The Cast List: Introducing Silver Paladin of Champions Online

I’ll confess it:  I’ve been a long-time fan of the superhero character “Iron Man”.  I liked Tony Stark long before he became a household name from the movies, although there were long periods where I didn’t follow the character because of the frankly idiotic moves by the comic writers who I often felt just didn’t actually like the character at all.  I could go into more detail, but this is a blog about MMOs-and in this case, Champions Online.

The relevance comes with this thought:  I wanted to make a very different Iron Man-like character.  Iron Man is, in many ways, a modern version of the medieval knight:  skilled with his weapons and encased in a full suit of armor to protect himself.  I thought, “well, with all the tools that technology can offer, what would happen if someone managed to more or less convert an actual knight’s armor to modern specs?  Or to be more accurate, super-heroic specifications?”  With that as my opening move, the character of Silver Paladin was born.

The first thing I did with the character was design the look.  Fortunately, costume parts for a knight were easy to put together.  I deliberately chose nothing that made him look obviously hi-tech; all of those goodies were inside the armor.  I didn’t really go overboard with accessories here; it was a link to what some might consider a simpler time (is any time simpler?).  The next step was powers.  Sadly, there is no shield powerset in CO, and no “block” power that manifests as a physical shield; there’s a missed opportunity, if you ask me.  So I couldn’t go all out with the simple sword and shield combination like I could’ve with a certain City of Heroes character I’d had once.  (Someday, I may do a Cast List for those, but it’s hard to bring myself to do that for a game that’s no longer remotely current.)  But I was bound and determined to mix melee weapons with powered armor stuff-which meant this had to be a freeform character, as none of the Silver Archetypes would have what I wanted.

So I wound up going with a ranged/melee hybrid, with a few extras.  The melee part of the equation used Heavy Weapons, which allowed him to use an almost anime-esque broadsword.  On top of that, I used the Power Armor powerset to help round things off, including a shoulder-mounted gatling gun (with mercy bullets, naturally, that wonderful comic-book-friendly answer to lethal rounds) and the energy shield block power so he would have a tech-looking defense.  Threw two layers of healing on the character-one that was a straight self-heal, and another that came in the form of a set of drones that could be swapped from offense to healing.  (The healing was also helpful in teams, as they’d heal any friendly nearby.)  The character was a pretty tough cookie as he leveled, particularly after slotting an Invulnerability passive to give him improved survivability.  He couldn’t beat a Cosmic like Grond, admittedly, but he could survive a hit or two from him-empirically tested the hard way in Snake Gulch.

I did manage to get a Nemesis for him, a villain called Techknight; nothing really fancy or unusual on him-I like to make a Nemesis that I can contrast and compare with the hero in some way, and this one was designed to be what you usually think of as a power-armor wearer as opposed to Silver Paladin’s old-fashioned, knightly look.  By the time I got this guy to 40, I still hadn’t finished his Nemesis arc, so Techknight is still at large….

As is often the case for my costume slots, I would create a “civilian” look for the character.  I also did a couple variations on his armor, including a more armored up look (heavier helm, for instance), and a helmetless look, for conversation outside of a combat scenario.  But nine times out of ten, if one were to encounter this character, it’d be in his usual appearance-ready to deal out justice the old, OLD fashioned way!

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The Cast List: Introducing Runelord of Champions Online

When City of Heroes shut its doors, some of the folks in the supergroups I’d been involved with decided to try out Champions Online as a replacement.  (That’s actually not entirely accurate; that implies we hadn’t tried it before, which we had-but not as a group.)  As we were doing the RP thing, we decided to set up a supergroup there and made a bunch of new characters.  My offering was the character Runelord-a character I had very, very loosely based on an old Marvel Superheroes RPG character I’d made years and years and years ago.

I wasn’t entirely sure what my future was going to be in CO, so he was originally designed as a Silver Archetype.  Some explanation for those not-in-the-know:  subscribers were considered “Gold” players, and were able to create characters with pretty much complete freedom, mixing and matching powers that didn’t necessarily go together; if you wanted a magic-throwing/hammer-wielding healing character, you could conceivably do so.  However, Silver players-the ones who did the “free” part of the “free-to-play” equation-could not create a freeform character (unless they purchased a freeform character slot); they were instead led to choose among a variety of Archetypes, which had a preset path for gaining powers.  I don’t recall all the pluses and minuses involved, but the part that is important here is that Gold players could ALSO use the Archetypes, even though they could also create freeform characters.  My thinking at the time was, “If I make a Silver Archetype here, I should be able to keep using him even if I let my sub lapse.”  So I used the Grimoire Archetype, which is a Hybrid archetype; it does a little of everything, although not nearly as well as those that specialized in things like damage, tanking, healing, etc.

