If there's one thing that constantly amazes me, it's how many great ideas exist that I would never have come up with on my own. Playing through Mission Architect in City of Heroes just drives that point home -- as a longtime fan of superheroes in general and the game in particular, it's not as if I don't have ideas of my own. And then I have a stack of arcs sitting on my desk (metaphorically) that don't even use any of the same conceptual space but are filled with even better ideas. That's inspiring.

After several sources of delay -- including fatigue, patch releases, internet problems, chupacabra, and continuity resets -- I've finally had enough time to dive into some of the arcs that I've had submitted to me and really give them the attention they deserve. What follows are my sometimes-disconnected thoughts on the various arcs, some tips and opinions, and how I'm going to handle the mountain of arcs I still have left to play through. Plus future arcs, since I can't leave well enough alone.

The Golden Age Secret of the Paragon Society (#344596)
Author: @Wrong Number

Here's an arc that I've already played multiple times, but not because it was the best thing I've ever seen -- because I was dumb and insisted on playing it alone when it was clearly meant for a full team. The first time I was very thoroughly curbstomped because I forgot how out-of-date some of my scrapper's Enhancements actually were, so things went better the second time around. But fairly warned be ye, this is not an arc friendly to those without at least a couple of friends to run alongside. Scrappers have always been resilient; they are an aberration.

That having been said, this is an interesting piece, not only because it involves the Fifth Column -- which is a plus point for me, as I've said before -- but because it manages to verge into pathos without getting obnoxious. That's a difficult line to walk in any sort of game, but it becomes much harder in the four-color world of City of Heroes. I don't want to give the plot twist away, but suffice to say that one exists, and it's pretty nifty. What starts out as a romp against everyone's favorite fascist running dogs at the behest of an aging World War II hero quickly turns into an interesting story about nature versus nurture -- as well as a look at just how robust the Fifth Column's projects have turned out.

As mentioned, this is really a team mission, not a solo one. There's also an ally for a couple of the missions that will take a fair chunk of experience, as he's quite powerful and will handily cleave through most enemies. But the arc performs one of the most difficult tasks in CoH content with grace, as the maps are just long enough to be engaging and just short enough that you never feel as if the mission is interminable.

If you don't have a team, you'll be hard-pressed to run the arc. If you have a team with no concern for story, you might be a bit underwhelmed. But if you have a team looking for a fine arc, this is definitely up there. Plus, as mentioned, Fifth Column.

A Clone of Your Own? (#453091)
Author: @Bubbawheat

This one won me over because it involved doppelgangers. The doppelganger system is one of my favorite added parts of the entire game, and so I do kind of scoop up these missions whenever they become available. I dove headlong into the arc, expecting all of the fun that mad scientists and cloning can provide. (And while I'm on the subject, why don't we have a Mission Architect version of the interminable Clone Saga yet? Someone get on that.)

The arc is going to be familiar to anyone who's run the villainous cloning arc, albeit without the political maneuvering and elite boss at the end. Essentially, you get a message from yourself, which leads you onto the trail of the Freakshow and a bit of an ego conflict between two equally dysfunctional scientists over who gets the notes for the cloning machine. A good romp, and fairly short. For the most part, it's ideal for any group size and skill level.

Only two little issues bring down the experience, and neither of them really cropped up until the last mission. The first was the fact that there are enemies who wind up resurrecting one another in true Freakshow fashion, resulting in larger groups becoming really annoying for a primarily single-target fighter. The second... there's a spot on the second floor where I wound up with a knot of enemies too huge to fight through, forcing a bit of creative power use and some dancing to complete the mission. It might have just been me, or it might have been bad luck.

Either way, the arc is short, sweet, and doesn't overstay or understay its welcome. It's a fun romp for players, and one I intend to go through again.

Too Clever by Half (#378944)
Author: @Samuraiko

To finish things off, I decided to entertain myself with a bit of a low-level romp involving a bit more mad science -- a villainous scheme that doesn't actually work quite right. And as you might expect, it doesn't work quite right in a very entertaining fashion. Calling it villainous almost feels too harsh.

Put it this way: You're helping Sciencemaster Adler. Except his hamster (plant) smartener doesn't even work as intended.

The weird part of this mission was that the opening of it was almost criminally eerie, with a number of science-spouting Bladegrass stalking through a building in their slow shuffling manner. Truth be told, it felt like the opening to a much more serious piece, something very surrealistic and almost reminiscent of Silent Hill. Of course, immediately after that we're back into the comedy, but it was a bit of tonal disconnect. Maybe it was just my headspace at the time I ran it. I don't know.

Comedy arcs, by their very nature, can only run for a short time before they start to grate on you a bit, but this one runs the gag exactly as far as it ought to -- no further, no shorter. If it has a real flaw, it's just the low-level nature of it, which means that higher-level players are going to feel a bit constrained. Still, it's a short little piece and well worth the time to just kick back and enjoy. Sometimes, you just need to indulge in some wanton destruction, after all.

...and the rest...

This was not the limit of the arcs I was given. Not by far. Almost everyone submitted multiple arcs for my consideration, and so I wound up tossing names in a hat to pick out the first three arcs I covered. Needless to say, this is a vein of material that I will be coming back to in the not-too-distant future.

And to clarify something that an awful lot of people seemed unclear on -- of course you can submit your own arcs. I'm happy to give a look at anyone's arcs, whether they were crafted by you or other players, but I'm doubly happy when I can spotlight something made by readers. I kind of like you guys.

Next week, we're going to be driving in a different direction, quite possibly taking another look at players who haven't tried the game before and need to know where to start. Until then, you can share your thoughts or arcs via the comment field or by email to eliot@massively.com. If your arc wasn't one of the ones featured here, fear not -- I have a stack of further arcs to get to, and you will not go unviewed.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.

This article was originally published on Massively.
A whole new world: Nadirim moves into closed beta