City of Heroes: Issue 13 • Page 2

Get a job, loser.

If you're a solo player, it's simply an opportunity to play with the powers you didn't pick when you specced your guy up. If you're in a supergroup, you'd be doing your superchums a major disservice if you didn't pick Leadership, Medicine or Fitness. Creating a group- or PVP-focused build isn't just a matter of swapping to other pools, either - the less spectacular core abilities also become that much more desirable when you're not stuck with them during solo play.

My energy/electrical Blaster, for instance, usually spends his time spamming enemies with blue beams: very much a blunt instrument of pure damage. In his second build, he's all about crowd control and minor healing. He looks the same and some of his powers carry over from the other build, but to use, he's almost a completely different character. Again, it's the sort of feature that answers the pleas of forum-posters, and not one to lure new players in. It sure beats having a dedicated team-play alt, though.

There's a raft of other new additions, including a new set of missions, some new costume options, easier base item recipes, and Shield powers for melee classes. It's a substantial update even if it's not a headline-making one. But the one change that really stands out is the Levelling Pact.

City of Heroes has always been uniquely sympathetic to the fact that players like to play with their friends. Where some MMOs punish this - if you're at a different level to your comrades, all playing together gets you is a lot less experience points and a lot more hassle - City of Heroes' sidekicking system enables anyone to play with anyone on a pretty much equal footing. Even so, there few things quite so disheartening to see your mate's spent three days off work with man-flu, but remained well enough to race 10 levels ahead of you.


Meet Sergeant Sexy. Note the new shield, and the option to save costume templates out to apply to other characters.

Levelling Pact fixes that, so long as you can find someone you trust enough to sign up to one with. The idea is that 50 per cent of any XP you earn goes to your partner, and vice-versa. When you're both online, you'll be earning an equal amount of XP that should add up to pretty much the normal rate. When only one player is online, that player's levelling rate will be halved because 50 per cent of XP is still being shovelled over to the other guy. It's artificial, but it's as fair as it gets - and more importantly should mean there's always someone of your level to play with.

The downside is that it requires the pair of you to start new characters at the same time - level 5 is the last chance to set up a Pact. If you can't find a partner before then, it's of no use. It's a truly great system for real-life friends, but its success depends entirely on the influx of new players or alts being steady enough. It would have been fantastic in City of Heroes' early days - and like Sidekicking and costume creation, it's one of those innovations that prove it still has the foresight and playfulness so many other MMOs lack.

All in all, it's not an update that's likely to have many folk resubscribing. Hopefully its real purpose is to lay the groundwork for the more enticing Issue 14, which promises a vast influx of new mission content and - perhaps - players. With Issue 13 putting these bland but thoughtful new systems in place to make day-to-day life in Paragon City a bit less of a grind, Issue 14 is even better poised to give City of Heroes the kick up the bum it so urgently needs.

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