I’ll admit that in the fullness of time, I decided to grab a lifetime sub to CO-which has “matured” to the point where the amount I spent on it during a sale was roughly equal to the amount I’d have paid if I’d kept up a subscription.  Once I’d done that, I made use of a “once per character’s lifetime” ability to convert the character from a Silver character to a Gold character-allowing me to do a changeover from the Grimoire to freeform character.  I re-established most of the character powers, and got a couple extras (freeforms ALSO have a different leveling experience that winds up with two extra powers by the end).  This didn’t happen until well after I’d gotten the character to level 40, though, so his entire leveling experience had been done as a Grimoire.

The character concept was fairly straightforward:  a wizard who had newly come into his power (but still growing:  low levels mean you gotta have room to grow the character) by making use of “rune magic”, allowing him to create various effects-in other words, the powers in the Grimoire repertoire (I couldn’t help that one.  I’m bad.)  This was actually the only CO character I’d bothered putting any fiction together for, but things more or less fell apart as CO just really wasn’t what the people who’d come with me were looking for, and my own will to actually run a new supergroup had burned out faster than I had expected; so the story I had been building towards with that character remains locked in my head.  That origin did include one of that character’s future Nemeses, a demon called Fhtagath, who had killed his master/teacher; I’d actually effectively had the villain “banished” with some SG help during the last Nemesis mission which allowed me to create a second Nemesis, Black Blade, who was a a thief of magical artifacts.  I had planned up a third Nemesis, who would be the wizard who had held Fhtagath’s leash, but I don’t believe I ever got to the point of opening up a third Nemesis for Runelord.  Nevertheless, merely by virtue of having complete even one of the full Nemesis arcs, it made Runelord the holder of the most Nemeses of all my characters.

The appearance of the character was planned to evolve.  The first outfit (pictured here) is very much a wizard-like look with the deep hood; I also made a version of the outfit without the hood up, so he could have it up or down as the situation demanded.  A third outfit that was very “Dr. Strange-esque” was put together, which I had planned to have him start using at level 40-where he could legitimately be said to have mastered his magic.  But that never really came to pass, as the SG had more or less ended by that point, and there wasn’t much point to it.  I tended after to swap among the outfits according to whim.

Obviously, as noted above, I did manage to get the character to level 40, but he hasn’t seen much action since.  He was the second character of mine to hit that milestone, and probably the last one that I bothered keeping track of as far as the order of that milestone goes.

The Cast List: Introducing Gunfighter of Champions Online

Well, coming on the heels of Willforge’s finale, it’s time to expand the List to include Champions Online characters.  I debated on adding CO characters to my Cast List; after all, a very large portion of them are already out there on the web in assorted locations.  But it occurred to me that while that’s all well and good for a role-playing perspective, those don’t really go into my thoughts on when I put those characters together.  And since CO is still a game that I’m playing, it made sense to me to part the curtain here.  (At some point, I may well add characters from defunct games like Star Wars Galaxies-that’ll be a short list-and City of Heroes to the list, but the current games I’m involved with should cover this nicely for the foreseeable future.)

So.  Gunfighter.  I can’t say he is the first character I created for CO; but he is the oldest surviving one; I’d wiped out a couple of other characters over the years dating back to when I started playing CO, but Gunfighter had evolved into my “main” character for a short period of time when I had that free time from game purchase, then got shoveled to the side until the game went Freemium-it was still shoveled to the side, though, because I didn’t have access to the Freeform archetypes, and I wasn’t willing to convert him to a Marksman AT.  Eventually, when I started doing the sub again, I was able to continue advancing the character.

Since the character was put together at a time when I wasn’t interested much in developing an RP backstory for him, his creation came not from any story concept but from “gee, what if I make a modern-day cowboy”?  A man in black, complete with a black hat, but a good guy?  Since this was the game’s early days, everyone built via Freeform characters, and the powerset that obviously suited this guy was the Munitions powerset, which had all the good stuff like dual pistols and sniper rifles.  My plan was to give him all the gun-related powers, regardless of type of gun-he was going to be as familiar with rifles as he was with pistols; over time, he’d also get access to submachine guns and even a gatling gun!

