Oz’s Trail of Trials, Part 1 – Friday Night Tights

While it’s safe to say I’m an avid LoTRO player, I’ve found myself at a loss for things to do lately, even after a major patch (which took me under 4 hours to complete all solo/group content). So to keep myself from fatal burnout, I decided to take advantage of the City of Heroes/Villains free welcome-back weekend we just had. I’ve previously talked about CoX more than a few times, but I was more than willing to give it a run again. So I grabbed a frosty beverage, a bag of chips, and sat down to put on the ol’ cape once again.

After getting my long-unused account information reset, I patched and logged into the game. I was pleased to note that my complete download and patch took around 3 hours on DSL. When I had to reinstall LoTRO on my computer, the patch process was 28 hours on DSL (a known issue with installing from disks). I was able to recall what server I was on, Pinnacle, and loaded up. All servers were only at 1/3 or less load all weekend, except for one time Saturday night when I saw 2 run at 2/3. I remember when they would be so full you could not log in. When the character select screen showed up, I had a different issue – with such a limited time window, which character should I use? A new one, knowing that CoX’s fantastic character creation process would take someone like me hours of fiddling? One of my many old heroes, who were levels 3 to mid 40’s? Or my villain, who was the most recently used character? In the end, I decided to go with the villain, because I really think that in CoV the game found its true voice. The character classes are much more robust, all are fun to play, and there is an irreverence that WoW, years later, would echo. Plus, he was fairly low level at 20, and all games, I’ve found, have a fun flavorful low-level game. CoX has always turned me off at 30-40, so this worked out well.

Mrs. Oz gave me the weekend off, so I put in a decent amount of playtime, in-between watching some videos that I needed to return. I found that bonus exp really is quite substantial, and ended up leveling every 3-4 missions. I also found out that my Supergroup had long since been dormant (the most recent person to log in besides me was over 150 days), and thus I was now the leader. This is really a nice feature that other games could copy from – I know I’ve been stuck in guilds where the leader has left for greener pastures and the guild was stagnant because we could not grow. With my newfound power, and seeing the constant messages from the game, I paid the group’s back rent on our headquarters and zoned in. Whoever had decorated it had really done a stellar job, making a very detailed and well laid our place with everything you could think of within easy reach. I decided to help out, and using some of the nearly 3 billion stored credits, I added some rooms on to add flavor, like a meeting room, a situation room, and a medical bay that I later discarded when seeing ours looked so much better. I ensured my rooms matched the tone crafted by the previous artist, and changed nothing of their work – it was really very good. The complete freedom to place things anywhere made me grumble at how incomplete LoTRO’s housing situation is. It was only later I discovered some of my changes affected the power and control of the base (brilliant little base attributes), and I spent some more time tuning this. Without noticing it, I had lost 5 hours here, and I didn’t mind. The variety and customization options are something that CoX offers in so many other places of the game, and they did not slack here.

Deciding to try leveling a bit, I ended up earning special credits for completing various storylines that I could trade in for free Enhancements, which are power boosters. When I went to look at these, I recalled all the fun I had with the tradeskill system of CoX, and I ended up playing with that for a while. In several hours, I had earned a badge, or accomplishment as some folks might call it, for trading on the auction house (black market) and another for crafting. I enjoyed both features far more than I’ve enjoyed recent tradeskilling in LoTRO.

CoX’s auction feature is unique in all the games that I’ve played. Unlike the ones I’m used to, in CoX you never know the asking price. You are provided with a list of the 5 most recent sale prices. So you might see an item selling for 1000, 2000, 500000, 7500, and 1. The AH is much more fun, at least for me, in that you can have people constantly bidding for something, even if it isn’t there. Sometimes I’d put a product up and it’d sell instantly. Many many times I bought items for 15 or less credits. The fee is based mostly on your list price. You are charged 5% of what you list it for, and you get this back if it sells, minus an additional 5% of what is paid. Because of this, it seems people will frequently put items up for very low wanting prices, knowing you cannot see them, and also costing them much less to list. I won several auctions that had typical sales in the tens of thousands for 12 credits. If there’s an Auctioneer type mod out there, it probably hates me right now.

Upon hitting 30, my character’s leveling speed slowed down dramatically. Missions would now move me only around 1/10th to perhaps 1/5th of a level at most, with double exp, and were much longer. I remembered how much I hated Circle of Thorns missions because of their teleporting rings that are murder on a 3-D map impaired person like myself. And despite keeping myself in top-level enhancements, fights became a great deal harder. In order not to burn out, I went to the costume shop to reacquaint myself with the greatest character creation engine ever designed.

I understand that Cryptic, who created this game, uses a similarly robust engine for their new game Champions Online, but the CoX one is still the one all others are measured against. I’ve never understood how the server does not slow to a crawl when more than 2 players are on the screen since so many individual items are allowed to be configured. The chances for personalization are immense. In the end, after a mere 30 minutes, my character had a new suit. It even had a set of crafted wings; a recipe purchased at the black market and then crafted using fairly common ingredients.

