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Gravitating into darkness

April 9, 2012

It has been a bit over a month since Issue 22: Dark Incarnate was released; it has been quite enjoyable to play some of the new content that the issue provided.

Darkness Control sets

First of all, I started a new character, a Dark Control/Dark Assault dominator – two of the new powersets provided with the issue. My character, Zener Sente, started off as kind of a twin brother to Mr Bocor who is now also seeking power in the Rogue Isles.

Bocor and Zener chilling in Port Oakes

Being a crowd control archetype there is a fair amount of crowd control options in the dark control set – a wide cone fear, single and area-of-effect (AoE) holds, single tagrte and AoE immobilize powers, a point-blank-area-of-effect (PBAoE) stun and a single target confuse power. And two pet type powers – Haunt and Umbra Beast.

What has been nice here is that there has been a new set of animations and effects for the powers, giving it a slightly different feel than the old darkness powersets for the other archetypes. In particular the confuse power, Possess, has a quite suitable effect in which the confused enemy is turned into a dark character with glowing eyes – quite nice!

A possessed enemy

Haunt is a kind of neat power which you summon two dark ghosts to fight for a minute. They provide a bit of extra damage and fear and will taunt the enemy you send them towards, so I found them useful to send of to harder targets to draw some aggro and some extra damage taking down these enemies – works as a nice complement to the fear power.

The Umbra Beast is a big dog/wolf creature who can look a bit intimidating – the downside is though that it sounds more like a regular dog than some fearsome shadow beast. And also that  it is a quite noisy dog. It barks almost constantly out of fights and howls in fights. And if there are a couple of them in a team or league, the sounds will certainly annoy most people. It is a fairly ok pet as such, but one wonders if the developers did think things through when adding all these sounds (and re-using the sounds for the regular dogs). For myself I eventually ended up adding replacement sound files for the barking – which fortunately is fairly easy to do when you know the names the files need to have. So my dog…ehh Umbra Beast… is more silent now.

Umbra Beasts require a regular diet of at least one Rikti Monkey per day

Despite this I quite like the powerset, although I generally like most control powersets. In combination with the Dark Assault powerset which has some good damage power and is thematically suitable I like the overall result – not perhaps the most awesome control powerset on the dominator side, but fun to play overall.

Haunts and Umbra Beast

While I started off with the power colours as very dark and close to the original colours I eventually settled for a more purple colour set – pets were just as intimidating-looking and perhaps even more so in darker areas, plus that the control powers ended up being much more visible.

Right now my dominator here reached level 50 about a week ago and currently now also has unlocked the five available inarnate slots. This makes him my 19th character at level 50, my 9th dominator at max level and my 6th character to unlock all available incarnate slots. Did I tell you I am an altoholic? 🙂

Teen level arcs

With Issue 22 there was also two new story arcs for each side added as well, 2 in Cap au Diable and 2 in Steel Canyon, available from level 15. I will not tell too much about the details, because that would spoil some of the fun with them. But the shift towards putting the player character more in the centre as the lead character rather than an errand boy/girl is noticeable. It is also noticeable that the dialogue options allow for the character not just to be a pure villain or hero, but possibly something in between as well. This fits well in with the alignment system that could be unlocked at level 20.

They also provide some options for meeting a few of the superhero/villain characters that are not in the top league and which also will be encountered during these alignment missions. Plus also some slightly new/different settings and opportunity for large group combat even if you play the missions solo. All in all quite good missions.

Signature Story Arc 1 – Who will Die

Alhough the Signature Story Arc 1 (SSA1), Who Will Die, is not really part of issue 22 and has been running for a number of months now the last episode was released recently. The 7th and last episode is a bit longer then the previous ones and provides a quite good conclusion to a quite good story, which moves and changes the storyline a bit for the City of Heroes universe. Two heroes from the Freedom Phalanx supergroup were killed during this story and a member of the Vindicators.

