CoH: More WoW Every Day

Overheard on Massively comments regarding soloing, grouping and single-player gaming in an MMO:

“I’ve tried games with more forced group content like City of Heroes and I’ve felt bad when I simply have to bail out in the middle of the mission because of that thing called real life.”

– vandalprime

Wow. Just wow. (Or WoW as the case might be.)

However did City of Heroes (the pioneer of sidekicking, dynamic scaling mobs to group size, and player-controlled difficulty levels) manage to get this kind of reputation?

Granted, the same commenter finds soloing in Guild Wars with Heroes and Henchmen as having a difficulty level beyond challenging to becoming an inappropriate solo solution (which I heartily disagree with)… but yeah, perception is subjective, I just find it incredible that CoH has started taking on a solo-unfriendly flavor. I wonder why.

Oh, and the reason for my silence over the last few days. I’ve been playing my way steadily through the First Ward zone. Solo.

Faceplanted a couple times in the first mission while trying to attempt +1,  x2 player difficulty.

Discovered an out-of-the-box SO’ed Titan Weapons/Electricity brute at level 22 was still squishy as the multitude of mobs had fairly high accuracy and was landing too many hits and wearing down the health bar, despite part of the damage being resisted.

Decided convenience and flow to be the better part of valor and tweaked down the mobs by 2 level shifts to -1,  x2 player difficulty. (I wanted more mobs, no point playing with AoE cones if you’re facing the three standard minions or 1Lt + 1 minion solo.) Which worked just fine as an appropriate level of challenge.

Not much to say about most of the arcs. The first few were somewhat fractured, in a ‘what kind of voice are these contacts speaking in?’ kind of way. Some voodoo lady using a lot of faux Southern ‘gumbo’ terms, some insane possessed guy obsessed with watercolors (ok, so he’s insane, he’s not supposed to make any sense), an annoying Resistance member using their favorite barely decipherable slang (ok, at least this one is consistent with the lore), etc. So I was just grinding (word use intentional) my way through them, not expecting much revelation until having gotten past their arcs. But there was a decent amount of steady drip feed of info, so it was okay.

There were some neat new-ish story telling gimmicks that the mission designers appeared to be playing with. They were able to have NPCs pause and speak strings of text with a delay, appear and disappear, etc. so it was like an in-game cutscene without an actual cutscene. Good storytelling tools – if only they’d move them over to the Mission Architect some time.

I generally enjoyed the Katie Douglas arc. This one had more tie-ins back to Praetoria and the Seer 1381 story arcs. And Katie spoke in a conversationally understandable voice. One minor nitpick was the suspension of disbelief and willingness to go along with the story required. A portion of it hinged on forcing your character to be possessed – which in roleplaying terms, is ‘god-moding,’ controlling what some other player’s character is doing. I intentionally chose the most vanilla hero with vanilla helpful motivations to go through First Ward, since I was afraid these things would happen – it was jarring when trying to play a villainous loyalist, the last time I tried, I think I broke the arc because I went kill-happy on a faction, and the contact after that praised me for trying to make peace with them (“Whuh? I just left a trail of carnage through that entire mission?!”)

Then I got shoved back into schizophrenic territory with nary a pause as Katie tossed me with nary a word of explanation to a blind Native American medicine man called Makwa to help him do some mystical things regarding spirits. Hang on, I thought we were on the trail of finding out more about Praetoria and the seers and so on… Why am I digging up seven bits of grave dirt and lighting seven censers, and soul snaring seven spirits?

Blind Makwa’s arc, by the by, is the most eregious in terms of lousy gameplay due to mission design. Story-wise, it sounds very poetic to do seven things per mission. Repeatedly clicking on seven world glowies is skirting very closely to a kill ten rats quest. Then I got to the next mission to find out that I had to fight my way through a generic apartment building and light seven censers (click seven glowies again.) I quit for the night.

The next play session, I got through that one. Had a decent, if story disconnected, time raiding some previously unmentioned magician’s mansion for magic artifacts. And then I got told to use a temp power on seven mobs. That only come out at night. AAARGH. It was bright daylight. So I flew leisurely to the store vendor to sell and unload crap. Then I flew over to the trainer to train. And I flew back to the graveyard to wait for the night mobs. Still daylight.

And then I gave up and alt-tabbed out to write this post while waiting for night.

Now, it’s finally night. Back to the game.

Edit 5 minutes later: One of the NPCs I was supposed to escort to an objective died to ambushes. Or rather, running head on into every single mob there was as I was trying to get him to approach the objective. Broke the mission. Objective unclickable.

Autocompleted it in disgust. Am apparently not the only one a little put off by First Ward’s mission design.

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