Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

City of Villains 

So, now that the NDA has been lifted, I can finally talk in public about City of Villains and my participation in the beta-test. If you're familiar with City of Heroes, you already know the concept of COV. Only this time, instead of good, noble and pure defenders of right in Paragon City, you're dastardly ne'er-do-wells in the Rogue Islands. Gameplay is very similar to COH (okay, it's identical), but there are some really well-done new graphics sets, powers, tons of new storylines, an insane number of new costume pieces (including a stunning new variety of capes), and five all new archetypes for characters. You've got the Brute-a vicious fighter whose damage increases over time, the Stalker-a stealthy assassin, the Corrupter-a ranged damage dealer who can help his allies or hinder his foes, the Dominator-who backs up the ability to hinder foes with impressive melee attacks (okay, it's basically just the Controller from COH), and the Mastermind-who summons minions to do his bidding.

The overall feel of the game is similar in tone to villain focused comics like Secret Society of Super Villains, Villains United, and such. You spend about as much time fighting turf wars with other villains as you do fighting good guys (or nuisance groups that are merely interfering with the long-term goals of Arachnos, the main villain organization in the COH/COV universe...a lot of enemies fall into this category-neither really heroes or villains, just sort the way of Lord Recluse's plans). I was greatly heartened to encounter a hero organization loosely inspired, it seems, by the views of the Knights Templar popularized by occult historians and conspiracy theorists. The Legacy Chain are essentially knights and mages trying to stop the use of evil magic and protect valuable artifacts. My main villain, a science-based corrupter, truly loves pounding on "magical" heroes.

Mission-wise, it seems that a lot of hard lessons have been learned from COH. There are many new mission types, with more varied goals than simply go to Location X and beat up Person Y and click on Object Z. There's plenty of of that still there, but the newer mission types help break up the monotony that frequently occurs in COH. One of my favorite new missions was the Cape Trial for villains. COH's Cape Trial is rather dull, consisting mostly of fighting past enemies and then beating up a small group of them before they can destroy a destructable object. In COV's trial you must sneak into Paragon City, either go on a killing spree against the hero group Longbow or sneak your way around them, destroy several memorial statues to fallen heroes and fight a Paragon City hero and steal their cape to prove to Arachnos that you're worthy of wearing one. It's a dynamic mission that gives you options on how to complete it, and manages to surprise you with well-timed ambushes from heroes and actually challenging enemies.

Another big change is the introduction of player-versus-player zones. I'm not a big fan of PVP in on-line games. It tends to encourage munchkin players with min/maxed builds who display unsportsmanlike behavior, but I may give it a shot with COV because the PVP zones actually have storylines associated with them and give you things to do other than beat the tar out of other players. There's also a mix of free-for-all PVP and faction-based PVP zones, so those of us who really hate free-for-all PVP can at least give the faction-based approach a try.

My main villain, a science corrupter. Note that you can now make male toons with body hair. Oh sure, you have to be a fan of the cave-man look, but at least it's a step.

An alternate costume. The new variety of capes are truly impressive, including split capes, shaped capes, tattered capes, scarfs and fringe.
In this picture you also have a better look at the sardonic expression on my guy's face. I love that the villains actually look more smug than the heroes.

The new physics engine for the defeated enemies makes for a nice and often surprising variety of poses for fallen foes. A lot of thought went into behaviors and animations for both player-villains and enemies.
Oh, and just be glad I didn't get a good screen-shot of the new female additions to the Freakshow gang. Truly horrifying.

You can make truly inhuman looking characters now. And they can wear top hats. And surf the internet between missions.

Both male and female toons get pirate-themed costume pieces. And female toons can wear fishnets. And yes, top hats are also available for the female toons. You wouldn't believe the number of Zatanna-inspired toons running around in the beta servers.
No kilts yet though. Dammit!

Thank God! You can now actually sit down! Do you have any idea how many months my heroes have been forced to stand up all the time? They only ever get to even lie down when they've been defeated.


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