Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming, i27 — Page 5

I was not expecting this! I was not expecting to get two Homecoming updates this year, which may sound a little sarcastic but please remember Homecoming is a free game maintained by fans for the love of it, so the updates (known as ‘Pages’) are things I try not to expect. I’m a super-invested player, with a huge cast of characters all at the level cap, so I try not to get involved in beta discussions of how the game ‘should’ be — I know that my experience is extremely atypical to most players. That means that new pages arrive in my life like a delightful little fairy sprinkling dust.

This page was definitely lots of little stuff but not lots of #content, so I’m going to run through what it is and what it means, to me, and why you might care about it.

Probably the largest and most wide-impact changes are that two archetypes have been given big updates; the Mastermind and the Sentinel. Starting with the Mastermind, the changes have been about making the mastermind power choices more interesting, and addressing some balance concerns. Back when the game was live, you might have imagined the mastermind as the most powerful archetype, what with threads of no-inspiration, SO-only AV soloing they could do, but times have changed and the threats have upgraded in a way that left the Mastermind behind.

The way the game is geared these days, the hard content tends to be about fighting things that are a higher level than you, and that works as a useful difficulty scalar for most things; higher level things take less damage, do more damage, hit more often, all that stuff. But there’s a stiff dropoff set up to make sure that you don’t even try and fight things that are really far beyond your level, to try and keep you focusing on content near where you are.

Problem is, for a mastermind, your pets are lower level than you. If you fight a +4 enemy, that’s meant to be really hard, but your toughest minion is fighting a +5, which isn’t like, 20% harder than +4; it’s a lot more like 100% harder. Then your next tier of pets are fighting something at +6, and the bottom are fighting at +7, and +7 is kind of where the math ramps off a cliff and it’s the ‘definitely don’t bother’ stage of combat.

Basically: Masterminds have needed help. Some of that help is about rebalancing weak pets, some is about fixing AI problems that have crept in over time and some of it is about making that a set that’s been kinda the worst one for ten years finally didn’t look silly compared to the much better version of the same thing that came later.

These changes look like a lot of buffs but also they look like they’re the kinds of changes that are going to upend how you masterminded. Almost all masterminds used to be able to ignore their personal attacks, and that meant endurance was useful in a different way for them. Now, mastermind attacks carry debuff effects that make your pets better, so that’s kind of interesting.

I only have one mastermind and I’m not that into it. Mostly, I built the character as if they were focused on their support secondary, so for me this change is going to take a lot of practice. I worry a little bit that maybe masterminds are going to be more buttony — needing more space for more controls. On the other hand, there’s a chance that the change means that Masterminds are going to be better able to play using pet controls for specific problems, rather than needing to micro-manage to maximise your pets. If this means I can run a mastermind more by putting them into Bodyguard mode and run around blasting things while using support and heal powers, like a pet-powered version of a defender, why, I’d be pretty excited about that.

Oh yeah there’s also a major update to sentinels! You know, sentinels, the AT that’s got blasts like almost a blaster and a armour almost like a scrapper and I’ve never been interested in it because it’s trying to be a worse version of two things and doesn’t offer me the kinds of things I like in that place? But yeah, sentinels are an AT made very much to someone else’s interests, so they’ve never really captured my attention.

They might kinda now, if only because hey, novelty, maybe they’ll be interesting as a way to explore new blast sets, but the general thing of a sentinel is they trade blaster and scrapper AOE in favour of being single target, ranged attackers who are safe from things like mezzes and counterattacks. I don’t currently have a reason to want that, but, these changes are still pretty easy to explain:

  • Sentinels now do more damage (about 15% more)
  • Sentinels now resist tohit and perception debuffs
  • Sentinels have a slowly charging resource called Opportunity. You can spend Opportunity to debuff a single target to do a Lot Of Bad Things to them, which means everyone attacking your target does more of most things they do.

That’s it, that’s the broad overview. Sentinels are now a single target ranged attacker type who can support themselves and who amplify the damage of others on single big hard targets.

Also? They now have a blast set which includes the ‘meteor’ nuke which is pretty funny to look at so I may consider making a sentinel to play around with that.

While we’re talking about things that haven’t been good for ten years, when the invention system was rolled out, almost all heavily built high-end builds started to have a lot of defense, which meant that a support set that only improved defenses and didn’t do anything to improve the team’s damage output became one of the least good.

