Dark Mirror and 6th year anniversary
Next week, on April 28th, City of Heroes turns 6 years old.
This is celebrated with a number of events and activities, the primary one being the release of the new update, Issue 17 – Dark Mirror. Celebrations start slightly early on April 26th with some in-game events, followed by the update to Issue 17 on the birthday itself. There will also be meet & greet with developers and an anniversary speech/address by developer War Witch.
Other events, contests, anniversary badges to be earned will happen then throughout the whole month of May, it seems. It is nice to see that things are moving along – happy birthday City of Heroes!
One of the major features with Dark Mirror is of course the Ultra Mode graphics setting. It is actually a group of settings, which essentially improves on shadows and reflections within the game, taking advantage of advances in graphics card technology. This can be noticed in a multitude of ways, one being that water in the game actually show reflections now.
Another thing that is noticeable in this update is that the day and night cycles are more distinct. Instead of the almost perpertual daily sunshine that always is the same, the environment do get distinctly darker at night-time and one can see the shadows moving as the cycle progresses.
Another part of the improvement is that instead of block-like fixed shadows, the shadows do better reflect the actual objects and change accordingly. E.g. if the leaves in a tree moves, so does the shadow of the tree. If your character is flying or jumping around, his/her shadow can be seen as well on the ground or whatever surface may be relevant.
Reflections does not only mean water effects, it also means various kinds of reflective surfaces. Now making everything that could potentially be reflective to be just that might be too muich work. New zones in the expansion will supposedly take better advantage of that. But also a number of metallic costume pieces has been given an overhaul in this area and some of the do reflect its surroundings.
Surrounds do not only mean buildings, but any target nearby. So as people, walk by, cars drive by etc the changes can be seen on the reflective surfaces. Not something that one will distinctly notice in normal combat-orianted gameplay (too many other effects going on anyway), but it does add a nice touch and flavour.
There are also a number of other additions with this issue, including
- Revamped market interfaces (Black Market, Wentworths). More versatile interface, improved management of items and cross-referencing between salvage and recipes among a few of the changes
- Revamped email interface – email can be sent to global names (earlier only to characters) and it is also possible to attach influence/infamy (i.e. money) and items to an email. So you can now pass along stuff between your characters if you want, proved they are on the same side (hero or villain).
- Increased mission log – up to 7 missions in parallel instead of 3. Also provides indicator to help find last objective in a mission.
- Mission Architect has a number of new maps, ability to add various giant monsters to missions and support for “lead character to certain location” objective, better experience for characters with custom power selections and more control over obtainable xp, among other things.
- New story arcs for both villains and heroes, aimed at level 20-30. I have not tested any of these, but the comments I have seen indicate that they may be quite good.
- The epic archetypes (Warshade, Peacebringer, Arachnos Soldier, Arachnos Widow) unlocked if a regular character on corresponding side has reached level 20. Before they were unlocked at level 50.
Overall I think this issue update is very welcome and a step in the right direction to keep and perhaps gain new players. Kudos to NCSoft for making the investment to increase the staff size for the game and allow many of the new features to be created. I am not convinced that this would have happened if Paragon Studios would have been owned by a larger non-MMO company.