City of Villains PC Review
Are you fed up with playing the good guy? Have you ever wanted to strive for world domination? Ever wished you could walk down the street wearing nothing but your underwear and a vest made of barbed wire? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then City of Villains, the standalone sequel to City of Heroes, could be the game for you.
Off the bat, I’ll tell you that if you didn’t enjoy playing City of Heroes, then you should give up any hope of liking CoV right now. The two games play very similarly, but there are differences, which make the game a worthy purchase even if you’ve completed everything on offer in CoH. There are five brand new archetypes (character classes) for you to play, and while at first they seem to be similar to old ones with a few new twists, you won’t be playing them in the same way you played your heroes. The Corruptor villain for example, is a mix between the Blaster and Defender heroes; low hit points, medium to high damage ranged attacks, and the ability to buff teammates or debuff enemies. As well as this, the Corruptor gets an inherent power at level one which gives it the ability to land critical hits when the enemy is at low health. All the archetypes have their own role to perform, whether it be using melee attacks on the enemy (Brutes and Stalkers), absorbing the enemies’ attacks (Master Minds), keeping the mobs from attacking (Dominators), or providing the team with heals and other buffs (Corruptors and Master Minds). In most cases, the most effective team is one with a healthy balance of all types of villains.
After you’ve chosen your archetype and power sets, you get to design your character. Here you can choose the model type (male, female or huge) and then customise its look with various sliders, changing its height, hip size etc. After that, the fun really begins. Enter the costume creator. Here you can modify your look to your heart’s content. Want to dress like a cowboy, or maybe a ninja? No problem. Perhaps your style is more a fedora wearing mobster, or a rabid wolf man? Go for it. There are limitless amounts of options for you to choose. Simply put, the costume creator in CoH was the most in depth you could get, and CoV only expands on this. Chances are you’ll spend a long time making your first character look as imposing, cool or downright silly as you can. After choosing my archetype- a Stalker, and designed the perfect look, I gave my villain a name. Salvager was a religious kid, until he witnessed his father murdering someone, at which point he went slightly insane. Now a grown man, he uses his self-taught martial arts to destroy anyone who gets in his way.
Having created my character, I stepped into the tutorial, where your villain escapes from prison, showing you the controls and how to use your powers as you go, as well as introducing you to how to handle contacts, who provide you with missions throughout the game. After beating up a few guards, as well as some of my inmates, I was given the task of planting a bomb before being allowed admittance to the main over world. I stepped into the mission door, rescued the person who was originally meant to plant the bomb, and handed anyone who tried to stop me their arse. With all threats neutralised, I proceeded to set up the bomb in the intended area. Suddenly light burst from all around my character, and the words ‘level up’ appear on the screen, accompanied by a small jingle that you will learn to love. After exiting the mission map, I travelled over to Mercy Island, and the game revealed itself to be absolutely stunning. From here, I ‘trained’ by speaking to the arbiter. Every time you grow a level you have to talk to an arbiter, who are marked on your map, in order to be granted the use of a new power. Being a melee based archetype, I decided to choose ninja reflexes, a power that gives me some more defence against other melee attacks. Starting from level three, each odd numbered level doesn’t give you a new power, but gives you two enhancement slots to put into your powers. This in turn improves said powers, whether it be by making an attack deal more damage or a heal cost less endurance to use. Now, onto the missions. Apparently a group calling themselves the snakes were causing some trouble for the Arachnos, and they wanted me to prove my worth by clearing them out. You got it. Combat in CoV is very simple. All you have to do is target your victim and press the attack you want to use. But that doesn’t mean fights are boring. Especially in teams, battles can become quite frantic, and often you’ll find that you or an accomplice will die because you were too slow at hitting that heal button. In most cases, the difference between survival and defeat is based solely on your reflexes. Whether or not you believe this is a good thing I’ll leave for you to decide. Of course, you’re not going to get anywhere if you pick useless powers or slot them poorly, so I would advise you either check out the official forums or ask around in the game if you’re not sure what to do.
The variety of the missions in CoV is its biggest downfall. Even though there are different types, including defeat so and so, kidnap whoever and steal X, they all end up boiling down to one thing; defeat enemies. Every now and then you get to pull a bank heist, which although refreshing, isn’t enough. Similarly, there aren’t enough maps on which you do these missions, and while they are randomly generated, you’ll soon get sick of seeing offices, sewers and caves.
Once you reach level 15, you’ll be able to enter the first of three player vs. player zones. In these areas, not only will you be able to fight the usual computer controlled foes, but also player controlled heroes from CoH. Be warned though; not all the archetypes were made for 1 v 1 battles, and most of them need to be in a team to be effective at all. If you don’t want to fight against other players, but do want to do your bit in helping your side, don’t worry, there is an option for you- there are normal missions in these zones, which when completed will either buff your side or debuff the enemy. Still, you are vulnerable to attacks when you’re making your way to the mission, so try to keep a low profile.
The graphics in CoV are, for the most part, good. The powers all have stylish animations and the character models are decent. Nothing amazing, but good nonetheless. The environment however, truly is something to behold. It’s not that it looks fantastic (although it does), but the sheer vastness of it all is mind-blowing. When you first step out into Mercy Island, you see an enormous world ready for you to conquer, and the other zones are no different. There’s a fairly large range of enemies, each faction having their own look and style, but for some reason in the higher levels your choice on what NPCs you want to take out gets much narrower. Hopefully the range of enemies in higher level play is broadened in the next major update. I was however, a little disappointed with the rag doll effects, as they don’t come into play as much as they could have. All this being said, you’ll need at least two gig of RAM to run this on the highest settings, and if you have anything under one gig, or don’t have a very capable graphics card, I wouldn’t bother.
Ok, so the sound isn’t great. It’s by no means bad, but you’re not going to be buying the soundtrack any time soon. None of the sounds are so great as to warrant the repeated use of them, yet so many powers have the same sounds. Often this can get annoying, more with some power sets than others, because you can be using a power so often that its noise becomes annoying, which I find most apparent in the force fields set. In some cases, I actually avoided using less important powers because I was so sick of the sound. The music, which is used very scarcely throughout the game, is probably more likely to be turned off in favour of your own (Which thankfully can be done.) rather than be listened to, despite a few of the tunes being relatively catchy.
At the moment, the level cap in CoV is set at 40, which will be raised by ten levels in the next major update to coincide with CoH. Getting to these high levels is no simple task, and will require many hours of gameplay. Sadly, the only way you can gain experience is by completing missions, which get repetitive quickly, especially if you’re doing them solo. In order to keep this game fresh, you’re going to have to team regularly, and perhaps even join a guild (supergroup). Just because the only way to level up is by killing bad – err – good guys doesn’t mean that’s all there is to do. If you’re in a supergroup, then you can build a base for all your buddies to relax in, and you can raid other people’s bases, as well as them raiding yours. On the downside, these bases are quite expensive, so you’ll have to have a lot of members earning prestige in order for you to build a decent one. If you get tired of fighting mindless computer controlled mobs, then you can always dip yourself into the PvP sauce, but be careful, it may be a little too hot for some people.
When it comes down to enjoyment level, if you enjoyed City of Heroes then I don’t see any reason for you to dislike the dark side of the force. While the missions are repetitive and linear, all you need to do to spice them up is play with a few friends, whether you met them in or out of the game. The graphics and sound aren’t anything to praise the Lord for, but they do their job. If you get bored of playing a certain class, then simply make another one and continue having fun. That’s what this game is all about. Fun. Sure, it’s definitely not for everyone, but then again, what game is?