To complement Forcefield’s ‘give everyone global defense’ theme, it then got a new, secondary effect of lots of knockback which Nobody Liked. Well, some people like it, but the general attitude from the player base is not liking other people doing knockback that they can’t control. Whatever.

Anyway, Forcefield got a bit of a revamp! It got some -resistance in some of its powers, and some of its other powers became more clicky and thinky without being as endurance demanding. I don’t actually know if these changes are particularly engaging, but also, I wasn’t a Force Field player and the one I know hated them, but also, I don’t think that’s a mark against these changes.

Basically, Forcefield was a left-behind set and now it’s interesting but that doesn’t mean it’s appealing to me.

There’s another set of changes to the Axe powerset that melee characters have, which is mostly just ‘Axe does better damage now and it feels very satisfying’ but I cannot tell you how good that is or isn’t. It’s, I’m sure, fine, but I haven’t made or played one so I’m just relaying what I’ve heard.

What Axe offers that I can tell without levelling it is a lot of weapon customisation you can build a concept around. From the really obvious Rikti War Axe (which is like a glowing-edged surfboard) to the high-tech Impervium Axe, or even the more grisly Vazhilok bone saws we have now, you can definitely build a character around the different ways axes ‘feel.’

Note that while scrappers, tankers and brutes all have axes, stalkers don’t yet? And that may be because we don’t have stalker Assassin Strike animations, but it may just be because it seems stupid. Then again, Stalkers have Fire armour now, so who am I to say.

There is also a huge change in that a lot of powers are now available earlier as you level up. That means most characters now get access to key powers – controllers get their pets at level 26, for example, instead of at level 32. Tankers and Dominators no longer have to take the worst attack in their secondary, which has an additional problem for me in that you probably shouldn’t have an attack in your secondary that everyone would skip? That seems a different problem to solve?

But yeah, this change makes a lot of builds look different and I’ve only done a little bit of respeccing to accommodate it but it is meaning that some characters who barely touch one of their primary or secondary touch them even less, and some power pools are getting squeezed even harder. I’ve had at least one rebuild have to confront that they could really use five power pools just to give them stuff to slot that isn’t attacks they won’t use.

We also got more prismatic shard costumes, which include the highly-desired (by me) Devouring Earth Devoured models. I have a character who’s been waiting for this for years – years! – ever since I saw we could build things with those back in the halloween days of live – and now she finally, finally can be the big scary tentacle monster shapeshifter she wants to be.


When Dominators first launched, they exclusively got plant control and controllers exclusively got illusion control; it was seen at the time as a sort of symmetrical balance, that neither got the ‘best’ control set from the other archetype, a thing that went right out the window the first time powersets got proliferated and controllers got plant while dominators got spat on.

Illusion is a house. It has always been a house. I felt the reason to never proliferate it to dominators is that that would necessitate looking at it in terms of its gameplay balance and admitting ‘hey hang on something’s not right here,’ which might result in the powerset needing some rebalancing for the controller, which would make all those entrenched players feel bad as a byproduct of giving the powerset to another archetype that only weirdoes like me ever bother to play.

I figured there’d be a big power shift when dominators got Illusion, that we’d lose access to a few key powers. We did, but the change was honestly pretty gentle. The big thing Illusion lacks for a dominator is what I call a ‘workhorse control’ – a power that’s going to be reliably up every single spawn to blunt the first attack and let you start cutting the group up. For controllers, that’s okay, they have team support powersets to do that, debuffing whole groups to diminish alphas, but dominators don’t.

What we lost was Spectral Wounds (a high damage psionic ranged attack) and Group Invisibility (a group buff power). In exchange we got Spectral Wall (a single target immobilise, handy if you want it), and Gleam (a workhorse AOE stun power). The last change is that Phantom Army on a controller taunts (pulling enemy damage to things that can’t take damage) and on a dominator it just does soft controls (knockdown and short stuns). Controller Phantom Army is absolutely better, but this version still kicks ass.

And that’s a lot of what’s in this Page! It’s just a lot of cool stuff for players like me, who like building lots of characters, it’s a lot of cool powers that weren’t getting used before, and maybe it’s made some builds easier to play for people who aren’t immensely super-invested like me!

Check it out!

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