It also meant that he got what I consider the character’s pride and joy.  Early in the game’s lifespan, there were items that were considered “Power Replacers”; items that basically meant you could replace a specific power with a modified version of the power.  Somewhere along the line when I wasn’t involved with CO, they got rid of those-or more accurately, stopped letting them drop.  They still existed, so if you had them, you could still use them, but nobody was getting these anymore.  Well, at one point in the character’s career, he got a replacer for his sniper rifle, an alien Gadroon sniper rifle; the weapon looks alien, and instead of doing a sniper-bullet, it was a sniper-energy-pulse.  It was the only power replacer I’d ever gotten.  I believe some of them have come back, but they require heaps of Questionite-the CO equivalent of Star Trek Online’s Dilithium-to purchase, I’m unlikely to ever get my hands on another similar type of item.

I could have given the character a classic cowboy appearance, but since I was going super-modern, I went with an armored suit, with extra plating on the upper body.  I had to include the black hat, though-that just wasn’t negotiable.  I added gold as a secondary color, and I think the look worked out pretty good.  The character’s face is a bit rugged looking, which is exactly how I figured it should be.  Finally, I slapped on a black eye mask, because, why not?  It’s a superhero setting!

I did eventually start up a backstory for the guy; my time in CoH made that sort of thing almost a reflex nowadays.  I wanted to work with the game’s setting-I often try to do that-and found my link in the organization called PRIMUS, which, among other things, is a law enforcement agency working in the US concerned with superhuman activity.  I figured that an ex-military guy might migrate to the organization, so I made him an ex-Marine; then, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I came up with a back story how a faction in PRIMUS was annoyed at how the international agency UNTIL often took over jurisdiction on superhuman activity, and this faction decided to take twelve people and enhance them in various ways (beyond what PRIMUS is normally capable of doing, that is)-one third got cyber enhanced, one third got “gene-mapped” new powers with an experimental process, and the last third simply got hi-tech toys.  Gunfighter would be in the latter category.  These would be superhuman operatives that operated more or less in international territory, and given plausible deniability to avoid issues with the assorted governments.  Because I didn’t want to get too crazy with rogue factions, I had the faction found out by the higher ups in PRIMUS and shut down-but not before they cut the survivors of the twelve loose to operate as heroes.

Worth noting that I had planned to mine this basic concept for future reference.  I have no less than three other characters tied to this rogue PRIMUS experiment, and in addition to that, I also put together one Nemesis (not all of the survivors from the original 12 wound up as good guys in the end), who conveniently is Gunfighter’s.  I planned to build a foundation similar to what I had done with a chunk of my characters in CoH, just in case one day I’d be actually doing any RP with the guy-or any future characters.  As I’ve more or less drifted away from that scene, that idea’s something that now only exists in my head.

Gunfighter was not my first level 40 character, but he was somewhere in the first three.  The Munitions powerset has gone through its ups and downs, but Gunfighter managed to get through them intact, and-as most of my top level guys do in this game-is now more or less enshrined in my personal hall of fame, as I work on new characters.  With new character slots that open up when you get a character to max level in CO, it’s painfully easy to move onto new ideas and indulge hard in altoholism.  This sort of helps encourage a guy to actually try to occasionally focus on getting characters to 40, so the addiction to alts can be continually fed!

WF: To All Things, An Ending

Synopsis:  FINAL ISSUE!  Willforge discovers that his nemesis, Mindhunter, is plotting to use the VIPER Draysha formula for his own ends.  Can Willforge stop Mindhunter once and for all?  Join Willforge on his final adventure!

At last, the character of Willforge has hit level 40 in Champions Online, and thus it’s time to close the book on him.  Let’s take a look back on the things I was able to accomplish, the things I missed, and final thoughts.

I was able to put the character through a pretty good leveling experience.  Thanks to the XP Alerts, I never really felt any real issue with leveling-at least when I was able to dedicate some time to it.  I was able to go through story arcs through every major zone in the game, including the it-gets-a-bad-rap Lemuria zone.  Also got to do the Vibora Bay Apocalypse arc, which I’d only done with one other character in the past, and although I didn’t complete the post-Apocalyptic Vibora Bay missions, I did do more than enough to get the levels to reach 40, which was the primary goal here.