It took me until late Sunday night to realize what I was missing in CoX, as something had felt off that time. It was people. Except for a few people I saw at the black market, I never ran into another player. Chat was silent. As missions are always instanced, and keyed off of your specific mission, you’d rarely see another person except at a vendor. It reminded me a lot of playing during the day on EverQuest’s Test server – a single player in a multiplayer world.

In summary, I enjoyed my return to the Rogue Isles of CoX, but I’m not sure it’s where I’d like to hang my hat on a daily basis. There are those who will argue that 4 days is not enough time to get a good feel for the game, and I agree with you, with a caveat. The 4 days is what I was given, and is close to a standard trial time in many games. Next week, I’m planning on giving STO a run, for the trial’s 5-day playtime. CoX is a good game, and has character customization options that cannot be beat anywhere that I’ve ever seen, and I don’t mean just in creation. But it felt too empty to be enjoyable, as I am a social gamer. I recall fondly the launch days of CoH, when the sky was full of people jumping, flying, and painfully teleporting to missions (I was a teleporter, trust me, it sucked). Even a year later, when I went back to give CoV a try, there were still others around. It’s a good game, with plenty of replayability. I found the writing in the story arcs to be fun, and travel to be easy enough without being boringly easy (instant travel destroys a game). If you don’t mind really not meeting up with folks, this isn’t a bad game to try. There are many gamers with random play times that make grouping difficult who may find CoX to be right up their ally. There’s a lot to be said for being able to go AFK almost anywhere and come back to a character that’s not dead. I give CoX 3 Oz’s out of 5, and bid adieu for now.

Next: I boldly go where Oz has never gone before.

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Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

8 thoughts on “Oz’s Trail of Trials, Part 1 – Friday Night Tights”

  1. That’s a good write-up and it mirrors many parts of my CoX experience as well, sans the guildless bits.

    I personally found the 30-level plus game simply intolerable in terms of time needed to be spent, no matter which AT I tried to get up there. There comes a point somewhere in the 30-40 range, earlier for some people, later for some others, in which the repetition and the grind just hits you in the face like a brick.

    I know I’m probably simplifying things for the sake of a bit of hyperbole, but that’s when you realize that if you’re not a badge whore (which I’m not, because I find it utterly silly) then all you have to look forward to is a meaningless grind of uninspired and repetitive questing, or another meaningless grind of drawn-out TFs, which are drawn out just for their own sake. I’m not saying other games are not grindy, but I think most other games at least attempt to disguise the grind in better ways.

    The character generator is stellar, even so many years later. It’s a great foundation for everything else. And the scaffold of the whole thing is certainly there and quite solid. It could go so many places, but unfortunately Cryptic has yet to deliver a -pleasing- building. I guess that’s just how they like to build. Who knows. Everything past the scaffold is always a large collection of hits and misses with them.

    1. It’s not technically a Cryptic game anymore, it’s some random NCsoft studio I can’t remember the name of (that may be indicative of a problem in itself).

      However, I think you nailed it. They have the scaffolding in place for one of the best modern MMOs. Fantastic character generation, mix and match class system with a ton of flexibility in what powers you choose and how you develop them. User generated content. Offline character development that enhances rather than interferes with in game character development. Travel powers that absolutely nail that thin line between immersion and convenience.

      For whatever reason, the flesh hung on those bones is a grindy repetitive game. It’s never held my interest past the early 20s.

  2. It’s Paragon Studios, of course, from Paragon City. But most of ‘Cryptic’ stayed, excepting Jack.

    And yes, the Architect Entertainment has kind of dragged people off the streets, but I’m hoping Going Rogue will fix that in the 1-20 range.

    I’m surprised you didn’t try the Mission Architect stuff. Some really good missions there.

    Want a 10-day for STO?

    1. Note: I do not work for Cryptic or Paragon Studios, I just have a spare 10-Day from my STO purchase, and I see no better use for it than this.

      1. Thanks, but I actually got a 5 day key from a friend which I’m running through. I’m debating an interim post (to be fair to STO’s content) or simply a summary post which might be epic in length and we tend to avoid here.

        Also, to your below point on dates – you’re right, it wasn’t years. It felt like it because I did not make the immediate jump to WoW. CoH was launched in April and WoW in November. I played CoH from launch until roughly October, with several trips back over the years for a month to three each time.

  3. Oh, two things. Capacity increased a lot at one point: the servers don’t turn red anymore. And…
    “The character classes are much more robust, all are fun to play, and there is an irreverence that WoW, years later, would echo.”
    CoH launched 3 months, plus or minus, before WoW and EQ2. Lot of people avoided it to jump into those two.

    But yeah, it does predate WoW.

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