When World of Warcraft (WoW) hit the big time, it spawned numerous duplicates. Suddenly the MMORPG market was filled with elves, orcs, all set in different fantasy worlds. What WoW did for fantasy MMORPG, City of Heroes/City of Villains is currently doing for superhero MMORPG.
The upcoming Champions Online, DC Online, and the rumored Marvel Universe Online all have City of Heroes/City of Villains to thank for their existence. 5 years since it was first launch, CoH/CoV is still widely successful (because it is still the only superhero MMO in the market) and NCsoft recently upgraded the game (you got to love competition).
Having played it for 2 months, I can see why the game has being going strong for 5 years. Off the bat, the character creation is every bit as good as advertised. You get to pick your class and powers along with how your character will look. All pretty normal but the vast variety of powers and looks you can put in is just superb. Even at level 1, you will not see another character that look just like yours. Angels, demons, giants, dwarves, knights, heroic, sci-fi, monstrous; also every look you can think of is available for you to make. You can even make your character look like a normal businessman if you want to. I even saw a sword-carrying monkey once (the guy playing insist he is a chipmunk). The game does give you the option of making your character one-of-a-kind.
The game also did a marvelous job on the gameworld. It was pretty easy to immerse myself in the game as the CoH/CoV world was well-designed. Amid the various missions, there are some chain missions called story arcs. These are a series of missions which form a larger story, giving the player insights into the history and mythos of Paragon City and the Rogue Islands. This is a nice touch which I liked.
CoH/CoV also has a function called Architect Entertainment (AE). AE allow you to craft your own mission and story arcs for other players to play. Think of it as a mod in a MMORPG and you get the idea. Some players hate it, but I thought it was a cool function. I get to create my own mission, story and even characters. Considering the amount of player created missions in AE, I’m not the only one.
Seeing the upcoming competition they will be facing, NCsoft has also do away with the separate games you need to buy to play. Basically if you got either the City of Heroes or the City of Villains game, you can play both City of Heroes and City of Villains. So you only need to buy one to play both games. That’s like buying the original game and getting to play the expansion for free! Or in my case, buying the expansion and getting to play the original for free. And free is always a good price.
For all the good points of the game, there are a few faults. The first of which is the gameplay. Almost all the missions you get are instances, so there are times when CoH/CoV does not seem like a MMO. You seldom see players around killing stuff because everyone is either in their instances or in the AE. At times, I feel like I was in a solo game.
Another thing is the ability to get groups to take on the more difficult missions which has elite boss, arch-villains or heroes. Usually in other MMO, you can broadcast a call when you want to take on a dungeon. Other players who have quests or missions in the dungeons will response. In other MMORPGs, a dungeon usually will have several quests in it and players can join up to take on the dungeon together even if they have different quests. Not so for CoH/CoV. In CoH/CoV it is one instance, one mission. Every instance has only one mission and if you do not have the mission; too bad!
Most groups are together for the xp gain and they will usually only take on the easier missions. It’s one of the reasons why some players hate the AE. Some players would stay in the AE and keep on completing easy missions to power-level their characters. I have heard that some power players almost never step out of the AE building.
I’m not a big fan of crafting and that’s a good thing because the crafting in CoH/CoV is extremely bad. In the game, you can to craft enhancements to give an edge to your powers. Fair enough but the rarer inventions and the salvage needed to make these rare inventions are almost impossible to get. The only I see to get the salvage is through the auction which is also pretty bad. It has some sort of bidding/buying system that makes very little sense to me. The auction and crafting looked tack on and hopefully NCsoft can come up with a better system soon.
As it is a 5 year old game, CoH/CoV is also beginning to show its age. Although not a bad looking game, its graphics is nowhere near as good as some of the later games like Age of Conan. I have to wonder how it will fare against Champions Online and DC Online graphics wise when they come out. Another thing is that despite bring a 5 year old game, the game only has one expansion so far and that was 4 years ago when City of Villains came out. City of Heroes: Going Rogue was announced as the latest expansion and it was announced only because Champions Online is coming out in September. CoH/CoV has been resting on its laurels because it was the only superhero MMO in the market and the game has suffered for it.
Still, the game is filled with content and there is a lot to explore. So for those who want to play a MMORPG not filled with swords, magic or orcs, have your adventures in Paragon City of CoH and the Rogue Isles of CoV. It is still a very fun game.