WF: What a Riot!

Synopsis:  STRONGHOLD, PART ONE!  Stronghold: a name to bring fear to supervillains everywhere-an inescapable prison in the heart of the Southwestern Desert.  UNTIL NOW!  A massive breakout of unprecedented proportions has begun, and the one thing between the super-powered criminals and the general population of the country is Willforge!  But can he discover the hidden hand behind this horrific event?

It’s been a slow week or so for Willforge in Champions Online.  This is, in part, due to the fact that there have been a couple other releases in the other games I play lately (the Iokath entry in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the Escalation in Star Trek Online-comments on that will be forthcoming).  So, no new levels gained, although I’m not far from 26 at this point.  Plot-wise, I’ve done a chunk of the Argent pipeline missions in Canada, although there are a couple left behind because I didn’t want to skip an arc in the Desert:  the Stronghold breakout.

This is a staple, sadly, in superhero MMOs.  (I can’t really speak for DC Universe Online, but I’m willing to place bets they have the same issue somewhere.)  There’s an open zone with a prison, and there is a massive breakout happening.  City of Heroes led the way with the Zig in Brickstown, but CO really embraced it, with not just one, but TWO breakouts.  There’s the jail in Millennium City, with a big hole in the freaking wall and a heap of rioting prisoners, but that’s just cake compared to what’s going on in the Desert in Stronghold.

Stronghold is supposed to be where they keep the baddest of the bad, supervillains of incredible power.  Well, it also holds lesser super-villains, too; my impression is that folks in the Millennium City jail wind up here if they’ve got significant powers.  But it’s really known for holding the really super-powerful, one of whom has orchestrated the breakout by mind-controlling guards.  So the heroes have to-again-deal with rioting prisoners, PLUS controlled guards, and get to the bottom of the situation.

If I ever designed a superhero MMO, I’d make sure that any prison breaks are in instances and not in general zones.  I know that prison-breaks are a common trope of the genre, but it’s hard to take seriously any prison that can’t hold most of its prisoners.  Mass escapes should NOT be happening 24/7.  It gives credence to vigilantes like Marvel’s Punisher, whose preferred method of dealing with criminals involves a bullet to the head; he doesn’t have to worry about constant recurring problems in villainy….

I think I’m also at the point where I may supplement my missioning activity with the Alert queues; not only do they give an xp boost to normal activity (at least the ones I’ll be doing-more on that when the time comes), but they also reward a decent hunk of xp all on their own.  It’s getting to the point where level slow downs start happening, and this could help things out a great deal.  The character should be good enough at this stage to not be a burden on a team going through the Alerts.

An Eternal Alliance Versus Gods

It’s been a while since we looked in on Star Wars: The Old Republic, hasn’t it?

If I never see another throne as long as I live, it’ll be too soon.

From a playing standpoint, going through the legion of alts, I’m just about to have my Sith Inquisitor go through Nathema, after slaughtering everyone who’s irritated him up to now; it’s going to be very interesting when he gets to the end of the Knights of the Eternal Throne story, with the body count he’s racked up.  Once he’s done, I think the next on my list will be my Trooper-but that’s got a ways to go, given my current Champions Online focus.  Well, that, plus the point of this post.

It’s the first chunk of content released since the Eternal Throne fell to the Alliance (is it really that much of a spoiler that the PCs are victorious?).  And it seems that the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic are already positioning themselves to kick off their own war again.  However, the force that is the Alliance is the pivot, the determining factor that both sides see as important.

So naturally, the first thing they do is piss off the Alliance by going to Iokath, a world introduced in KotET, and a presumed super-weapon located there.  It’s no coincidence that the Alliance, the Empire, and the Republic all converge at this same location at this same time.  Something’s up here, and it’s up to the Alliance Commander-that’s you, just as a reminder-to unravel what’s going on, and secure the super-weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.

