Choices and consequences – Going Rogue
When I came home yesterday after this week’s work I noticed that it seems the NDA for the City of Heroes: Going Rogue expansion has dropped now. So now I can finally start writing a bit more about it 😉
I got in the closed beta at the point when everyone and their dog joined; i.e. when everyone who is some form had been tagged a “loyal customer”. This was about 3 weeks ago. From a technical point of view it was quite stable for me, but there were some content and graphical glitches here and there.
The very quick summary is that I quite enjoyed the content and I am looking forward to play it after it is released.
Now time to go into some more details.
The Going Rogue expansion has three major features (from my point of view):
- New low-level zones in Praetorian Earth
- Alignment-switching system
- Four new powersets; demon summoning, dual pistols, electric control and kinetic melee
At the same time as Going Rogue is released, the next issue (content update) of the base game – Issue 18 – is also released. Some of the features in Issue 18 (e.g. market merge and tip missions) are there due to the content of Going Rogue; it made more sense to have it work the same way for everyone.
Contrary to some other level-based MMOs there are no new levels added at the top with the expansion. The max level stays the same at 50. Instead the expansion new playgrounds for the new character, in Praetorian Earth. Praetorian Earth is an alternate dimension earth, with a somewhat different history and development. This alternate earth appeared initially in a couple of missions for high level characters on hero side in the game.
With the expansion that earth has now been fleshed out more from a story and environment perspective; it is a significantly different setting even though it on the surface appears as another city area. Praetorian is kind of a near-future utopian earth with a totalitarian rule under Emperor Cole, the most powerful super-powered human. His later ego in “our” earth is Marcus Cole, aka Statesman, which is the primary superhero in Paragon City. Cole rules with an iron fist, shutting down anyone who opposes him. There is a resistance movement who tries to fight Cole’s rule. At the same time Cole is very popular with the general population; he is the hero that saved Earth from disaster and many considers what he is doing is for the best for everyone.
If you choose to create a new character you now get three choices; Hero, Villain and Praetorian. The Hero and Villain options are the same as before – you choose from the archetypes available for each alignment and start in either Paragon City or the Rogue Isles. This is the same as before, so I will focus on the Praetorian choice here.
With the Preatorian choice you start in Praetoria. If you are in the position that you have never played the game before and you are creating your first character, then you will only be able to be a Praetorian. But once you have created at least one Praetorian you can choose the other alignments also.
As a Praetorian you can choose from any of the 10 regular archetypes in the game for your character: Blaster, Brute, Controller, Corruptor, Defender, Dominator, Mastermind, Scrapper, Stalker and Tanker. You do not choose any alignment – yet. You are just a super-powered Praetorian that has just joined the Powers Division.
When the character has been created you get into the tutorial. Everyone has to play through the tutorial, but there are two versions of the tutorial – one for new players and one for veterans. The veteran version skips much of the gameplay basics and goes more directly into the action and thus will be fairly quick.
At the end of the tutorial you get to do your first alignment choice; you have to select whether you want to support the Loyalists (i.e. those loyal to Emperor Cole) or support the Resistance. The end of the tutorial plays out a bit different depending on the choice you make.
The first few missions after the tutorial are the same for everyone, but after that there will be different paths depending whether you choose to play a Loyalist or Resistance. Not only that, but within each of those two alignments there are also two separate paths – one path which perhaps could be labeled more selfish and focus on benefits for the character or the closest group, the other path where there is a greater focus on helping the population in general.
So being a Loyalist does not correspond to being a villain and being part of the Resistance does not make you a hero – both sides have characters and goals that could be considered either villainous or heroic.
You are not stuck with your first choice of Loyalist or Resistance either. At various times you will get a Morality mission. In this you again get to choose whether to support the Loyalists or the Resistance and the ending of the mission plays out differently depending on your choice. And of course it will also affect the contacts and the mission you get from that point.
Regardless of which side you select you are officially a member of the Powers Division, which is where Emperor Cole has gathered superpowered humans to support his rule. This means that if you support the Resistance you are acting as an agent, an infiltrator. Even if you support the Loyalists you may end up in a situation where you are told to play like and agent for the Resistance, i.e. you are actually a double agent.
In your agent role you can do missions for the other side and at various point have the option to report back to those you are loyal to what is going on. This can affect what you will do and how things play out.
Some parts of the content, primarily contacts, are phased. This means for example that if a contact is killed in your story line, then he/she is gone for you. He/she may still exist for other players, where this has not happened in their story line.
Overall there is more mission content that provides various forms of choices. Sometimes it is merely cosmetic in the form of different dialog trees, but sometimes the outcome and objectives are affected by the choices you make. They have also added the possibility to complete a mission in multiple ways – you have multipel objective and completing any of them will complete the mission. There are also a few other bits and pieces that affect how the mission plays out, e.g. disable X within 2 minutes to avoid that the alarm goes to the police and they will storm the place. If you do not disable X within the given time it means you get more enemies to fight in this case, but you can still complete the mission objectives.
There are 4-6 new zones in the expansion, depending on how you count them: Nova Praetoria, Imperial City, Neuropolis and the Underground (3 areas). The first three are city areas, the other are underground roads and areas, where one typically find the Resistance HQs, but also creepy creatures, such as the Ghouls. The city areas are very well made and nice to run around in and explore. There are no walls between the zones and visually they are seamless – but if you cross a zone border you will still get a loading screen.
Same as in the base game though most of the gameplay takes place in instanced areas and only a few missions take place in the common world areas – although some instanced areas are subsets of the world areas.
There are only story arc missions in Praetoria – there are no newspaper/police band missions and no mayhem/safeguard missions. From a story perspective it is the best starting content the game has, plus it has a much wider selection of archetypes available to the player. I think the whole experience make a good job of helping to develop a Praetorian character, to be part of that world.
