I always characterize City of Villains as what City of Heroes would have been with another year to work on it. But we aren’t playing it as much at City of Heroes, or at least we don’t seem to be. Why is that?
- There is less content. It is good content, but once you have seen the novel bits, the missions and gameplay are all the same. There are no villain hazard zones, fewer zones overall, and far fewer strike forces than task forces. This gives less variety in things to do, fewer chances to find something you really like, and fewer boxes to check off on each character for “been there, done that.”
- It is less convenient. Convenient can beat interesting or good (hence fast food). Most City of Heroes zones are laid out like planned cities. There are straight lines, running is easy, and the level range of enemies within reach is narrow. Zones that are hard to get around are hard to play in. Atlas Park is easy; Mercy Island is a mess. For all the horrors of Faultline, Dark Astoria, and Eden, you are not forced to use those zones much. Independence Port and the Nerva Archipelago are ridiculously long. The (again optional) Shadow Shard combines the worst of these. I mostly named Hero zones there, but you can skip most of those areas in City of Heroes. You have no other options in the Rogue Isles.
- Grandville. It exemplifies everything I just said and adds groups of 45+ enemies in places where level 40 villains need to go. Movement without a vertical power is horrible, stealth may not save you, some people just cannot play due to the graphical lag it causes them, and there are no other options. You have Grandville and endless Borea missions in the Rikti War Zone.
- It is easier. A good Brute or Mastermind is easy mode. The Brute farms faster than anything else in the game, plowing through enemies and getting stronger for it. A well played Robotics/Traps Mastermind cannot be killed in PvE. One fellow posts videos of himself (slowly) soloing the giant monsters that are designed for multiple groups.
- It is harder. You will find more elite bosses and archvillains red-side. Many missions have triggered ambushes that will home in on invisible villains. Combine the two for ambushes by archvillains. Longbow gets some really mean powers, and not just the bosses. Villains still get the Circle of Thorns and the Malta Group, plus lots of Arachnos. You may want easy mode to bring that down to normal.
- It is the same. If you played City of Heroes for a year before Villains came out, you already saw most of the content in terms of time played. You have already fought Freaks, Carnies, Sky Raiders, and all the other villain groups that return. Even with the new groups, the basic CoX gameplay does not change when you give the same powers to new enemy models.
- Resources are scarce. Because there are fewer strike force options, fewer are run, so there are fewer rare recipes. Long after the Katie Hannon bull market, heroes still have faster task forces, especially since a change eliminated the fast villain strike force farm. In a vicious circle, fewer people play, so there is even less supply, and down it spirals. You would think that decreased demand would balance it out, but no, there were already many level 50 villains before level 50 recipes appeared, with more being created faster than people farm Pool C recipes, so demand will far outstrip supply until servers shut down.
- Old loyalties lie on the blue side. If you started with a hero group, that hero group probably still exists. Not everyone wanted to start over with the red team, especially when they already had 120,000,000 influence. “My main” is my first character who hit the level cap, and even if I do not play her all that much, I still identify with her more than her evil twin.
- There is less support. Controllers and Defenders are everywhere blue side, and they are awesome. In the early game, nothing beats healing, and in the late game, buffs and debuffs are what make everyone shine. Corruptors are more likely to be offensive characters than Defenders (or at least played as such), and Masterminds do not get Kinetics or Radiation Emission. This is particularly notable for the Lord Recluse Strike Force and Statesman Task Force, where the holy trinity re-asserts itself against hard targets. When Controllers and Dominators cannot lock down the AVs in the late game, Controllers still have great buffs and debuffs, while Dominators have second tier damage.
- lolstalkers. You thought Dominators had little to contribute to those big Freedom Phalanx fights on LRSF, but 8-Dominator teams have done it. Despite improvements, Stalkers are still the least group-friendly class, specializing in single-target burst damage. They are great for taking down lieutenants and lone bosses, and they solo brilliantly. They are not great for long fights or AVs, to say nothing of multiple AVs. The more digits in your opponents’ hit points, the more sustained DPS matters, as does survivability and not having your best attack be interruptible. What percent of CoV players rolled a Stalker and parked in the PvP zones for when they bothered to log on?