Coming back to the old home town: Paragon City

Saturday morning, I revved up the old comp and prepared to get in a little gaming goodness. Would I get back to the incredibly satisfying, incredibly frustrating Braid? How about restarting Bioshock, to get at some of the story I’ve missed? Perhaps a little of the Ol’ Reliable, with Lord of the Rings Online?

None of the above. This weekend, I played City of Heroes.

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve played CoH, though I think it’s fair to say that, when I played, I logged enough hours to last me the rest of my life, if I so chose. Still, I’ve been feeling an itch to play some supers lately – and, specifically, to play particular characters from CoH – and the opportunity presented itself, so that’s what I did.

Also, there’s two more Supers games coming out this year, and I want CoH fresh in my memory when I go check them out.

I don’t have a lot of nuanced analysis to present, so here’s just some stuff off the top of my head.


  • Well, it’s fun, isn’t it? Not having to worry about bad guys getting behind you, the fairly intuitive interface (with some important exceptions), and hell… it’s super heroes – that’s pretty damned fun.Don’t discount this bullet point: it balances out a GREAT DEAL of the “Bad” and “Meh” below.
  • CoH is easy to play. If you don’t want to sweat the details, you really don’t have to, and that’s okay: you get an arrow telling you where to go to get missions, then you get an arrow telling you where the missions are, and then you do the mission and repeat. Provided you don’t ramp up the difficulty setting at all, I’m convinced a half-trained monkey could get a character into the mid-thirties with no problems at all. If you’re working with familiar contacts in a big zone, you can fly from mission to mission of mindless fun.
  • Extensible. If you like crafting systems and character stat tweaking CoH definitely comes through, limited only by your pocket book.
  • New content. Seems the development team is still doing solid work, and while I haven’t messed with the Mission Builder (nor am I likely to do much creation with it — my days of creating custom stories for CoH are long past (when it was much harder to manage), and that desire has NOT returned at ALL), I’ve heard that some of the new player-created content is excellent, and there certainly is a LOT of it.


  • Fucking. Timed. Missions. Why aren’t all the timed missions LABELED AS SUCH? It’s a simple, fixable thing, and game is, basically, fucking rude for not warning people. It’s doubly annoying when combined with this: I think they MUST have changed this somewhat since I last played, because damned if I remember this, but WHY IN THE HELL do you automatically get the next mission in a chain when you turn in the previous one? I just click on the NPC and BOOM: new mission? WTF, over?
  • Bugs. Perhaps I got so used to it last time that I didn’t notice, but DAMN the game is buggy. Kind of stupid bugs, also. Base problems. Costume options that migrate to some other table and screw up your character’s look. NPC pathing stupidity that borders on the laughable. Weird door bugs. Those stupid fucking CoT teleportals that go the wrong direction. Crashing the game if I’m using the wrong power when I zone. Seriously: for a game that relies SO HEAVILY on Zoning, it should be less crash- and bug-prone.
  • Zoning. Ugh. So much zoning. I don’t care if it’s fast (it isn’t, even on a good comp), it’s overused.
  • Inventory Management. The inventory capacity on CoH characters is STUPIDLY small. You can get 10 enhancements before being full up. Roughly 15 recipes. About 30 types of salvage. Roughly speaking, that’s half the bag space of LotRO – about a third of WoW. The number of times my recipe or enhancement slots filled up (with useful or valuable stuff), requiring a trip to a store (or four) was frustrating.
  • The interface is great, except when it isn’t. Is there any way to get into screen where you can see your powers and how they’re slotted WITHOUT clicking “Manage” in the Enhancement bag inventory? Is there any indicator that screen even exists, if you didn’t already know?
  • Why can’t you just drop a mission? I don’t mean “Drop it and get credit for it.” I mean DROP IT. I have three mission slots (at least one of which I probably got dropped on me without warning when I turned in an old one – see “Stupid Fucking Timed Missions” above), and I end up in a new area with cool new missions and I can’t just drop the crap I have and take these new things – I *HAVE TO* do those existing missions first.

Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the nanites in my blood.

  • Anyone who tells me that CoH doesn’t have an Inventory system, WoW-like auction house, crafting halls, potions, or body looting — YOU ARE FOOLING YOURSELVES, or just being disingenuous. The ONLY difference in the looting between CoH and other MMOs is that CoH has it happen automatically, without clicking on the body. That’s it. Salvage, inspirations, and enhancements? That’s LOOT. Some of it even makes a coin-jingling noise when you get it. All CoH does is remove a single click. (Actually, WoW doesn’t make you click anymore either, really, so…)
  • Level Cap. Like the urban spawl of Los Angeles or Denver, CoH continues to grow perpetually OUTWARD, with no interest in growing UPWARD. This is apples for some, oranges for others.
  • Only three missions can be live at a time? Really? Three? I get that CoH is geared for ultra-casual players, but goddamn: THREE? I’ve got over Forty-five quest slots in LotRO, and I manage. My daughter can count to ten without using her fingers; give us some fucking credit.