One problem to be encountered early is:  whose are the right hands?  Early on, you are approached by representatives of the Republic and the Empire, urging you to side with them.  Players of Sith Warrior and Trooper characters will immediately recognize these reps.  That choice declares the Alliance irrevocably to one side or the other.  (Sadly, there is no option for “A pox on both your houses!”  Admittedly, the Alliance has their biggest sticks negated for story reasons for most of your time here, but still.)  While there’s a feature that will allow you to switch factional support on a regular basis, the initial choice here is what locks in the character story as to whose side the Alliance is ultimately on.

The true miracle is that they aren’t trying to kill each other.

Because your character is Destiny’s Chew Toy, the Commander will get a chance to say hello to another familiar faction-or what’s left of it-after they were more or less completely sidelined during KotET (some help they were…), and discover that the gods of Zakuul have a basis in fact.  By the time you’re done, that choice you made as to what government to support will have very permanent consequences-and opens the door to the raid content that the developers promised the players.  (Full disclosure-I’m unlikely to bother on those; I’m notoriously unwilling to bother with raids more complicated than the City of Heroes trials.)

Despite the fact that there are two companions returning in this chapter, you’ll only get one of them per character (although if you’re a Trooper or a Sith Warrior, you could conceivably pull off both by use of the Companion terminal back on Odessen; I haven’t tried this, so can’t confirm if it is possible).  There’s an issue with getting said companions, though; posts on the official forums indicate that some folks aren’t getting a companion out of this; I’m one of them, at least on my Smuggler.  My Agent had no issues there, with the companion showing up after the primary storyline was complete.  It’s not obvious, though-there’s very little fanfare in comparison with even the Alliance Alert companions.   The devs have indicated they are aware of this, so hopefully a fix is going in.  I don’t know if there is more fanfare for characters who have previously romanced those companions, though, so I don’t know if there’s more dialogue involved-be wary about going through this with Troopers or Warriors until the bug is fixed, just in case.

The quest line here does include participation in a raid, but that isn’t a requirement to get the companion or to finish the storyline-which, incidentally, will continue; there is a dangerous loose end here on Iokath that could spell the beginning of the end of the Alliance-or maybe just you.  Valkorion did say that there were people who meant you harm way back in Knights of the Fallen Empire….  Given the nature of that threat, players of the Imperial Agent will feel right at home.  (“Another conspiracy?  How novel.”)

In addition to the story and raid, there are daily missions here, and if you found the structure similar to Oricon, you wouldn’t be far off.  After all, Oricon had a storyline, leading to a raid, and had a heap of daily missions.  I haven’t noticed any Heroic dailies, but I haven’t looked hard at it.  There’s a new Reputation, based upon the side you choose for your Alliance, and a new vendor with stuff to use.  There’s also a new currency that is used to purchase the equipment (along with credits), although that currency can also be used to purchase special buffs with which to take on the dangers on Iokath.

Play-wise, it’s not incredibly difficult, although there are a couple of mechanics in big battles that might cause issues, particularly to DPS-focused characters; having a high-influence healing companion out may not be the worst thing you can do for those fights, particularly one early one.  Be aware that they may not necessarily be simple “survive and shoot them down”-paying attention to the environment will help defeat those encounters.  Expect another trip in a walker, too.  (Golden quote from the Republic side:  “Eh.  I’ve seen bigger.”  Iokath really spoiled my characters as far as the size of walkers…)

All in all, it’s not a horrible update; it’s got its bugs, and it’s not as in-depth as the missions we’ve seen in the last couple of years.  But it is more significant than an Alliance Alert, and it does include the return of companions for the Trooper and Sith Warrior (if that doesn’t glitch out on you), so it’s at least progress on my pet peeve.

The Cast List: Introducing Jenled Lar of Star Trek Online

Here we go-the first of my Cast List, one of my captains in the Star Trek Online MMO.

My attempt to redeem Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s uniforms.

The character’s name is Jenled Lar, and his creation came about for two reasons.  The first was that I wanted to use some of those uniforms I’d purchased in the C-Store over time; the uniforms from Star Trek: The Motion Picture get a lot of grief, and I wanted to see if I could do something with them that made them look a little less…bad.  The second was that this was during a period of time when I wanted to see about the RP scene in STO, and most of my other characters were committed to my main Fleet.

