There seems to be less activity on the villain side, which surprises me given that I usually characterize City of Villains as what City of Heroes would have been if they had had another year to work on it. The classes have better solo-ability, the zones have more of a story to them, the story arcs tell flavorful stories that do not drag on unnecessarily, and the content is spread over fewer zones.
But now I am back in Grandville. Grandville is in many ways a triumph of story over gameplay, like the Shadow Shard in CoH’s endgame. It is built as a fortress, complete with high walls, guards on patrol, and gun turrets. It is a vertical zone, taking advantage of CoX’s 3-D nature, so the zone works upwards as well as outwards. These are positive, until you need to navigate. Imagine having an instance door several hundred yards above you, with enemies seven levels higher than you on patrol in front of it; some of those enemies can see through stealth; most of them have some form of crowd control and/or anti-jump/fly ability. They will still be there when you exit the mission door, and because my latest character is a Mastermind, I always exit missions defenseless and needing a few minutes to resummon and upgrade. Being two-shot for the crime of leaving a mission is unfortunate.
The more interesting content requires more dangerous paths. Anyone can get endless newspaper missions: those doors are usually easy to get to, and you can swim to the mayhem missions safely. You may have more difficulty getting to contacts who give story arcs when they are standing on ledges or under structures where higher-level enemies roam. The new Rikti War Zone is the only alternative to Grandville, and you are again on repetitive missions once you run the half-dozen arcs there. In CoH, you never need to go to the Shard, and Peregrine Island is about as linear and 2-D as it gets. The only problem is the occasional newspaper mission door that is at the feet of the 200′ tall rock monsters.
I don’t recall if my first level 50 villain had problems with Grandville. My second was an invisible teleporter with status protection, which is about as safe as it gets. Maybe I just need to re-learn how to run in panic through a zone where I am no longer the big dog. I need more panic buttons on my Mastermind.