Hey everyone, Clay here and I wanted to bring you all a special article. Some of you might be aware, and some of you may not, but City of Heroes is back in a private / player run server form. Close in August of 2012, City of Heroes was a well loved Superhero MMO developed by Paragon Studios and eventually acquired (and closed by) NC Soft.
I played it during its life off and on from around the time City of Villains, its first expansion, was launched till right before Going Rogue was released. I played on the Virtue server, and was a Brute named Rumble Shock (and known as Stomphoof on the forums). I wasn’t super broken up about the games closure like many fans were as I was sidetracked by World of Warcraft at the time.
How the now player run servers have come into existence is its own story, and I will give you as brief a rundown as I can, but I suggest you check out MassivelyOP and their coverage of the events of the last few weeks. You can see where everything started right here at this link (https://massivelyop.com/2019/04/15/score-city-of-heroes-emulator-leak/) and at the bottom a full list of all the coverage. Suffice to say its been QUITE the wild ride.
My brief explanation (a TLDR as it were) is this: Around April 15th a leak was done by a member of a hidden City of Heroes server, that had been run in secret since the original games shutdown. The server was at the time of the leak a near perfect copy of the game at its closure WITH things that Paragon Studios was working on also having been released such as the Sentinel AT. The leak caused a massive outcry of rage and sadness (warranted if you ask me) that eventually caused the Server code to be released into the wild publicly. At this point, you yourself could look up and run your own solo CoX server if you were so inclined using VM Ware, and since the leak a few server groups have appeared. There is the 4chan run server group under the /coxg/ banner, the Homecoming server group which has 4 permanent Shards running (I play here on Everlasting) and I believe Reddit is working on one and there may be one or two more that I am not fully aware of. There is also a ton of drama between the three major groups, most of it stirred up by Reddit and /COXG/ in that Homecoming is not providing them enough assistance or aid. Again, check Massively for the full insanity of that entire mess, and draw your own conclusions in regards to who is in the wrong as its really all a matter of opinion at this point.
Further, none of these servers are officially endorsed or sanctioned by NCSoft, who still hold the license to the property. However, at the time of writing this (May 8th) NCSoft has ALSO not said a single word about these rogue servers. Because of this, these servers could be shut down at any time legally. However, because the server code and ability to run your own servers is out in the wild, NC Soft will never truly be able to put the cat back in the bag as it were. The nature of the internet precludes that possibility. Also the Titan Network is apparently in “talks” with NCSoft regarding all this in the hopes that community run servers will be greenlit.
Now that we got the background out of the way, I wanted to talk about my own experience with the game since its revival, and why I have been enjoying it. I mean, this is a 15 year old game, brought back from the dead through code necromancy and shadowy tactics. And let me tell you something: the games age does show.
I have played both other Superhero MMOs on the market (Champions Online and DC Universe Online) and neither one could grab me. The combat in both, the way powers were handled, hell the writing and storylines just never meshed with what I was after. Champions Online’s tone and style is all over the place for example, and its combat with its builder then spender setup just bored me to tears. DCUO had you playing second fiddle the entire game to established heroes and villains rather then working with them, and the way it did powers was dull.
I was not sure how I would feel about CoX, having not played it personally for something like 8 to 10 years. I had few memories of it, mostly of Rumble Shock my main (a Super Strength / Willpower Brute) and a few about some Bots mastermind I had but could not even remember the name of. I remembered spending time hanging with Brou, a real life friend of mine who moved on to CO (and is a bonafide celebrity in that game now) but beyond that? I couldn’t really remember much at all.
I followed the instructions I found on the SCORE / Homecoming Forum as to how to get started, downloaded the Tequila Launcher, and started messing around. And I fell in love.
This game does show its age. Visually its blocky, even with the experimental graphic settings that make the game Cel Shaded turned on and everything cranked to its maximum. Your hands dont even have digits but are basically just giant single form mitts. It looks like a more advanced PS2 game honestly. The effects are solid though, and the weight of your attacks feel good. Also the music is great, and flows well as you cruise around the various areas in game. Visually and Audio wise, its a solid game but nothing groundbreaking overall.
What surprised me was how fast I remembered how to play the game. I quickly set my Brawl attack to auto fire (there is no auto attack by default), popped my Inspiration Tray out and put it where I always had it (bottom middle of my screen) and increased my power tray to 3 full bars on the lower right, with the Enhancement inventory opened. Then I popped the Map out and put it under my health bar. It was like I had never left the game…10 years later. I also updated my keybindings for Strafe and Turn based on how I prefer it now as well. It was bizarre honestly, a feeling that threw me off. While the world had been updated since I had last played with Going Rogue, and the ability to be a Praetorian, the actual way I played had not changed.
The longer I played, the more I remembered. I remembered how to attack, tab target, and how to slot enhancements and even which enhancements I should generally use. I remembered how to handle my endurance, what each color of inspiration did, and so on. I remembered how to tell enemy types apart based on name color, and which types of enemies should be focused on over others. I recalled how toggles worked and all that jazz. It was like I had never left the damn game.
