Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meanwhile, in Paragon City...

I just finished a two week free trial of City of Heroes for the Mac. The first thing I noticed was that the game runs much better on the Mac than it ever did when I was using Boot Camp to boot my machine in Windows. I am no expert, but presumably whoever did the Mac port-over really knows how to make the mediocre graphics card built into a Mac laptop do things which the Windows version is blind to. In any case, it ran faster, and with considerably improved graphics settings.

However, we all have to acknowledge that City of Whatever is a very repetitive game. It's fun to see your character use super-powers, and since I am in love with the genre the game has a lot of gut instinct appeal to me, but the floorplans, the missions, the foes, they're all the same and one tires of them in short order. In addition, for a superhero game, there are simply not enough powers available. For any other genre, City of Heroes would offer a great number of options, but the supers genre demands more creativity and choice when it comes to character abilities than any other genre. This is not a new lesson; tabletop supers games have wrestled with it for years, and that's the reason why the Hero System rulebook is thick enough to stop a bullet. For a thematic player like me -- who wants his powers to fit into a logical whole and not just be a bizarre combination of razor-sharp spines and ice powers, there are even fewer options. There isn't, in fact, a single "Controller" combination which I can bring myself to play. None of them make any god-damn sense.

City of Heroes has some neat thematic elements, and I want to give credit where it is due. Arachnos is 98% pure genius. Every other superhero world has the Ubiquitous Snake Guys: Viper, Hydra, Cobra, the Serpent Society, ad nauseum. But, probably because Spider-Man would sue all rivals for copyright infringement, there has not been till now a very good Evil Spider Organization, despite the obvious strengths of the idea. And while Arachnos not only combines high-tech weapons, martial training, cybernetics and bizarre magic (those Mu guys, bound in chains and floating around, are awesomely creepy), they do it all in a way that makes them look incredibly cool. The only weak spot in Arachnos? Lord Recluse himself, because let's be honest: I know they were trying to refer to the Brown Recluse spider, but it really sounds like Captain Hermit, or maybe Doctor Dysfunctional.

There's also no question that City of Villains is a better game. The neighborhoods are more visually interesting, the dungeons are more varied, and robbing banks is more fun than protecting them. Several of the villain archetypes are built to encourage a fast play tempo -- when the more you fight, the stronger you get, you are inclined to keep pushing yourself and not rest. This is in distinct contrast to the heroic archetypes, who are more likely to rest between fights because, well, they have nothing to lose but time. Standing around resting is boring.

I have said this before, but I think I have said my last goodbye to City of Heroes; the next update will provide a way for players to make content for other players, which does appeal to my GM instincts, and I do admire some aspects of the game. But it's worn pretty thin, and the lure of a game that doesn't force my superhero to use MMO archetypes (Champions Online has no "classes" or archetypes, so that you can choose whatever power theme you wish) is pretty potent.

No comments:

Post a Comment