City of Heroes: Going Rogue - First Impressions

Publisher NCSoft has touted its recently launched City of Heroes/Villains expansion, City of Heroes: Going Rogue, as something of a reinvention of the superhero-based MMOG.

Publisher NCSoft has touted its recently launched City of Heroes/Villains expansion, City of Heroes: Going Rogue, as something of a reinvention of the superhero-based MMOG. It certainly added new zones, power sets, costumes and features, but is it really a whole new take on the superhero genre?

First Day on the Job

Praetoria offers a new starting area for players to explore.

Well, yes and no. The entire game hasnÂ’t been reinvented, but the newbie experience has. Praetoria provides a new entry point for starting characters who have grown tired of the Paragon City and Rogue Isles grind. In that respect, Going Rogue offers some interesting features and new content. But perhaps the most interesting feature the expansion has to offer is the Morality system.

Starting Out
One of the new things with City of Heroes: Going Rogue is that during the character creation process you can now choose between one of three areas for your character to begin: Hero, which sends you to the traditional Paragon City starting area, Villain, which will send you to the Rogue Isles, and finally you can choose Praetorian, which will send you to the new city of Praetoria.

Praetoria consists of four city sections: Nova Praetoria, the area that you first start at and the lower level section and seat of government for Praetoria, Imperial City, a slightly higher level section that also serves as the business district of Praetoria, Neutropolis, the final tier section and science district of Praetoria, and finally the Underground, a set of sewer tunnels that run under Praetoria filled with Ghouls and the Resistance. These four areas contain enough content and storyline missions to easily get you to level 20, at which point you can choose to leave Praetoria and enter Paragon City as a hero or the Rogue Isles as a villain.

I chose to explore the latest and greatest content, for obvious reasons, and thus our journey into Nova Praetoria begins. If youÂ’re a veteran player of City of Heroes you can choose to skip basic training or you can run through the detailed training process to get yourself familiar with how the game works and with each new contact you make youÂ’ll have optional dialogue choices that can sometimes provide more backstory to the goings on in Praetoria.

Morpheus Lookalike Winner

There's something very Matrixy about Interrogator Hoffman.

After speaking to Officer Flint, the first NPC to appear in the tutorial, youÂ’ll be informed that you are now part of Praetor WhiteÂ’s Powers Division, a team of superhero enforcers, and then you will be introduced to the first of your new contacts and resident Morpheus from The Matrix lookalike, Interrogator Hoffman. From this point you simply run the standard tutorial training system of beating up broken robots, learning about Enhancements, Inspirations, and the other basics that make City of Heroes work.

After a couple of tutorial training tests, youÂ’ll learn a bit about the underground Resistance in Praetoria and be sent to meet with a Resistance recruiter, who believes that you are unhappy about being inducted (drafted?) into the Powers Division, but hijinks ensue since the intention is to capture the poor fool. But upon arriving at the meeting place you find a rather annoying clockwork robot, which is stuttering a recording informing you to head deeper into the Underground to meet with your contact. (Get used to the Underground areas folks; youÂ’ll be spending a lot of time there.)

Once your conversation with the clockwork concludes youÂ’ll get to make your first choice in the game with one of two options, you can lie and tell the poor sappy robot that itÂ’s clear up top, condemning him to the mercy of the PPD (Praetorian Police Department) and certain deconstruction, or you can leave him where he is until things blow over.

As you proceed deeper into the sewers, you will eventually get a call from your contact, Wrencher, who will inform you that the Resistance is under attack from Ghouls. This is your first real taste of combat in Praetoria, and what better way to start than with zombie-like creatures. Not the Romero-type but those new Dawn of the Dead, run at you full speed types. (Yeah, I know theyÂ’re not technically zombies, just failed experiments.) You can choose to stop and help to get a little fight time in or just run through the battle area.

First Moral Decision

Deciding the fate of Wrencher is your first major decision in Going Rogue.

Once you pass through the fight, youÂ’ll finally reach Wrencher. However, Wrencher it seems isnÂ’t the stealthiest of operatives as he is already in the hands of the PPD when you arrive and this is where you get to make your first real choice from the new Morality system. After a brief cutscene, which will make Wrencher seem really sympathetic and leaves you wanting to just pound the PPDÂ’s faces into the pavement, you can choose to join the Resistance, in which case you will have to dispatch the PPD to free Wrencher, or you can choose to do your duty as a Loyalist, in which case poor Wrencher is on the receiving end of a 3-way beat down. You will have the option to change your mind again later if you decide you donÂ’t really like the people youÂ’re working for.