I got to see the power-and the limitations-of the Telepathy powerset; as I hit the stretch from 30 to 40, I was able to hold my own against most opponents, and a fair chunk of groups of opponents.  It wasn’t perfect, and there were times I got myself into serious trouble with too many enemies at once, but for the most part, the character survivability went way up from where it had begun.  The character didn’t have raw damage on his side, nor did he have high resistance to damage, but he did manage to incapacitate opponents long enough so that he could survive and defeat them.  Usually.

Unfortunately, there were instances where it just wasn’t enough.  I had hoped to get to the final Nemesis mission, “Deathray Demolition”, but one of the two-parter missions more or less put that to a standstill with a giant robot with a large sack of health, a large capacity for damage, and a knockback that made most of Willforge’s powers almost impossible to get going.  So when I hit 40, I decided that I’d just hang it up there and just let the mission sit in his journal.  Probably for the best, though-because the Deathray Demolition probably would’ve been even worse, given that he’d have to deal with not just one, but three versions of his Nemesis, and a swarm of the minions; even with the assistance you can get in that mission from a pair of aggro-magnets (except, naturally, when you need them to be), it would’ve been a rough go.

Another regret was Adventure Packs.  I’ve done the Serpent’s Lantern pack on my own in the past with other characters, but Willforge wasn’t really geared up to handle that, so that got put aside.  Likewise, I didn’t bother with the Demonflame pack, which I’ve never managed to complete with any characters.  Since I wasn’t doing those, I never went to do Resistance, either, which is a shame because one of the missions there features the use of a very large robot stomping around-I’m always a fan of that kind of thing.  I could have done the comic series arcs, but decided against it-my leveling path was working well enough that I didn’t feel a need to go in that direction.  Finally, there is a story arc that involves Mechanon which would’ve been on my list except for the fact that the final mission is a grouped mission (unless the character is a seriously well geared and leveled one, and…well, Willforge isn’t).  Also, it occurs to me there’s another similar sort of arc called Fatal Error that’s sort of cyberspace oriented, but again, that arc closes out in grouped content that I’m not entirely sure is available at the present time.  And again, level of difficulty solo in the other missions there gets in the way.

Despite the things that were missed, and the challenges that were not overcome, I enjoyed running this character through Champions Online, and will undoubtedly do so again at some point in the future with another character-perhaps one who will be a bit more geared towards damage or toughness than Willforge was.  But for now, Champions Online is going to get set to the side now while I focus on my other games.  I think my next bit of focus is going to be getting the rest of my remaining Star Wars: The Old Republic characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne story (including Anthrandos and Sorshan; they will get their conclusions!), before kicking off a new focus character for Star Trek Online.  (This character is the one I put myself through many days of Risa this summer for.)

That said, I won’t ignore CO completely; now that Willforge is out of focus, I will probably start putting up Cast List entries for some of my other CO characters, who may be chronicled elsewhere as far as their fictional stories, but haven’t been covered anywhere as to how I decided to build them.  Watch for them!

WF: Mayor SMASH!!!!

Synopsis:  After a harrowing experience in Vibora Bay, you would think that Willforge would get a break to recuperate.  But his nemesis Mindhunter has other plans in mind.  When the archvillain clones the mayor of Millennium City, Willforge must fight across two nations to keep Mindhunter from replacing the real mayor!  But what hidden allies has Mindhunter mustered to deal with Willforge’s interference?

With the Vibora Bay Apocalypse in the past (or is that the future?  Time travel makes my head hurt…), I’ve been focusing my time in the post-apocalyptic Vibora Bay (or is that pre-Apocalyptic?  ARRRRGH!).  The Vibora Bay missions are nice and uncomplicated for the most part, although some of them involve drop-hunting missions that drive me mad because the drop rate of the items involved seem so pathetically low.  That wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that the respawn rate of some of these criminals is so annoyingly slow.  Well, it could be worse.  I could also have to be dealing with timed missions that require you to fetch items in a predetermined order that you don’t know in advance.  Oh-there’s one of those, too.  (After my second attempt, when I had a better idea of what I was doing, and still came up short, I said, “yeah, you go get those things yourself-I’m out of here” and dropped that mission.)

