I was sorely tempted to purchase a Razer Naga for City of Heroes, but it was Star Trek Online that finally pushed me over the edge. (Flying the ship with your mouse is the only way to go.) But that initial reasoning behind wanting one was a supicion deep within my brain that the mouse and the game would go together like peanut butter and chocolate, if the chocolate itself were already mixed with peanut butter. As it turns out, I was entirely right about that.

You've heard me wax poetic about the little gadget before as a fine investment, but this is A Mild-Mannered Reporter, not Eliot Talks About Products He Likes. And before you drop money on a product, it's best to know how it's going to help you in practical terms rather than in abstract capabilities. So let's talk about using that Naga to really augment your City of Heroes experience, making you faster, more dangerous, and better able to manage complicated situations.

The keys that bind

A confession: Prior to purchasing this mouse, I was an adamant clicker. Keybinds were, in my mind, something that existed mostly for players who were better able to dance across the keyboard than I.

Mind you, I never really had a good excuse for not manning up and learning to use keybinds properly. It's not as if I can't type fast enough to hit the number keys during combat, nor is it fair to say that I was uncomfortable with using a fairly elaborate set of commands. But for whatever stupid reason, I obstinately refused to put two and two together, instead crippling myself by clicking around at urgent abilities.

The Naga broke me of that habit. And it will break you of that habit, as well. Even though the 11 and 12 keys (corresponding to the "-" and "=" keys on the number row, naturally) won't see much use in CoH, you'll still find yourself quickly using your right thumb to enter commands instead of just hammering away along the top row, or far more likely, moving your cursor slowly to the icon in question and tapping on it.

While this might seem like a fairly minor deal, consider the case of the DP/Kin Corruptor, which was one of my first trials-by-fire for the Naga in game. For a long stretch of solo-leveling, I was essentially immune to melee damage because I had one hand on the movement controls and a totally different hand at once targeting and using abilities. That meant I could absorb speed, skate well out of range, dash away after a quick shot, absorb again when the duration was near exhausted, etc. Even if I had been better about using keybinds, the amount of movement would have been darn near impossible without my taking both hands off the mouse -- which would create a whole different set of problems.

And if you are equally bad and eschew keybinds, don't fear. It's a naturally occuring habit that's hard to break. But no matter how good you are without proper keybinds, you will be better with them. The decrease in lag is almost impossible to explain, especially if you arrange your keys properly (you probably want your most frequently used abilities on 1-3, with the higher numbers reserved for situational skills or those with long cooldowns). Practice a bit, force yourself to start learning, and use tools to make it easier -- which is precisely what the Naga does.

Mapping it out

OK, so it'll be easier to hit your action bars and faster. That's great, but there's more you can do to make your experience even easier, because the entire mouse can have its keys reconfigured quite easily. Better yet, those configurations can be saved in separate profiles, so you can use the default features most of the time and switch to a CoH-specific profile when you're in-game.

For example, right near the left button are two little buttons that work as forward/back buttons in a browser, which is great, but you aren't using a browser in-game, and you can probably find better things for those two keys to do. Ditto for the 11 and 12 keys, which don't feature on the CoH action bars and therefore would otherwise wind up being wasted space. No, the game itself can't bind to those keys, but you can create a profile in which those buttons open your map screen, toggle auto-run, tab through targets, etc.

For example, let's say you have three rows of action bars stacked to the left, with the bottom row bound to 1-10, middle row to Alt + 1-10, top row to Shift + 1-10. You can hit Shift and Alt pretty easily with your left hand without moving away from the movement keys... but why bother? Why not just bind those two superfluous left buttons to Alt and Shift, thereby allowing you to access all of your abilities with your right hand? Or you could shrink down to just one row and change the forward/back buttons to change your bar page, switching between a single context-based setup as needed.

Or maybe you have no problem making the pinky shift necessary to hit the modifier keys. That's fine; there are other options. It's always inconvenient to have to move halfway across the keyboard to open the map pane, after all. So map one of the left-side buttons to the "M" key and check destinations on the fly. Set one button as the camera reset if you're using the free-look function often. Heck, set the keys to change your pitch in-flight to make maneuvering that much easier.

You also have the Naga's built-in macro functionality, and here I have to admit that my knowledge starts fading into nigh-uselessness, as I haven't spent much time with the functions. There's every reason to believe that the macro functions can be used to make a regularly posted string of text appear in your chat window at the touch of a button, which is certainly useful if you're advertising for a group for this week's Strike Target. Presumably you could also do a certain amount of functional automation with said macros, although that starts getting into dangerous territory. Botting is bad; stay clear of it.

Snakes in the grass

I will admit that I adore this particular mouse, and on its face that might seem a bit ridiculous -- it's a kind of pricey toy that adds no new functions but rather replicates existing ones. But the way in which it does so makes it at once unique and useful, and it's a boon to any CoH player.

Comments and questions can be sent to eliot@massively.com or left in the comment field as always. Next week, we're going to talk about the master of puppets, hopefully without having to make any references to Metallica. (Comments making such references may be deleted. Not making any promises here.)

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.
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