Having figured out where in the seething mass of radioactive hillbilly mayhem I am supposed to go, the rest of the second of the tutorial zones plays fairly easily.
Almost TOO easily, if you ask me, because it by the time you exit you have single-handedly defeated a supervillain, and this gives you the impression of actually being competent in combat. This is a dangerous supposition and in many cases could not be further from the truth.
This brings me to the first of my many gripes about this game: Unless you have exactly the right build and/or know exactly how to game the system, Emmert's Law is in effect. For those of you who never played City of Heroes, Emmert's Law is this:
Three minions equals one hero.
Prepare to get your ass kicked, repeatedly, in this game. If you think you can dive into a crowd of thugs and bust some heads like Batman or Daredevil, you are in for a long and frustrating ride.* Sure, you can get there -- eventually -- but from about levels 5-13 you will have to kite or pick off guys one at a time. I suppose this has the benefit of teaching proper tactics at an early level while learning is still occurring, rather than later when bad habits will have to be overcome, but it is damn frustrating when my martial artist, who is faster, stronger, and more agile than any Olympian, routinely has her ass handed to her by three or more toothless, radioactive hicks who use poor syntax.
Which is my second complaint about the game: Everything is so damn punny and self-referential and precious. Damn near every mission has some kind of cute title, even the ones in the tutorial. Case in point: when you go to the SWAT Sergeant to be taught how to block (why this is a mission, I don't know), it's called "Chip off the old." And if you think that's bad, wait until you get into the main instances, where (for example) you end up at an Old West-themed amusement park where you have to fight robotic cowboys. Or, in the frozen wilds of Canada, you can end up facing down a pack of vicious Velociraptors.
I'll say that again: cold-blooded dinosaurs in the snow. I don't know if the mission designers are deliberately trying to hearken back to screwball silver-age plots, or if they just don't give a damn and threw stuff together at the 11th hour. Again, I refer you to Shamus Young's excellent series for a more detailed look at this, including a plot regarding "Nanite-Infused Poutine Gravy."
I wish to Sweet, Buttery Eris that I was making this up.
The third thing which bothers me is that most of the missions are of the "Go do this deed in that outdoor area" rather than being a separate instance. Call me an antisocial troglodyte if you must, but I am appalled at the notion of going to a location for a mission, only to find that someone else has already done it and I must wait for it to respawn. Or even worse, I'm in the middle of performing my mission only to have some other player come along and cut into my action.
This is my mission, I think to myself. Kindly wait until I'm done before you butt in. If I didn't want to solo I would have gotten a team.
And given the extreme amounts of lag this game can suffer when lots of people are on -- like, say, during the weekend -- it seems to me that it would have been a good idea to have more instances. Instead, they "solve" this by having several instances of outdoor zones. I understand this lessens the server load, but does precious little for me when I'm lagging like crazy. If I have to constantly flee to fresher instances to get decent response time, something is dreadfully wrong, especially when it could have been avoided by having more "indoor" missions.
Given the level of computing technology in 2009, I'm astounded that I don't have the option for having the entire outdoor zone be a separate instance for me and whatever teammates I choose (not) to have along.
But then, I'm pretty obviously not the target demographic here, since I'm playing a massively multiplayer game solo. It's very strange, I admit. I complain about the zones being quiet, but I don't want to play with people I don't know. This is just how I am: I would prefer to get to know people through zone or chat channel, and then decide if I want to team up with them. I suspect the design philosophy of CO is exactly opposite that: they have large outdoor zones where you are guaranteed to run into other people trying to accomplish the same task, and logic suggests you all go "Hey! Let's all team up! We can complete all our quests faster and easier that way, and learn an important lesson about cooperation in the process!"
I imagine this approach works well for folks better socialized that I, but all it makes me do is hang back and wait until all these annoying people have left so that I can bust some heads in my own unique (and solo) style.
Screw you, multiplayer game. I'll be solitary if I want.
Coming Next: I grouse about powers (and lack thereof.)
* I'm not going to claim that City of Heroes is perfect in this regard, but I don't ever recall having a combat-centric character be thrashed so thoroughly by same-level mooks as in this game.