I created a couple characters, trying out new power combinations that had not existed when I originally played the game, and I eventually created a Radiation Melee / Willpower Brute named Toxic Shock on the Everlasting server, a Beast Mastery / Storm Summoning Mastermind named Hexenwulfe, and a Dark Melee / Willpower Brute named Nova Black. I even have plans for a Wind Control / ?? Dominator eventually, although I have not settled on a secondary for him/her yet.
As I have played more and more since the full release of the Homecoming servers, I have figured out exactly what it is that makes me enjoy CoX over CO and DCUO. First, there is the pacing in combat. CoX is SLOW. Almost glacier at times in its pacing. You have to activate each power, there is a delay as the animation winds up, and then the power fires off. You can even get animation locked, unable to get away if you hit a button too fast. While this might bother many people for some reason in my older age now I find it enjoyable. It feels methodical, and it feels less like a button masher and more about planning. Do I queue up the big heavy blow or the faster lighter hit? If I queue up that attack with the long animation will I get hit and die? Or can I get it off before the enemy hits me?
Further, the customization both in costume and in powers is second to none even now. You have complete control over how your hero or villain looks visually, with various costume parts and auras to use. While I personally tend towards simplistic costumes with clean designs, I have seen some stellar stuff out there running around in Paragon, and some very silly stuff. But its the power system that really takes the cake. Let me explain.
You start out in character creation by choosing your powers Origin, and if they are a Hero, Villain, or Praetorian. This determines your starting zone, essentially, although with the Going Rogue content being enabled you can switch sides. Praetorians have their own unique storyline and then choose Hero or Villain at the end of it. Your power origin determines the kinds of Enhancements you can use (which are basically your gear) but beyond that is just a flavor mechanic.
Next you choose your fighting style, and then your Archtype. Your Archtype is basically your class. The options used to be Hero and Villain specific (IE Tankers were Heroes, Brutes were Villains) but again, Going Rogue removed that. You can be things like the Mastermind, Brute, Tanker, Scrapper, Defender, Controller, Warshade, Arachnos Widow, Stalker, Dominator, Corrupter, and a few more. Each one has a list of Primary and Secondary power sets you can then choose from to make your unique hero. Every Primary Powerset, and Secondary Power Set, can be combined.
For example, Brutes have access to the following Primary Powersets and Secondary Powersets. You can choose ONE of each (one Primary, one Secondary) to make your character. The Primary ones are Battle Axe, Broad Sword, Claws, Dark Melee, Dual Blades, Electrical Melee, Energy Melee, Fiery Melee, Katana, Kinetic Melee, Psionic Melee, Radiation Melee, Savage Melee, Staff Fighting, Stone Melee, Street Justice, Super Strength, Titan Weapons, and War Mace. Thats 19 Primary Power options, each one containing around 9 individual powers. Then you have the secondary options for Brute which consist of Bio Armor, Dark Armor, Electric Armor, Energy Aura, Fiery Aura, Invulnerability, Radiation Armor, Regeneration, Shield Defense, Stone Armor, Super Reflexes, and Willpower. That totals 12 Secondary options, again with 9 individual powers in each. That means you have a total, for Brute alone, of 228 possible combinations (19 x 12). I have 2 Brutes as I mentioned before, one being Radiation Melee with Willpower, the other being Dark Melee and Willpower. But I could just as easily have done Dark Melee and Super Reflexes, or Electric Melee and Invulnerability.
That is an INCREDIBLE amount of variety in a single class, and there are a grand total of 14 Archtypes in the game, with a variety of powersets in each one, plus you have Power Pool sets which anyone can take, plus Patron Powersets and Ancillary Powersets of which each hero or villain can take one of each! The sheer amount of variety here in how you approach and build your character is astonishing. It also helps that every power set combo CAN work within the confines of the game. Some are better then others at certain playstyles, but all of them are viable. I have ideas runnin through me head of all the different kinds of characters I want to make now that I never got the chance to try years ago.
Returning to City of Heroes and its world has quite honestly been a treat. I am enjoying my time on the Homecoming server, and while the drama surrounding the servers and the community split is painful to see its also expected as some people just want to cause trouble. I am curious as to the future of these servers however, and how NCSoft is going to react, and how things are going to shake down from here forward but I am confident that City of Heroes will be playable now in one form or another for years to come.
If all else fails, I can always just run my own VMWare Solo Server at home privately for myself. I play MMOs solo mostly anyway so I wouldnt miss much other then watching the chatter of the other players.
If you want to play City of Heroes yourself, consider the Homecoming server cluster. You can find the instructions on how to join right here on their forums. You can also look up the /coxg/ servers on Google, and Reddit is working on one as well.
Make sure to follow me on Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages! Pledge to my Patreon! Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses. You do want more content yes?