Monday, August 23

RP done right

Last week was a good gaming week for me. On Tuesday Zentia opened its server for the Open Beta test, which actually just means it went live. It is a F2P game and there will be no character wipe when they go officially 'live'. So nothing will change on the that day. But that is all besides the point. On Tuesday I started playing and got pulled in by the charm of the game. It is an MMO since I saw many other players, often looking just like me. But nobody talked. It is still a fun game, but with a non-existing community.

On that same Tuesday something else went live as well: City of Heroes: Going Rogue. It is not a new game. It is an expansion to the existing City of Heroes / City of Villains world. One of the features it is allowing heroes to become villains and vise versa. This means there is no good vs evil anymore. Anybody can play anywhere. I haven't tried out yet what it takes to switch sides. I am not so excited about this actually. It is blurring the lines and makes it all one big mash of uninspired hack-and-slash missions. Badge Hunters and Power Levelers might be excited, but I think it is a bit of a loss. I had actually already gotten closed beta
access a few weeks back, but never found the urge to try it out.

But on Thursday I got an email from one of my usual Sunday Afternoon team members. She was summing up the characters they had made so far. They were still low level, so I would have the change to catch up before our Sunday session. And that was all I needed to get my creative juices going. Even before I got home I had thought up two characters, their looks, and roughly their background story. City of Heroes is for me the most brilliant world for making believable characters with completely different personalities and views on their world. Just thinking about them is already a joy.

Besides cutting the line between good and evil the expansion is also adding an entire new 'City' called Praetoria. It is in an alternate universe where everything is upside down from life in Paragon City. The city is ruled by Emperor Cole who created a wonderful utopia of peace and serenity. But of course all is not well. The resistance is trying to point out the people are being oppressed in a 1984 kind of way. Half way through the tutorial you get to chose to be a Loyalist or Resistance. This much I knew before I started. In picture one are some of the resistance fighters, one of the new groups you get to fight or protect in Praetoria.

My first new character is Julia Blake. She is the sister of two other Blake sisters I had made before. Mandy Blake is a hero against her will thanks to technological implants that were surgically put in her body by Crey Technologies. She was a rebel fighter with Charles Taylor in Liberia originally. Mandy was one of the very first characters I had created 5 years ago now. Sarah Blake is the younger sister that learned dark magic tricks during the days of chaos in Liberia. She had come to the Rogue Islands to gain even more power, then get her sister and return home to get everything the way it was supposed to be. That was her dream when City of Villains got first released. Now in this alternate universe Charles Taylor was successful and became one of the good friends of Emperor Cole. Julia, the older sister of Mandy and Sarah, becomes one of Cole's assassins. She will ruthlessly surpress anybody that threatens the peace. Apart from her personal history she is pretty much like the Operative from Serenity.

So with a great personality is place I/she stepped into the world that makers of COH made for us. And I was not disappointed. The City of Nova Praetoria is done very nice. It looks almost divine. High shiny buildings and immaculate kept parks and squares. Everywhere are I, Robot look-alike cleaners, sweepers, builders. Right from the start you get thrown into a very story driven series of missions. After the first choice between loyalist or resistance you get soon to make another choice. As loyalist I got the choice to either play a power hungry oppertunist or a worker in the shadows that just wants to keep the utopia that Emperor Cole created. Julia is clearly fitting in the second bucket. But I messed up a bit and played through one of the power arcs too. So I know a bit what is about as well. The story telling is so compelling I got completely hooked and played every minute I could.

After I played way too much with my loyalist I had to create a resistant fighter as well. The noble side of the resistance is to free the people from the tyranny of Cole. People should be allowed to life, think and act freely. I haven't completely figured out how she got there, but an alternate alternate universe version Phedre, named Phedre-, is taking up this task. As it turns out just like the loyalists you have to make a decision early on. You can either be working on a peaceful way to overthrow the empire, or just cause chaos and fight for the sake of fighting. Phedre- is of course still full or morals. I didn't get to play too far into the story since I got another update from my Sunday team. We were going to introduce the Carnies to Praetoria. The circus troupe is going to be a chaos loving resistance group. So I went back to the character creation screen to make the charming Director Jones. She is such a doll.

With a six man group we had a blast causing mayhem wherever we stepped. Because the lines between heroes and villains got cut you can be any class. So we had a mix of blaster, brute, tanker, controller and dominator. As always the missions scaled perfectly for the team size, and even for a veteran team like us we had a challenge on our hands. Of course still plenty of time to get into character and make fun of the silly policemen, pretentious resistance leaders, and bow to Vanessa in the resistance bunker. She is the level-up trainer, and only other Carnie in town.

If you managed to read all this you probably figured out I am all hooked on COH again. And probably I am. I think they did an awesome job creating this new world where choices have some impact. The crossing story lines add to the depth of the game. The server load on all servers was red or yellow on Sunday. It has been a long time I have seen even one server go yellow. This means many players have returned or are now signing up. Good news all round. But I think it might be short lived.

There are issues too. The new world ends at level 20, which is normally not much more than two weeks of play. Most players can do that in a day. After you are done in Praetoria you get thrown into the once black and white world of COH/COV. Neither of them really fit the background of the characters I created. I have the feeling I will feel lost once I reach 20. Also, the stories are great. But if you have played through the four arcs once or twice you have seen it all, done it all. They created some excellent new groups, funny NPCs, original missions, and some really nice new styles in the mission maps. But they are all limited to the new zone which you might be done with within a week.

So the euphoria that I have now might die out soon. And as it dies in me it will probably do so in the vast majority of other players as well. But no need to talk doom too much. I am having an amazing fun gaming experience at the moment, and that is what counts. Unlike the very weird and misplaced Roman zone they created last year this is something they can build upon for the next several issues. I'll be around for at least another year.


  1. The COH screenshots are so clever! When you upload them to picasa it automatically puts the character names in the description. Very nifty.

  2. I was once a carnie, selling popcorn for Cirque Du Solei, it's a dangerous job I can tell ya. Director Jones has obviously made a lot more effort than I did to play the part.

    Zantia I've got to lvl 17 again and lost interest, despite it's charm and few variations from the norm it's just another light weight F2P title, I've played enough of those.

    Great to read you stories in the world of villains and heroes, does the new content simply stop at 20 or does it's story spill over in to the rest of the game or maybe a return at a higher level?

  3. I haven't reached that far yet in Zentia. But I played it enough already that it will be hard for me to get back in it over a week or two when I might be bored with COH and travelling. So probably it is the end for me too.

    In COH I haven't reached there yet either. I am about half way at the moment. But yes, I think it will simply stop at 20. You will probably find the portal to Paragon City and continue your journey there. I will post and update once I reach there.

  4. Not directing this to anybody in particular (*avoids looking at Lani and fI*), but if you have ever played and enjoyed City of Heroes you really should give Going Rogue a try. You will have a great time, even if it is just for a month.

  5. Whew, I'm glad you avoided looking at me. For a minute there I thought you might be talking to me. ;)

  6. /me hides behind fidelity so Phè can't accidentally look at me

    It does sound like you're having a lot of fun Phè. Try to enjoy it while it lasts and not worrying about how long it'll last. :-)

  7. P.s. Cyan outfits are T3h Ev1l