Today I walked into a 7-11 (cherry Slurpee if you must know) and saw that they had a whole rack there devoted to selling game time cards to just about every known MMO in the universe, except, strangely, for World of Warcraft. My eyes locked on the City of Heroes time cards — I had no idea they still sold time cards for that — and a wave of nostalgia rushed over me. I felt the craving to play it, once more, even though my gaming time and commitments won’t allow it right now.
I remember how very, very excited I was when it launched — I had to work the day it did, but I got the box and poured over the manual at lunch. Many people cite CoH’s awesome character creator for its visuals, but for me, it was always all about the powersets. Which archtype do I play? Which two powersets do I mix and match together to make a uniquely fun experience? It was blissful agony.
I never got a character to max level in City of Heroes, mostly because that game absolutely caters to the altoholic in all of us. You just can’t stop making alts — it’s like a compulsion. You think of a good visual theme, or you want to try out a new powerset, or whatever… then before you know it, you have sixteen guys all levels 5-29.
While nobody ever accused City of Heroes of being a “deep” game — it’s pretty much a non-stop action brawler with forgettable quests, a blah-looking city, and repeated instance designs — I had never before and have never since played a game where combat was just this much fun. Whenever I’m in another MMO and the group I’m in has to strategize for a half hour before pulling a boss mob, all I can think of is how we never really paused to contemplate a battle plan before fighting in CoH. You rushed in, unleashed your awesome abilities, tried not to die, and tried to help your teammates out. CoH nailed the feeling of being superpowered compared to most mobs, and after a 15-mob pull, you’d be shaking your head and laughing at how you survived at all.
I don’t think I’ll ever return to CoH again, but I never regret playing it (I only regret that I never found a truly great supergroup to be a part of). As Cryptic’s gone on to do Champions Online — a game where you can not only mix and match powers, but also visually tweak them — I know I’ll be a superhero once again. Someday.