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City of Villains Review

publisher: NCSoft
developer: Cryptic Studios
genre: RPG

PIII 800, 256MB RAM, 4GB HDD, GeForce 2, ATI Radeon 7500
ESRB rating: T

release date: Oct 30, 05
» All About City of Villains on ActionTrip

Let's face it. Every now and again, it's good to be the bad guy.

About a year and a half ago, Cryptic Studios brought us City of Heroes, a comic book world brought to life, where a gamer can live out his or her fantasy as a super hero defending the streets of the mythical Paragon City from all sorts of evildoers. We liked that game. Hell, I still play it on occasion. I stopped for a while...long story, but the game is a fun diversion. But one of the chief complaints was the lack of non-computer controlled villains, which made the gameplay fun, yet ultimately repetitive. All of the villains weren't people. They were Bots. Soulless. You can't hate a bot. (Well, you can when he ninja's your epic, but that's another long story.) You CAN hate a person.

Cryptic knows this. They want to feed your hate.

Enter City of Villains.

City of Villains is essentially a stand-alone expansion to City of Heroes. It can be purchased and played separately from City of Heroes, but existing CoH players can buy the CoV box and play a villain without paying a second subscription fee - a move that was lauded by CoH players everywhere. With the onset of City of Villains, a host of new features was added to the game, so let's take a look and see if its all worthwhile, shall we?

The game takes place on the Rogue Isles, which is an island range in the Caribbean, ruled by Lord Recluse of Arachnos. Make no mistake - he's the one in charge. Instead of your idyllic paradise of Paragon City, which has a few rogue elements running around, the Rogue Isles is a true dictatorship. In the opening area of Mercy Island, you see the thriving Mercy City, which is walled in and patrolled by Arachnos troops, while the rest of the island lives in squalor. There is a noticeable dichotomy between that which is controlled by Arachnos and that which is...not. Of all of the zones I've seen, each of the NPCs are all very opportunistic, which is EXACTLY the environment where a villain thrives.

With the game come five new archetypes. Your villains are not heroes; therefore they don't have the same powersets as the Heroes do. The game is released with five archetypes - Brutes, which are reverse Tankers (Damage primary, Defense secondary), Stalkers, which are Scrappers that can hide to perform devastating assassination strikes, Dominators, who resemble Controllers, without the Healing/Support secondary (replaced with Assault, to give more damage dealing power), Corruptors, which are your Blaster types, with the Healing/Buff secondary, and Masterminds, who summon minions to do the dirty work, while they hang back and support the whole team from a distance. Many of the powersets are similar or identical to their counterparts in CoH, but the game does offer a few entirely new sets. All of the Mastermind powersets are new-ish hybrid sets, with Summons interspersed in some of the Blaster sets. The game also offers Plant Control, Plant Assault, and Poison (Buff) sets, which are entirely new to both games as a whole. All in all, I like the new classes, but the problem is there's no real healer class - Two classes get healing powers, and both of them are secondary powersets! In a big group or PvP situation, healing is essential, and the Villains lack the ability to bounce back from a hairy situation.

At first glance, the game looks the same. Really. Exactly the same. But to the trained eye of your friendly neighborhood game reviewer, there are subtle graphic changes that are welcome to every level of gamer. Most notable of the graphic changes is the ability to scale your 3D resolution. This is critical for mid-range rigs that don't have the uber graphics cards that can render 75fps at 1600x1200 resolution. The 3D scaling slider allows a less powerful card to render the higher resolutions. There is a noticeable blurring effect when you play with the slider, but that's the price you pay for bumping up from 800x600 to 1280x1024. The additions of Bloom effects and higher samples of anti-aliasing are noticeable as well, making the world a nicer place to raise a little hell. Also, the addition of rag-doll physics to the engine makes the game a bit more true to life.

When you begin your campaign for world domination, you prison. Heh. As a failed criminal locked up for your crimes against humanity, the Statesman and the Freedom Phalanx have deemed you not fit for society, and have locked you in the Ziggurat. Lord Recluse sees potential in your ambition, and has an elite squad of Wolf Spiders dispatched to spring you from the joint. Your fellow inmates usher you through your tutorial, and you are whisked off to Mercy Island to begin working off your debt to Lord Recluse and begin your reign of terror.

The gameplay is very similar to City of Heroes, with the system of Street and Door missions to advance the story arcs, with one new addition - the paper. While it's nice being a mercenary doing missions for other criminals, you ARE in business for yourself. The Paper is a contact that will always have a few missions for you to select that are general heists, which means you never have to go run to a contact when you've finished your latest caper. Once you complete a few of your own jobs, the local Broker will have something meaty for you to sink your teeth into, usually ripe with Infamy (the CoV version of currency) for the taking. The broker also will have new Contacts for you, to advance your criminal career.

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8.7   Very Good

Good changes to graphics engine, interesting play on the CoH world, welcome emphasis on SGs and new focus on inter-game PvP, everything old is new again;

Ultimately the same game as CoH, no real healer class, Uros is a tool.


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