are typically your hardcore players who will enjoy squeezing even more benefits from their character’s power-set. MMORPG veterans, however, may find that this system is a bit lacking compared to more robust crafting systems found in their other games.

    CoV features a number of game play mechanics designed to take out some of the boredom typically found in similar games. Most characters earn a ‘travel power’ early in the game, so getting from point A to point B is much less tedious than other MMORPGs. It also features a great ‘looking for group’ system, making it easy to find people from anywhere when you want to team up. As mentioned before, the rest feature allows you to recover quickly from big fights, and you do not spend much time pursuing crafting activities even if you choose to create your own enhancements.

You paid how much for your horse?  I fly for free! You paid how much for your horse? I fly for free!

   CoV does have PvP zones and arena fights, and participation in them is optional. However, most of this was rolled out after City of Villains. It does not feel truly balanced, and the lack of variety of PvP (Player vs. Player) modes further enhances the feel that it is an afterthought. Most of the players I ran with focused on PvE (Player versus Environment), so if PvP is important to you, you may want to consider this.

    Some of the environment graphics, and textures, in CoV appear somewhat dated. This creates further problems when you see the same instances over and over again when you are ‘mission grinding.’ Some outside areas have unique look and atmosphere, however the majority looks bland. In contrast, the heroes and villains pop out nicely with vibrant colors and special effects aplenty. Some background music kicks in from time to time at certain points in the game to complement the explosive sounds of your powers when activated. However, the music is forgettable, at best.

Because of the lack of deep crafting system, fast travel powers, and great grouping bonuses, CoV takes significantly less time than most MMORPGs for you to hit max level and experience end game content. Since the end game content is also a bit shallow, many people create an ‘epic’ class character (available only when you hit max level with another character) or other characters to experience the game from other perspectives. I felt this aspect of CoV to be a refreshing change from MMORPGs that seem to go out of their way to slow down level progression.

Until Marvel or DC release an MMORPG, CoV is the only way to play a superhero with your friend in an MMORPG. Thankfully, the only choice is also a great one. It lacks the deeper customization in some areas of play, while the bland audio/visual and repetitive missions can get old quickly, no matter how much you love comics. However, CoV respects the player’s time by implementing game play mechanics that keeps the player focused on non-stop gaming. If you enjoy lots of solo play, CoV’s customizable difficulty leveled instances go a long way to help you be able to do so at any point. Fans of MMORPGs, however, usually play these games to hang out with their friends. And those fans, especially those who love comics, will find a lot to love about City of Heroes / City of Villains.

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