City of Villains Updated Impressions - Issue 7, Time Warps, and Smashing Everything

The next update for this comic-themed massively multiplayer game will include time travel, all-new player-versus-player battles, and environments you can smash to bits.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The 2006 Game Developers Conference is underway in San Jose, California, and publisher NCSoft and developer Cryptic are showing off the next update in their massively multiplayer game City of Villains. The next update, known as "Issue 7: Destiny Manifest," will offer numerous upgrades that are mainly intended for villain characters created with the City of Villains game, though it will also offer some perks for players who own both City of Heroes and City of Villains.

The new update for City of Villains will offer high-level content, new costumes, and a smashing good time.

Among other things, the new update will include a brand-new, high-level area for player-versus-environment play (that is, for players to fight computer-controlled enemies). The new area is known as Grandville and will be for characters of level 40 to 50. Grandville is apparently the home base of the evil Lord Recluse, the game's archvillain, and his cadre of elite supervillains. Recluse and his crew inhabit the very heart of Grandville in what is essentially an evil counterpart of City of Heroes' city hall. In this building, high-level villain characters can align themselves with individual supervillains to unlock an all-new set of "patron" superpowers (depending on which supervillain they choose). And for hero characters, this city hall represents the ultimate raiding area with the biggest quarry yet. However, the area is mostly for villains, who will hopefully enjoy the dark, bleak, urban look and feel of the area. Apparently, the city was built on top of the ruins of an existing town by Recluse, a highly productive supervillain who is currently working on an oversized mind-control communications network. However, Recluse apparently dabbled in genetics and attempted to breed hybrids of humans and spiders, known as arachnoids, though these nasty critters were apparently a little too smart to follow orders. The arachnoids were abandoned to the old city, now the sewers, although enterprising villain characters will still want to explore the ruins in search of hidden loot and will have to plan out careful strategies to capture and hold positions against constantly encroaching, swarming arachnoids.

What will perhaps be more exciting for experienced City of Villains players will be the new player-versus-player area (that is, for players to battle against each other). Recluse's Victory will be a new high-level adventure accessed through one of Recluse's secret projects--a rift in the time-space continuum that leads to an alternate universe. In this universe, the virtuous Paragon City from City of Heroes has fallen into ruin and has become a war zone, with seven different "pillbox" control points. In this highly challenging area, all the pillboxes will begin as neutral positions, but when captured by teams of either heroes or villains, they will become armed with powerful stationary turrets that will require coordinated squads of players to destroy. After capturing a pillbox, the surrounding area will change in appearance for all players--if heroes capture the pillbox, some small part of the pristine beauty of Paragon City will be restored.

If villains capture a nearby pillbox, the area will become covered in graffiti and propaganda for Recluse. Things get more interesting when players take control of heavies, which are gigantic killer robots tied to specific spawning platforms and can be given orders in battle by the first players to seize them. Although the zone, which periodically resets for further captures in round-based matches, can be conquered by capturing six of the seven pillboxes, by the time either team captures four, the remaining pillboxes will become reinforced by computer-controlled signature heroes and villains of the series, up to and including Lord Recluse himself and Statesman, the alter ego of City of Heroes creative director Jack Emmert. After Recluse's Victory has been secured by either team, there is a five-minute victory period, during which players can continue to pummel each other and environmental enemies for additional prestige points.

The new player-versus-player options should definitely appeal to serious players.

In the meantime, City of Villains has also upped the stakes on casual play by upgrading the newspaper missions--the randomly generated missions that players receive from reading newspapers. With the new update, players will be able to randomly come upon mayhem missions, which are all-new missions that are instanced (that is, enclosed for only a single player and his or her teammates, rather than open to all players in the world). Mayhem missions reflect the addition of the PhysX physics-simulation software created by AGEIA, since they feature environments with many, many destructible objects. The object of mayhem missions is to, as Cryptic representatives put it, "cause mayhem." You'll be on a strict timer that will, if it expires, boot you out of the mission. However, you can reset the timer by smashing up the world (anything from parked cars to mailboxes to parking meters and more), by taking on side quests, and by defeating the pesky superhero who will attempt to thwart you in the end. From what we've seen, going around and smashing up everything in sight should be a hoot, even for casual players who might be too intimidated to try out City of Villains' more sophisticated gameplay options.

In addition, the new update will include new costume options (such as pointy ears) and new power sets for villains, and it will make all the costume options available to any type of character for players who own both City of Heroes and City of Villains (so that you can, if you wish, make a hero with only villainous parts). All things considered, the new update should offer quite a lot for City of Villains fans when it launches in April.

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