City of Heroes/Villains is having a reactivation weekend, so you can come back and visit if you are interested in seeing the new stuff. Now seems like a good time to pause and reflect on Issue 9 and 10. Issue 9, “Breakthrough,” introduced inventions, the auction house, and some new end-game content. Issue 10, “Invasion,” gave us the Rikti War Zone, late- and end-game content.
This is going to be fairly long, so I am just going to insert the break now.
Issue 9: Inventions
The best known piece of Issue 9 is the Invention system. This is loot for City of Heroes, with a meaningful economy, and it allows additional improvements on level 50 characters. Let me explain.
Since bases were added, enemies had a chance to drop salvage, which is used for making things in bases. With Issue 9, a new category of salvage was added, invention salvage, which is used for making inventions. Enemies can also drop recipes, which you combine with the salvage and some money to make the new enhancements. Recipes also come from completing missions, task forces, and trials.
Some of the recipes are just the existing types: damage, accuracy, and so on. They have three differences from other enhancements. First, anyone can use them, irrespective of origin. Second, they do not expire, unlike normal enhancements that are only effective over a 7-level range. You still need to be high enough level to slot them, but after that they remain effective forever. Third, they can have higher values. A level 15 invention-origin enhancement (“IO”) is better than a level 15 dual-origin enhancement, and a level 40 IO is better than a level+3 single-origin enhancement, meaning that any level 50 could be marginally improved just by converting all enhancements to level 50 IOs.
The more valued recipes come in sets. City of Heroes now has set bonuses, so slotting a power with 2-6 from the same set produces additional bonuses, such as improved endurance recovery, more damage or accuracy, higher maximum health, or protection from crowd control. Those recipes are rarer, and the good ones tend to trade for a lot. You can use the same set in multiple powers and get similar bonuses from multiple sets, and thereby really improve some aspect of your character. It is not that hard to dramatically increase health and endurance recovery for your character, more or less eliminating downtime.
Some IOs have procs. As could be expected, these range from worthless to really nice. The one I use most is Devastation: Chance to Hold, which gives a 15% chance to hold to any single-target ranged attack. Slotting all of your Blaster’s attacks with this reduces incoming damage a fair amount.
Finally, some IOs provide set-like bonuses on their own, often rather large ones. The most valuable comes from the Numina’s Convolescence set, which improves both health and endurance recovery. Slot that into Health, a passive health recovery power, and it is always on. My Ice Blaster has had endurance problems for three years, but simply slotting in Numina and another endurance-booster solved all that. The best ones, like Numina, can only be slotted once per character.
For me, the use of IOs has varied. I have one character who is mostly slotted with sets, and I will eventually finish her out. This is my Katana/Super Reflexes Scrapper, and she will have large boosts to almost everything from that. Earlier, since I was making inventions for badges, I had all of her slots filled with the basic IOs, which was convenient because I did not need to worry about them until switching her over to end-game sets. My lower-level characters use them when they are easily available and fill in the gaps with single-origin enhancements.
My old characters do not use many IOs. They have many Hamidon-origin enhancements, which besides being strong would require using respecs to remove unless I want to just delete millions of influence worth of Hami-Os. My Ice Blaster has at least 50, so I would need a lot of respecs to empty her out (you can only “unload” 10 enhancements per respec). Instead, she has the two endurance boosters, holds in all her attacks, a pair that prevent her from being knocked down, and a few other individual boosters scattered about. Adding a dozen IOs was a significant boost for her.
Personally, I am mostly tired of working on IO sets. I do not like item-centric play, so I liked the lack of loot in City of Heroes. Luckily, IOs are nice (very nice in a few cases) but not necessary, so you can mostly ignore them and think of it as a nice bonus when you get something useful. I will finish slotting one character fully, at some point, but I am mostly using IOs to avoid worrying about new enhancements as I level. I am sure the lure of the shiny will capture me again.
The consignment shop is the related feature added with IOs. It need not be related, but there is little reason for it without invention salvage and recipes. Here is where you buy and sell salvage, recipes, enhancements, and inspirations. If you are not thinking about IOs, this is where you can unload everything that is worth something to players (just sell the junk to NPCs). You have high-value rares and large-volume commons.
It is a consignment shop, not an auction house. You can post buy or sell orders, with all amounts hidden. Sellers post the minimum they are willing to sell for. Buyers post how much they will pay. If the buy amount is higher than the sell amount, it sells for the buy amount, and the shop “keeps” 10% (goldsink!). The only other details that matter are that heroes and villains have separate shops (separate economies), but they work across servers. You can sell something on Virtue to a buyer on Victory. It is all anonymous.
Issue 9: High Level Content
The other big piece of Issue 9 is new things for level 50s to do. This comes in 2.5 forms.
Statesman’s Task Force is the heroic equivalent of Lord Recluse’s Strike Force. Instead of fighting the iconic heroes in Paragon City, you fight the iconic villains in the Rogue Isles. The archvillains are more spread out than the heroes, but over the course of the task force you fight all the big name villains: Lord Recluse, his four lieutenants, each of their lieutenants, four top-level contacts, and Dr. Aeon. Dr. Aeon gets his own special box of happiness because City of Villains always does a great job with mad scientists, and Aeon is the biggest.