When the character reaches the late teens the story arcs will introduce some contact with “our” earth, through visitors that come here. This will lead up to a choice at level 20ish when the character will have to leave Praetoria and head off to “our” earth. At that point a choice have to be made whether the character should be a villain and head for Rogue Isles, or be a hero and head for Paragon City.
This journey is one-way; after leaving Praetoria there is no going back. Similar to pre-searing Ascalon in Guild Wars there are people talking about keeping characters permanently in Praetoria. I must admit that this thought has crossed my mind also.
When first ran into some “hero NPCs” from “our” earth in Praetoria and they commented that they wanted to help defeat Cole (my character was Resistance then) and that not everyone were not as bad as they initially thought, I had an urge to let my character punch them, if it had been possible. I was offended that they came here and acted like they had to help the weak Praetorians – we can deal with our own problems, thank you very much!
It is a bit of a culture chock actually to get back in the regular game after having spent 20 levels in Praetoria. I was not quite sure how my character would adapt to this “new” society. I very much hope that they will try to build more content for Praetorian Earth later – it is a very interesting setting to play in, I think.
The next major feature in the expansion is what has given its name – Going Rogue. Instead of being stuck with a choice made at character creation (or at level 20 in Praetorian case), a character can move back and forth between the Hero and Villain alignments. Changing alignment is a multi-step process and the character can also stay in the grey area in between as well – you decide.
A villain who wants to do more good, can work on becoming a Rogue. The rogue is still considered a villain, but has also been doing enough good deeds that he/she has access to the hero-side zones as well. However, the Rogue cannot do all mission content on the hero side, only police band missions, tip missions and strike forces.
A Rogue can then continue to do good deeds and can then eventually become a proper Hero. At that point he/she is a full-fledged hero and has access to everything on hero-side, but has lost the ability to travel to the Rogue Isles.
In the same way a Hero can work on becoming more villainous and become a Vigilante. The Vigilante is still considered a kind of hero, but also gets access to the Rogue Isles zones. Mission content is also limited to newspaper missions, tip missions and strike forces. From Vigilante the character can then work its way to become a fullfledged Villain and the loses access to the hero-side zones.
The way a character can change alignment is by doing tip missions. A tip mission is something that is “dropped” when fighting enemies (level 20+). It can be a note or something similar that provides a mission. For each mission there are two choices to select how the mission should be played, each corresponding to a certain alignment path. For example, a mission is given on the hero side that super villain XX is holding a number of citizens hostage. If the Hero version of the mission is chosen, then the primary objective might be to rescue all the hostages. In the Vigilante version the objective might be to kill the villain, and if there are collateral damage, so be it.
Each completed mission will give a point towards the chosen alignment, based on the choice given. To complete one step in switching alignments, i.e. Hero -> Vigilante, Villain -> Rogue, Vigilante -> Villain, Rogue -> Hero, a character must complete 10 tip missions for the target choice.
There is however a limit on the number of tip missions that can be done in a certain time period – up to 5 tip missions can be completed without time constraints. After that there is a countdown from the oldest tip mission of 20 hours, so a 6th tip mission can be started 20 hours after the 1st tip mission. The 7th tip mission can be started 20 hours after the 2nd tip mission etc.
When 10 tip missions have been completed for a certain path a morality mission will drop int he same way as the tip missions. After completing this mission the player gets a morality choice similar to the Loyalist/Resistance choices in Praetoria, but in this case it is about choosing to make the alignment change, or to stay with the current alignment.
Thus to change from Hero to Villain or vice versa it would take at least 4 calendar days. That seems like a reasonable time limit to me.
Even if you stay with your current alignment it can be rewarding to do the tip missions. There is a merit system attached to it that can give points to buy rewards if to stick with your alignment.
The tip mission system is supposedly also available to players who do not have Going Rogue – however, they will not be able to switch alignments, only work on their current alignment. There seem to be a fair amount of tip missions, numbers I have seen seem to be somewhere between 130 – 170 missions.
Most of my characters are villains and this will probably still be my side of preference for the most part. But I think I will end up changing sides every now and then with some characters who are leveling. It will provide more variation in the content played with each character and that is a good thing.
Four new powersets are introduced with the expansion:
- Demon summoning
- Dual pistols
- Electric Control
- Kinetic Melee
Of these powersets the first two were already introduced in March and April to those who had pre-purchased the expansion. Since I did pre-purchase I have been able to play those for a while now. I do like both of them, they look quite good. They are not overwhelming or overpowered compared to existing powersets – min/max:ers will probably not like them for that. But for concept I think they are great.
The other two powersets I have tried when I have created Praetorians. I haven’t played those so much, but I like both of them so far. Again, perhaps not overwhelming and not overpowered, but certainly good fun. Go to the Going Rogue web site to see more of the powersets in action.
I will reserve judgment though until I have more chance to play them; that will be at some point after the release though. I am happy to see that there are more powerset options added in either case.
I have not touched on every aspect of the expansion, but these are the major areas in my mind. So is it worth getting the expansion?
For me it is a definite yes. I really like Praetoria and the story arcs there and that they to some extent have introduced the notion of choices and consequences in what you do. The alignment-switching system continues with that and opens up more of the existing game for each character. As a story-focused altoholic it fits well for me and I hope some of the new mission features appear at some point later in Mission Architect also – adding more choice in the missions would be very exciting!
If a player does not care so much for the story (TL;DR and then click on the right option only) and is happy to stay on one side and perhaps not creating many new alts, then the expansion probably does not add that much value. The gameplay basics are still the same with missions in instanced areas with maps created through certain building blocks, the expansion does not change the fundamentals, only builds upon them.
So I think the reception of the expansion will be mixed – some will love it, some will think it is not enough.