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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: It's all a Nemesis plot

Eliot Lefebvre

City of Heroes has a lot going for it, but it doesn't offer an easy nemesis for your character. Which is kind of a problem in a superhero game, but also a problem in the sense that you always want a nemesis in a game. You want someone that's just plain bad, a villain whose motives you don't need to understand in great depth. Every so often, it's nice to just have an adversary.

I think that was, at one point, the goal behind Nemesis. But the group has wound up in a very different and much less entertaining place.

At a glance, Nemesis isn't really all that overused in City of Heroes. Sure, there's the vague implication that he's behind a lot of different schemes, but for the most part that's just window-dressing. Despite the fact that I should adore a group of steampunk criminals in modern-day Paragon City, I feel my hackles raise every time Nemesis shows up, because the group and the leader are both massively overdone.

The gas mask keeps him breathing refreshing, revitalizing steam.First of all, let's recap for those not familiar. Nemesis is a villainous group founded by Lord Nemesis, a mechanical mastermind who's been around for at least 180-odd years. He's a brilliant man with long schemes to bring the Earth under his complete control, probably, and he clashes with heroes regularly as part of those elaborate plans. Probably. He's also got what are likely a number of robotic duplicates that he can presumably use as decoys. Assuming one of these duplicates hasn't taken over for him, that is. And assuming that there's even an actual Nemesis in the first place.

Therein is the first part of what's really annoying about Nemesis -- there's always an angle. Something is always hidden, there's always a plot or a scheme, there's always one or two pieces of information that just aren't being made public. The next arc with Nemesis could reveal that it was actually an AI from the future and all the robots pretending to be Nemesis were just deceiving themselves, and it would fit perfectly with established lore.

Of course, we do know with absolute certainty what Nemesis has done within the game itself. That listing includes... well, more or less everything that's happened in the game world. Nemesis was behind the invasion of the Rikti. Nemesis has its fingers in the whole Praetoria mess. Nemesis is probably responsible for the fact that when you got to the store, someone already took the last blueberry muffin.

Nemesis, in other words, is an endless and sprawling villainous organization that has its fingers everywhere and always wins, even if somehow you manage to thwart its plans. You try to stop them, you find out that they expected your interference and so on and so forth, now you actually advanced their plans after all. Really, you may as well have not bothered.

The problem isn't that Nemesis is running schemes; that's fine. The problem is that Nemesis schemes are always dominant. There's no way to do something that Nemesis doesn't know about, no way to prevent Nemesis from accomplishing a goal, and no way to actually stop Nemesis. Why would they bother properly taking over the world? They already control it.

These people do not make good enemies.

I started disliking Nemesis around the same time that they started playing with the idea of Nemesis being behind the Rikti invasion. That alone was kind of a problem. The Rikti were fine as a major threat on their own, an alien version of humanity that wanted a new world to satisfy their imperialist desires. By adding Nemesis into the mix, they're essentially reduced to a interdimensional catspaw. That makes them seem significantly less threatening while raising all sorts of questions about how, exactly, Nemesis plotted all of this out in advance.

Same haircut, probably the same dude.But the problem goes beyond that. Despite the name, Nemesis just isn't all that satisfying to fight against, and not just because they have a near-universal pass to advance their goals in the end.

Most of the enemies in City of Heroes fall into a few categories. They're either street gangs, jackbooted minions, or obvious monsters. There's overlap in some areas -- the Rikti, for instance, are jackbooted monsters -- but there isn't a whole lot of thought required for any of them. You can understand why these people need to be beaten up, because they're doing horrible things, planning to do horrible things, or are just plain hostile to human life.

Except that Nemesis troops are jackbooted minions to a cause you don't actually know about. They're trying to accomplish something, and for all you know it's better to just let them get on with it. You just don't know enough about their goals, so even if you weren't perpetually getting the football yanked away from you at the last second, there's a lack of satisfaction in each victory.

I get where the group was supposed to go -- what the team at Paragon Studios was trying to emulate. But at this point I can't help but shake my head when something turns out to be a Nemesis plot, because it's just a tired punchline to a bad joke.

Oh, and he's probably also Mender Silos. Which might mean that the entire Ouroboros thing might actually be another cog in the overall Nemesis plot. At that point, why not just have Nemesis show up to create your character for you? It's the path we're heading down anyway.

Agree? Disagree? Think I'm getting a little too worked up over a relatively minor part of the game's lore? Let me know down in the comments or via mail to Next week, I'm going the opposite route and talking about distinctly underused villain groups in CoH.

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.

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