Right off the bat, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I’d purchased the Joined Trill species for this captain.  With some thought, I figured I’d make him a Tactical captain flying tactical escorts-my usual methodology was to mix and match ship and captain types (my main Starfleet guy, for example, is a Tactical captain who flies cruisers).  He’s not the first Tactical/Tactical character I’ve made (and I’m likely to come back to that in a future post)  The character’s appearance is a bit swarthier than my norm, but I figured it would make him stand out a bit more-as if the uniform wasn’t enough.

I managed to get Jenled up to level 50-ish.  That would allow me to put him into a Sao Paulo class escort, which is a Defiant variant-which includes a phaser quad-cannon.  I made sure to add photon torpedoes as the weapon of choice, as I wanted something that had a faster recharge time than my usual quantum torpedoes.  I didn’t go all out with gear-after all, the good stuff tends to go with my primary guys, the ones I’ve spent the most time with, and Jenled wasn’t one of them.

The final bit for the character was story.  If this was going to be a character to RP with, I wanted to have something to hang on him.  I didn’t write up any big fiction for him (as I’m wont to do), but I did at least give him a background where he rose to command after decking his Commanding Officer; there were extenuating circumstances, such as that she was currently mentally impaired at the time.  That got him a transfer off that ship-with his former CO’s blessing-and into the center-seat of a new one:  the Gullwind (named after a ship from an old RPG I’d played long, long ago).

I actually did manage briefly to join an RP fleet in the game for a couple of weeks; but it didn’t really wind up being a good fit for me, and other fleets I’d looked over in that time really didn’t seem like they would be good fits either.  So Jenled stopped advancing, and he got put into the cooler.  I still enjoyed putting this character together, and remains a character I’ll occasionally play when I just want to mess around.

The Cast List: An Introduction

I’ve run into any number of occasions where, in between new content in the MMOs I play and the work on commenting on current character activity, I run into periods of time where there just ain’t all that much going on.  Whether it’s a minor content drought or a period of time where I haven’t really gotten much done in my assorted games, I sometimes run into long stretches were I just have nothing to really post about-and accordingly, sometimes there’s a significant gap in between blog posts.  (Or, on occasion, I am away from the nearest gaming computer and thus unable to do anything, which leads to “nothing to post on” and so forth.)

This hasn’t been a major issue of late; my rededication to posting up on the activities of new characters has helped a lot; but it’s always wise to look ahead.

It occurred to me that what I could do is have the occasional post that showcases past characters, then.  I’m an altoholic-I blame City of Heroes for that, but it was already beginning to bloom as far back as World of Warcraft.  I imagine the only reason it didn’t go hog wild in Star Wars Galaxies was that-at the time I played-there was a 1 character per server limit.  And even then, I just made a character on a different server.  (After the NGE, of course, they went up to two characters per server, and I added a pair accordingly; pre-NGE Jedi players were able to get three characters on the servers that had their Jedi, but that wasn’t a majority of the population.)

Ever since CoH, I’ve had a significant stable of characters.  I had well over thirty characters in CoH, over a dozen in Champions Online, about the same number in Star Trek Online, had at least six in WoW, over a dozen in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and heck, I even had two in EVE Online-a game which really didn’t encourage same-account alts.  Many of these characters had a story behind them.  (Many also didn’t-sometimes I made a character just to mess with them.)

I tended to come at creating characters from three potential directions.  The first was “get a look, and build on that”.  This works better in games where you’ve got a robust character creator, and particularly well with the super-hero game genre.  I saw outfit pieces that I liked, found a way to put them onto a character, and then started developing the character from there.  One character who came about from that sort of thinking was my recent character of Willforge in CO.  The second was “get a character concept, and build on that”.  If I have an idea for a character, I might build the character’s abilities and look around that.  Stellar Protector from CoH is a good example of that style.  Finally, I may find I want to try out new abilities and see how they work, and build around that.  There are probably too many characters to mention on that front, but Rick Masters from STO spawned from my desire to mess with the 23rd century stuff.

Anyway, that leads to the creation of a load of characters.  And it’d be a damned shame to let them all toil in obscurity.

