Monday, October 19, 2009

A Week of Champions Online, part 2

After managing to create a character I am mostly happy with, it's off to the tutorial. I am gladdened by the fact that one of the keybind selections is "Paragon", meaning I don't need to re-learn 5 years of City of Heroes habits.

The very first thing I do make sure that the exceedingly-fugly "black comic book outline" option is disabled. In light of my earlier comments regarding preference to line art over color shading, I interpret this as sarcasm on the game's part: "You want lines? Here, have a thick black outline! It'll make everything look like a Colorform!"

There are a few things I notice upon login. One is how quiet it is in terms of in-game chatter. Sure, there are lots of explosions and sirens and sound effects -- heck, the loading screen was an aerial view of the tutorial zone, complete with over-the-top voice acting -- but in terms of player chatter, this is the quietest MMO I've ever played.

The second thing I notice is that I really like the clock just below the in-game map. No, it's not showing game time, it's showing your actual time based upon whatever zone you're in. I find this impressive and useful, if not a bit frightening in the implication that I need a tangible reminder of what time it is in order to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Normally at this point I'd be taking the piss out of the inane tutorial missions ("This is how you attack! This is how you block!" I'm surprised there isn't a "This is how you use your inventory" mission, and they convey the lesson through dialog instead), but Shamus Young over at Twenty Sided has done a remarkable job of this, and at great length. Since I am lazy and by no means a professional reviewer, I'm going to take the easy out and just link to his review instead of actually doing it myself.

After leaving the tutorial, you might think you are ready to enter the game proper. This is understandable, yet utterly incorrect, because you are now shunted to one of two slightly larger and more complicated tutorial zones, Project Greenskin in the American Southwest (think Hulkbusters) and Steelhead Station in Canada. You'd think this last would be a Weapon X thing, right? You'd be wrong. It's a Great White North thing, filled with McKenzie Brothers references, lots of "eh?" and "hoser" dialog, and at least one "aboot" hiding somewhere. At its best, it reminded me of old Alpha Flight issues where Shaman and Snowbird would fight the Great Beasts, but those moments of flavor were few and far between. The rest of the time, you might as well have been in Montana for all of the regional flavor. But in this first instance, I chose Greenskin, which in this case is a military complex that is under assault what appear to be radioactive hillbillies from the 1950s. (Don't ask.)

After exiting the first tutorial, I am now level five, and I am informed that I've gained a variety of powers and should make my way to the Powerhouse for training. Fortunately for me, there is a teleporter to the Powerhouse right on the helipad.

The Powerhouse is another concept that CO gets right. It's a zone unto itself, and when you go there you can pick your powers from several trainers, and then you can go to various "danger rooms" to try them out. The elegance of this system is that your powers aren't locked into place until you exit the Powerhouse, meaning that you can test-drive whichever powers you want to try out without having to commit to one without adequate knowledge and possibly gimping yourself. This is one of the best ideas I've ever heard, and I hope the next version of City of Heroes makes use of this concept.

Another very sweet thing is that you get your travel power at level 5, and there's a choice selection of them. In addition to the typical flight, superspeed, leaping, and teleportation (which is so much better than its COH counterpart that it's not even funny) there are all sorts of other ones, like Swinging and Hover Disks and Ice Slides and Tunneling.

Freshly powered up, I exit the Powerhouse, only to have my ass kicked multiple times as I try to find the damn starting contact. Apparently, if I had immediately ran forward when I first entered the zone, I would have noticed the flashing elevator which indicates an interactive object, but (like most new players, I imagine) was far more interested in getting my new abilities, and now I am constantly being defeated by toothless, radioactive hicks in overalls as I try to understand why I can't find the contact when goddammit the map says I'm right on top of it! Ironically, the contact was actually right on top of me -- in the level above me, actually.

Frustrated and tired, I log off and go to bed. When I return to the game later that day, I find the elevator right off, so it's entirely possible my tiredness earlier was making it harder for me to find the contact than it truly was. Still, I feel that if I had been told to meet my contact and then train up, a lot of pain could have been avoided.

1 comment:

  1. The Powerhouse is definitely the best feature CO has over CoX. It was one of the main reasons why I decided to give CO an honest try, and not dismiss it from what I saw in the beta test.


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