Inventions (usually referred to as IOs for "Invention Origin," which is a bit of a misnomer but keeps the naming convention) are Enhancements that break basically every rule that Enhancements follow. They don't care about your origin, much like the most basic Enhancements, but they also can't be combined with other Enhancements of the same type. This would make them less attractive for leveling except that they've got a major advantage: They don't expire with levels. Instead, they provide a flat benefit based on the level of the Enhancement.
A level 5 Damage IO will always provide the same bonus, no matter what level you are. You still can't equip one at level 1, but it's never going to go bad or become weaker.
IOs, simply put, are the key to becoming obscenely powerful, partly because of this. At low levels, IOs blow past Training, and they quickly become more powerful than DOs of an equivalent level. By the time you hit 36 or so, an IO is the equivalent of a SO, and they keep getting more powerful from there. Generally, two IOs provide the same net benefit as three SOs at the level cap when you take into account diminishing returns (three IOs hit that enhancement diversification cap pretty hard).
What's the drawback? Well, you have to craft or buy IOs. That's expensive. You either need to be lucky with drops or willing to farm up the money to buy ingredients and recipes off the auction block. So if you're looking for something cheap, fast, and functional, SOs still have the edge. If you really want to be the best in the business, you're going to need to start crafting some IOs.
This is especially true when you get into IO sets. Yes, as if IOs weren't powerful enough to begin with (and they were), there are also sets that give you more benefits as more parts of the set are equipped in a power. Each set works in a fairly straightforward fashion: You have a certain number of different enhancements for a given set. Each of those Enhancements improves more than one part of the power, such as Damage/Range or Accuracy/Recharge or Healing/Endurance or Defense/Recharge/Endurance... you get the idea. Individually these aren't quite as good as an IO improving a single aspect, but the cumulative effect is far greater.
You can only slot one of each type in a power, but as you slot more of the set into a power, you get other miscellaneous bonuses. So slotting two of the set might net you a 5% Defense buff, slotting three gets you a 10% Health increase, slotting four grants you a free Reward Merit when you log in and a self-buff made from the tears of free players. Did I mention that Inventions aren't part of the baseline experience for a free player?
Somewhat mercifully, there are other Enhancements that can buff more than one part of a power at once, most notably the Hamidon enhancements (also known as HOs, natch). Somewhat less mercifully, these require players to take part in one of the games only big endgame runs pre-Incarnate Trials. Fighting Hamidon is not something a lot of City of Heroes players cared for; if you did, more power to you. It's become somewhat obsolete in these days of IOs and Incarnates and such. The enhancements themselves are quite nice, with each one offering a small cornucopia of increases to various aspects of a given power. They're also not limited like IO sets, but they don't have the auxiliary benefits of same.
Last but not least, there are the brand-spanking-new Archetype Origin Enhancements. AOs are part of the whole Super Pack nonsense (which I've already talked about in detail on multiple occasions), with the core prcept being that they're specific rewards for your class rather than your origin. So there's a specific set for an Arachnos Soldier that provides benefits of singular use to an Arachnos Soldier, including corresponding procs. They're really IOs in spirit, but with slightly different equip conditions.
Is that everything? Not quite. There are still some odd corner cases, like the way that the Alpha Slot interacts with Enhancements, or the special enhancements that were basically obviated by Hamidon and then Inventions... but this should be enough to get you to a point that you can handle the system even if you've never been comfortable with it before. And if not... well, what can I say? The system is a great idea, but it's overly complicated.
As always, you can send feedback along to firstname.lastname@example.org or just leave it in the comments down below. Next week, I'm going to put on my comic book fan hat and talk about why City of Heroes is a pretty mediocre game of superheroes even while it's a great game.
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.