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I am a CoH veteran. I played in the beginning and I played the last few issues. I've gone through many different stages of the game - so let me just tell you what this game is all about.
First of all, this is NOT your typical fantasy medieval MMORPG - this is a modern-day MMORPG. You start off creating a hero or a villain. The character creation process is limited - while you can look pretty much any way you want to, your powers have to be what they already programmed in the game. This was a big let-down to me because when I first started I was feeble and thought I could make my own powers or something, and that I could be Bubblegum Boy with super Bubblegum powers. Big disappointment that was. If you think you are going to get the exact powers you want think again. The system is very limited as to what kind of powers you can have. You cannot be Spiderman or anything real creative or original.
There are five archtypes. I'll run down my preferred side, the heroes. There are tanks, scrappers, blasters, controllers, and defenders. And this is where it copies every other MMORPG because once you choose your powers that's it. You can't go back and alter them really. The best you got is respecs and that won't even allow you to re-choose your main and secondary powers let alone your archtypes. For every archtype there are a number set of primary and secondary powers - if you are planning on being a tank or scrapper you better wait until I12 because they really got fucked in this game. There are only a few different sets of powers and most of them copy the other - such as the only real difference is that tanks primary is defense while scrappers primary is offense. Blasters, controllers, and defenders have a much wider selection of primary and secondary powers. Blasters are the ranged offensive masters, controllers control but don't do any real damage until high in level, and defenders are buffers with limited ranged offensive abilities.
There are essentially three things to do in the game. And one of them was just introduced. The obvious is combat. City of Heroes has by far the best PvE content a MMORPG could have, by far. Far better than WoW. The PvP to me is still lacking somewhat. It all feels very limited. Just to duel a hero you have to go all the way to an arena whereas in other MMORPGs you can just click duel and fight anywhere you wanted to. Fighting against villains seems kind of useless and doesn't really help anything - if you can even find a villain. The number of heroes greatly outwieghs the number of villains, I think mainly because they released CoV too late (should have both been launched at the same time). What you usually do is try to get a group of superheroes around the same level to fight with you side-by-side in some of the missions you guys have. If you have a good balanced team you can set mission difficultly level higher so you gain more experience per kill while still completing the mission at the same time.
The second thing is tailoring. And this costs influence, and a lot of it, if you don't have free tailor sessions. Fortunately for being a veteran I had a ton of them. I could spend hours just making a new costume, and no, I'm not gay. I just find their tailoring process to be fascinating and very complete. It's up there in the Star Wars Galaxies range of customization in this regard. At level 20 you get capes and at level 30 you get a glowie-thingy. But you are going to spend a very small fraction of your time in the game making new costumes.
The third thing you can do in the game is trade in the auction house. This is you have an abundance of something such has influence or enhancements. You get influence everytime you kill an enemy worthy of your stature while enhancements and such things like invention salvage are randomly picked up. If you play in no time will you pick up rare sets because truth be told they aren't that rare, but getting the one you really want might be. All your powers have enhancements you can make your powers do more damage, be more accurate, etc. and invention salvage allows you to make invention enhancements which can give the player bonus enhancements such as improved health bar recovery rate by a percentage or such. Regular salvage is used in super groups bases.
And that leads me to super groups. I never liked 'em, and I usually wasn't part of one. Everytime I joined one, it would be 150 members composed of five active superheroes. Of course, this might not happen to you, but more likely than not you are going to be disappointed if you are looking for a tight-laced super group. Then they annoy you to be in supergroup mode so they collect prestage while you lose influence among the way.
It seems like everything revolves around doing missions. And they are basically the same thing everytime. Defeat enemies in a certain building or sewers and get out. Sometimes you have to disarm bombs or save hostages, but it's really just a distraction from repetitive gameplay. Did I mention repetitive gameplay? The only way I got my blaster through to level 50 is because to me, blasting is so addicting. There will be a few missions that will tell you to go from one place to another - and these missions are the most boring of them all. There are task forces which give you badges - but badges are really only for show for the ones who care.
Power pool sets stops one fire blaster to be the same as the other fire blaster - they are abilities that pretty much any hero can pick up. This includes transportation powers such as flying, super jump, super speed, and teleportation. All the other abilities are pretty archtyped defined already - such as if you are a defender, you are going to want to get leadership probably, where as blasters get invisibility, because they actually made the archtypes different to the point whereas leadership abilities will be better for a defender directly than for a blaster.
