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City of Villains

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: NCSoft
Developer: Cryptic Studios

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PC Preview - 'City of Villains'

by Rainier on Jan. 1, 2006 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

City of Villains is an expansion to NCsoft's MMORPG City of Heroes, set in the Rogue Isles, a treacherous region not far from Paragon City. Players can now build their criminal empires and spread their own reign of terror.

Publisher: NCSoft
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Release Date: TBA

Being a superhero is cool. Being a supervillain is cooler. At least that's the premise behind NCSoft's upcoming City of Villains, a quasi-expansion/standalone that can work together with the existing City of Heroes, or not, depending on whether you happen to own City of Heroes as well. It's kinda hard to describe, since I've never really seen a situation quite like this before. City of Villains will not require that you own City of Heroes to play, but some interactions between the two games will not be available. Likewise, if you own City of Heroes and do not get City of Villains, there will be some interactions with the villains which you won't get to do, along with some City of Villains features (such as base-building) that won't be available. Having both titles together is your best bet to get the most out of either, but pricing for having an account in both games is still up in the air.

The first big difference between City of Heroes and City of Villains is the distinctive look of the villains. The character creation in City of Heroes was one of the best aspects of that game, and the developers of City of Villains wanted to keep that, but also to ensure that villains would be distinctive from heroes. With all the black, skulls, metal, and leather on the villains, I think the S&M crowd will be happy at the very least. Quite frankly, though, the villains look much better than the heroes ever did, mostly thanks to advancements in graphics technology between the two game which allows for reflections and refractions on pieces of armor and clothing.

The villains will live on the Rogue Isles, a group of seven islands that are controlled by the evil Lord Recluse, but which are considered a sovereign nation by the UN (making it illegal for heroes to just go and blow up, despite being a hotbed of criminal activity). The zones are divided up between PvE-only and PvP-enabled, and the mission system has received quite an overhaul since the City of Heroes contact based system. Villains tend to try and get hired to do jobs, or do things in order to increase their own powers, and the missions in City of Villains will reflect that line of thinking. Also, instanced missions can now have cut scenes which basically pause the action for a moment in order to either inform the player of something or to increase the drama or storytelling aspect.

A huge new feature is the base-building system, available to supergroups (the CoH/CoV equivalent of guilds). With the new system, supergroups will be able to design, build, furnish, and defend their lairs against enemies and sometimes even allies. Bases will be able to hold functional objects such as banks and hospital beds, making them more than just eye candy or status symbols. Objects of incredible power, which will provide a bonus to the entire supergroup that holds them, will also be obtainable and held in that supergroups base. However, whenever a supergroup gains one of these items, everyone is notified and other supergroups are allowed to challenge that supergroup for the item, making well-designed bases with plenty of defenses built in almost a necessity. And yes, any supergroup, hero or villain, can challenge any other supergroup for the objects.

This game looks sweet, especially with the inclusion of a new physics engine that allows for some very exciting special effects. All the little graphical goodies combine to make this game look much better than CoH. Water ripples, shiny metal armor catches reflections, and refracted light can cause shimmering and all sorts of eye candy goodness.

The only fear I have for this game deals with the PvP balance. Yes the superheroes in CoH and the supervillains in CoV will be able to fight (although all the details of how exactly this will work haven't been released yet). Having playing CoH a fair bit, I really don't understand how that combat system with the types of abilities found in the game (lots of knockdown/stun/mez effects) could possibly provide for a fun and balanced PvP experience. If not for the PvP then this doesn't really seem all that different from CoH. I'm hoping they manage to make the PvP fun, as other than that concern I think this one could very well be a winner.

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