Now, did I enjoy myself? Oh hell yes. I played enough on Saturday that I didn’t get much of anything else done, and Sunday wasn’t much better. I’m pretty sure I dreamed about it Saturday night – it gets into my pores. It holds a special place in my heart – surrounded by a bit of scar-tissue, but still.

And Kaylee loves it. More than any other MMO, she just loves it. That might be partly due to the fact that she heard it in the womb, but it is what it is – she loves it. Like LotRO, she loves hitting the attack buttons as long as they make a satisfying BOOM, and LOTS of powers in CoH go Boom.

That said, it’s a game I have to approach with some caution – it’s fun and all, but it has a bad tendency to cause me to push other things out of my scope of vision — that’s all on me, not the game, but it is something of which I need to be aware.

NCSoft has a payment scheme these days that lets you pay for a single month at a time via paypal, without the annoyance of starting-then-stopping a recurring monthly plan, just to get some casual play – I’ll probably do that for the next month, simply to get my ‘fix’ for the superhero goodness and to analyze how much influence it still has on my productivity. Maybe I’ll even lure Kate along for the ride: who knows?

But I had a good time. It’s a good game, for all it’s quirks and flaws; maybe even despite – or because – of them.


  1. 1. Timed missions tend to be much more clearly labeled now. What they’ve not done is gone back and identified all timed missions as such.

    2. There have always been some missions in a chain that simply pop up when you hit the contact OR when you finish the preceding mission. Rare enough to be really, really annoying when they happen. But still pretty rare.

    3. Funny me commenting on inventory (and, yes, CoX has evolved a fully functioning inventory/crafting system), but, honestly, I don’t have many problems with it. That’s because stores are practically ubiquitous — even hazard zones like the Hollows and such have them. Yesterday was one of the first days in a while, in fact, when I ran out of room in one of my trays — I can’t tell you the last time I ran out of enhancement space.

    4. It’s occured to me more than once that the whole “fill up the screen” Manage screen needs something simpler, more intuitive, and less intrusive.

    5. I agree that it should be easier to drop missions (you can, in fact, drop *one* at a time, but then a clock starts before you can drop another one. It seems most gameplay of mine of late has rarely had more than one, max two, contacts, and so it’s usually been pretty easy to finish up (or abort) an arc before moving on to the next zone.

    Perhaps it is the perspective of coming back from LotRO or other games, but having a limit of three missions at a time really doesn’t seem constricting to me. Indeed, story-wise it makes a fair amount of sense. (“The bank is being robbed. Someone’s been kidnapped. This other bad guy is going to leave the city.” What, you think you should have more life and death situations put on your to-do list?)

    6. I’m one of the ones for whom the level cap doesn’t bother. But, then, I’ve always had another toon (or twelve) in the wings, begging for attention, and I realize that’s not everyone’s cuppa.

    Actually, with police band and mission architect and other new content and new content generators and so forth, there’s no reason you can’t continue to play Lvl 50 characters, but there’s no “improvement” to incent one on (except getting the maximum Lvl 53 enhancement sets), and that seems to be the key here for most people. “If I can’t ding again, the character is dead to me.” There’s an interesting paper there somewhere.


    And if you (and/or Kate) feel like doing something sometime, give a holler. Our play schedule is chaotic (of course), but we might be able to pencil you in somewhere. 🙂

  2. Heh, sucked ya back in! I played the WoW trial the other day, and CoX had totally spoiled me for the WoW experience. Being able to fly at level 5 with the KR jetpack, simply can’t be compared to.

    There’s a LOT of bad content on the MA, but there’s also some truly brilliant arcs. Add me to your friend list (if you’d like) at @Artillery MKV. =)

    On your notes: Remember that failing the timed mish has no negative impact. If you dislike it, set it aside and do another mission while it times out.

    I completely agree with the bugs and zoning. Now, with having been gone a while a number of the bugs have been fixed (esp costume bugs), but your character wasn’t logged during the fix, so it’s annoying . . . I know that they use the zoning mechanic to cut down on memory use issues. All the custom costumes and big flashy power effects are memory eaters when a lot of them get rolling in single area.
    That said, I’d LOVE to see a wide open architecture, with zoning saved for entry into mishes and hazard zones.
    Of course I’d also like to see server consolidation into a super server structure. So, I’m a bit radical.

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