Nov 22 2005
Ever since the release of City of Heroes last year, people have been leaping tall buildings in a single bound, outpowering locomotives, taking the law into their own hands, and exploring their alter egos as virtual superheroes. With the launch of City of Villains, NCSoft and Cryptic have made good on their promise to let you play the anti-hero. No more coming to the rescue of purse-snatching victims, this time around you will be robbing banks, carrying out hits for the mob, and pummeling everyone that gets in your way with a disregard befitting a criminal.
City of Heroes (CoH) veterans will be in familiar territory, as City of Villains (CoV) is, for the most part, the same game. In fact, it feels a lot like an expansion, although it is a stand-alone game that does not require CoH. As the core game mechanics haven't changed, I'll try not to reiterate too much of what was said in my City of Heroes review.
The DVD Collector's Edition came with a surprisingly thick manual, a nice book of the artwork from both titles, and a couple of other extras.
There are MMORPGs with better graphics, but very few offer a cityscape that is anywhere near as detailed. While some subtle improvements have been made to the game's appearance, the one you're most likely to notice is the addition of ragdoll physics to character models. Rather than falling stiffly to the ground when defeated, your foes will take a tumble and sometimes land in amusing positions.
The Rogue Isles, which serve as the setting for City of Villains, have been overrun by the criminal element. Portions of them have been reduced to rubble and there are giant snakes on the loose, so it's in sharp contrast with the spit-polished Paragon City of CoH. They've created a darker, grittier atmosphere for CoV, and it does its job admirably.
CoH is renowned for its character creation, which is packed with options that allow you to build a remarkably unique avatar, so I was delighted to see a nearly identical system used in CoV, with even more textures to choose from. Rest assured that you can make your villain look every bit as special as your hero looked. Just seeing what other people have come up with when you start playing is great entertainment.
Again, there are 5 villain classes, or Archetypes: Brute, Stalker, Mastermind, Dominator, and Corruptor. They haven't just renamed the archetypes from CoV. There are strong similarities, but villain archetypes are all different from their hero counterparts. The Mastermind, a villain with several "pets" to do his bidding, is the only completely new Archetype. While this is a welcome injection of variety for those that have played CoH, it inevitably makes PvP more difficult to balance.
Apart from being on the wrong side of the law, missions are a lot like those of CoH. Your first task is to break out of prison, after which you will take on a variety of diabolical chores including bank heists and assassinations. Instanced "door" missions make a return, and you can now get missions from a newspaper that appears in your mission list as well as from NPC contacts.
This part of the game remains reasonably solo-friendly, although you will progress more rapidly in a group. Dedicated villains can take on Strike Force missions that require a large team and considerable effort, typically culminating in a battle with a very nasty boss.
A Base to Call Home
One entirely new feature that CoV brings to the table is the ability for Super Groups, the games equivalent of guilds, to build their own secret bases. Bases can serve as private hospitals, connections to other zones, storage facilities, and so on. They can be decorated with a variety of furnishings, but they're not just for show; other Super Groups can stage an attack and attempt to steal an "Item of Power" from your lair.
Bases are instanced much like door missions, you never actually see them from the outside and they are accessed through special teleporters. Players in a Super Group earn Prestige, which is essentially currency for buying base goodies. You also pick up Salvage, a new type of game item, while going about your business. Salvage can be crafted into a variety of base components.
It's difficult to say how much fun base raids will be at this stage, but the bases themselves do add a new dimension to gameplay. Rather than being merely a mechanism for finding players to run missions with, Super Groups now have something tangible to work toward, so there is more reason than ever to join up.