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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Spotlight on the Freakshow in City of Heroes

Eliot Lefebvre

There are three basic tiers that the villains in City of Heroes occupy. At the bottom you've got guys like the Hellions and the Skulls, chumps with just enough superhuman ability to deal with low-level heroes and villains. In the middle are groups like the Trolls and the Family, groups that either lack organization but have power or have organization but lack power. At the top are people like the Circle of Thorns or Nemesis, organized societies with villainous intent.

The Freakshow are another ballgame because they're not organized at all, but they break to the top through sheer power.

If you're going to be facing off against street thugs in the highest levels of the game, you'll be dealing with the Freakshow, and that's true of both villains and heroes. The gang is just a group of punks without any real goals or overriding drive, and yet they're a big enough force that even Arachnos has to deal with them from time to time. So it's worth looking at the group as a whole, since they're a bigger threat than they get credit for even if they don't have any sort of real goal.


Like a lot of the gangs plaguing Paragon City, the Freakshow aren't new. The gang existed in one form or another for a long time, in much the same way that anarchist gangs always exist. Get a bunch of nihilistic young men with more testosterone than good sense in one place, and the next thing you know you're throwing bricks through windows to spite The Man. What is new is the fact that the gang managed to catch bigger prey than it bargained for when it hijacked a Crey Industries truck.

Crey, in one of many classic moneymaking schemes, developed a drug that gave users a mild narcotic buzz, an increased tolerance to pain, and enhanced regenerative capabilities. Rather than simply bottle this and sell it to everyone everywhere as a way to feel 21 again, Crey planned to sell it to the military. The Freakshow tried it, and then someone floated the idea that this would be a great time for everyone to get his arms replaced with hammers.

Ridiculous? A little. But the biggest problem with organ replacement is that the body has a hard time adapting to new pieces being added. The drug in question erased that problem altogether. Suddenly Freakshow members were able to just hack off a limb and replace it quickly with something more apt to cause destruction. A group of anarchistic punks suddenly had enough power to flatten even a hero with serious chops. Then came recruitment, and if you think there aren't a lot of young men out there happy for a chance to experience exceptional power and unrestrained violence without consequence, you've clearly never watched Fight Club.

Group activities and goals

The Freakshow want to break everything. There, simple.

I'm exaggerating a little, but the organization as a whole doesn't have a goal. It's rebellion and rage for the sake of rebellion and rage, aided by the fact that members are now cybernetically enhanced narcotic junkies. Some freaks want to replace their worthless bodies with better alternatives, others want to make a statment about the beauty of fusing man with machine, and still others just want to smash things with particular skill. It really doesn't influence the group as a whole. Individual groups will have individual goals, and they're not really directed.

What can be expected is that freaks will move into an area, look for some new tech to fuse into their bodies, and then generally start causing mayhem. Think the Skulls and Hellions writ large: They just want mayhem, but they've got the actual firepower to get some really good mayhem going. That means fights with other members of the underground, fights with superheroes, fights with cops, fights with villains, and outright mayhem if there's nothing around to fight. The one thing that the group isn't usually motivated by is money, mostly since freaks aren't keen on the idea of personal property to begin with.

His nipple rings provide excellent WiFi reception.Notable members

Dreck leads the Freakshow as a whole, mostly by being the biggest and baddest one on the block. If he has a goal more elaborate than "sow chaos," he's declined to make it public. The other two major Freakshow leaders are Bile and Clamor, both of whom are known to be relentlessly violent for no good reason. (Clamor in particular wound up hitting a brick wall when it came to working with the Council, which speaks volumes about her overall level of discipline and organized goals.

In other words, they're kind of devoid of personality. Then again, they're also half-robotic narcotic-addled freaks, so there's only so much you can really expect.

The other noteworthy member of the Freakshow is Doc Buzzsaw, mostly by virtue of being a contact for anyone in the Rogue Isles. Buzzsaw's main goal is to create a magically infused freak, which goes about as well as you could expect. (Not ending in rainbows and laughter, in other words.) Her presence is mostly important because it indicates just how huge the Freakshow has grown: She's a former Vahzilok who decided to hop over to more fertile experimentation ground. The Freaks are outright deforming the organization of criminals around them, in other words.

Could I be one?

The biggest obstacle that faces anyone making a proper freak is the fact that most cybernetic additions in the game look too clean. Freakshow additions have a hard, utilitarian look to them, like a cybernetic arm assembled from toasters. That doesn't jibe with a lot of the cyborg parts you can access in the costume creator.

However, that doesn't mean that you can't be one; it just means that you might face some slight issues in terms of adoption. You could always claim that you had your back-alley cybernetics replaced with some more photogenic options once you left the freaks behind. Or perhaps you just got your hammers on some particularly potent salvage.

Parting thoughts

Fighting the Freakshow can be darned annoying, even moreso than dealing with the relentless zombie puke of the Vahzilok. They're also nearly omnipresent for certain level bands, and that level of familiarity always breeds some contempt.

Really, the Freakshow are used just right in the game -- they're generally punching bags for more organized groups, but they're also not pushovers. A tank is a scary opponent, but the Freakshow don't usually plot, and deciphering the freaks' schemes is a matter of beating them up and following the trail of discussion. And at the high end of power in City of Heroes, you need someone who can provide a credible threat without being too epic in scope.

Feedback can be left in the comments below or sent along to Next week, I want to take a look at the ways in which CoH breaks the usual mold of MMOs right from the start and how that both helps and hurts new players entering the 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.

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