CoX July desktop wallpaper recalls controversial issue

This month's desktop wallpaper for City of Heroes recalls Issue 3, A Council of War. This was one of the most content-packed issues, bringing (among other features) the Striga Isle zone, the Hess Task Force (still a firm favorite) and the Kheldian epic archetypes. New Epic Power Pools were opened up for the regular ATs, and 'zone events' such as the Ghost Ship, the Clockwork Paladin and Lusca, the giant octopus of Independence Port, were added.

There was also a key change made to the game world itself, which excited controversy across the official forums and beyond. The Fifth Column villain group was replaced with the Council, an organisation very similar in powers but conspicuously lacking the Nazi background. As A Council of War coincided with the official European release of City of Heroes, some irate players reached a seemingly obvious conclusion: the Fifth Column had been removed due to 'political correctness'

Jack 'Statesman' Emmert, then in charge of City of Heroes, was quick to dismiss the rumors. He insisted that the change was for reasons of unfolding plot planned far in advance, adding that '
We have a 550 pg. story bible. That's right. Story bible. That's the background of the game.' Subsequent comments from the developers have always backed this up, right up to Matt 'Positron' Miller's recent laconic answer 'story' when asked why the Fifth Column were removed.

Some players simply never bought this explanation. Some cited the problems with Castle Wolfenstein in Germany, and claimed no game with Nazi elements would be acceptable in that country. In response, other players suggested that the Fifth Column's lack of blatant Nazi references (such as the use of a custom logo and uniforms instead of swastikas) was evidence that they'd been designed around these restrictions. The issue refused to die, and in a poll conducted on the official forums, the Fifth Column were voted Favorite Villain Group even in absentia.

In November 2005, former CoH developer Manticore threw a spanner into the works by claiming the Fifth Column would be back: '
The 5th Column will be back, led by the butt kicking Reichsman. It will not be a kinder gentler Column, in fact it will be the harshest most brutal version of the group you have ever seen.' To the disappointment of many players, this did not happen in 2006.

Reichsman did not appear in 2007, either, although the Fifth Column did at last make a reappearance of sorts with Issue 11: A Stitch In Time. The Ouroboros time travel missions allowed heroes and villains alike to travel into the past, and learn the truth about the fall of the Fifth Column. Although the mission text emphasises the 'fascist' descriptor rather than the Nazi one, the Fifth were definitely back in the game.

Without giving any secrets away, there appears to be definite motion towards some sort of resurgence for the Fifth. In a recent interview, Joe 'Hero 1' Morrissey was asked about the elusive Reichsman, and gave a cryptic but encouraging response:

'If I remember correctly, Reichsman's actually frozen underneath the Freedom Phalanx's main headquarters. I can't give anything regarding plans we have for him, but just like some of the other things we talked about like the Rikti home world it comes up probably more than it should to be ignored.'

This article was originally published on Massively.