Breaking the Mold

A post over on Aggro Me about City of Heroes got me to thinking…

One of the things I enjoyed most about City of Heroes was that it was very hard to put together a group that didn’t work. Even if you didn’t have a “healer” the group could still do well. Since just about any character could solo, unless you got unlucky, any group of characters can pretty much make a team. All this is said with one caveat: as long as the players were willing to adjust and learn as they went.

The biggest downfall of CoH was, in my opinion, the fact that it did break the mold. It wasn’t your traditional tank/heal/dps game, and people who insisted on playing it as such usually got more frustrated than people who were open to the more freeform style that CoH thrived on.

How it dealt with healing was one of the major breaks from the norm. Since combat was fast and furious, so was healing, and more focus of the game was spent on the prevention of damage than pure healing. Buffs for friends and debuffs for enemies, with healing as something you do when things go bad.

Aggro’s post talks about the Kinetics method of healing, and my experience in the game was similar, yet different. Throughout beta and for over a year after release, the character build I played most was the Dark Miasma/Dark Blast Defender, or Dark/Dark. The playstyle of the Dark/Dark mainly consisted of charging your team into a group of enemies and then making one of them your bitch, dropping a handful of area effect debuffs making him and his friends less accurate (damage prevention) and easier to hit (damage increase). When allowed to do my job, it was a thing of beauty. Clouds of dark fog slowed and blinded our enemies and if it was necessary I would leech health from them. If things went bad, I could even mass revive the group while draining the bad guys. But, all of this requires that I keep one enemy locked with all my debuffs running on him… most players had this horrible habit of just wildly picking targets and taking them down or worse, assisting me, and causing my powers to drop. After a while of being blue in the face trying to explain this to people, I simply gave up grouping with strangers, and later nearly gave up grouping alltogether.

In the end, I applaud CoH for doing its own thing and breaking the tried and true triumverate, but I have to hang my head in shame at the players who seemed to want the exact thing they complain about in every game and refuse to learn to play the game on its own.

One of these days, when I finally do upgrade our PCs, the wife and I will go back to City of Heroes (and City of Villains) because it really was the most fun I’ve had in an MMO, despite the problems. And who knows, maybe at this late date people might finally know better.

One comment

  1. Chas says:

    The official forums still have weekly flareups between those that persist to think that anything except an empath defender is gimped (the “r u a healor” crowd) and those of us ‘that know.’

    Apparently, one of the PC gaming mags has a writeup where the reviewer considered the game too hard and too easy to gimp. I have alts that were intentional gimp efforts and still can’t get the game to break.

    Part of it is what you said- the game is essentially different enough that you DO have to unlearn conventions from other MMO’s… but maybe part of the problem is also that it’s too similar in other ways, leading you to believe that some conventions are the same. It still comes down to not adapting… and not learning.

    Similarly, when City of Villains came out, people made the same misconceptions. Brutes were similar to tanks, but only those that cared to LEARN caught on that they weren’t best suited for the tanker role: masterminds (well, their pets) were.

    Debuffers like the Dark Defender and Radiation have a newfound respect in teams, but you still have problems keeping powers up due to target selection. I write some of this up to the “heat of the battle” accidents, but it can be rather frustrating. In some teams, I’ve just given up and spread the debuffs around so that one bad decision maker doesn’t suddenly put us in a world of hurt.

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