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City of Heroes
Topic: Multiplayer Online Games 4:01 pm EDT, May  5, 2004

If you're a fan of comic books, you've probably already heard about this.

If you're a fan of MMORPGs, you're probably starting to hear about this. Some of what you're hearing is likely bad. Some of what you're hearing probably sounds like nothing more than incoherent fanboy ravings. Likely none of it mentions that Cryptic Studios has produced a decent game of a new genre in a field packed full of elves, trolls, and mostly stagnation. In City of Heroes, comic fans can finally live out their favorite fantasy... i.e., running around a city in trouble equipped with nothing more than a fancy spandex suit and an expression of grim determination.

Oh, and super powers.

Cryptic Studios has done some things upside-down from other MMORPGs, and in the process eliminated a lot of the dross that generally bogs down other games. There is no inventory, no loot, and no money to speak of, so you don't have to worry how you're going to buy the next needed sword of munchkin-slaying +6. You don't have to stop in the middle of a fight to pick up the loot before some @#$@ twit makes off with it. You don't have to worry about organized crime rings in Korea embargoing the "best" areas and selling everything on eBay. You don't have to mess around with endless clicking to make piles and piles of boots and/or paper dollies. You just talk to your nearest contact (think Department of Employment for superheroes) to pick up a mission and go there, or not. The city itself is _rife_ with crime. Go down almost any alley or into any back parking lot, and you'll find muggers, thieves, vandals, and street fights, all with a serious hatred for people wearing tights.

Character generation is a breeze unless you're an obsessive-compulsive. You pick from a set of five origins (namely, whether your superhero got his powers from magical study, through genetic mutation, by prudent use of technology, etc) and then from there pick two sets of how your powers play out (energy, weather, gravity, fire and etc). Unlike other games where you start out looking pretty generic, and have to play for years to collect the shiny baubles known as "uber gear", you also get a really, _really_ customizable costume. You can look like pretty much any 4-color process freak you've ever seen, and there's even a button there for generating a costume and look entirely at random if you can't think of anything. Your starting super-powers are about as visually impressive as what most games pass off as high-level abilities... and there's almost no way to pick a set of powers that don't entirely "work" together. Things progress quite quickly as well, as one of my housemates bought this and has been playing it, and after about 12 hours total of gameplay, with a small group the screen fills with so much eye-candy during combat, you'll wonder why it's not going to turn your eyeballs into rock candy.

Basically, this game combines the best elements of what makes MMORPGs work and leaves the things that sucked and annoyed by the roadside. For those that really, really want PvP action, City of Villains is planned for release at E3, which is likely where Cryptic will add in PvP support, since while superheroes don't fight with each other, PvP is entirely in the realm of villainy, and it's likely that playing a villain will mean true PvP... being able to attack both superheroes and other supervillains any time you want.
I look forward to this as well.

The main objections I've seen to the game are from people who are entirely unfamiliar with what a comic book is. "There's no PvP!" Well, when was the last time you read a comic book where two superheroes fought to the death just because they were bored? "There's no loot!" Again, very few comic book superheroes ran around with bags and bags of weapons and accessories. Those that did always had them out of nowhere when they needed them, and this is no different. "There's nothing but fighting criminals!" Well, that's entirely the point of superheroes, isn't it? (Who the hell would play a game about obsessing over lost loves, except maybe the Japanese.)

If you read comic books as a kid, avoid this game like the plague. It will swallow your very soul.

City of Heroes

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