City of Heroes Universe Revisited

City of Heroes and City of Villains was the first massively multiplayer online game to let us don a cape and tights to live out the life of a superhero/super villain just like we always wanted to since we were old enough to read our first comic book. With the upcoming release of CoX's 13th free expansion, the game shows no signs of slowing down so I decided it's time to revisit the city of virtuous heroes and dastardly villains. For any of my longtime readers, it should come as no surprise that I chose to go the route of super villain and begin my quest for world domination. How do you begin such a quest? I'm glad you asked.

In other games (and I don't care what games we're talking about), it normally takes a matter of a few minutes to create your chosen character by choosing from various looks and powers. Take everything you know about the limitations of character creation and throw it out faster than a dirty diaper. CoX has the greatest character creation system ever devised by man! All right, that may sound a bit extreme, but trust me - if the character creation system had been released as a standalone game, I would have bought it. No matter where I went, how long I've logged in off an on over the years, I've never seen two characters that looked alike... ever. Name one other game you can say that about. Don't worry; I know it's a tough question so I'll wait. Anything coming? Anything? Yeah, I couldn't think of any either, but I'll give you an "A" for effort.

Evil Incarnate

The default character may look like a bad impersonation of the Baroness, but by the time I was done rifling through an absolute smorgasbord of villainous bits and pieces of various clothes, accessories, and body parts, I had my living embodiment of evil. After spending over an hour (literally) designing my red demoness, complete with black leather, magical runes, and adorning skulls, she was ready to next choose from an impressive list of powers. Fortunately, there was an entire section on Magic and Dark Energy. What could be a better fit than that for a denizen of the Abyss's 9th plane?

At this point, I've got my avatar, my powers, and I'm ready to throw down some death and destruction like it's nobody's business. The development team apparently felt the same way, so the villain's tutorial section is actually a prison break complete with scaring the bajeezus out of some poor nurse for keys to the drug cabinet and doing favors for some older prisoners to get introduced to new contacts, all just to find your way outside. Next, a new contact decides he wants to see what you're made of and sends you out to beat some poor souls up. He tells you to go beat two people up, and just like a midget wrestling match, he doesn't care whom they are, he just wants to see some bodies flying.

Watching the combat unfold is just what the doctor ordered if you're in the mood for some super villain fun. Using my dark bolts of energy, combined with the shimmering shield of dark energy wrapped around me, I beat those thugs like a drunk southern widow whacking on rug. It may not have been pretty, but it knocked the dickens out of them. The bodies went flying or crumpled at my feet in a massive display of rage and destruction. There's nothing like the smell of burning brimstone in the morning to make you feel alive, eh?

They didn't stand a chance!

Just when you think the tutorial is over, a bit of a wrench gets thrown into the mix and is a great way to introduce you to the nature of instancing missions in the game. Before the pilot will fly you off the prison island, you'll need to go into a building to rescue the poor sap that was on his way to break you out of prison before he got himself nabbed by the fuzz (amateur). The game's compass points you in the direction of a nearby building, giving you the distance to your target as well. Once there, pop open the door, and just like every surly teenager on the planet, you're off in your own little world, totally ignorant of what's going on around you.

Inside, you find Billy-Bob-Not-So-Badass getting shaken down by the local guards just as he spills the beans and gives them your name. Thanks Toolboy... I appreciate it. Now it's up to you to beat the guards down, talk to the Pansy Princess here, beat your way through the rest of the guards, and finally rig the bomb that was originally designed to blow you out of prison so you can use it as a distraction to get away. Welcome to a new world of villainy!

Character creation in CoX is nothing short of being a masterpiece. The initial story may sound more than a little contrived, but it's a brilliant excuse for a tutorial and does a great job of getting you into the action without bogging you down with a hundred pieces of text to digest. Combat may not consist of the fast paced action I'm normally used to, but it's early in the game and at this point, I'm more than willing to give NCsoft the benefit of the doubt. It's been at least 3 years since I had set foot into the CoX universe. For a new "first" impression, I've got to pull a Siskel and Ebert here and give them a thumbs up. Initial impressions are important, but see whether the game stands up to some heavy play testing next week when I bring you a full review!

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