Is it good to be bad? We take a hands-on look at the upcoming online supervillain game from the creator of City of Heroes.
Last year, developer Cryptic Studios and publisher NCsoft's City of Heroes helped massively multiplayer online games leap a tall building in a single bound. Previously, online role-playing games usually involved creating a fantasy character and repeatedly beating on skeletons and goblins to earn copper coins, magic swords, and the privilege of beating on larger skeletons and goblins. City of Heroes took massively multiplayer games into the realm of comic-book superheroes by letting you create your very own superpowered do-gooder, complete with superhuman abilities like flight, superspeed, and a whole host of other powerful abilities designed to let you conquer the thugs and criminals of Paragon City, the game's home area. Now, Cryptic and NCsoft are working on their next game, City of Villains, which isn't an expansion pack, but rather, is something of a stand-alone sequel to City of Heroes. You won't need the original game to play City of Villains, but you might want to consider getting both games eventually, especially if you're interested in pitting superheroes against supervillains in player-versus-player battles.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Like many classic comic-book villains who model themselves after their heroic counterparts, City of Villains could be thought of as, in some ways, a more evil, alternate-universe version of City of Heroes. Like the original, you'll start a new game by creating a new character from one of five different "super" origins--science, mutation, magic, technology, and natural--and from one of five different character archetypes, which are essentially the game's version of character professions. You'll also choose two types of powers, a primary and a secondary set, each of which comes in various flavors and opens up an entire line of superpowers to be gradually attained as your character grows stronger and becomes more experienced. But the new game will have all-new archetypes: the brute, the stalker, the mastermind, the dominator, and the corruptor. And, as Cryptic designer Dave "Zeb" Cook explains, "The archetypes in City of Villains will be much more focused on offense than those of City of Heroes." While some archetypes seem like more aggressive versions of heroes, others are completely new.
For instance, the brute class resembles a cross between the heroes' tanker and scrapper classes and is the villains' primary frontline fighter, using primary melee powers and secondary defensive powers. The dominator could be compared to the heroes' controller character, since this archetype uses primary control powers to disable enemies rather than attacking them directly, but it also uses offense-oriented secondary assault powers. And the corruptor could be roughly compared to the heroes' ranged-attacking blaster character, since the corruptor uses primary ranged powers but also acts as a healer for the villains, thanks to its secondary "buff" healing and aiding powers, though it also uses a "scourge" power to ruthlessly deal critical damage to enemies that have been wounded to within 20 percent of their remaining health. The stalker seems roughly comparable to the heroes' scrapper in that the class also uses melee and defensive powers but also relies on stealth and stabbing enemies in the back while hidden. Additionally, the stalker may also make exceptionally damaging scourge attacks on severely wounded enemies. The fifth and final new archetype is, however, completely different from any hero: The mastermind is the villains' pet class, and it uses primary summoning powers and secondary buff powers.
It's true that some villains share superpowers with their heroic brethren of Paragon City, including classic powers from the original City of Heroes, as well as updated powers that have been recently added to the original game (such as sonic-based powers and archery). However, the new archetypes will also have access to all-new powers, like the stalker's "assassin" skill. Regardless of whether stalkers choose to use claws, energy-based melee, martial arts, or poisonous spines, they will all eventually be able to learn an assassin power at a higher level, which lets them deliver a devastating blow while hidden. Hiding will be the first secondary power any stalker can acquire in the archetype's secondary power set.
Other examples of all-new abilities are the dominator's plant-based powers--specifically, the primary plant control power and the secondary thorny assault power. Plant control is exactly what it sounds like. Dominators can choose this line of powers to summon choking vines and roots to immobilize and strangle their enemies, as well as use miscellaneous plant-based powers, like summoning spore burst clouds that put their enemies to sleep. Thorny assault is an offensive power that lets dominators pelt their enemies with razor-sharp thorns or sprout a gigantic thorn from their own bodies to attack with at close range. But perhaps the most intriguing powers come from the mastermind's primary sets of necromancy, robotics, and ninjas. Depending on which power you choose, this character can summon aid in the form of shambling zombies, killer robots, and perhaps the most dreaded allies of all: ninjas!