I also occasionally went back to Monster Island, to clear out a couple of lingering missions in my log-including one that had accidentally finished when I was doing…something-and to help ensure that I could spawn Nemesis minions so I could get the Clues needed to run a new Nemesis mission.  I knew that they would spawn in Monster Island, but I had a feeling that they wouldn’t in Vibora Bay.  I was wrong, by the way; after a fruitless period in Monster Island at one point, I went back to Vibora to do some missions-and was delighted to see those robots pop up and ambush me as I was going after the Sovereign Sons.  All is right in the world-especially since one of my goals before finishing up the character is to lock that Nemesis away for good!

To that end:  there tend to be two types of Nemesis missions that drop from the Clues.  The first kind is almost painfully generic:  the minions of the Nemesis are up to no good, and you have to stop them from doing what they’re doing.  It’s usually as simple as getting up a radio tower in Canada fighting through spawned minions, or blowing up barrels of toxic waste in Millennium City as the minions guard them.  I’ll note that this can occasionally cause fits for poor lower level heroes doing their level missioning in the areas.  I’ve had at least one occasion where another player blew his top because he was doing missions in the desert around a VIPER prison and a bunch of high-level Nemesis minions suddenly spawned and blew him to greasy chunks.  For this sort of reason, I always try to clean up my minions even if my objectives are complete-no sense in letting those guys hang around and beat up lowbies.

The second type of mission is a lot more fun.  They tend to be instanced affairs, and feature the Nemesis in some way, sometimes physically, sometimes via some communications method, and involve a more elaborate plan.  For example:  the aforementioned cloning drama.  This is actually a matched pair of missions, one starting right after the other-one in Canada, where you discover the cloning plot, and fight a couple of “named” supervillains, and then another encounter in the City Hall of Millennium City, where you have to fight at least three other supervillains, a gigantic clone of the mayor (you did see that cover above, right?)-and oh yeah, your Nemesis (who, of course, in classic fashion, gets away).  And of course, scattered all around are the minions of the Nemesis.  Good times.  Well, usually-sometimes fighting two supervillain level threats at once is a little rough; I got taken down by one plus Mindhunter, but fortunately, the two weren’t keyed to each other as far as aggro logic goes.  I was able to engage one of them at a time after that faceplant, and things went a lot better.

So, hopefully, in the not-distant future I hope, I will be able to chronicle the final battle between Mindhunter and Willforge-and celebrate level 40.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can wrap up the Vibora Bay missions prior to then.  Signs point to “probably not”, because I’m pretty sure that some of those missions are intended for level 40 content, but we’ll see.

WF: Game Over, Man! Game Over!

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, CONCLUSION!  The End of the World is at hand!  The Champions:  dead!  The heroes of Vibora Bay:  betrayed!  The fallen angel Therakiel is about to bring about the end, but the deadliest villain on Earth wants such power for himself!  It all comes down to Willforge to execute a desperate last-minute plan to reverse the Apocalypse and set things right!  Join Willforge in this 25th issue spectacular!

The End has arrived!  The Earth is gone!

Wait…that can’t be right…let me check that script again….

Here we go.  Thanks to one of the most painful plot devices known to man (and the only one that allows you to maul the main cast like this), the Apocalypse has been stopped.  You would think that stopping the end of the world in Champions Online would be good for gaining at least one level, right?  Heh-keep thinking that.  I’ve put Willforge through the conclusion of the Apocalypse, and all he got was a lousy t-shirt.  Actually, strike that-he didn’t get that either.  But in the plus column, at least the world is still spinning, right?  At least, it’ll keep doing that as long as he manages to prevent the Apocalypse from actually happening based on the knowledge he got from said Apocalypse.

One would think that a simpler solution would be to take out the baddie who kick started the whole mess in the first place, instead of trying to change heaps of little things hoping to change the future, but that’s the biz for you.

Despite my griping, I am fairly close to 38 at this point, and expect to hit it next time I’m on.  I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in post-Apocalypse Vibora (the images that phrase evokes is nowhere near reality.  I blame Mad Max and Wasteland…) to begin the push to 40.  I have a sneaking feeling, though, that Nemesis minions don’t spawn off in Vibora, which means I might take trips to the Canada or Monster Island to harvest some Nemesis clues so I have a reasonable shot at reaching the end of that line before wrapping up this CO run.  It’s not as unrealistic as one might think-it’s taken me this long to get from 37 to near 38, after all.  I’m sure I could grind the last two levels out doing just Alerts, but hell, that would drive me bats-especially if there’s no double-xp events rolling.  Besides, there IS an end to the Vibora Bay arc post-apocalypse, and it’s not inconceivable that I could be facing the big bad one more time.