So, just like I’ve done with my Building Character posts, I’m putting together a new category:  the Cast List, where I’ll pontificate on a single character I created at some point in the past.  By definition, these won’t be the ones who are currently being developed-that’s for my Building Character category.  The Cast List will be for the lesser lights, the characters who I’ve created but never really posted on anywhere-the ones who aren’t likely to see too much further work, either because I’ve gotten them to where I want them to be, or because I don’t play the game they were made for anymore.  (That’s not to say they’ll never see play again, though.  But there’s only so much time in a day.)  They will also usually be characters who haven’t been posted up anywhere else in a lasting manner:  in other words, I don’t expect to say much about characters who exist on the PRIMUS Database site for CO, Virtueverse for CoH, or the late and semi-lamented STO Geekipedia.  (Characters may well appear on a personal wiki if I ever manage to get one rolling again, though.)

So, that’s the lead-in.  How far this goes depends on how busy I get with the games; I’m thinking of this as the occasional mint after the heavy meal of my regular posts.  We’ll see how things develop.  There’s a fair chance we can expect one in the next week, though, since I’ll be away from the computer in that time.

WF: Meeting One’s Nemesis

 

Synopsis:  Once upon a time, the man who would become Willforge was abducted by aliens, seeking to understand humanity and their metahuman potential.  In the process, they awakened his psionic potential which he used to escape.  NOW THEY WANT HIM BACK!  An alien Mindhunter has been unleashed upon Millennium City with a single purpose:  to recapture Willforge!  Can Willforge manage to defeat an opponent who can unleash its robotic servants upon him at any time and any place?

Willforge hit level 25 in Champions Online, and that opens up what I consider the best part of the game.  There may be some ranting ahead, and I’m likely preaching to the choir, but I figure I’ll mention that right off the bat.

The best part of CO is the Nemesis system.  I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating.  Once your character gets to 25, you can design a villain and minions to assist said villain (although the minions are more along the lines of “pick a type” more than a complete design like you can with the villain).  You can use just about every costume part you’ve got access to; at one point, I thought that there were some that didn’t show up, but I’ve never really noticed an issue, and it may not even be an issue anymore.  What IS an issue is that saved outfits from the costume creator for your hero don’t translate over to the Nemesis; nine times out of ten, your saved outfit doesn’t actually load for a Nemesis.  Moral to that story:  don’t bother trying to design the villain’s look in advance unless you plan to take notes as to all the options you chose, because you sure aren’t going to be able to save and use for later.  I DO believe that you can design the outfit in the Nemesis creator and save it there, and have it available for future use, but I would think this only matters if you want to have the illusion of a common Nemesis between multiple characters of yours.  Or if you want to share that file with others to use.

The powers available to the villain tend to go off of powersets; they don’t customize down to the gritty level like Freefrom characters, so they’re similar to Archetypes in that respect.  Also regrettably, they don’t have access to all the powersets.  If there’s one thing that’s virtually criminal about the Nemesis system, it’s that it has almost never been iterated upon.  There were a few nods to it-there’s an endgame Nemesis Confrontation where groups can take on everyone’s Nemeses, a Nemesis can be an option for one of the Alert villains, and the Nemesis can show up in one of the Comic Series/Adventure Packs.  And I think that’s about it.  For the most part, the Nemesis system now is as it was upon launch.

The caveat, of course, is that adding new Nemesis content confirms that you have to a) be at level 25 minimum, and b) actually have a Nemesis.  On the other hand, Nemesis alerts have done just fine with having a “generic” Nemesis show up, so I wouldn’t think that’s a big issue.  And heck, the devs have been spending time on the endgame thing, so why the heck not get the Nemesis more involved?  For that matter, why not improve the system further?  (I expect the real reason is that all the people who worked on it in the beginning are long gone, and nobody wants to fiddle with it for fear of breaking it.)

Still, it’s a damned shame.  Even City of Heroes didn’t have anything comparable; sure, you could design a personal Nemesis with the Mission Architect system, but that didn’t sent the minions out into the wider world and attack you, for example.  You knew the activities of that nemesis because you designed the entire mission they would appear in.  CO has more spontaneity to it in that manner.

