We haven't talked about City of Heroes for a while now. Even with an MMO in development stasis, that leaves whole stories untold. If you don't change the game, the players and their interactions alter. But when we're talking about a living game, which is expanding the content and providing new skills for players to experiment with, there's a whole story being left untold.
So, just shy of a year since our last visit, with their latest update ("Issue") now live, this seems as good a time as any to dust off the spandex and reintroduce the fist of justice to the malevolent mobs of Paragon City.
There are changes. I notice the first one immediately, coo at it for a few seconds, then call up an AIM window to tell John Walker about it.
He takes a break from getting a bit teary over the end of Dreamfall and working out how he is going to maintain his position as World's Worst Healer to enthusiastically beg confirmation from me. Twice. And one of them was in capitals.
I tell him that, yes, it is true.
"OMG!" he yelps in text form.
"YES" I confirm.
"OMG!" he repeats breathlessly.
(It's worth noting that Eurogamer writers can type breathlessly. We're so unfit, it genuinely does tire us out.)
What probably says more about the parts of our mentalities to which City of Heroes appeals, though, is the stuff that didn't provoke yelping.
For example, girlish squeals didn't incarnate thanks to the biggest update in Issue 9 of City of Heroes, and probably the most significant addition since the introduction of Player Versus Combat in Issue 4 (in fact, for players who've never wandered into the City of Heroes/Villains confrontations, arguably this more significant). It's the salvage system.
A traditional weak-spot of City of Heroes is the lack of a fully developed equipment system, instead having "enhancements" which are applied to individual powers to give percentage bonuses. Oh, and you can get other temporary powers, which count as their own slots. It's not exactly a coherent system, and the game only got away with it because superheroes aren't exactly the sort of people who go worrying about getting better equipment. Green Lantern doesn't go dumping his power ring every ten minutes, after all.
However, the new system is based around something suitably superheroey. That is, Inventions. Opponents can drop scrap and recipes. Get the bits of scrap listed on the recipe (exactly the sort of esoteric experimental gubbins that you imagine scatters superheroic battlegrounds post-battle) and you can combine them into whatever the recipe states. This can be enhancements, temporary powers or new bits of costume (and you know how costume-conscious the average metahuman is). Rarer recipes allow increasingly fancy results, including enhancements that boost multiple aspects of powers and bits of costume which are very fancy indeed. Finally, City of Heroes has something akin to crafting. While it's causing economic chaos as everyone trades for desirable items, it's probably overdue. [Hang on. "Superheroey"? -Ed]