City of Heroes/Villains: Midnight Hour PC Review

Four years on from its release, and even in the shadow of World of Warcraft, City of Heroes has found its fan base. It looks like finally it’s grasping them by the wrist, and like an overprotective mother is screaming in their innocent little face “DON’T YOU DARE GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!”

To cut a long and boring story short, compared to other update development teams that work on MMO’s monthly additions, City of Heroes had a relatively small group. And no matter how talented or committed those people were, monthly updates inevitably sometimes fell short. But now Cryptic Studios has been bought up by PlayNC, the game’s publisher. To cut matters even shorter, the team that now works on City of Heroes consists of a lot more people with better facilities, and it really shows.

I am a sucker for this game, before I was even asked to review it, I was already playing it. And several weeks before hand I was getting excited about this update. As someone who was part of the Beta for this game, and went to the effort of buying an American copy so I could play until the European release came out, which I then bought as well. I hope that goes some way to pointing out how good this game is.

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Sure there are weaknesses, repetitive mission objectives, unbalanced PvP and similar map types. But as far as universes go, it’s one of the most well rounded, featuring original past, present and futures (see time travel, Ouroboros).

Issue #12 sees among other things the power proliferation between classes, what that means is Archetypes that previously didn’t have access to certain powers, now do. Which sounds like it should mean many New powers for everyone. What it actually means is, some Villain powers and now accessible by certain hero classes, and vice versa. The only new Power set is the Blaster secondary, which when pointed seems extremely cheap. But it got me scrambling back to the game sweating and salivating, so I guess they know what they’re doing.

The other main inclusion in this update is the Cimerora town. Apparently it was an idea from the previous time travel themed update (Issue #11) that has now been implemented. It sees you and your super hero or super villain buddies travelling back to the Ancient times of Rome, teaming up to free the town from the rule of a coup-de-ta dictator “Romulus”. As far as City of Heroes task forces go, it is defiantly one of the best, with a few end missions that really require you to think and strategise with your team, rather than the standard jump in and blow things up style of fighting that City of Heroes does oh so well. An excellent addition to the universe, accessed by becoming a member of the Mid-Night Squad, a mystic team which I am sure we haven’t heard the last of yet.

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For heroes, reaching level 50 allows you to create a bonus character type known as Kheldians, basically a Swiss army knife class focusing on shape shifting into differently roles. Up until now Villains didn’t have anything, but that all changed with addition of Arachnos Soldier and Arachnos Widow. The most interesting feature about these new character types is role selection. Once you reach level 26 you are allowed to branch off and choose a more specialized route for your character to take, all themed around actual Arachnos soldier types already in the game, for a total sense of inclusion in the universe… and so you can whisper to yourself while fighting them “now its my turn daddy”.

It’s hard to rate this update as either good or bad, should I be taking the position of an average player who is using this as an incentive to play, or should I be assuming you just want to know what the most recent additions are to a game you have already played? The majority of the content is for Mid/High-Level players but if you are a mid level player at this point, will you get the game back for one Task Force? Probably not. So I have to assume that you are either a new player, in which case there is a huge amount of content and variety for you to sample for the first time. Or you are a seasoned player like me and the most appealing inclusion will be you making a new character with new powers, for an all new experience on the way to level 50.

There are other more subtle inclusions to the game, the dubbed “standard of life” improvements, that allow you to observe the numbers and stats that make your character work. Hollow’s has had a small rework, and there are new Origins of powers missions. All perfectly valid items, but sadly less interesting for review purposes.

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Overall the future seems pretty bright for City of Heroes, the development team has promised that the next two updates to the game will be huge in comparison, which if correct means that Issue #13 may be a must play for everyone. Impressively the team has also promised the ability to make your own missions, which you can then post for other people to play; if you gain suitable notoriety for a good story arc you will gain an in game reward. As a long time fan of this game, it is incredibly rewarding to me to know that the game is finally stepping out into the limelight, and will be delivering something unique and hopefully gaining the praise it deserves for such a brave step.

Lets hope the supposed movie will go a long way toward bringing in the new blood.

My main warning to anyone who wants to play this game for the first time is, don’t judge it too harshly on what seems like its flaws. It knows full well what it is, and delivers what other MMORPG’s don’t. Explosions…. and as many situations as possible, to use them on as many people as possible.

8 out of 10
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