As far as Willforge’s nemesis:  I was tempted to design the actual aliens involved with his abduction, but I decided instead that I’d make another example of their experimentations-another alien that they’d worked on and sent after Willforge.  Keen observers might note that there’s more than a little Roin’esh in Mindhunter, and it’s perfectly possible that it is indeed of that race-or at least, it was.  What it is now is a servant of the alien abductors’ will.  I may design the actual alien species if I should get to a point where I finish the Nemesis missions for Mindhunter and put him away permanently.  It’ll be rough going:  I went hard on Power Armor for the powerset for Mindhunter, and his robotic minions are pretty similar; I had a hard time with the first mission.  This may be a false positive, though, since it’s far too easy to wind up fighting most of the room plus the Nemesis in that encounter.  I imagine LOTS of characters wind up face-planting a couple of times.  Willforge sure did.  Well, it wouldn’t feel right if the Nemesis was a character one could just plow through-I look forward to the inevitable rematches ahead.

AoY: Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

How do I keep getting called in on temporal problems? Oh, yeah, that’s right…I AM a temporal problem….

Personal Log, Stardate 94874.13

Well, this figures.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  Even though I hoped that I was finally done with the temporal craziness, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t.  I’m in command of a ship from the 31st century, and an acknowledged temporal agent, hailing from the 23rd century, operating primarily in the 25th.  Temporal stuff is always going to catch up to me, sooner or later.

And it seems that a loose end from a previous temporal event has come up.  When Agent Daniels showed up again talking about a mess with the EnterpriseC, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I had to get briefed on that, which included not only the fact that a temporal mess caused a 24th century Starfleet officer on the D to wind up on the C on its way back to its doom, but also that there were survivors from that-from which came future-Empress Sela.  And added to that was the fact that between the C‘s final fate and the diversion to the D‘s time, it made one other stop:  the 25th century.

And apparently, I was involved-somehow.  I must’ve done something right, but I can’t recall the details.  But I must’ve also overlooked one minor issue-that timeline’s version of Admiral T’nae was on the C when it went back to its proper place in time.  So now we had two elements in play that were causing the timeline to start buckling.

At least this time, I didn’t have to worry about jumping into the past; we took care of things in the present, and got a prisoner to boot:  Sela.  I can only hope that this time, Starfleet Security can actually hold onto her.  She may cooperate more now that she hasn’t been turned in to the Romulan Republic for execution-but what do I know?  That’s politics, and I have enough trouble dealing with variant timelines.

What a job.

End Log.

Nah, that couldn’t be. Right?

Got us a new featured episode in Star Trek Online, and instead of continuing the Tzenkethi line, it seems like it’s a stand-alone episode.  I’m sure it’ll get folded into one of the existing arcs, of course-and given the presence of Sela in this mission, called “Survivors”, I’m guessing that it’ll be after the Iconian War and the Temporal Front.  It’s also possible that it may be put as a part of the current storyline, too, but I’m going to treat it as a stand-alone because it really doesn’t fit the story-arc structure that STO encourages.

And since it involved Agent Daniels and time travel, I had to bring Rick Masters out of mothballs for this post.

The episode conceit is this:  waaaay back in the episode “Temporal Ambassador”, your character managed to help fix the timeline by breaking the Enterprise-C out of Tholian hands with the help of Tasha Yar, Richard Castillo, and-most relevant to this point-T’nae of Vulcan.  The thing is, T’nae is a native of the current time, not of the era of Yar OR the era of Castillo.  Now, Captain Walker of the Pastak retrieved your character to avoid the timeline from getting messed up horribly-but he missed the tiny detail that T’nae was aboard Enterprise-C.

Oops.  Walker screwed up.  So Agent Daniels has to fix it, or more to the point-YOU get to fix it.  And who should he suggest to help find the divergent T’nae than the daughter of Tasha Yar:  Sela, the Empress of Escapology.  (TV Tropes would call her a Karma Houdini.  That’s fair.)