It is a good task force. It does not have the insane difficulty that Lord Recluse’s has, where you feel required to use temporary powers and exploits, which is especially good because the Shivans are useless in the big battles for Statesman. It is probably too easy, because there are only three rough fights, meaning something harder than a single archvillain. One of those is the villain respec, which is a mission here.
Digression: Heroes and Villains
Wow, the villains got screwed for difficulty, didn’t they? The heroes have massive numbers of set IOs because we had all of Issue 9 to exploit Katie Hannon, and we still have TFs that can be finished in less than two hours. We have a respec that people farm instead of dreading. We have over a dozen task forces and several trials beyond the respec. The villains have a few, often fairly difficult options and only one high-level zone.
The first hero task force is very long and involves one of the more difficult low-level enemy groups, but it ends with an elite boss. The first villain task force has a hero and an archvillain in the last mission, and the villain is an imp-summoning demon who like to fight while sitting in a pool of lava.
The hero respec involves fighting off waves of enemies around a reactor that you can heal and protect. The villain respec involves taking out an archvillain-level Plant/Spines Dominator that will kill your squishies as you clear the things around him to be allowed to defeat him. It is surrounded by respawning vines, and unlike its appearance in Statesman’s Task Force those vines keep respawning as you fight it while Circle of Thorns ambushes attack you.
In Statesman’s Task Force you fight archvillains one at a time, except for the next-to-last fight, which gives you four. Lord Recluse’s Strike Force has you fight four heroes, five heroes, and eight heroes (including Statesman).
I used “we” for the heroes because I played on the hero side almost exclusively through Issue 9. We will see how the villain side feels when I return there this weekend.
Digression over, back to High Level Content
The other endgame content is the revamped Hamidon encounter. This changes the Hamidon, his support crew, and the zone, including allowing the villains to fight the Hamidon in their own raid zone. Hami used to be a mass battle, where more than a hundred heroes would work to carve through the Mitochondria and then hold Hami to death. Now it is a smaller, tighter encounter.
The zone has been limited to 50 people, which makes for a smaller raid with less lag. It also creates problems when people cannot enter the zone to join their teams or rejoin if they got booted. It does, however, allow players to spawn multiple Hives (or Abysses) and have multiple Hamidon raids going at once. Players can also re-spawn Hami fairly quickly if they want to go again.
The fight itself is differently difficult. Hit points are lower, which is necessary when there are not 200 people fighting. The Mitochondria are more interesting, with debuffs, new powers, and different weaknesses. The big change is that there is no way to keep Hami from re-spawning the Mitos during the fight, and their respawn will probably kill everyone in the area, so three near-complete wipes are planned into the raid. If the developers have a notion of how anyone could do this without massive death at each of three Mitochondrial Blooms, they are not saying and there was no hint of such a possibility during testing.
Smaller groups, about the same amount of time, different challenges.
Unfortunately, Issue 9 also more or less finished killing Hamidon raids. First, the raid requires more coordination with a smaller group, and it can be hard to (1) find someone who can and wants to herd those cats; (2) find fifty people with two to four hours, including the time spent standing there asking everyone to please leave the consignment shop and come to the right zone so we can start; (3) get everyone you want there, with a cap of fifty people and no way to force anyone out to allow the rest of your team in; (4) deal with whoever shows up, since there is no way to force anyone out. Second, good set IOs are in higher demand than Hami-Os, so demand is down. Third, Statesman’s TF and Lord Recluse’s SF both can award Hami-Os, in about as much time, with a smaller group, more reliably, and with better rewards along the way.
I went to two Hamidon raids in Issue 9, one of which was successful. I used to be a really devoted Hamidon raider.
Issue 9: Quality of Life
Little-discussed but hugely significant, Issue 9 included a lot of minor improvements that made the game better. These are all the little things that collectively matter. Games should not irritate you, and you should not pay for irritation.
Passing influence/infamy between players used to take forever. It was intentionally made irritating to not enable twinking, but it was only irritating not difficult. We passed our little stacks of 99,999 influence between characters, one trade window at a time. We now have a reasonable cap.
New train lines in Founder’s Falls and Skyway City. New trainer in Peregrine Island. New stores for selling enhancements in King’s Row. Graphics cleanup.
Also, new emotes. No *teapot* yet, but players really seem to enjoy the drums.
I will repeat the value of the new Green Line stops in Skyway City and Founder’s Falls. These are huge conveniences, and the Skyway Stop is right outside Faultine. If we must use public transportation to get around the city, we want good stops.
Issue 10: Rikti War Zone
The Rikti War Zone pretty much is Issue 10. This revamps the Rikti Crash Site into a level 35-50 hero/villain cooperative zone, giving a chance to play with your friends across the hero/villain divide and some new late-game options for villains.
The zone includes new story arcs, a new task force, and a new raid. One of the contacts has repeatable missions, so you could park yourself in-zone at level 35 and stay until level 50. Odd, but possible.
The zone itself looks good, good enough that I want to explore it in further detail. There are nice touches scattered about, including a fully accessible Council underground base. It looks like just another building, but there is a hidden cavern. Simple but excellent.
