City of Heroes Issue 20 is live, and the CoH community is understandably creasing their cowls, smiling about the game's first real endgame push since Issue 7: Destiny Manifest in June 2006. Since we have an army of lowbie comic book concepts but little insight into the burgeoning supergroup game, we had lots of questions about how the new Incarnates system works. Fortunately Senior Designer Tim "Black Scorpion" Sweeney had the answers.

Tim talks a bit about Incarnate trials and powers, task forces, and even drops a hint or two about what to expect Issue 21 as well in Power Incarnate: A City of Heroes Issue 20 Q&A with Tim Sweeney.

Ten Ton Hammer: Please tell us about the two Incarnate Trials. What's involved for players to access them, and how do they work?

Tim "Black Scorpion" Sweeney, Senior Designer: Issue 20 Incarnates introduced the Incarnate Trials with the Behavioral Adjustment Facility and Lambda Sector. Both are assaults on key facilities of Emperor Cole’s (Tyrant), guarded by his Incarnate empowered Praetors, and continue the story of repelling the Praetorian Invasion arc started with Going Rogue. These and future Incarnate Trials are endgame, fast-paced, challenging encounters for groups larger than the 8 player team.

Players can try out their Lambda Sector

Players are transported into the Incarnate Trials by means of the Team-Up Teleporter, which will whisk them, their team, or their entire league into the Incarnate Trials from just about anywhere else in the game. The TUT will also link up smaller teams or solo players waiting to tackle the Trials, so it’s easier to bring together the numbers needed.

In Lambda Sector the players break into Cole’s munitions depot and cloning facility to wreak havoc, which draws the attention of Marauder. Players will have to split up and quickly obtain items from the bowels of the facility in order to weaken Marauder and prevent being overwhelmed by his endless reinforcements.

In the Behavioral Adjustment Facility, the players have to prevent the release of a mental virus – the vector being the unlucky prisoners Cole has experimented on. You’ll have to prevent contagion by stopping the escape and beat the robotic wardens Siege and Nightstar to prevail.

Can anyone join these trials or is there a lower limit?

Players will have to be level 50 to embark on Incarnate Trials. The Trials are an experience for heroes and villains which have proven themselves worthy of taking on challenges on the cosmic tier of power.

Can you explain the four new Incarnate trees? What new things do these trees offer players?

Each of the Incarnate slots offers a particular type of new ability for players to use.

  • The Judgement slot focuses on AOE damaging powers – massive heavy hitting blasts that can wipe out lesser foes entirely, or take a good chunk out of Incarnate Trial foes.
  • The Interface slot is a little less flashy, but broader in scope, adding an additional secondary effect like a regeneration debuff or a resistance debuff to all your existing attack powers.
  • The Destiny slot covers the defensive side of massive overpowering AOEs – allowing for short bursts of massive healing or protection coupled with a lesser lingering buff effect.
  • Rounding out the set is the Lore slot which offers the ability to summon potent attack and support pets conjured from the ethereal marches of the Well of the Furies itself.

There are two new Task Forces: "The Sky is Falling" for Heroes, and Villains have "The Fire and the Flames." Can you describe these task forces to us in terms of difficulty, new challenges and target audience?

“The Sky is Falling” is a mid-level task force for heroes 20-40 responding to the repercussions of the Praetorian Invasion of Primal Earth. Players will have to combat the combined forces of the Praetorian IDF and the Sky Raiders as they investigate a floating fortress in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, trail the IDF through Talos Island, and dig their way out of the rubble of Skyway City. Heroes will fight several arch-villains allied with the Praetorians, from deranged Seers who attack with endless waves of explosive Failed Experiments to Sky Raiders equipped with airstrikes from above.

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In Task Force "The Sky is Falling" (left), superheroes join the US Navy and fight aboard a floating fortress. Villains, however, attempt to steal a buff from Positron that will stick with them until the Incarnate trials.

Villains should enjoy the hook behind “the Fire and the Flames” which revolves around a complicated scheme to blackmail a powerful sorcerer and cajole, bluff, threaten, and/or beat your way into a stealing a bit of the Flames of Prometheus from Positron of the Freedom Phalanx. You’ll face down members of the Freedom Phalanx, the Midnight Squad, the Circle of Thorns and the Warriors as both hero and villain fall prey to your master plan.

The new Task Force and Strike Force are geared for mid-level (20-40) characters and require at least four able bodied heroes or villains.

With Emperor Cole powering up the Archvillains, what can players do to help protect the world? How will they stop Emperor Cole?

Fighting back the Emperor’s lieutenants in the Incarnate Trials is definitely a good start. As the (ostensibly friendly) Prometheus indicates, the trick to challenging the god-like Cole is to draw the attention of the Well of the Furies away from Cole and onto yourself. By proving yourself in combat against the most powerful foes the Tyrant can throw at you, power (in the form of the Incarnate powers) will flow to you, and away from him. The Well favors the strong – and it better be your character instead of the Emperor...

The BAF is a tough scripted challenge for Incarnates. Defeating Nightstar and Siege in the Behavioral Adjustment Facility must be done simultaneously. How many players does this require? And are there any other cool new scripts added with Issue 20?

The Siege and Nightstar fight scales to match the number of players heading in to the Trial, so anywhere between 12 and 24. As for how many need to be on each, that’s a matter of tactics. You could have half on one and half of the other, or you could be brave and try to bring them close together enough to AOE them both (but then you could risk Sequestration)... and you better have someone cleaning up the Victorias and 9CUs or you’re likely to be overwhelmed and fail the trial that way...

The arch-villain encounters in Issue 20 all have new tricks to throw some things you haven’t necessarily seen before in the City of Heroes your way. Marauder can wipe out the strongest tank with his Nova Fist if you’re not careful, Siege’s 9CU pets hit harder and more accurately the longer you let them stay operational... the bag of tricks we’ve given the bosses is greatly expanded in Issue 20 and will only keep getting more and more interesting as we grow the game.

New League and Team UI panels have been added with Issue 20 as well. There's been some talk about difficulty in finding a team for Task Forces prior to Issue 20. How has I20 helped in this regard, if at all?

Generally we’ve been focused on making the content in the game more fun to play through and quicker to run through in one go as ways to make it easier to team up. That’s no exception with the Sky is Falling and the Fire & the Flames – both are rapid fire intense experiences without a lot of padding or downtime in between. The Apex and Tin Mage TFs in Issue 19 and the Positron revamp in Issue 17 are also good examples of what we want the TF experience to be in City of Heroes: something exciting and challenging – not a slog.

Also, I think the Weekly Strike Targets have been a nice incentive to bring people online each week to run Task Forces and Strike Forces. And in the future I’d like us to get the Team-Up Teleporter applied to more content beyond the Incarnate Trials... but that’s in the future.

Our thanks to Senior Designer Tim Sweeney and the Paragon Studios crew for this look inside Issue 20: Incarnates, which was released in early April.


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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.