This is actually a reasonable breather episode, really.  I’m not going to say there’s no combat-you’ll be slugging it out with Tholians in space and on the ground, as well as some local wildlife, and another unexpected target.  But once you get past it, it turns into a bit of a mystery as to the fate of not just the alternate T’nae, but also the rest of the Enterprise-C survivors, including a very unexpected one.  And when all is finally said and done, there’s one more [speechless] cameo appearance from a Starfleet legend.

Sela hasn’t really learned too much from her previous encountered with the PC captains.  Still an arrogant know-it-all; you’d think she’d have become a little less sure of herself from her actions on Iconia, but nope.  I really wanted a dialogue option to have her pushed out an airlock; maybe the Klingons will have that option.  (I doubt it.)  By the end of the episode, she might have dialed it down a bit, but I’m going to say the jury’s still out on that.  I doubt we’ve seen the last of Sela.

Reward wise, the gear’s okay.  I often don’t try too hard for the gear sets, and that’s probably going to continue for the foreseeable future.  Ground gear, with another portion of that gear coming next week to complete the set.  The fact that it’s only going to be two weeks is probably in recognition of the fact that the next Season is going to land later this month.  Also worth noting is that during these two weeks, you’ll get the standard “first time run-through” reward which can either be a tech upgrade or a specialization point, your choice (I always go with spec points).

One minor complaint was that the pathing on the planet is…somewhat awful.  I lost one character at one point, and even respawning after a bad encounter didn’t reunite us; he was there for a second, then bamf-he headed right back to where he’d gotten stuck, over 100m away.  That made some of the fighting rougher than it had to be.  Aside from that, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.  It’s also possible that one of the early puzzles on the planet is a bit too easy; you can generally find important areas by using tricorder scans-do we really need the big yellow arrows pointing out which way to go, too?

So, I think I’ll give this one high marks for story, mediocre marks for mechanics.  And a wish that it had come a bit earlier so that the wait between the last Tzenkethi episode and the upcoming one wouldn’t have felt so long.

WF: FOXBATCON!!!

Synopsis:  THERE’S SNAKES IN THEM HILLS, PART ONE!  VIPER has set up shop in Canada, and Willforge needs to find out what FOXBATCON!  Come attend the greatest convention in the world, celebrating the television show based on the greatest superhero ever to live-FOXBAT!  Bask in the awesomeness of the best of the best, and not that telepathic weenie, Willforge!  Remember:  Willforge sucks, Foxbat rocks!

The event FOXBATCON is going on at the moment for Champions Online, which is sort of their April Fool’s event.  And…well, it involves Foxbat.  That sort of tells you everything you need to know.

That said, I haven’t really been participating.  I find the “find 5 Foxbat impersonators per day, without repeating the ones you hit earlier” to be tedious, even with the help of the maps that are floating around on the web.  And the prizes aren’t really worth the tedium to me, so I just have continued on my merry way.  Of course, one can’t get away from the event entirely; special loot drops of Foxbat swag ensure that you can collect the special currency (I admit I haven’t checked item pricing, but I suspect that what is gained from these drops is a literal drop in the bucket as to what’s needed for a single item from the event), or entertaining limited use toys suitably appropriate for Foxbat (such as a trout melee weapon) .

As expected, I’ve been spending time in Canada, and after clearing off some blue level missions to clean my plate, I headed west to the VIPER compound to start hammering opponents there.  The good news is that it also threw me a lot of “help me, help me” missions.  I should elaborate:  one of the catchier things that happens in this game (at least at certain levels-I don’t think they happen at the really high levels) is that civilians will run up to your hero and give you a one-shot mission.  Kind of like your standard “kill x goons” or “find x items” or “blow this stuff up” that aren’t tied to the storylines of the game-and for that matter, don’t matter where they send you on the map.  The missions are always instanced, so no fighting off other players, and sometimes the entrances are in rather level inappropriate places (like, say, 10 levels higher).  That said, I like the feeling of spontaneity here, the idea that civilians are asking for your hero’s help.  Now, it can get annoying at times-you’re standing around talking to someone else, and you get interrupted by the big mission window to accept or decline the mission-but for the most part?  I don’t really mind it.