Nearing the end, of course, puts me in mind of where I’m going next.  I’ve got a character concept percolating and a general plan of attack for Star Trek Online, but at the same time, it’s been a while since I’ve seriously visited Star Wars: The Old Republic.  This is all in terms of new characters, mind-I’ve got some other irons to wrap in the meantime, such as pushing my Romulan main to get up-to-date with the mission log, and I’ve a bunch of characters in TOR to finish through the Eternal Throne expansion (including a pair who will get actual conclusions to stories I chronicled here who helped reinvigorate my Building Character posts).  So expect some of that to possibly litter the blog from now until the next big thing.

But obviously, first things first.  Willforge managed to scrape out a second chance for the planet-and he’s got two levels (and a smidgen) to go before the final issue is writ.

WF: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, PART TWO!  As things in Vibora Bay continue to fall apart, the world’s mightiest heroes arrive to join Willforge stopping the end of days!  But as the party responsible for starting the Apocalypse continues to ascend, Champions will fall-and Willforge must make new allies in the darkened streets of Vibora Bay!

The Vibora Bay Apocalypse continues….

It’s been a long time since I ran the Apocalypse arc in Champions Online, and it’s possible that I’m further along than I think I am-I’ve gotten to the point where Willforge is about to try to recover the Elemental Gems, but I don’t recall how many more missions until the grand finale of the arc.  I have managed to avoid gaining any levels since last time around, which indicates to me that perhaps this isn’t as big a deal as I was thinking-so I’ll probably resume doing XP Alerts to help things along again.

If I time it right, the final missions of the arc will correspond neatly to Issue 25 of my Willforge covers.  25 is often a big issue for comic books (especially in this day and age when comic runs get restarted after just a year of publication), so it seems that Fate has decided to work with me for a change.

One thing that I appreciate about this particular arc is that-as it’s the end of the world and all-the story writers didn’t pull many punches.  When I mentioned “Champions will fall” above, I wasn’t joking-and the mood of the quest givers reflects the long odds that just keep getting longer as the arc goes on.  It’s not so much that your character is failing in the missions-it’s that it’s a race against time (so to speak-“time” is really not a big issue in an MMO questline) and if the bad guys get done with their plans before you get done with yours…well, you didn’t really want to keep living in this universe, right?

It’s not every story arc where you have to decide to ally with man-eating werewolves or blood-drinking vampires, too.  (I went with the wolves; it’s hard to feel sympathy for vampires, and they’re already technically dead.)  Nor do you usually get a chance to fight side by side with groups of Champions.  (Well, sort of.)  Despite the presence of the NPC heroes, you never get the feeling that you’re there to assist them.  They’re here to assist you.  Of course, that said, the usual conventions of MMO writing still apply-you’re still getting missions from other NPCs (Dr. Ka and Robert Caliburn, mostly-but there’s a number of others in this arc that have things for you to do, such as Trismegistus mages and Black Mask-you remember her from the Queen City arc, right?).  How many of these luminaries will be left standing after the End of the World is still an open question.

That does sort of lead me on a side-ramble.  MMOs in general have the glaring fault that your character is always a reactive one-at least as far as quests/missions go.  In some games, it works out okay; Star Wars Galaxies had mission terminals that had missions to give out, but your character wasn’t the champion of ultimate destiny (well, not until the NGE, anyway), and needed to make a living getting credits somehow.  World of Warcraft has a number of people who would give out missions because they have actual authority (kings, queens, military officers, etc.).  But as one gains levels (or increases in ability, as not all MMOs are level based), one gains a certain reputation for getting things done.  You get to a point where you’d think that you wouldn’t need character X to tell you what to do; but there you are, still taking orders (or requests) to “do this”.  It seems to me that you could ramp up the illusion that you’re actually competent if you could respond with what would apparently be your own ideas.  Some MMOs can do this during missions/quests (Star Trek Online does a decent job of it-certainly better than in the early days of the game, and the Old Republic does a decent job too-with some missions more than others), but CO isn’t really set up for that sort of thing.  Which is a damned shame, but honestly, there are other things that bring me greater regrets than this does.  Yes, these are “themepark” MMOs, and not sandbox MMOs, but one can at least try to give the illusion of character competence.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble.  Let’s close it out with the obvious:  since I’m really unlikely to get to level 40 before the End of the World, it’s probably safe to assume that we’ll be going beyond issue 25 above.  Maybe not by MUCH, but it’ll happen.  Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I could close it out with the last mission of the Nemesis chain?  Food for thought….

