We're halfway through the rundowns of the archetypes in City of Heroes, one of those milestones that seems that it ought to be easy but always takes longer than you'd expect. And while I could just spin on to the next archetype straightaway, I decided instead to take the time to look at the method behind the writeups to date. You could argue that this is the sort of thing that really would have made more sense if it came before the evaluations, but this way I have actual examples to point to instead of just a lot of concepts.

In many ways, writing about the archetypes is a minefield because you aren't writing about a simple class. You could argue that there are 14 classes in the game without too much trouble, but even the most limited of those classes has well over three dozen different combinations of powers available. And that's not even getting into the fact that each archetype has its own default identity and role within a group and the simple fact that City of Heroes encourages players to make whatever they want. It's not a skill-based game, but trying to shoehorn each archetype into an overall class mold isn't always conducive to making people happy.

Metrics

When I started doing the Scrapper piece, I had to decide right away how I was going to evaluate powersets. And it's hard, because there are four different metrics that are easily used and not necessarily mutually compatible.

Let's look at the (ahem) beloved Elec/SD Scrapper setup. In group play, this is an absolute powerhouse, especially if you've got a Defender backing you up with improved Endurance boosters. You can rush into huge packs right alongside the tank, tear up huge amounts of area damage, and even manage pretty well as an off-tank if your enormous nukes generate too much threat. Of course, you're going to have a much harder life while solo -- you'll be high on avoidance and leeching Endurance, sure, but all it takes is a few bad rolls to seriously ruin your day. And isn't the combination kind of nonsensical from a roleplaying standpoint?

Between group play, solo play, PvP, and simple roleplaying, there are a lot of different factors to consider before you call one set or another good or bad. As I'm not very well qualified to talk on CoH's PvP, I've tried to split the evaluation between solo and group play, which also means leaving out some of the nicest-looking sets aside from mentioning that they're thematic. (I love Dual Blades, for instance, but it's just not that competitive in game terms.) The bright side is that this has the benefit of being backed up by numbers to an extent instead of just personal preference.

Playstyle

But personal preference does still play a part, inevitably, because a lot of sets are shared. Dark Miasma is shared across both Corruptors and Defenders, for instance, and while I think it's an OK set for the latter, it's a pretty good set for the former. What gives? It's not like Corruptors have some sort of ultra-awesome hidden power in the set.

The difference is one in playstyle. And here is where the advent of faction-changing and ubiquitous archetypes have forced a big rethink, at least from my standpoint, because hybrid sets are much more appealing on hybrid archetypes than on "pure" ones.

I've said many times that blue-side archetypes are more focused on performing a pure role in a group, while red-siders can do multiple things depending on context. That means that if I want to create a new Praetorian to be a healing character, I'm going to pick a Defender over a Corruptor every day, even though I could make either one Rad/Rad just as easily. And thus, when and if I make a Defender, I'm going to place more weight on powersets that prioritize healing and support over debuffing and damage.

This part really comes down to personal preference. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have had immense success as a Sonic/Sonic Defender, and that's great. Given the choice, however, I'm going to pick a combination of powers that's more oriented toward ensuring that I can pull a teammate out of the fire if necessary. And if you're a new player starting fresh and trying to decide between a more debuff-oriented Defender set or a more support-oriented set, I'm going to recommend the latter.

Like I said, I have to pick some metrics and apply them. Going either way is going to mean some sets, possibly even good ones, get panned in favor of other sets. Or we could just agree that everything is awesome.

Really, everything is awesome

As a final point of ethos, I wanted to point out that when you get right down to it, the focus of the series is "here's which sets I'd recommend," not "you are bad and your character choices are bad." Quite frankly, when I'm making a new character, optimal performance is not my top concern so much as is making a superhero who hangs together in some fashion.

I mean, seriously. I've got a Fire/Fire tanker who graces the top of every single column these days (she's due for a remake, as the character hit a horrid slump in the 20s that made her less fun to play, but that's another story). I play the admittedly mixed bag of Dual Blades and the completely group-useless Regeneration on my main Scrapper, because I like it. My Brutes frequently are either terrible tanks or terrible damage dealers, though less by design and more by just plain accident.

But if you're new to an archetype? Well, there are some choices that will make your class' main focus remarkably easy and others that are going to be a challenge. So I'll point you to those. But Elec/SD still makes zero thematic sense.

That's this week's column -- a touch of slightly lighter fare before next week's PAX offerings, which I assume will rock everyone's face off. (I confess that I don't have control over the portion of face-rocking to come.) The week after that, it's time to dive back into the archetypes and look at the brains behind the operation.

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.