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Paragon Studios' City of Villains is the darker half of their popular MMORPG City of Heroes. I found out about this game completely by accident, but the concept looked interesting and I loved the look of the character custimization, so I signed up for the 7-day free trial, and it was AWESOME.
Although the 7-day free trial only allows you to level up any character to level 15 (or threat level 15) the game was immersive and alot of fun to play, making you feel like a real super villain. After purchasing the special edition of this game, I managed to get two months of gameplay (one free month with the special edition and one month I paid for) so I could review it further, the following is my viewpoint on the game, listing good and bad points.
First of all, the game wants you to be creative, there are many different powers and classes you can make your villain, so many in fact that it is not unusual for a player to make 12 or more characters! Since City of Villains and City of Heroes both come together in the final version of the game, you can choose to be a hero or a villain (or a rouge if you have the Going Rouge expansion pack, this lays you between a hero and a villain). Making your own characters and giving them custom powers is alot of fun, and the possibilites for different villains is almost limitless. I made a wolf-man hybrid creature with powers much like Marvel's character Wolverine and upon purchasing the Animal Pack my character ran about just like a wolf, it was awesome being able to leap from building to building at such high speeds, it makes you feel alive.
After you've created your character, the game offers you a tutorial (if it's your first character, you have to accept) which is actually pretty fun and simple, you're breaking out of prison whilst learning the aspects of the game- I prefer this over the tutorial for City of Heroes which is pretty much a bogstandard tutorial.
After the short tutorial, you are welcomed to the gritty and grungey "Mercy Island"... and this is where we come to a problem- the landscapes. In my personal opinion, although the city looks cool at first, it gets very old and boring as all of the islands (basically different cities) you visit are pretty much the same. Saying that, I don't mean they have the exact same layouts, but they're ALL grey, gritty and somewhat boring. Sure, some islands like Sharkhead Island have pretty nice features like the Coal Pit, and Cap Au Diable has the beautiful Aeon City, these features are small and the big grey cities go on for miles. With that said, the game isn't all ugly. The interface is easy to use and the characters look great, I love meeting other villains and looking at their awesome costumes.
Upon entering Mercy Island, you will probably notice how incredibly easy it is to level up, I view this as a good feature as nothing bores me more than having to level up for hours just to get to level 5 and still be unable to do fun things. The quests are pretty good at first, but start to get a little repetative after level 20, especially Newspaper missions (missions made for the purpose of levelling up that are not given by an NPC, they're actually a pretty useful feature).
The actual MMO aspects of the game are definatly the most enjoyable- but to a point that I didn't really enjoy playing the game alone. Despite this, finding teams is easy- even from a low level- and being in a team is the most epic thing in the game. This is probably a good place to mention that I was actually playing in the European servers (being British and whatnot, tallyho) but I actually played the trial on the North American servers, and although there is no difference in gameplay, it actually seems that the North American servers are completely deserted compared to the European servers which are pretty well populated... but to be honest it's probably because of the time-difference- during the daytime here in England, all of the American users are probably fast asleep. Anyway, teams are alot of fun the play in because of the diversity in powers, its awesome seeing you and your teammates all showing off your different powers, but it's also awesome being in a group full of Robot Masterminds (yes that's actually a class in this game, Masterminds can control a group of minions of their choice such as robots and ninjas) with a whole army of robots at your disposal. I loved playing with my team, I levelled up alot faster (and yes, we were all actually a similar level) and it's just better when you're fighting to be with allies.
The badge aspect of the game is something I enjoy personally, it's sort of like Xbox achievements since there are hundreds of badges to collect for each character. These badges can be obtained by visiting certain landmarks, beating a number of certain enemies and even DYING gets you badges. Some of these badges actually count towards your overall character attributes, they might give you more health and things like that.
A key element of the gameplay is the Enhancements, in other MMORPGs, these would probably count as armour. Since the game bases itself on customization depending on the character's theme rather than just customising the character to get the best armour, Enhancements are used to buff up a character. For example, a Training Attack enhancement would give you something like a 15% increase in attack for a specific attack move or something similar, but beware- these enhancements are made redundant once you are five or more levels higher than the recommended level and they become useless.
Something I really like about the game is the Inspirations- which would be ordainary items such as health in other MMOs. Rather than carrying around potions or something like that, City of Viallains offers very cheap inspirations ("cheap" refering to INGAME money called "infamy", not real money) that are extremely useful in the game, these are temporary (excluding "Respite" and "Awakening" which heal and revive your character) powerups that up your attack, defence, luck, etc. and are one of the key elements of fighting.
Unfortunatly, I never got a chance to try out the Arena modes of the game as, well, apparently NOBODY uses them. I was lucky to find three other people to go into the arena with, but still the game wouldn't let us fight until three MORE people joined. Another thing that I was a real shame was the lack of PvP of Heroes verses Viallains, I espcially wanted to try this out because it just sounds flipping epic, but unfortunatly the problem is the same as the Arena PvP, NOBODY PLAYS IT. Seriously, I went to the Hero Vs. Villains part of the game and I was really hyped, all of the character kept warning me "if you go into this zone, you WILL be attacked by Heroes that want to KILL you", but they were lying- I didn't run into a single hero and I returned to different zones several times. It's such a shame that nobody uses this feature, I mean in a superhero game you really want to be fighting real heroes rather than the dumb NPC heroes.
Rather than roll out on a sour note, I decided to mention the other oddball things in the game, the Music is pretty good, it reminded my of the music from Spider-Man on the PC, Playstation and N64 and one of the really funny aspects of the game is the emotions. The developers created tonnes and tonnes of different emotions that a player's character could do, they can dance, argue, spray paint on walls, break into cars, play with a glowing rubic's cube, sit on a wall, and LOADS of other things, and although they are completely pointless, it serves as something funny to do when you're waiting for your team mates to finish buying new enhancements. It's funniest when you get your minions to do it if you are a Mastermind, I had a mad scientist character that just raved with all of his robots when waiting for other players.
Overall, this game is really incredible, I think it is very different to other MMORPGs and for me, it was a breath of fresh air.
I give this game 4/5 or 8.5/10