A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Freedom content

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
So last week, I had meant to cover all of the impressions from the head start of City of Heroes Freedom. What I actually managed to cover was the Paragon Market, which is to the whole of City of Heroes what my nose is to the rest of my face. It's not the first time that a small part has taken over a column, though, and so we're bravely forging ahead into the actual content updates that came along with this patch. And let's be honest, they're pretty significant -- a new zone, a new signature arc, changed power pools, and so forth.

Unfortunately, my time with the new content hasn't been as extensive as I would have liked, so there are some parts of the update that I really haven't gotten to sink my teeth into just yet. But I can definitely offer my feedback on what I have seen so far and hopefully rectify the stuff that I've still missed out on in the near future. So is this update all that and a bag of chips, or is it somewhat less awesome than advertised?

Scirocco is the most normal alive person among the patrons.  Think about this for just a moment.Lowered levels for patron/ancillary pools

This is pretty significant, all right. Kicking these powers down from the height of 41 to 35 means that the way you build characters is going to change, no matter what -- and it opens up an awful lot of builds that didn't exist before. In the very short version, your primary and secondary power choices mean less than they did before.

Think about it like this. Before, when you picked up these powers, you could hit four out of five, tops. Even the innate change to Fitness didn't alter this fact because by the time these pools opened up, you just didn't have enough power selections left to fully dive into a given epic pool. (I'm using "epic pool" collectively for these, since I recall the ancillaries had that name for a while and it's easier to type that.) That's a bit of a shame, since the epic pools often give individual characters access to stuff that just doesn't exist otherwise. Ancillary pools were specifically made for addressing usual weaknesses and shortcomings, even.

Now, though? Now you can pick up all of the powers without an issue. This means that if you want some sort of crazy Mace build with your Defender, you can actually pick it up -- and probably have the slots and power choices to make it work. It means that characters who want to branch more heavily into ranged attacks with melee archetypes (and vice-versa) can be made a bit more viable, and it severely relaxes the restrictions that had existed before on individual characters. Not to mention that if you're a VEAT, you can switch factions without missing your epic pool six levels earlier.

Verdict: Pretty awesome

Expanded travel power pools

Honestly, the thing that jumps out to me the most here is the inclusion of Long-Range Teleport. I've long been a bit miffed by the fact that CoH makes no distinction between characters who can teleport long distances and those who are restricted to shorter ranges -- you can't really build someone along the lines of Nightcrawler in a way that's distinct from Blink. Long-Range Teleport changes that, and the comic book nerd in me rejoices at that fact. It might be a silly thing to get excited about, but darn it, it's mine.

That having been said, for the most part the added powers don't really do anything miraculous or super-interesting. Refreshing all of your powers on a click (with the usual caveats) doesn't light me on fire, even though it's definitely useful. It's a solid way to keep the pools interesting, but not enough to make me jump up and down in excitement. Maybe if the other pools got a little more love.

Verdict: Functional.

At some point, I assume this happens in First Ward.  Perhaps at another point she gets pants.First Ward

I really didn't know what to expect from First Ward... and I still don't because the characters I felt like playing were all out of the level band for the zone. I haven't heard anything overwhelmingly good or bad, but that may or may not mean anything.

Verdict: Maybe?

Signature Story Arc

Here's the biggest problem with the arc as it stands: It's a task-force-limited set of missions that's hard-capped to level 20.

Let me just say that limiting the arc to level 20 was probably one of the worst possible moves the developers could go for, one that I really hope is corrected in future installments. I understand that the limit had to be set somewhere, given the way they wanted this to be run, but the problem is that level 20 and level 30 are both equally reasonable points to aim for. In the latter case, however, you have the vast majority of your powers, you're still not able to Incarnate bull-rush through everything, and you generally can feel epic. At level 20, you still feel like only a few steps up from a chump. Depending on your build, you might not have even put a travel power in your setup for that level band. (Respec at 40, you know you aren't going to slot that power, why bother picking it up on an early choice?)

Now, I'm sure that having it in a task force setup makes a big difference for designing the content itself to be easy to repeat without some bizarre workarounds. But it also doesn't help the content feel any less repetitive, and as others have stated, it means you can't stop in the middle and pick it up again later. This would be a bigger problem if the arc weren't fairly short; as it is, it's still troublesome.

But those are minor quibbles. How does it play? In a word... well, it's good to mediocre. There's nothing bad in the mix, which is good. There are a few bits of challenge in there, which might not be altogether welcomed by every player, but still, it was solid.

The problem is, "solid" is not good enough for the first entry. I understand that the team has to leave something waiting in the wings for future installments, but this genuinely didn't wow me. It felt kind of short and mostly redeemed itself through rewards, as opposed to just being a good chunk of storytelling. Compared to the Praetorian story arcs, the whole exercise just felt sort of lackluster.

This is one of those things that's a main selling point for VIP membership -- the fact that you won't be dropping five bucks a month on the arcs any longer. Unfortunately, this just doesn't sell itself. The next installment is going to have a big hurdle.

Verdict: Uninspiringly OK.

New starter area

Yeah, I'm having a hard enough time focusing on leveling characters these days. I took a pass on this for the moment. Maybe next time?

Verdict: Cannot possibly be worse than what came before.

Overall

If I sound a little underwhelmed on the content side, that's because I am. It's not as if anything in the update felt outright broken or empty, but it didn't feel like a game changer. If not for the fact that the market and the beginnings of the free-to-play model started here, I don't think anyone would really be remembering this update.

It's not bad. But "not bad" isn't the same as "good," and for existing VIPs, this wasn't the strongest enticement to stick around. Let's see what pops out of the market in the near future and get back to this.

As always, feedback is welcome in the comments or via mail to eliot@massively.com. Next week, it's time for the next part of the villainous spotlights that I'm doing, one that's been delayed for a very long time due to a heavy dose of Freedom. I'm sure you understand.

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.