With the pre-release download and the warning on the forums about an upcoming freespec (Free power respecification for all characters, for those who don’t speak the COH dialect of English.) it looks like Issue 16: Power Spectrum is just about ready to hit the live servers. It hit Open Beta on the Test server on August 26, so this is about right in the usual schedule. Having played with it for a little while in Closed Beta and more so in Open, I can say it is a lot of fun.
I spent most of my time either checking out the new colorization and/or animation choices or a couple of the new powersets that were moved around. I also spent a little bit of time looking at the new difficulty system that was added, but not that much.
The color customization system is very nice. There are some limitations to it, especially with Dark Melee or other powers like it, because of the way colors are done in the game engine. And some options were blocked because the Devs did not like the way they looked. But the variety that is available is almost overwhelming.
On most powersets, you have a choice between a dark palette and a light palette of colors. You pick 2 colors for each power and can either have those colors automatically shared by all the powers in the set, all powers in both sets, or set each power individually. And you can change the colors for each costume slot, is you want to have different power colors to match a different costume theme.
The new animations are also pretty nice. Not all the powers in Martial Arts and Super Strength have new choices, but the ones that do look good. I was never that bothered with the continuous kicking in MA, but it is nice to be able to add a few punches in. I have a few quibbles about a couple of SS animations, the ground punch for Footstomp and the new Knock Out Blow animation. The ground punch feels fast and the KO Blow feels like it is taking too long. But those are both because they have to match the times for the original animations, so there is not really a lot that BAB can do about them. And the new KO Blow really looks great if you have a Shield on your arm.
Well, sort of. For I15, there was a lot of complaining on the forum about no new powerset proliferation. Well, this time there is plenty going on. Every AT gets at least one new powerset, with several getting two. (Master Minds just can’t get a break on proliferation. Always stuck at getting a new secondary.)
I was in at the end of the Closed Beta, so I did not get to play any of the new sets at a high level, and I only checked out a couple of them. I don’t enjoy playing on Red side that much (Mostly at low levels because of having to do the mayhem missions over and over again for new contacts.) so I looked at a couple of the new possibilities for heroes. And I played them without using my Veteran award attacks. They make low levels extremely easy and I wanted to see what it was like with just the new stuff.
I found the Electric Melee/Electric Armor on a Scrapper to be a lot of fun. Nice protection with great attacks made for a fun romp through the low levels. I especially like the Jacob’s Ladder cone attack. It was very easy to get 2 or even 3 mobs in the area of effect, which is not always true for the melee cone attacks.
I also started up a Traps/Assault Rifle defender to see how that worked out. I did not enjoy it as much as the scrapper, but it was still a lot of fun. And it is a very versatile combination. A primarily teaming defender can pick up the Traps powersets and do very well at helping the team, while a soloer can pick up the AR attacks and go to town on the mobs. And with the ability to have two builds, you can do both builds and suit your powers to your mood.
I really enjoyed both characters as I was playing them, and have already decided that both powerset combos will make it to live when I16 gets there. And I will start up some new alts for most of the other sets also I am sure. Such is the curse of altitis.
Other good stuff
Some other things are showing up in I16 that have been pretty much overshadowed by the color customization and new powersets. This is a shame because they are pretty major changes that have been wanted for quite a while.
First up, there is the change to the Difficulty setting for mission running. Instead of just having 5 levels of difficulty, you can fine tune your adventures. Running an Inv/SS level 50 tank that likes to take on all comers? You can set your difficulty to think you are on an 8 man team, mobs spawning at 2 levels above you, with bosses showing up. (Yeah, been there done that. It rocks being able to jump into huge spawns without worrying about the squishies on a team.) If you are running an Empath defender with lousy attacks, set it to a 1 man team, with the mobs spawning 1 level below you, and no bosses ever show up. Yes, -1 level. A huge help to characters that have problems soloing.
Aside from those settings, you can also control if AVs show up, so if you are one of the folks that like soloing them, you can make it happen with out needing to pad a mission. And that brings up one of the nicest parts of the new system. It should pretty much stop requests for padding teams so someone can farm them for an 8 man team. Farmers can just set their difficulty to what they can handle and have at it all they want. This is good for everyone involved.
