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Tycho / on Mon, Jun 28 2004 at 4:30 am

An Alternate Lifestyle, Part 1

As is established every time an entry in this genre is released, Gabriel actually played Golf in high school and has retained this coarse habit even to the present day.  And, by luring me onto an actual course with tales of high powered carts and mobile refreshment stands, he drew me into his dark world.  You’ve seen his twisted interpretation of my own passtime, but starting today, we will dip into his perverted cesspool for a series of undetermined length.

Speaking of my cohort, I was trying to explain to him what it was about City of Heroes that had seized me so suddenly.  I’m as surprised as anyone.  Indeed, I felt sure that after my beta experience I had - in effect - made my saving throw and would suffer no ill effects from the exposure.  There were simply some things that I did not understand in fullness when I played it initially.  I knew that it was good, and was perhaps even great - but with more than thirty hours beneath my belt now it’s something that I have a bit more appreciation for. 

City of Villains, the expansion due out in 2005, is supposed to incorporate some kind of crafting along with lair building and raiding and whatever else.  Details on it are pretty loose.  I’m always talking about crafting, and so it’s possible you have come to the conclusion that I think it is the most important part of massive role-playing games.  That’s not incorrect, actually.  I would need to remove a shoe in order to enumerate the times I’ve chosen crafting over my own wife.

There is something like crafting in the game, though - building of a sort - which satisfies whatever that odd need of mine is.  You can’t make things like you could in other games, physical objects that could be passed around, because you don’t actually have an inventory to speak of.  Obviously, City of Heroes players already know that - but there is no area where physical objects accrue.  As you go about your noble task, upon defeating a foe you will sometimes just get one of two things, either Inspirations or Enhancements.

Inspirations are essentially like one-shot powerups that function for a specified amount of time: improve accuracy, regenerate health, do more damage, whatever.  As you level up, you’re able to carry more of these at once.  Unlike other games, where you might reserve powerups of this kind for some theoretical future scenario, you don’t really feel that bad using them in CoH because you get them all the Goddamn time.  It would be likely jealously guarding each individual Skittle in the Party Size Bag.  For all practical purposes, the number of Skittles is infinite.  You might not always have the color you want, but it seems petty to retain them.

Enhancements are where the Crafting Lite comes in.  You already know that there’s no inventory, but since it’s a game about heroes you can presume that you have powers of some kind.  Well, these powers are pretty much all you have.  You draw them from a primary and secondary tree, new ones become available as you level up, and there’s a more general pool available to everybody once you level up a bit.  Each of these abilities starts with a single slot you can use to modify or “enhance” your power - I’m sure you know what’s coming next.  It may change later, I’m not qualified to talk about high-level play yet - but on odd numbered levels you don’t get new powers as such, you get new enhancement slots which you can apply to your existing powers.  You get Enhancements for those slots in the same way you get Inspirations - you don’t actually pick them up or anything, they’re just sort of “obtained” once you defeat a whirring clockwork automaton or something.  These enhancements come in a variety of different forms - increase damage, increase healing, increase slow duration, increase accuracy, things of this sort.  Of course, you can’t increase the damage of your healing ability - not every enhancement works for every power, and so they’ll get traded to other players or sold if you can’t use them. 

I play one of their strange takes on the healing class called a Dark Defender.  He doesn’t heal your own people so much as he hurts other people and the party benefits.  In order to aid people, I need to have enemies around, and I need to make a successful attack - so it’s not always the sort of thing you can count on.  With the enhancement system, I can mitigate that somewhat.  The way it’s set up currently is that I have invested four of my enhancement slots in Twilight Grasp, which is the ornate title they’ve given that power.  That makes for a total of five slots, in which I have placed an Enhancement that reduces its recharge time, as well as two slots each for accuracy and healing bonuses.  Eventually, there are types of enhancements that cater to specific character types - but you can figure that stuff out for yourself if you decide to play.  All I’m saying is that customizing my powers is somehow able to quiet my strange urge. 

The other thing that I didn’t understand is the extent to which playing with different groups reveals really crucial interdependencies.  I’ll talk about that some other time, but the more I play, the more I think that “teaming” is actually the purpose of their entire game.

(CW)TB out.

in my atomic

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