The missions are sufficiently interesting. The few arcs I have done have been nothing special, but it is nice to have new stories rather than generic newspaper missions. I am not sure how much real content is here, apart from obvious procedural content. That is, a mission full of Rikti is a mission full of Rikti, and if the gameplay is not any different then it might as well be another newspaper mission, with a few pages of text on the side. I can enjoy the text apart from the same-ol’ mission.
The missions are not entirely same-ol’. Heroes get to fight Longbow. You fight in an outdoor instance of a chunk of the War Zone, although that palls the fifth time you do so. Some missions change after you find an objective, so the Nemesis soldiers rush in as you watch the cut scene. There are allies to find and other things I have not yet seen as I have not done it all. (The allies are worthlessly weak although occasionally interesting.)
What is it with Fusionette getting captured? How many times do we save her in Faultline and the Rikti War Zone? What kind of misogynistic crap is this? I know that there are lots of males to rescue, and the heroic damsel in distress is a convention of the genre, but seriously, she is a mission objective far too often. Also, give her better damage.
The Vanguard is a new group to fight alongside or against. I have not yet fought against, so I cannot say much. Nice look. The Rikti have revamped art as well.
The new task force has interesting parts but is mostly more of the same. It is Rikti-focused, for obvious reasons, which is no fun if you do not have status protection (curse being the only support character on a team!). The variety of ways that the Rikti are seeking to open portals is good and interesting. I like Penny, and saving her is a great way to start. Having the Clockwork King show up makes sense for her story, but having him be level 50 makes absolutely no sense in the City of Heroes continuity. The whole point of the Psychic Clockwork King is that he only acheived his full potential in an alternate reality. The fight against the Weakened Hamidon is great fun: eight-man Hami raid, woo! The plot twist at the end is excellent and quite fitting.
Basically, innovative game play means one potentially interesting fight per mission, and it might only be interesting in the sense of “neat, they gave the new AV some different powers.” The mini-Hami fight is great, but the rest are just normal missions with something special tossed in like a new EB/AV. Other than mini-Hami, the most innovative idea is the Four Horsemen, and we mostly approach that as “Kill Famine first, and try to have a Break Free in case you get terrorized.”
The new raid is exciting a time or two but not huge amounts of fun. We wipe out more than a dozen pylons, one at a time, which is time-consuming but not interesting. Then we go to the Rikti ship, awesome premise, to fight level 54 Rikti en masse. We plant bombs in the ship, the explosions from which will kill a lot of people because anyone can click them and only the clicking group gets a warning. Fighting the Rikti on the ship is a solid half-hour of combat, but not good combat.
This is mostly because of the Rikti Magi, the new elite bosses. They have holds and area-effect stuns, so if you play squishies (as I do) you spend a lot of time waiting for the enemy crowd control to wear off. Even if you have status protection, how many stuns can you resist at once? There are groups of them using AE stuns, and they last a while because the enemies are at least four levels higher than you. It is not as though you can use your own crowd control to keep it from happening, since there are groups of them that only need a quarter-second to activate the AE stun. In case the Magi are not enough, there are also lieutenants and bosses who have holds and AE sleep, and many Rikti have a chance to stun. How much status protection did you bring?
The main reason to do ship raids is for merits. Vanguard merits can be traded in for new costume pieces, temporary powers, and a permanent boost to salvage capacity. All Rikti have a chance to drop merits, and during the raids every (defeated) enemy your group damages drops a merit for everyone in your group. Hit those AE attacks, lads! A few raids will get you your salvage sack, and you will have everything if you do enough raids to get the badges.
Issue 10: Invasions
The other aspect of the Rikti invasion is city zone invasions. Quite a bit for the first weeks of the new Issue, and then whenever people are running the new task force, Rikti invasions bring the fight to city zones. The war walls fall and Rikti dropships fly overhead. They drop bombs, followed by invasion forces. This is an interesting display of mechanics, and raids themselves are a good bit of fun where anyone can join together to whack aliens that fall from the sky.
The decision to eliminate all debt in invasion zones was good. First, it would suck to have unavoidable death fall from the sky while you were fighting. Second, it lets everyone just pitch in and go, beating on anything that appears.
All invasion forces use the giant monster code that makes level mostly irrelevant, although it still helps to be higher level. Every Rikti that spawns is even-con to everyone, no matter what level you are. The brilliance of how City of Heroes treats levels started with sidekicks and continues to pay off.
Issue 9 brought us a lot of new badges, mostly relating to the invention system and consignment house. Issue 10 has Rikti-related badges for the new zone, content, task force, and raid. My badge-whore character has five to go between the two issues. Two of the badges are within my grasp if I want to rush it, one will take many hours of crafting, and the last two are the Issue 10 raiding badges. Those last two will require me to do 25 raids, and I am about 5 into it.
Shout-out to Beefcake of Pinnacle, the greatest badge hunter in the game. He now has literally every badge in the game, except for the Bug Hunter badge that comes directly from the developers. This includes the epic healing badges, on a tank, and having earned more than two billion influence. That is huge. Go Beefcake!