Second big change is one that was not announced prior to beta. There are some major changes in the requirements for various badges. As in, you will be able to get the epic level badges without overnight farming of damage, healing, etc. A lot of the defeat and gladiator badge numbers were also lowered, making those much easier to get.
Some badgers are not happy about this, saying “I got Empath when it was hard! Everyone should have to!” Well, you didn’t get it by playing the game. You got it by setting up a heal farm then walking away from your computer for 8 or 10 hours. I have no problem with someone doing that if they want the badge, but they really don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the requirements being lowered. It sounds too much like “I got mine! Screw everyone else!”
I already have the Exalted badge (What can I say, I’m a tank, I don’t run when it hits the fan. I stand there so the squishies can run. And ship raids really help for this badge.) but the fact that a lot of others will be able to get it more easily doesn’t bother me. I do admit, it does give me a leg up on reaching Immortal (Wish they would fix it so the Accolade hp counted.) and Jailed (You know how hard it is for an Inv tank to get mezzed without farming? And I will be lucky if I get the Imprisoned badge.) As for Empath? Still a tank. Healing is not my forte.
They are also looking at easing some of the Super Group badge requirements, but I am not certain those will make it to live with the rest of I16. I have not seen anything on the forums about them and my Test SG does not have any.
Not so good stuff
There have also been some changes that are not for the better. Most of these have to do with the Mission Architect system and experience earned. The Devs are really serious about stopping people from exploiting things in the MA and making it a place for people to tell stories. I certainly applaud this, being one of the people that like telling stories there. But while some of the changes make sense, others are not as well thought out.
The change that makes sense deals with custom groups. In order to get xp for mobs in a custom group, the group has to have at least one mob at each level of power, minion, Lt., and Boss. This prevents people from creating boss only groups and farming them. This may cause some problems for MA authors, but overall it is a decent change.
Another change was making the Freakshow villains worth less experience. A lot less. They went from being worth 1.2 times normal xp to being worth .8 normal xp. This raised a huge stir on the forums, for good reason. While the Freaks are not hard enough to merit being worth 20% more than normal mobs, they are also not easy enough that they should be cut down to less xp then normal mobs, especially in the 20s when players first start encountering them. They can be a challenge at that point.
This was obviously done because farmers would create farms with Freaks and mow them down using powers the Freaks are weak against. This can happen with almost any mob, but the Freaks being worth more xp made them a favorite for it. Thus the xp nerf.
Fortunately, the Devs heard the outcry and determined that yes, they had overreacted a tad. They changed it so that early Freaks give .95 normal xp, with the high level ones still at .8 normal. This is a much better solution, and has quieted things down a lot.
The changes for custom critters in the MA have also been eased a bit. The original set up for using the Custom setting for selecting powers was just horrible. This was pointed out repeatedly, and was also open to exploitation (oops!), and was changed so that as long as the Standard powers are used, the mobs will be worth Standard xp.
But that brings up the biggest problem with the current build. Standard/standard settings for powers in the MA will only give 75% of the normal xp for non-custom mobs. This is despite the fact that even on Standard settings, custom mobs are much more difficult than regular mobs. Creating custom critters that do not overwhelm players is one of the hardest things to do in the MA, especially for low level arcs. If anything, Standard mobs should be at 100%, with Hard mobs at 110% and Extreme someplace higher.
The Devs have said they will keep working at getting the settings right, but they need to set something now or delay I16 another month to get it right. Since that would push back Going Rogue, we will have to take what we have and try to make the best of it. And at least they got rid of the really bad system.
Looking at this, I see I missed several other changes that are coming in I16, like the new exemplar/sidekick system, removal of most hazard zone limits, and some real improvements and fixes in the MA system. But I am already about twice as long as I like on these posts, so they will have to wait.
Overall, this is a really great update coming from the Devs at City of Heroes. They have put a lot of work into it and it really shows. When compared with the really good stuff coming in it, the problems I listed are really not that important. Because when I think about all the stuff I have tried and liked, and think about the stuff I haven’t tried yet, my reaction is still “Oooo, shiny!”