City of Heroes

by Tiffany Garden
author awarded score: 85/100

City of Heroes Review
Published by: NCsoft
Developed by: Cryptic Studios
Format Reviewed: PC
Review by: Tiffany Garden

You aren't the only one running around in tights anymore. The skyscrapers loom above you, and the sun falls beneath the horizon. A stray newspaper brushes past your legs, and as you glance over at it, three gang members jump you. Welcome to Paragon City!

City of Heroes is Cryptic Studios and NCSoft's latest contender in the mmorpg (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) field, and it's come out with a punch. Unlike the generic fantasy world, CoH boasts a living, modern city, full of people, places, and of course, bad guys.

The first mmorpg of its kind, CoH allows you to construct your own superhero. The character creator is the most robust of any online game I have seen. It is virtually impossible to get the exact same combination of outfit, colors, faces, hair, etc. The character creator is practically a game in and of itself, where you'll find yourself making characters just because of a stray thought in your head. After the appearance of your superhero is finished, you can then write up the backstory, give them their battle cry, and, of course, their name. Keep in mind that copyrighted names will get you in trouble and your name changed. There's way too many xxWolverinexx's running around for my liking.


For the character classes, there are archetypes--which mainly only affect which missions you end up with--and then there are the types, which are your classes. There are 5 different archetypes and 5 different classes, ranging from the blaster, a long range power house, to the scrapper, the melee fiend, and other fun ones in between. You choose both a primary and secondary power set, from which you will choose a myriad of powers from. At level 6 you will also have access to pool powers, which are universal across all types of heroes.

Once you draw yourself away from the beauty of the character creator, you are placed in a tutorial zone, where you are introduced to the main control functions, such as the "wasd" keyboard movement, how to rearrange the camera, how to use your powers, as well as how the contact and missions structures work.

After finishing out the tutorial, at which point you have a pretty good idea of how combat and gameplay is handled, you are sent out to the real world of CoH, and enter Paragon City proper. The city is split up into a variety of different zones, each with its own music and look. There are hundreds of little details that just add to the immersion and realism factor, such as clotheslines hanging here and there, abandoned cars, a gritty look to the factory areas, and picnic tables in the parks.

Unlike other mmorpg's there is no loot or money per say, but there are some substitutes. Instead of equipment, you have enhancements, which drop randomly off a mob and are also distributed randomly. These can be attached to your powers by way of enhancement slots, which you get to add to powers as you gain in levels. Influence is essentially money, and what you buy your enhancements and inspirations with. Inspirations are one shoot potions more or less, lasting a limited amount of time, but give damage power ups, healing, endurance, or a variety of other effects.

Cryptic had a moment of absolute genius when they decided to develop this game. Who hasn't either read comic books, or watched X-Men, and wished they could be a superhero? There are also those with the fatal attraction to spandex, and well...we just don't talk about those people that much. The game is a very wide departure from the typical fantasy setting of most mmorpg's, and that novelty alone is enough to draw, and perhaps even keep people, in the impending release of Blizzard's heavyweight title to the mmorpg market, World of Warcraft.


The launch of the game was also amazingly smooth compared to most mmorpg's, and the inclusion of instanced zones and missions (copies of zones and missions) help to keep lag at a very low level. Even when the servers are at high capacity during peak times, I experienced very little lag, and considering the fact that I'm stuck on 56k at this point is saying a lot.

The game costs around $40-$50 dollars, depending on location, and subscription fee is at a hefty $15 dollars a month. The main thing to keep in mind, however, is that that subscription cost also includes the price of a comic book, based around the events in Paragon City. The possibility of seeing your own superhero captured in ink is offered, as well as calls for submissions of fan art, which allows for a very unique developer interaction with their player base.

While there is no player versus player action as of yet, announced at E3 was the expansion "City of Villains," which will add that facet to the game, hopefully as smoothly as the other features in the game were implemented. That is, by far, not the only update however, as new content, zones, costume elements, and features are being developed as part of monthly updates.

City of Heroes is a very fun and action orientated game, with a low learning curve, smart enemies, and something for almost everybody. You can easily pick it up for only a few minutes a day and still have fun, unlike the large time sinks that most other mmorpg's contain. This is a very solid title, and hopefully will be a mainstay in this genre for some time to come.