Roguish Thoughts

The good folks over at Paragon Studios dropped the NDA for the City of Heroes expansion “Going Rogue” yesterday.  So, at last, I can put down some of my thoughts (having been in a portion of the closed beta thanks to the Loyalty program).

I’ll add the caveat that I did not spend heaps of time in testing; between the stuff I do in two different MMOs as it is, it’s just unrealistic to add that in too.  But I did work to make myself familiar with what I figured were the big draws to the expansion.

The first is the whole theme of the expansion:  the ability for characters of one faction (heroes or villains) to gradually choose their own moral alignment.  The big key to this is the “tip” missions, which operate as another kind of potential drop from defeated foes; these act as mini-contacts for a one-off mission.  The fun part?  You have the choice of what goals to set for the mission, and it usually involves what alignment you’re at OR the one that’s the next step towards the opposite side.  So a hero could choose the Heroic choice…or could choose a “Vigilante” choice.  Vigilantes would have a choice for “Villain”.  The path to redemption is similar.  Do ten of these, and you get a morality mission from the next tip:  one that solidifies your new alignment.  So it’s 20 tips for one faction to fully swap to another, plus 2 morality missions.  That’s quite a bit of missions.

But…it does have a set of brakes applied.  You can only do five tip missions a day.  So barring surprises, you will have to take at least four days to make the switch.  Plus, it’s gated so that only foes of level 20 or higher will drop the tips.  No word as to whether or not a lower level guy who’s been sidekicked to a higher level would benefit from this fact; I’m sure it’s been tested, but these are my impressions, and I hadn’t gotten that in-depth.

As most of the gaming outlets have mentioned, there are benefits to all parts of being on the morality chain.  Staying a hero or a villain for a week after doing a morality mission gives a minor power.  People who remain heroes/villains have access to a certain instance which has teleporters to various task forces and allows purchase of various items-various, formerly hard to get items.  Walking on the fringes doesn’t get you these, but they do have the ability to operate where they aren’t welcome:  vigilantes in the villainous Rogue Islands, and rogues in the heroic Paragon City.

The other big deal is the existence of Praetoria, a new opening choice for new characters.  For twenty levels, a character-of ANY of the preexisting basic ATs (epic Archetypes need not apply) operate in the parallel Earth of Praetoria, a world where the struggle isn’t so much against good and evil as it is against the murky shades of gray in between.  The Loyalists try to maintain the Utopia created by the Emperor Cole and his Praetors; the Resistance believes that Cole’s as dirty as mud.  It’s easy to cast the Resistance as the “heroes” here…except some of the choices available to those characters could involve such nice things as nerve-gassing areas of the city.  So, yeah.  But the neat part?  You can choose as you go along who to work with.  Your personal leanings may change as you make important choices, even during missions.  I didn’t get as far along on these plotlines as one might expect-limited time, remember?-but the ideas behind them impressed me.

At level 20, the characters are (as I understand it), kicked out of Praetoria (well, not literally) to continue their career as a hero, or as a villain (their choice) in the appropriate zones in the City of Heroes game.  The bad news?  They can never return (at least not at this point).  I find that in some ways that’s a bad thing.  I can understand the logic-why spread out the game population even further?  I also seem to get the impression that you won’t find any guild-related structure to Praetoria.  If you want to join an SG/VG, it’s gotta be after level 20.  I can see the reasons why, particularly from the technical side, but I feel like it’s a shame to have made such an amazing set of zones and then cut off any chance for a return visit unless you happen to make a new character, or turn off the xp gaining mechanism so you never have to leave.

It’s possible, however, that this is a temporary thing.  At one point, Going Rogue was going to preview the first part of the new “endgame systems”.  That isn’t going to happen at this point (although it is still coming in the future).  Still, indications were that Going Rogue was a required component of this endgame.  And if that’s the case, it’s quite probably that it could have led to ways back into Praetoria.  All speculation on my part.

Of course, there was more to the expansion.  Demon Summoning and Dual Pistols powersets were introduced prior for prepurchase of GR (I didn’t-better deal, I felt, to wait until release on Tuesday upcoming), but it will also include Electrical Control and Kinetic Melee powersets.  The graphical upgrade to CoH earlier this year was in large part because of Praetoria.  The maps available in Praetoria are nicely done (at least the ones I’d seen) and are distinct from the ones you find in Paragon or the Isles.

Concurrent with GR is Issue 18, which opens up a few new details that I hadn’t gotten a chance to mess with-such as the new “Doppleganger” faction to use in Mission Architect, and the reopening of the Cathedral of Pain trial-a trial that requires no less than twenty-four characters!  (My odds of EVER seeing that is probably up there with the same odds of ever doing the Shadow Shard TFs.)

There’s a lot to like, in my opinion, with Going Rogue, and I’m looking forward to having some of my characters make the choices to be good, evil, or that shadowy world in between.

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