As this Friday is the annual birthday celebration for City of Heroes, a group of us at Massively OP decided that we’d get together to join the party in Paragon Chat. If you’ve never seen this, Paragon Chat is a combat-free version of City of Heroes that lets players create their favorite costumes, hang out, talk, and enjoy a handful of travel powers in Atlas City.
I’d been aware of Paragon Chat for a couple of years now, of course, but had never logged into it. Last night changed that, thanks to a fairly painless process that involved downloading the last version of City of Heroes made and then the Paragon Chat client on top of it. A (free) registered account later, and I was actually logging back into City of Heroes — kind of — for the first time in over a half of a decade.
It was, to put it mildly, surreal.
It was like City of Heroes never left, if I was willing to buy into that illusion (with my illusion powerset!). Same music, same character creator, same wonky costume options. Well, it was all a little newer than I remembered, since I wasn’t really around for Going Rogue and Freedom, but more or less, it was a lot like I remembered it.
My kids, who had never seen City of Heroes at all, started to congregate at the computer and ask what the heck I was making. I told them “a superhero” and boy did that glue their attention right to the screen. I started scrolling through all of the head, costume, and detail options, and there were both appreciative noises and crazy laughter at some of the more ridiculous aspects. My son in particular grew quite interested when he saw bug costume options and asked if it was possible to make a bug superhero. For sure, son, for sure.
Of course, time hasn’t been completely kind to this game, particularly since it’s been in an arrested state since shutdown. Those blocky hairstyles, painted-on faces, and some of the costume pieces (ugh, those trenchcoat tails) are quite ugly and dated. And the claw hands! But that’s all part of the nostalgic package too.
Part of the fun of City of Heroes was when you cut loose from the concept of making only good-looking toons and walked on the wild side. I went with a kooky mad scientist hero, complete with a backpack that spat gears, a mouth that chewed on a cigar, and a jacket that I never remember seeing in the game. The exposed brain I totally do, though.
You ever tell yourself that you’ll never go back to your high school or college after graduating but one day you do? I imagine it feels a little like this moment, seeing the loading screen into Atlas Park. Like I never left, I kept repeating in my brain. Like I never left.
Lo and behold, there was a small crowd hanging out at the plaza as if NCsoft never bothered to tell them that the game was being closed and they weren’t going to listen anyway. Emotes and chat were the order of the day, and we passed a few fun minutes talking about the upcoming party and how cool it was seeing all of this again.
One of my favorite parts of City of Heroes was eyeballing all of the other designs and feeling completely inadequate. In a good way. A fun way. Superheroes were supernarcassistic, but kind of in a more youthful “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine and we’ll both make oohs and ahhs to feel validated” way.
So what else is there to do? No enemies, no fighting powers, but there are a few more options. You can explore, thanks to an array of travel powers (you get access to all of them, but I went with superjump because SUPERJUMP C’MON!). You can earn badges. You can fiddle with all of the chat channel options. You can’t die, although I did try by flying high and then turning it off for some vertigo. You can emote. And that’s about it, I think.
Overall, it’s certainly amazing that such a fan effort exists. It might be just a shadow of what City of Heroes used to be, but it’s SOMEthing — a living memorial to a great game that allows fans to congregate, ruminate, and enjoy a few of their favorite social activities. Looking forward to Friday night… maybe I’ll see you there? Keep an eye out for “MOP Justin” if so!