City of Heroes

Review

posted 6/3/2004 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: PC
City of Heroes is the latest Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) from NC Soft. The game takes place in Paragon City which is recovering after an alien invasion by the Rikti savaged the city. The invasion ripped the city up into several distinct zones and decimated the city’s hero population. It’s your job to create a hero and help to restore order to the city.

This is not your typical MMORPG though, as there’s nary an orc or elf in the game (there are a few trolls though). When enemies are defeated, you don’t get gold. Instead, players receive enhancements (permanent improvement to powers), inspirations (temporary power boosts), and Influence (currency which you can use to purchase inspirations and enhancements. There’s a cheap joke here about politicians and peddling influence but I’ll be good). Another significant difference is that there is no player vs. player combat so the game has a slightly safer feel to it (you only have to worry about being killed by the bad guys and not your fellow super heroes).

What’s really special about the game is the character creation system. You select from one of five origins (natural, science, mutation, magic, technology), one of five archetypes (Blaster, Controller, Defender, Scrapper, and Tanker), and your start set of powers. Once you have that out of the way, the real fun begins as you determine the look and feel of your hero. You can select from a wide variety of faces, costumes, and color-schemes and you could literally spend hours just working out the perfect hero. After you’ve got your hero configured, it’s off to the training level. The training level will take you about twenty to thirty minutes and provide you with a good overview of the game. The only problem is that you have to go through it for every character you create and it gets a bit old after the first few times you do it. Once you’ve completed the training mission, it’s on to Paragon City to fight crime.

Paragon City is probably not one of the best places to live. Despite all of the heroes in the city, citizens still have to deal with gangs, zombies, satanic cults, evil robots, and aliens. It’s up to you to defend the citizens from these evil forces and restore order. There are two primary ways to go about this. The first is the easiest which is just to wander the streets and look for the bad guys. The second is to find contacts in the city to get missions from. Missions can be as easy as taking something to someone across the city or eliminating a specified number of bad guys to having to clear out an infestation of evil doers in order to reclaim an item or stop an evil plot in progress. Missions from one contact will sometimes be strung together to form a story arc which is where the real meat of the game is. The arcs are what help bring the world of Paragon City to life.

As you accomplish missions for your contacts, your relationships with them will grow and you’ll get better and better missions. Once you’ve got a good relationship with them, you’ll be able to call them on the cell phone instead of traveling across zones to talk to them in person. This makes it much easier to get new missions and contact them when you’ve completed a mission.
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