Anyway, the missions that were sent my way in combination with the storyline missions got me to level 24, and one more level before some of the really fun stuff happens.  I’m going to work on finishing up the VIPER stuff, and then I think I’ll be ready to return to the desert for a bit.

WF: Welcome to the Queen City

Synopsis:  Vibora Bay has a problem with gangs and undead, and the hero Black Mask has decided to call in some outside help from Millennium City.  Willforge has to operate out of his comfort zone as he battles an undead assassin and a villain who’s his own gang!  Welcome to Vibora Bay, Willforge-hope you survive the experience!

I’d almost forgotten that this area of levels opened up the Vibora Bay area-at least, the “Queen City” part-in Champions Online.  Vibora Bay has a bit of a troubled history, in a meta sense.  When Champions Online was released, there were a lot of complaints about leveling, particularly in the upper levels.  (The more things change-but the queues help a lot nowadays.)  When the Vibora Bay expansion was announced, the players were happy to see content approaching-until they found out that it was going to be a paid expansion.  Keep in mind, this was before CO went freemium.

Players went ballistic.

In the end, Vibora Bay was released as a free expansion, and it wouldn’t be hard to believe that this may have been the beginning of the end of the subscription model for CO-and indeed, for its further development.  I can’t say if that’s absolutely true-after all, there were some Adventure Packs and Comic Series released before the long period of dormancy hit the game.  Plus, the freemium transition happened.  But in some ways, the whole experience feels like it tainted CO, and it never really recovered since.

While most of Vibora Bay is high-level content, there is a “crisis” of sorts that happens in the early 20 levels.  A preview of things to come, you could almost say, to give a taste of the place before the upper level content.  (Which, of course, I’ll cover at the appropriate time.)  All the missions were “blue” missions for me-I had leveled to 23 at this point-and weren’t exactly xp rich, but neither was it something to ignore.  Plus, hey, it allowed me to use the “Crisis Point” logo on my cover above one last time; while there are technically two more crises in the game, one of them is a damned rough solo, and better done with at least two, and the other seems to be queued-which nobody actually does (and people seem to hate that zone, too).

The missions for early Vibora aren’t what you would call groundbreaking, but some of the concepts are entertaining-the undead assassin’s nothing really unusual, but I liked the idea of a gang that’s actually one person (comic readers could think of him as Madrox gone evil).  The final mission in that series is set on a moving riverboat-although the map is actually static, it preserves an illusion of movement on the outside of the boat.  I’m rather fond of that sort of thing-even though there’s nothing special about the map itself, it feels more dynamic; I have similar feelings towards one of the heroic missions in Star Wars: The Old Republic, jumping from moving speeder to moving speeder.

One mission bears mentioning as one worthy of hatred.  It involved investigating suspicious crates, which supposedly have zombies waiting to pop out.  Powerful characters can be punished here:  if you can one-shot the crates, nothing ever happens.  But if you zap it with a low-damage ability for a bit-like, say, an energy builder power-then by the time the crate blows up, you can get your spawn of zombies to beat up.  If your energy builder also can one-shot the crates…well, you could be in for a long night.  It’s worse if there are other people in Vibora doing the same mission, because respawn on those crates isn’t exactly fast.  (I was fortunate; nobody was around at the time, and I think I only saw one other person in Vibora during my time there.)

My time in Vibora was far too brief, and it looks like my next move is to return to the icy cold of Canada.  I’m not far from level 24, so I’m hoping that the next series of missions will put me over.

WF: Psimon Says

Synopsis:  PSI-FI, CONCLUSION!  Mind, Inc, has been exposed as a front for the villainous organization know as PSI!  The Mayor’s daughter is in the hands of its leader, Psimon!  And only Willforge is in a position to do something about it!  Meanwhile, Willforge’s investigations into PSI reveal another corporation with dark designs.

