City of Villains Review
City of Villains doesn't always make you feel evil, but it's an engrossing bookend to City of Heroes' attractive MMO concept.
- It's about time someone let us play the bad guy
- Missions can be fun to solo, but the game shines when you're a member of a team
- Customizing your headquarters keeps your supergroup motivated
- Character creation tool is just as fun to tinker with as before
- PvP can be fun.
- Missions are very straightforward
- No real sense of malice to anything you do
- PvP can be too straightforward
- When things bunch up, the system bogs down.
You've tired of the pitiful battle cries of those self-righteous, meddling heroes of Paragon City. You'd like nothing better than to strap on your darkest cowl, tattoo your face with arcane symbols, and begin wreaking havoc on any mewling citizen that dares step in your path. Welcome, fellow fiend, to City of Villains, the sequel of sorts to NCSoft's City of Heroes, which was released in 2004. Considered as a stand-alone game, City of Villains delivers only a marginally different experience than its predecessor, though it includes, most notably, player-versus-player combat. When played as a companion game to the original, City of Villains closes an obvious open loop in NCSoft's MMO world of heroic do-gooders and dastardly deeds, and remains a very fun game in the process.
Ever since City of Heroes shipped, players in the COH world have been asking, "What about the bad guys?" City of Villains addresses that nefarious need through an extended and engrossing character creation tool, an entirely new realm of environments to explore and practice your villainy in, and gameplay mechanics and mission structures that will feel very familiar to City of Heroes veterans--sometimes a bit too familiar. Incidentally, it's worth noting that City of Villains is a stand-alone game. If you get it but you don't already own City of Heroes, you'll have no problem getting into it, but will need to pay the same subscription fee you would if you were playing City of Heroes (after the first 30 days). If you do own City of Heroes and pick up City of Villains, all you pay for is the retail game, as your current subscription fee covers City of Villains as well.
One of the best features of City of Heroes, the character creation tool, is enhanced in City of Villains and offers the willing tinkerer more power than ever before to bring out his or her mad scientist or hulking blood-craving demon. New outfits and accessories galore, even some new body parts and head types, find their way into COV's character creation tool, and you even have the ability to focus on specific areas of your supervillain's physical makeup, such as shoulders, chest, legs, and so on--so you can really drill down and get detailed.
Of course, all of this is just window dressing for your created character; the core decision you'll need to make--the one that will define your villain's path in the game--will be its archetype. City of Villains offers five archetypes to choose from, some of which are analogues to those found in City of Heroes. The brute, for example, prefers to do his or her hero-bashing up close and personal--and, as a result, plays similarly to the tanker archetype in COH. Other character types found in the game are the offensively minded stalker; the corrupter, who deals primarily in ranged attacks; the will-bending dominator; and the mastermind, who is able to summon a variety of henchmen to do his or her bidding.
While there are comparisons between archetypes found in COH and those in Villains, there are some key differences that keep things fresh. Dominators, for example, have a dominator bar that, when filled, lets the character activate a special domination power that boosts their offensive powers, while brutes have a similar bar that measures their fury level. Of the new archetypes, the mastermind class seems especially inspired. With a number of different henchmen types to summon--from ninjas to robots, zombies to soldiers--the mastermind can effectively become a one-man army, capable of either soloing effectively, or nearly doubling the size of an already well-stocked team of villains.
If you've spent any time saving damsels in distress or mowing down lackeys in City of Heroes, you'll be surprised at how quickly you re-adapt to the missions in City of Villains. This is partially due to an accommodating and user-friendly interface that is easy to learn and as flexible as you need it to be. Windows can be moved and resized at your leisure, and macros and hotkeys are easy to set up. Familiarity also comes because, to a large degree, the missions in City of Villains feel very similar to those in City of Heroes. But there are new ways to pick up missions--through a number of different types of contacts, including various brokers (who set up special missions for you), a disreputable car radio, and the Rogue Island Protector, a newspaper from which you'll be able to pick various missions.