While the story itself is quite good, I do not really think it would be worth the money that it is charged to non-VIP players, at 400 paragon points per episode.  The rewards from completing an episode is definitely better than an average story arc and it is repeatable, but some of the reward options are only available to VIP or VIP Incarnate characters. And VIPs get these story arcs anyway as part of their subscription fee. I think the price tag on these story arcs may be more of a way to show how much stuff VIPs get in their subscription fee rather than that they expect non-VIPs to buy them.

If they put the whole 7 episode package on sale at some point in the future at a reduced price it might be worth it though.

Dark Astoria revamp and missions

Dark Astoria has been an intriguing but very underused zone in the game for a long time. With Issue 22 it was now revamped into a high level zone (level 50-54 enemies) with missions and story arcs aimed to provide another option for Incarnate advancement. Thus Incarnate characters will gain the two types of Incarnate XP that is available and get incarnate drops (threads) as well as incarnate component rewards from completing story arcs.

One does not have to have an incarnate character to enter the zone though or play in the missions – but contacts will not give missions unless the character is an incarnate (level 50 + VIP) character. So non-50 non-VIP characters need to team up with someone who has this access to play through the mission content.

The mission content is really good and perhaps more than in any other story arcs your own character is the lead hero/villain in this setting. Thus you will regularly fight with or against a number of signature characters in the game as well as encounter some new and more powerful enemies in existing enemy groups. In a number of places there are options to include or exclude other signature characters to be part of your team – exclude them for more challenging fights. That is a nice approach for a bit of level adjustment as well as story-oriented support in one package.

So far I have only played through all of the story arcs here on the villain side, I would assume that the content is slightly different but still similar on the hero side. At least the first story arc is pretty much identical on both sides once you enter Dark Astoria, save some differences in dialog text.

In the story arcs you will investigate what has been happening in Dark Astoria, what and why some of the creatures found there now have appeared and eventually fight a god of Death, Mot. Definitely among the best content that is available in the game, I think.

New controllers

One thing that I love about City of Heroes and its combat is the amazing amount of crowd control options available – confuse, fear, hold, immobilize, intangible, knockup/knockback/knockdown, repel, sleep and stun/disorient all have their uses and can provide provide a quite fun pallette to work with if you are a crowd control fan. Combine that with various neat debuffs and you can have a character that can manipulate and toss around enemy groups at will.

Not all powersets available have all that awesome though. Gravity control has been a powerset that has a mix of nice and somewhat broken powers. As part of Issue 22 there was a revamp of the gravity control powerset, which provides some changes. This included the Dimension Shift power (AoE intangible) as well as the Propel power (throw stuff at enemies, telekinesis style) and some other changes. The old Dimension Shift was annoying at best and Propel a power which had too long animation time to make really useful and good.

Dimension Shift is still there, but is now a power which can be turned on and off at will and there is no doubt for anyone nearby that enemies caught in it have been phased out (they canot hit you, you cannot hit them). It also puts on a very strong immobilize (magnitude 10) to hold enemies in place.

Propel have been adjusted to get its animation time reduced significantly, making it a more useful damage power – especially if you are a Controller. A new mechanic called Impact has also been introduced, which adds additional damage when Lift and Propel powers are used against a target that is held by Gravity Distortion (hold power). A few other tweaks are also in place, but these are the things that one notices early.

I have currently started a new Gravity/Dark controller, Vortexer, who is in the mid 20s currently and is really fun to play. Gravity control can be a quite fun powerset to play with all the tossing around with enemies and knocking them around by telekinetic force and I quite enjoy it.

Together with this controller I have also recently created two other controllers, one mind control/time controller and a plant control/trick arrow controller. Both of these are perhaps a bit more team oriented – lots of options for team support, but not much to actually cause damage to an enemy. Still, I do enjoy all of them but the last two can be a bit slow to go through early levels unless you are on a team. But I think these suit me better in the long run than the pure damage/melee characters, which I get bored with easily.

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Categories: City of Heroes
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