My work in Champions Online for the character of Willforge managed to get another level, and thankfully, it was a powers level-meaning, I got a new one to add.  I’d been kicking around a healing power, but decided to go with a Block power-the telekinetic shield.  The time will be coming soon when some of the big villains will hit like a ton of bricks, and I’ll need all the help I can get on that.  The next power may or may not be a heal as well; I’ve been considering adding to crowd control abilities, but I want to avoid the traditional “sleep” power.  Plus, the mind storm power has done a good job on nailing criminals to the ground for critical moments of time, and inflicts damage too.  I’ve got a while to go before I need to make that choice, though.

My missions have gone from white (even level) to blue (-1 level) to green (-2) to…lightish blue? (-3!?) and one even went to gray-but they still give xp values for completing them, so I have done so, finishing up the PSI arc, as well as a couple involving the ARGENT group.  The ARGENT missions are worth commenting on, because of their building in Millennium City, which can be entered via a mole inside ARGENT, for two specific missions.  In one-which was the tie for me for the character’s story-we had a fight between PSI and ARGENT concerning a PSI “protopath”, someone capable of changing reality and who had been kidnapped by ARGENT.  The second featured just ARGENT meeting with VIPER (gotta love all these organizations with all capital letters), involving a trade of schematics for the super-prison Stronghold.  That snowballs into a rescue and defeat pretty much everyone involved with that caper-with the exception of a message from the most powerful psionic on the planet (note:  he’s not a good guy).

The layout for the second mission is sort of annoying, because it’s the identical layout on three separate “floors”.  You just start each floor in the opposite sides-the exit for one floor is where you enter the next.  I sort of get the impression that someone just copy/pasted this to fill in a content gap; I’ve seen better with old CoH Mission Architect missions.  The first mission at least had a bit more variety in maps, including a mindscape in Millennium City’s park.

Ah well.  They were worth xp, and that was the prime point of doing the missions.  That was also why I decided to go through the Gadroon missions as well, although they’re not earning cover status here.  No, the next cover is going to involve a new area that I’d forgotten about that opened up for Willforge; it’s time to go from dry heat to humid heat.

WF: Mental Problems

Synopsis:  PSI-FI, PART ONE!  There’s something odd going on with that new self-help sensation, Mind, Inc.  People are acting strangely, and the MCPD have asked Willforge to look into it.  What he winds up discovering is a menace from the past reborn-and a danger that affects not just the mayor of the city, but his family, too!  ALSO:  What happened when Kevin Poe escaped the massacre at Westside?  Can Willforge tie off this loose end?

In Champions Online, things may not necessarily be all they seem.  What appears to be mere pamphleteers for the seemingly benevolent organization called Mind, Inc can instead be members of a villainous organization (even if they look like little old ladies; that one mission meant more when you encountered her cat in the old tutorial).  And when said members are all psionically powered…well, is it any wonder why I chose to have Willforge work on his next level or two in Millennium City instead of putting him through more Canadian troubles?

I’ve managed to get through most of that arc-and it sort of almost immediately leads into another one, and that one sort-of-kind-of ties into one in Canada, so the path ahead seems clear, even if it doesn’t exactly follow my original plan of getting back to the Desert.  But levels start slowing down at this stage, and more missions are needed to get those levels; Canada’s going to be in the mix, one way or another.

First, though, I may finish up some missions in my Millennium City list that I’ve ignored in favor of the Mind issues; I liked them better than the aliens that are a part of the other thread in this level range.  That said, given my character’s origin of alien abduction, it sort of feels wrong to ignore them entirely-particularly since those aliens have a strong presence in Canada.  I’m not sure if I’ve already outleveled that region, though.  Choices, choices.

The character himself hasn’t picked up a new power as of yet, but his survivability has gone up since the lower levels.  Ever since that one beating I took at the hands of Irradiate waves, I’ve managed to pretty much get through missions without faceplanting against the big heavies (the one notable exception being that incident with VIPER’s prison).  As long as I don’t do something dumb like aggro multiple groups all simultaneously, I can usually get through a fight at a reasonable pace.  It may not be long before I feel the character is prepared to run a few Alerts-which will help ease some of the xp gain pains.