While the Morality system isnÂ’t really a new thing to video games, it adds a nice layer of choice and depth to the story. As you progress through the storyline, youÂ’ll at times be presented with a morality choice; including some that can work for or against your chosen faction. This actually follows a rather interesting storyline that progresses based on your decisions, so if youÂ’re a lore junky like me, this is all bonus.

Some of the early missions, regardless of the faction you chose, will play through the same way with the exception being that at certain points of certain missions, youÂ’ll be given the option to contact members of your faction for additional mission objectives that can aid your side or in some cases allow you to help the opposing alignment. Either way, youÂ’ll be engaging in covert missions to help bring down your factionÂ’s foe.

Is walking through a dimensional rift really a good idea?

As you progress through the Praetoria storyline, youÂ’ll be given a choice to aid two sub-factions within your faction, each with their own way of doing things and their own storyline. For the Resistance this is the Crusaders, a group concerned with overthrowing Emperor Cole at any cost and without regard for casualties, and the Wardens, who want to help save as many people as possible with the least amount of casualties and damage.

For Loyalist, you have the Power storyline; those in Power use the law for their own benefit and to serve their own agenda. If they ever help someone there is usually an ulterior motive behind it. And then there is the Responsibility storyline, which is more of the true hero way as you will seek to enforce the law for the peace and safety of everyone. This is where the storylines begin to deviate and become a bit more unique to each cause.

Within the storylines you can see certain inspirations that the devs may have drawn from other media. For example, in the Warden storyline for the Resistance, you get a mission to help liberate the telepathic Seers of the city. This has a strong resemblance to the storyline aspects of the movie Minority Report. ThereÂ’s even a touch of The Lord of the Rings in there with the cityÂ’s two tallest towers.

The overall story arcs are good and interesting with the option to aid or betray your chosen side and make key morality choices as you go along. The story tends to start a little slow as characters are established, but it tends to pull you in as it unfolds and events reach their crescendo, where you will have to make another key morality choice.

Commanding Demonic Minions FTW

It doesn't get much better than commanding demonic minions.

However, some of the many storyline missions that youÂ’ll undertake from various contacts tend to take you into similar levels often, so it wonÂ’t be uncommon to see an area in the Underground or an office multiple times in a similar if not exact fashion. While there are also a lot of new things, this repetitiveness does tend to make things a bit stale at times. As for the overland zones, the art team did do an amazing job increasing the visuals of City of Heroes. Praetoria is a great looking city and that part of the game offers a lot of new sites to take in. The expansion was built with the new graphical Ultra Mode setting in mind and the improvements from the old game certainly show.

Demon Summoning
Out of the new power sets introduced with Going Rogue I found this one to be the most enjoyable. Demon Summoning provides you with some fun powers and your own little Demonic minion to help dispatch the scum of Praetoria. I chose Storm Summoning as my secondary power set and this actually provides a nice compliment to help keep groups of enemies from swarming up on you with abilities that can knock them back and allow your little evil minion to blast them to bits.

Looking good while blasting enemies is a must.

Dual Pistols
Dual pistols are to say the least one of the flashiest of the weapon power sets. What good is it to slay the world and not look good while doing it? These guys have animations that are just fun to watch because most power shots come off like a scene out of an action movie. On top of that, this power set contains several amusing powers to shred your enemies with. I didnÂ’t get to sample the higher level powers like ExecutionerÂ’s Shot and Hail of Bullets, but the ones I did play around with packed a nice punch and had the one thing more important than DPS; style. This power set is probably best suited to fans of Gun-Fu style of movies.

If youÂ’re not a fan of City of Heroes or a fan of superhero MMOGs in general, Going Rogue isnÂ’t likely to offer anything that will entice you to try the game. But if youÂ’re a past fan or a current one, the new content is a fresh look for the game with a fresh take on the 1-20 leveling experience, even if itÂ’s not quite a reinvention. Going Rogue is an expansion with some new zones, new power sets, extra costumes, and new features. But at its core itÂ’s still the same City of Heroes we all know.

Check out more new images in our City of Heroes: Going Rogue screenshot gallery.

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