I re-activated City of Heroes this weekend. Issue 19 started their alternate advancement system, along with some new task forces and quality of life improvements, so I wanted to check it out. Also, they are having an Issue 19.5 with the rest of part 1 (of 10) of that alternate advancement system, so if I want to check that out, I will need to be through the first half (or else miss the wave of players going through it). It was also a double-xp weekend, but with 11 capped characters and alternate advancement available, I had limited urge to indulge in further altoholism. Okay, I took a Controller from 34 to 37, but that was easy with double-xp and rested xp.
After the stately pace of Lord of the Rings Online™, the frantic action of City of Heroes can be daunting. Soloing with my Blaster, I can engage in careful pulls, crowd-control, and single-target attacks. In a group, there are eight of us plus two to eight pets blasting at ten to thirty enemies at a time, assuming we do not spread out. Pauses for rest are few. Communication is minimal, and I miss the built-in voice chat for groups. There are standard ways to approach the task forces, summarized in one sentence per mission, so try to keep up. Or maybe that was just the groups I had.
I forgot how squishy my Blaster was. She can remain my achievement-mongering character, but I am thinking of shifting to a Controller as my main. An Ice Blaster has great single-target damage and holds but little else to recommend her to a group. An Illusion-Kinetics Controller offers much more while having solo survivability. The storyline that opens the Alpha Slot (alternate advancement) includes a fight against an Elite Boss then against two plus lots of minions; an Elite Boss two-shots a Blaster, while I did not take any damage on the Controller. The Blaster is brilliant for solo and small groups, but not for harder fights. Non-Ice Blasters get better AE, single-target holds are nice but not earth-shattering when there are twenty enemies, and the stellar single-target damage is less valuable against hard targets (elite bosses, archvillains) than Fulcrum Shift plus AE healing plus AE mana refills plus all the Controller abilities, plus…
I will have more to say about the Alpha Slot tomorrow.
I found the controls less responsive than I am now used to. Attacks usually fire when you hit the button, but there is sometimes a one- to two-second delay, which I would attribute to normal lag except that it happened consistently across days. My connection is not consistently poor, and my computer is new and powerful. Interacting with objects made it more prominent. I needed to wait a moment or two before it registered that I was not still moving, and then there would be a similar delay after the progress bar filled before it resolved. The Imperious Task Force is very popular (quick with valuable reward) and the later missions have “Hamidon lag” where powers refresh on your screen before they are available to use. I think it relates to the system trying to track hundreds of enemies on the map with dozens in combat at a time. I also frequently (every few fights? certainly several times a mission) saw enemies die without falling down. The body would stand there, often still emoting, untargetable but distracting. “Kill that boss! Oh.”
I left City of Heroes as loot was becoming meaningful, and I am not sure how to adapt to it now. Space is limited, and little of what I get is all that desirable. The big upgrades will take a lot of farming or shopping, and I am scared to see how inflated the economy is these days. So I have been playing with a mix of “constantly almost full” and “massive binge of selling things I hope I will not want next week.” I think the vault is only for salvage, so I have been mailing myself recipes and such to clear space, trade between characters, and store things.
There are quite a few things to unlock per character, usually meaning that you run a mission or story arc. Unlocking the Alpha Slot is a story arc. Getting access to the Midnighter Club (and Cimerora) is a story arc. Unlocking Vanguard merits is a story arc. There are missions to unlock capes, auras, some later shops, etc. Badges open accolade powers and bonuses. I have 11 level-capped characters, at least 3 more in the 30s, and a stack of lower-level alts. I could spend a day just figuring out who has what, then a week getting everyone up to speed. I expect to leave quite a few characters in mothballs except to put them in new Day Job (offline time) spots for badges.
A big quality of life upgrade was giving everyone the Fitness pool for free. That seems to have reset (emptied) the power bars on my higher-level characters, which is annoying, but then I need to /respec all of them to get their new powers. I must stop picking up the Leadership pool on every character; useful as it is, I do not have the endurance to run that many toggles. This need to /respec is another reason I will be leaving some characters in mothballs.
I was surprised by muscle memory. During the respecs, I did not remember all the powers that I used on each character, and setting up the power bars afterwards, I could not remember what order I used to use. Going into combat, I immediately discovered that my hands knew which button was Frost Breath even if I did not. Okay, rearrange that hotbar…
The population seems a lot less hopping than I remember, even though the servers were all loaded to medium or high. Maybe the popular channel shifted, or maybe people were mostly soloing with double-xp. It is hard to see population centers in a heavily instanced game. On Pinnacle, the badges channel used to be the place to find groups. Is that somewhere else now? Finding groups was not hard, but I remember seeing several task/strike forces recruiting at all times back when I last played; I once saw two at once this weekend. A few old friends were still around, and I even connected with one for a task force. I think our old supergroup is more or less dead.