|Genre: Adventure & RPG|
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: Intel RAM: 999 MB Hard Disk: 2900 MB|
In the world of MMORPGs, City of Heroes/City of Villains (CoH) is pretty unique. There are few comic-based games out there, with only the upcoming Champions and DC Universe as serious competitors, and it is uncertain whether those are coming out for the Mac.
Unlike most MMORPGs, CoH does not require grinding, constantly battling enemy characters to gain experience. The primary method for gaining experience is through missions assigned from various contacts. By choosing from the many potential contacts and their offered missions, it is entirely possible to gain multiple levels without once engaging in combat with more than a few enemies. Similarly, you can avoid the less violent tasks and spend your entire time wading through mobs.
The city is divided into two types of zones, City and Hazard zones. The former are relatively safe places with civilians to save, fires, zombie attacks, and alien invasions, but it is easy to engage or avoid a confrontation. The latter, Hazard zones, are desolate areas where villainous groups have pretty much taken over, and the city itself has been twisted - in two cases, completely undermined and collapsed.
Because of this, each play-through of CoH, even with an identical player, is completely different. One time can concentrate on saving the world from ancient cults while the next can focus on evil super-genii.
Of course, it is never necessary to play with the same player. There are five basic heroes and five basic villains (other classes open up once you hit the level cap), each with nine separate primary and nine separate secondary power sets, for 810 total distinct character mixes. Throw in five additional different origins, each of which somewhat affects which missions you are offered, and the game is almost never the same. As I played the game, I never once came across a character with the same power mix as I had.
Similarly, there is an enormous number of options available for customizing your character's appearance. It is very difficult to create physically identical characters (I know because I tried). Each character can have up to five costumes, so they can change to match their mood.
CoH lends itself to both casual and dedicated gaming. Most missions can be completed in under twenty minutes, and I frequently could sit down for half an hour and finish three of them. On the other hand, if you want to linger on a mission, you can do so, turning a simple clue hunt into a brawl ranging up and down whatever cave, office complex, or crashed spaceship you happen to be in.
There are three separate elements that you recover from all enemies, as well as potentially different items (more on that below). You receive experience, based on your level relative to the level of the enemy; influence, which is the money of the game and is spent at shops, tailors, and the auction house; and, if you are in a super group, prestige, which is used to upgrade and modify your base.
The super group option lets a group of players create a base customized to their needs and aesthetics. When killed, you have the option to go to your base, and every non-Hazard Zone has a base portal. One of the most useful elements is the ability to add teleporters, which allow you to go to any area your group has sufficiently explored. In addition, you can set up both private and group storage as well as item creation facilities. I've personally inherited and run the group "Heroes of Atlas", and the base has been one of the more useful elements in the game.
CoH avoids normal item drops (after all, when did any of the X-Men use anything they didn't bring with them after the mission was over?), instead having three types of primary items, almost all of which can be bought at shops and all of which can be bought at the in-game auction house. This is a strong advantage, as there is no need to keep hitting the same spawn points to get something that rarely shows up.
First, there are short-term boosts called "Inspirations" which function much as potions do in other games, providing bursts of health or damage. Second, there are enhancements, which provide a longer-term bonus, over the course of several levels, to one aspect of one of your powers. Finally, there are inventions, which are made from salvage and recipes. All of these items drop or are given as rewards, and all of them can be traded at the auction house.
Inventions are a bit special. While a completely avoidable part of the game (the results can be bought at auction), they are the crafting portion of the game. Each invention is made from a recipe and specific salvage. The result can be equipment for your base, a temporary power, a costume piece (like wings), a permanent enhancement, or pieces to a set which can alter your basic stats. One of the flaws of the game when it was released was that there was no crafting system, but the additions of recipes a year and a half ago jumped it ahead of the competition.