When you get to the higher levels, there will be more types of enemies to face - but these will only replace the old ones in the starter areas. Some enemies will constantly be there no matter what level you are, like the Aranchnos. Bastards. Generally enemies have more unique powers as you gain higher in levels. By the 40's you'll realize how slow the progression is in levelling. It will take forever just try get the next bar up especially if you have exp debt. Yes, that's right, exp debt. At level 10 and after, whenever you die you collect experience debt which happers your progress in half for a certain amount of time. And the higher level you are, the larger the power will be filled with experience debt.
In your 40's you'll get epic power poolsets which allows a superhero to have some of the best abilities from another archtype (recycling content, maybe???). There are only four to choose from and each one has only four abilities each, and you can only choose from one epic power poolset. Blasters will get control and defense, controllers will get offensive ranged powers, etc. It's basically allowing you to even-out your character with abilities that your superhero is probably lacking even now. So I guess that was a smart move there.
When you hit level 50 you get two epic archtypes - peacebringer and warshade. You don't get anything with villains, sorry to say. Peacebringer and warshade offer unique perspectives to the game with altered states and starting off with a transportation ability, but it's nothing new really. Both are just a mix of blaster (warshade) and defender (peacebringer) with a few extra powers thrown in the way. They really aren't that special and, especially warshades, are extremely unbalanced fighters.
Of course, you don't have to power level your way to level 50. You could do what they like to call, "bridging" where you sk a low level in a Peregine Island mission when you are in your 40's and bug the mission so both you and the person you and sidekicking are recieving experience and influence. It makes the process much faster, but also makes it much more boring because you are not able to fight at all or the person you sidekick will not recieve anything.
Issue 11 has introducted invasions of aliens - or Rikti in the game. I haven't gone a zone that is invaded but I can tell you most people think that the red bulletin urgency is annoying and they probably don't even really care about it. They also added a handful of new missions and a new group both heroes and villains can take part of (Vanguard) to fight off the Rikti. But guess what? In the end all it really is, is click ability, watch ability, wait for ability to cooldown. And that's the game's downfall. When are you going to say, "enough is enough already"? There are only so many times you can do the same thing over and over again before you get sick to your stomach trying to do it again. The abilities you have in the game in the beginning stick around with you until the end and you probably use them the most because they have a fast cooldown timer - so you are basically stuck with a few powers until your good ones recharge up again. And sometimes this takes forever, even with enhancements. My inferno attack takes minutes to recharge and I have recharge modifiers on it.
In a way this is the direct opposite of WoW. In WoW you can only have ONE simple name. In CoH you can have any kind of name you want such as it's not taken (same with WoW - as long as it's not taken). The character creation process is the opposite of WoW's - it's fantastic. But when you play the game - WoW you get new abilities right away and have to upgrade them soon enough while in CoH you don't get any good abilities until the the mid-late 20's. In WoW you got many different paths you can take when it comes to non-combat roles, such as crafting and fishing, whereas in CoH you are stuck with just creating with the schematics you can get and afford. The PvP in both games do suck and seem very un-necessary, such as something just to try to applease the PvP crowd. Well, in WoW at least there are PvP servers which can be a blast to be into. Every server in CoH is exactly the same game.
City of Heroes is not going to leave us anytime soon. From the likes of the last publishes NCSoft still have fresh, original ideas to make City of Heroes a much more innovative game than it has been, but in the end it all comes down to combat. You cannot tailor without being in combat. You cannot go to an aunction and get anything unless you combat. And in future updates you will not be able to do anything else without doing combat first. That is the focus of the game - PvE combat. And it does a great job at it. So if you just like PvE combat, then I would tell you to buy this game in a heartbeat, but if you are looking a game that will truly leave you satisified, you've come to the wrong place. Due to the nature of the game itself, City of Heroes will never be anything like Saga of Ryzom or pre-CU Star Wars Galaxies. Everything is extremely linear in motion and there is no real player content outside of useless pretty superhero bases. This is what has leaved me unsatisified and that is why I am leaving CoH and never coming back. While it does give you the freedom to fly around the city, it does not give you the freedom to enter any building. While it does give you the freedom to complete a mission anytime you want to, it does not give you the freedom to make your own missions. While it does give you the freedom to defend the city, it does not give you the freedom to make the city - and that's half the fun itself. Why do you really care about a city that you really don't even feel apart of? Yeah, sure, they can give you quests that tell you to read a part of the cities' past, but what does that have to do with you? Nothing. That's what.
~Goodbye, Melting Point (level 50, blaster cold/fire/ice) of the Liberty Server. I'll miss you, but it's time to move on.
P.S.: I hope this has helped you decide whether you like City of Heroes or not. I haven't gone to every aspect of the game because I haven't tried EVERYTHING, but I did the best I could. Thanks for reading!