WF: And Now, The End Is Near, And So I Face The Final Curtain

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, PART ONE!  Willforge finds himself in a race to gather mystic artifacts to prevent the rise of the End of All Things!  But can his benefactor be trusted?  Or is there another agenda that will hasten the end of the world!

Level 37 in Champions Online means a reasonable time to begin doing one of the more…shall we call it contentious? zones in the game:  Vibora Bay.

Wait, didn’t I say something like that before?

I did indeed.  But the difference here is that back then, it was a small arc involving the region and a gang war.  Now, we’re dealing with the end of the world.

This is sort of set up in two parts, really.  The first part takes place during the Apocalypse.  The second takes place after.  (Post-Apocalypse?  That’s a different genre, isn’t it?)  But this is sort of the beginning, and it makes use of some of the old Champions tabletop game lore-how a fallen angel believes that the final battle between good and evil will take place here, and has decided to make sure it happens sooner rather than later.  There is no mystic champion to oppose this-called the Archmage-and a part of the arc ahead is to enable a character to fill the requirements so that they can step up.  No, that character isn’t you-you might have a character that is using magical powers, but apparently, you’ve been snubbed for someone else, also hinted at in the tabletop lore.

Before you get to Vibora, though, you are sent running around to gather artifacts that could be used to kickstart the end of everything.  It’s probably not a real big spoiler in saying that your efforts don’t go as hoped.  That leaves you and the Champions themselves-Defender and his lot-as well as a few local heroes in the Bay to try to set things right.

I’m not entirely sure if there will be any Nemesis minion spawns in the Bay, so it’s perfectly possible that that story is over unless I manage to wrap up the Apocalypse story prior to hitting level 40.  It could be a close thing.  I may actually artificially slow things down by not doing any more XP Alerts.  That may or may not matter, though-one of the big deals on the Vibora expansion was to help out with leveling, so this could go either way.

On a gameplay standpoint, I seem to be doing better against the bad guys.  I have enough mass paralyze abilities to stop myself from being swamped with attacks that I have little defense against, although the heaviest hitters are still rough fights (especially since they tend to be immune or near enough to it to aforementioned abilities).  I’d spend on healing items, but the cooldown on them is so bad that it’d be a waste of funds.  Hopefully, I’ll get some decent one-shot item drops that have suitably helpful powers attached, such as summons or higher defenses attached.  Or healing (less important, though-that cooldown also tends to be shared between those items).

The Vibora Bay Apocalypse heralds not just the end of the world, but the homestretch for Willforge’s leveling story.  Let’s see if the world can manage to be saved.  This sort of is in the superhero job description….

WF: When Monsters Ruled the Earth!

Synopsis:  It’s a typical day in the life on Monster Island.  Qularr beachheads?  Check.  ARGENT sponsored manimal hunts?  Check.  VIPER strongholds?  Check.  Robotic Tyrannosaurs?  Check.  All this and Mindhunter’s robots too-it’s never a dull moment for Willforge on the island.

The superhero genre is awesome.  I love it because it is actually an amalgamation of genres.  What other single genre includes things like time travel, outer space, alien invasions, journeys to the center of the mind, sorcery, demons, mad scientists, ultratech equipment, parallel dimensions, world-conquerors, and robot dinosaurs?  Any superhero game that’s worth anything embraces it all-and Champions Online does so, to varying extents.

I’d been waiting for this particular stretch to come up-I knew early on when I was doing my “cover shots” that I was gonna have this one on my to-do list.  If I couldn’t get the robot known as Mega-Terak on a screenshot, I’d have to turn in my super-hero fan badge.  Mega-Terak is a tough monster-I’ve seen level 40 characters go down to the fierce robot.  I didn’t expect to survive a fight with this mechanical monstrosity.

