Oh snap, what’s that? That MMO everyone is always talking about with the cool looking characters, that’s free to play up to level 50 and beyond, has gotten a recent update?
That’s right, mother-havers and non-mother-havers, it’s another City of Heroes Homecoming Page, a content update for the sweatiest of weirdoes!
The meat of this Page is a new reward system and difficulty tier for end-game content, but we’ll get to that last. I don’t know how it is now but back in the day, the majority of City of Heroes characters were under level 10, because people made a lot of new characters and played them for a little bit. Alts were the body of the game, and that means any new powerset is a bunch of extra content for a whole category of player.
There’s a new pair of powersets, and I am shocked, shocked to say that this is a powerset that is available for dominators. Turns out the Controller’s and Blaster’s leavings will eventually get you something. This time it’s Symphony Control and Sonic Assault.
Now, despite these two looking alike at a glance, they aren’t the same thing; Symphony Control does psionic damage and puts notes and music bars in the air as part of its effect. You can’t get rid of them with ‘minimal FX’ options, either. If you’re a symphony controller, your character is doing something about music. It also lines up with itself well positionally; four of its powers are cones. None of its controls stack with themselves – there’s a single target and AOE hold, but otherwise, they’re all distinct from one another, with Terror, Immobilise, Stun and Sleep and a single-target confuse as well. Great options for Invention sets if you’re aiming for -recharge (which Dominators, by default, are).
Also the pet is a bit like a baby form of Singularity from Gravity Control – it follows you around and does ‘stuff like you just did.’ That’s cool as hell, and it lets controllers experience some of the control of a Dominator in Domination.
I don’t think I’ll be jumping on it immediately. I value button space, and having five area controls isn’t as useful to me as one or two fast recharging ones.
Sonic Assault is much more spicy, as it really is made up of the best powers from Sonic Blast and Manipulation. You get the -res aura, a PBAOE attack, a bunch of single target blasts that add -res, and some single target melee hits as well. Again, no experience with this one, but what’s extra interesting is it doesn’t have any obvious overlap with Symphony Control. The -res makes me imagine it works well with a control set with melee pets, so, fire imps, because once again, Fire Is Really Good.
That does let you combine a damage aura (Hot Feet) and Disruption Aura, but I don’t feel a strong flavour link between Fire Control and Sonic Assault.
But wait, that’s not all! Check it the hell out, we have a new aesthetic feature, where you can make your weapons visible while you’re out of combat. Suddenly, every single custom weapon that doesn’t look like nothing (like the elemental and fire weapons), can be made as part of your character design, and they get to look ‘right’ when you draw them no longer out of nowhere. This is really cool, and I immediately went through all my characters with weapons to customise how they handled it.
It isn’t a perfect system – you will need to recustomise a sheathed weapon, because the game sees them as a unique item, and not everything can be sheathed. Also some of them look a bit weird — the hook sword and the Rikti swords both sit oddly on the body — but this is case-by-case. You’ll need to check how it looks on your character and make the choice yourself.
There’s also a name release system introduced in this page, which is an unfortunately necessity when you have the combination of a small playerbase that make lots of characters and the way free accounts can get or sit on names. It’s not functioning right now, but if you have a name on a character who isn’t 50, and you don’t log them in in too long, your name is released so other people can use it.
Note that 50 is the point when the name is ‘yours.’ I’m not wild about this because I can see the way it doesn’t affect me. I get to 50 in less than a day because I’m equipped to farm. The timer is long – it really is trying to just scoop names off accounts that are done and nobody’s using them any more – but I know that having a timer at all can induce anxiety in some people, who might fret about it.
This isn’t going to affect me at all, and I’m glad of that but it also makes me feel a little worried.
Now on to the last major system addition which I also haven’t played with — hey, look, it’s only been a few days, gimme a break — is a system for adding new levels of difficulty to late-game content. City of Heroes already has an enormous amount of end-game content, but it’s mostly because you can do any content and the game scales you to it. You hit 50, you can immediately start going back to do any levelling content, you can jump into teams with anyone else, there are raids and trials and there’s a bunch of end-game task forces as well in places like the Shadow Shard and there are two really well-regarded run-often task forces in the Imperious and Lady Grey Task Forces.
Thing is, of that vast quantity of content, a lot of it is bad, and of the content that isn’t bad, it’s also very familiar. If you’re playing the game at any point, you probably know all the maps and all the tricks and the strategies are so familiar that most encounters break down into ‘get them into a pile and mash through them.’ What Page Four introduces now is new tiers of difficulty for late-game content that adds new mechanics, new monsters, and new things you can’t just mash through in the same way, or where mashing will run the risk of getting you mashed.
It’s cool, and it’s tiered, and it has a whole reward system attached to it that can help newer players with access to money. See, when you do this kind of thing you can get Prismatic Aether as a reward for completion. This stuff is a currency that lets you buy special costumes that you can toggle on and off and use in combat like the Halloween costumes but permanent. If you remember me talking about the character Lifts, she was meant to run around in a permanent version of the PPD Hardsuit power, but that wasn’t available to me outside of Halloween. These permanent costumes can inform a bunch of different character concepts – letting you ‘toggle on’ a secret identity or the like, or let you play a shapeshifter like Mystique. There’s even badges associated with it.
There is an extra new system here, which is Temporal Warriors — a system that lets you make instant level 50s that are only for PVP. This is such a nice way to let the PVP community try things out and encourage one another to try it, without demanding everyone get into the grind (and hopefully, diminish the demand the PVP community makes on farming, which is I understand a concern some people have).
Of course there’s other stuff as well, including an overhaul of two city zones you probably didn’t know existed, Fort Trident and the Crucible, permanent Luau party in Talos Island, and the ability to customise your ‘base’ movement in a new way. Perhaps most exciting to me because I’m boring is the new aggro rules, which stops enemies from wandering away from you weirdly, even if they won’t move to engage in the same way.
It’s there, it’s free, and it’s a bunch of new stuff. I didn’t even mention the new story arc!