When City of Heroes was released in 2004 it gave players a chance to create comic book style heroes and battle the forces of evil. The game was well executed and praised by gamers and critics alike. The obvious evolution was to include playable villains. Rather than merely bolt on villains as playable characters a whole new game dedicated to villainy has been released.
Gameplay hasn't changed drastically from City of Heroes. You are put in control of a villain who is being broken out of prison. Upon your release you start out your villainous career on Mercy Island, a safe haven for all sorts of villains. The game is played from a third person perspective where your character will do battle against a number of computer controlled bots (and later human characters). As you kill enemies you will gain experience points that are used to give your characters improve its level. As your character levels your skills will improve as well as being given access to more deadly skills. As you get stronger you can tackle more difficult areas and enemies. The game doesn't stray from the normal Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.
The game replaces the standard inventory system with a very straight forward and stream lined system.Rather than collecting weapons, healing, items, armour and all of the items expect to see in this type of game you have enhancements or inspirations. Enhancements are used to customize/improve skills. For example with a damaging attack you could spend enhancements improving the damage or reducing the recharge time. As you gain levels you can increase the number of enhancements a single skill can have. Inspirations are temporary effects that improve the effectiveness of your character. These include health, damage or accuracy boosts among others.Both Inspirations and Enhancements are frequently dropped by enemies. Rather than collecting cash your villain will gain infamy which can be exchanged for enhancements or inspirations. Your characters cannot gain new weapons or armour. In true supervillain fashion you rely on your superpowers. This simple system has both its advantages and disadvantages. You don't have to worry about inventory management or storage, you don't have to spend ages collecting items you need, the simplicity lets you get on with the adventuring itself. The disadvantage is that it will put off players that want the depth games like Anarchy Online or World of Warcraft provide. In my opinion the system suits the comic book style of the game very well.
One thing that annoys me is that the game is a little linear in places, all characters start off in the same place and will be tackling the same enemies and objectives. Games like World of Warcraft have shown that much better can be done.
Graphically there is no major leap between CoH and CoV, the game looks a little prettier and has some rag doll effects in place. One feature that is worth mentioning is the option to lower 3d resolution. The makes the graphics less crisp but will improve performance. From a style point of view the developers have thoroughly succeeded. Those who have played CoH will be familiar with bold colouring pristine cities and an environment that feels like bliss full Americana. CoV delivers the graphical perspective of the villains. The starting area, Mercy Island is dull and run down, protesters stand outside the main area and the houses are generally rubble.Villains have a much more difficult life than your normal hero.
The game has pretty decent sound, personally i don't get too excited about how a game sounds. For me the sound works well and doesn't stand out as being amazing or poor.
Like CoH the character creation in CoV amazing. The effort that has gone in to developing such a massive number of combinations is an achievement that dwarfs all efforts by other developers. This isn't just a bunch of skins with a couple of different hair styles, it is a library of details and opportunity. Every concept that you can think of will be in there somewhere, this system really encourages the imagination and gets you wanting to create more and more characters. Normally in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games I create a character based on a set of skills or with a specific purpose in mind, my attachment to the character is generally based on their effectiveness. In CoV i really find an attachment to my character based on their story. Anyone who has ever watched a super hero movie or read a comic book will get on easily with this system. For those that are comic book lovers you may very well be in your Valhalla/Heaven/Nirvana/etc.
With the introduction of Villains the obvious next logical step was PvP. Rather than just put everyone in an arena and let them fight it out, CoV has gone a good way further. In CoH players could join a supergroup (a group of heroes that work together), though this was more a loose association of players than anything focused for a goal. Granted there are many supergroups that tackle difficult objectives together but there was no real territory or 'standing' involved. That has now changed, supergroups can spend their infamy on purchasing a base. The base can be furnished with a number of items and rooms, such as a workshop to allow salvage material to be turned into useful objects. The focus of PvP is to fight over these bases with the winner being able to steal items from the base. This is a significant improvement over the original CoH.
Forming a group with other players is extremely easy, you can advertise on one of the games chat channels or alternatively you can go to the team screen and advertise yourself as being available to join a team. Similar leveled characters can then invite you to join them, this system makes life quite easy and speedy.
The core of the game is based around the different character archetypes that are available. Rather than mirror the archetypes that are available for heroes, five new character types have been created. Brutes, are your up close and personal characters they rely on dealing massive damage via melee (as oppose to the heroes tankers whose strength lies in their defense).
Stalkers, are your typical rogue type character that rely on doing one off assassination blows that can severely wound an opponent.
Dominators, are a buff/debuff class that affect the minds and bodies of their opponents .
Corruptors, are ranged characters that also have the secondary ability to heal.
Masterminds, are summoners, whether it be a Ninja master who can summon ninja to fight at his side or a techie who can create robots.
The balance of these characters is shifted more to attack than it is to defence, this gives the villains a weakness, especially as there is no true healer class. This does well to further the self-centered feel of the villains though players may find this quite frustrating.
City of heroes players also get benefits from this addon pack, even if they choose not to subscribe. Engine changes, improved supergroups and bases are available to City of Heroes players.
In conclusion the game works well and is a lot of fun, it doesn't feel quite as good as when we got to play superheroes for the first time, but there is still plenty in this game for most gamers. MMORPG gamers may be put off by the simplified system though this will make the game more accessible for all other players.