Spoiler alert:  I was right.  Good thing that suit Willforge wears is made of metal….  (Less good that he doesn’t wear a helmet.  Concussion city….)

There was a story-xp bonus being given for…well, story quests, so I had every motivation to run missions like crazy and get my character level up a bit.  I did a reasonably good job-I hit level 37, which means it’s about time for me to hit the last of the big zones.  More on that one next time.  I only had one encounter with the minions of my character’s Nemesis, which did drop a Nemesis Clue I could use to pry minions off of the sub at Monster Island.  It continues to lend credence to my personal theory that I’m sure others have already figured out from longer experience, that these tend to drop a lot more frequently if you aren’t flying-and flying might be the cause of some of the despawns I’ve seen when the minions rush to attack-and vanish before you can hit any of them.  More experimentation will be needed here.

All in all, the weekend worked out great, and the end of the journey is in sight.  Which is good, because endings are a big theme of the story arc Willforge will be dealing with next…

WF: It’s Hotter Under the Water

Synopsis:  Assault on Arvad’s Palace!  A rebellion in Lemuria reaches fever pitch, and Willforge is right in the middle of it.  Can Willforge help set things right?  Can he survive the undersea fury unleashed by Khusor the Crooked?  MEANWHILE:  Guess who didn’t stay in jail very long?  A threat thought contained is ready to hunt Willforge once more….

Got Willforge to level 36 in Champions Online, and is nearing the final push to 40.  It’ll be interesting to see if I get to “Issue 25” in the covers….  I’d expect so, but one never knows.

I picked up an “Ultimate Power” for Willforge; these tend to be the high-level powers, and are usually tied to the primary power sets used by a character (but not necessarily-freeform is freeform, after all.  But it tends to work out that way).  Specifically, I grabbed Mind Link, which is a sort of area of effect attack centered on the character, which…well, I’m still a little uncertain as to how it works.  In theory, it does damage being done to and by everyone to the enemies in range.  In practice…well, I’m not horribly impressed-it has a high cost to use, and seems to rely upon others doing damage while active for it to work.  This is often not an issue:  even if you aren’t on a team, opponents are always happy to damage you.  But the amount of damage being done back in return seems underwhelming.  It may take some time for me to figure how to use this-it seems like it would be best in team situations, but…I don’t know.  It just seems like it’s ultimate in name only (or perhaps only technically, as it is effectively the “last” power available in the power set.

I also, as one may have guessed from the synopsis above, managed to run the “Prison Break” mission, the kick off of the second part of the great Nemesis chain.  Prison Break is…well, sort of problematic.  It often breaks, for one reason or another, by which I mean to say that the mission glitches and prevents completion.  I’ve seen two areas where this happens:  one during the cutscene when the villain is actually broken out of his cell, where he refuses to walk out and play his part; and the other at the very end when the Nemesis sics a superhuman operative on you just as he makes his escape-sometimes he doesn’t bother with his dialogue, and that causes that villain to remain as an NPC and not as an opponent-and so can’t be targeted.  I’ve gone online any number of occasions to see what exactly causes the glitch, with no satisfactory answers; some folks claim fire powers for the Nemesis causes it, but I’m dubious on that score.  I’ve noted in the past that the door that has explosives attached to it beyond the entry room has a bug where it has two different options to disarm/defuse it, and I can’t help but suspect that this may be an area where things go bad.  Willforge managed to avoid that problem, though, because he was too slow and the door blew off, releasing the Green Dragon villain to fight.  I may experiment more in the future for this, either with other characters or this one.

Yes, I said “this one”, because starting with Prison Break, the Nemesis missions can and will repeat.  There is a point where the Nemesis can be defeated once and for all (and should I get that far, I’ll be posting about that), and when that happens, you have the option of creating a new Nemesis for the character-and that chain starts with Prison Break.  So if things were to go abnormally well, I could conceivably have Willforge running this mission again before it’s all over for him.  It’s more likely, though, that a new hero will be going through this chain of events and we’ll see what happens then.  You’d think that just maybe, someone in the development department would try to figure out the problem with this mission, but since it’s been glitched like this for years, I suspect we’ll never see a proper fix.  (That said:  my last run through didn’t have a glitch, and maybe that indicates that it DID get fixed when I wasn’t looking.  Miracles HAVE been documented in the past….)

I figure once Willforge gets to 37, it’ll be time to get apocalyptic!  Stay tuned!