Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming 2021

Last year I ran through some of the recent changes that have been happening in City of Heroes Homecoming, a free MMORPG I play that lets me make superheroes that kick Nazis in the face. I love this game, I like playing it, and I like using it to make characters. You may have seen me post about that.

What’s happened since last year, then, for this MMORPG with no paid developers?

Well, we’ve had two major releases, known as ‘pages.’ These are sorts of releases that are meant to build up to form what would, back in the day, have been ‘issues.’ These are fan-developed expansions that involve adding new class material, new content, new powersets and even new systems designed to make old content feel ‘right’ while addressing balance problems.What I prioritise for these guides is information about things you can make and do.

Like, there are some really cool systems at work here: There’s been a system for guiding you around for exploration badges, and another system for letting you share thumbtacks in a team, and while those are genuinely interesting and cool systems to see introduced to an old engine that works on what we all know as ‘spaghetti code,’ but while those things improve user experience, and definitely have a chance to encourage less-enfranchised players to explore things they hadn’t, they’re not the same as the bread-and-butter of an alt-reckless game with a lot of ways to play superhero dress up dollies: More stuff for new characters.

The big additions on that front this year have been the Travel Revamp and the Bunch of Rocks update.

Travel update! In City of Heroes there were originally four power pools that any character can take, known as the Travel Pools (Flight, Teleport, Superspeed and Superjumping), which were then expanded to include three pools designed to relate to your power origin:

  • Sorcery for Magic
  • Experimentation for Science
  • Force of Will for Natural

The result was for a while there we had these weird power pools that were kinda just better travel power pools? You got a travel power that was almost but not quite up to the level of a ‘pure’ travel power, but you got a lot of flexibility, and the distinction was like, a few seconds worth of travel in most play experience.

In April, we got the travel revamp that:

  • Standardised all eight (wait, eiiiight?) travel pools to work the same way
  • Made the powers in the pool line up with one another power wise*
  • Converted the rarely-unused ‘Concealment’ pool into a proper travel pool, making one of the powers into infiltration, which lets you travel around stealthy

* One of those powers is hasten, and another is combat jumping, which I think literally all of my characters have, so you can take with a grain of salt how much those powers can be replaced

What does this let you do? Well, it makes certain types of superhero ideas work better. Now, if you want to play a super speedster character, you have a power that lets you vibrate through things. The entire teleport pool was updated to give it more utility too, where you now have a group power that pulls a large group into your space, which is very cool to see in action. There’s also a ‘combat teleport’ power now, for a character like Nightcrawler – you can teleport around a battlefield in a few short bursts before it recharges.

I already liked using teleport on a melee beater when I made Abra, so getting a sort of strict upgrade to his powers was very exciting!

Then we have the Big Bag Of Rocks update, which proliferate rock themed powers to the scrapper and stalker, who really, just haven’t got enough diversity or options when it comes to their powersets, and a much-awaited revamp of the entire design of stone armour and stone melee hit.

If you’re not familiar with it, once upon a time, in an era of single origin enhancements, the ‘pure’ stone tank was kind of an iconic tool for super-hard content. When you don’t have access to the invention system that let you tailor advantages (and let’s face it, just add a bunch of power to your character), the stone armour tank, known typically as just the granite tank, was the only thing that could reliably stand up to a range of super powerful threats like the Hamidon bloom. But the game moved on and Stone Armour sure did not.

Stone Armour had drawbacks that do not justify its power, as invention-powered characters were able to surpass Stone Armour, and even surpass what seemed impossible for Stone Armour. What’s the result? Well, if you’ve never played Stone Armour before, the answer is ‘it’s tougher, less costly, and the slowness is a bit more justified. You are kind of ‘sticky’ to the ground, in that you can’t jump as high as you used to be able to, but you can use travel powers now like you couldn’t before.

If you have played Stone Armour: You’re no longer slowed down by Rooted, but you won’t gain all of its benefits unless you’re choosing to stand still. There are customisation options that make the armour less obtrusive. The armours contribute more utility, like a flame proc and a recharge boost. Your self-heal heals a bit more than a third it did, but it recharges in a third of the time, which should smooth out how you handle damage spikes. Granite can also hop a little. Otherwise it’s a big dose of utility and cool toys.

Also, scrappers and stalkers get stone armour and stone melee, because of course, we can’t let them go without. They also add a stone blast and manipulation set to Blasters, because again, we can’t let them go without. This means that if you wanted to make a character who could fight in melee, and at range, using stone powers, that give you a sort of chunky, stompy powerset like an Earthbender, you have an option now:

The Dominator.

Yes, I’m bitter!