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.

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WF: Fish Gotta Swim, Nemeses Gotta Get Beat

Synopsis:  At last!  Willforge and Mindhunter go head to head!  Who will walk away from this confrontation?  Plus:  the Lemurians have come to Monster Island seeking aid.  What threats under the ocean’s surface lie in wait?

I’ve finally managed to wrap up the early cycle of Nemesis missions for Willforge in Champions Online-and now that Nemesis is locked away in the Millennium City Jail for good (well, at least until he gets shipped to Stronghold)…right?  RIGHT?!  (Spoiler alert:  don’t bet on it.)  I love missions where I can actually make full use of the Telekinesis power to throw things at the bad guy; it’s often an open question as to whether or not there are any destructible objects that the power is strong enough to utilize.  The character isn’t able to throw eighteen wheelers, but lots of crates and other incidentals are certainly doable.  The fact that so many missions don’t have that sort of thing available is why the TK has been relegated to the upper bar of my power-bar, making room for more useful abilities on my keyboard.

It seemed that the time was also right to start running some missions in the next available zone:  the underwater zone!  Taking place originally near the undersea kingdom of Lemuria, it’s all about fighting evil cultists and their minions…wait, that sure sounds a lot like the surface world, doesn’t it?  Bad guys are gonna be bad guys no matter which side of the ocean you happen to be on-above or below!  I’ve managed to climb up another level, and it may not be long before I hit the final zone in the leveling sequence (for those unfamiliar with the game, a hint:  Willforge has actually been there before, but not in this way).  But I expect to spend some more time in Lemuria-and in Monster Island-before then, because the number of equal-level missions are dwindling, and I prefer not to do the higher level ones until I get around those levels.  I expect I’ll be going back and forth with the two zones.  I’m figuring tentatively around level 35 or 36 will be the time I start devoting myself to the end of the line.

Some of the slack is picked up, too, in the Alerts.  I continue to run the xp-bonus Alerts, roughly every fifty minutes of gameplay (this is so that the lump sum of xp gained at the end is ALSO still boosted), and that helps fix some of the gaps.

Things have really improved for the character once I got that close-area attack power for him; being able to prevent anything less than boss-level from beating on him while he unloads that power, plus doing similar with his ranged-area power, has done wonders for his survivability.  The heavy hitters are still an issue-particularly if they have buddies-but I’ve been able to do okay (as witnessed by the big Nemesis fight mentioned above).

Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to pick up a couple levels over the weekend and holiday.  I plan to spend some time on CO that’s been lacking a bit lately, as I’ve been doing the Summer Event in Star Trek Online, and getting a few more of my primary characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic caught up.

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.

“We’ve always been each other’s greatest nemesises… uh, nemesee… wh-what’s the plural on that?”

One of the best parts of Champions Online has always been its Nemesis system.

Every hero has one.  Batman has the Joker.  Spider-Man has the Green Goblin.  Thor has Loki.  Superman has Lex Luthor.  And so on, and so on.  That one villain who is the bane of their existence.  But wait-honestly, it’s not so much that they have a single nemesis-they all have a rotating rogue’s gallery, a heap of villains.  Bats doesn’t just have the Joker; he’s got the Riddler and the Penguin and Ra’s al Ghul and Catwoman.  Spider-Man has Doctor Octopus and the Lizard and the Kingpin and Kraven the Hunter.

City of Heroes had never really been able to replicate that sort of thing, one of its few lingering faults in my opinion.  Mission Architect could help a little bit, but that required you to actually figure out how to make a mission from start to finish.  CO may have its faults, but their Nemesis system seemed to definitely be a winner, and it still stuns me after all these years how-outside of one endgame thing-they never bothered to iterate on it.  As in, at all.  It’s one of their prime attractions to that game, and they ignore it.  (I’ve spoken recently about how dumb the decision making at Cryptic is; this is just another example.)

Over my time in the game, I’ve managed to mess with this with a few heroes; one of them even managed to jail no less than two of his nemeses.  This probably demands a bit of explanation first before I get into them.

When you get to level 25, you can go to the police station in Millennium City and “reveal” a secret history to the cop there-about your Nemesis!  It’s a thinly veiled story lead-in to allow you to design your villain.  The villain has pretty much all the same costume options as the hero does (save for weapons, I believe).  You define a general power set for them, and assign henchmen-which have their own powerset.  Once you’ve done that-and an introductory mission for the Nemesis-then you can expect to occasionally be ambushed by the minions of the Nemesis while you’re out in the world beating bad guys.  If you defeat them (which, honestly, is rarely too hard-the hard part is if you’re fighting someone else at the same time.  This will happen-often), one will usually drop a clue that goes in your inventory; opening it starts a “Nemesis Mission”, which features something the Nemesis is doing or the minions are doing, which you get to foil.  Eventually, it all comes to a head and you may finally confront the Nemesis and defeat them, and put them in jail.  Except…you have the option of reactivating the Nemesis, which will start a new cycle with villain, or create a NEW Nemesis.  And when that cycle is done, you can choose to reactivate either of the old ones, or create yet another.  And so on, to a maximum of eighteen.  That’s not as easy as it sounds, because there is a cooldown timer limiting how often the minions ambush you-or more accurately, how often they drop clues.

There’s occasional bugs in the system; the Prison Break mission is infamous for having a bug that prevents you from completing the mission (I avoid it by just not saving any policemen, opening the cells, and making sure to defuse the bomb; I can’t be 100 percent certain that any of the above actually helps).  And there’s one mission involving a VIPER Draysha facility that doesn’t cooperate so well if you’re teamed up with other heroes.  So no, it isn’t perfect, and since CO is basically barely above maintenance mode (it still finds time for lockboxes), they probably won’t improve anyday soon.

That said, it’s still fun to have your hero occasionally get reminded by your Nemesis that they’re still out there.

So far, I’ve had four Nemeses (see?  I know the plural form!) for my characters, and they’re worth sharing.

Demons are NOT people too!

The first one was Fhtagath, a Nemesis for Runelord.  That character was a wizard sort of guy, so it made sense to make a demon sort of guy to fight him.  The name was derived a bit from Lovecraft; it sounded suitably horrific.  I’d gone with a savage personality with Infernal Supernatural powers, so he was a definite melee brute-a nasty counterpoint to my ranged based Grimoire character.  I used Ice Demons as his minions, but gave them fire powers; I liked the dichotomy.  He actually featured in the one bit of fiction I wrote for Runelord as the demon that killed his master, but in the service of its own master (who never, alas, was revealed).

Beautiful and deadly was also a consideration.

The good news for the good guys was, eventually, I managed to put him in jail (well, from a character standpoint, I banished him).  So I expanded Runelord’s gallery by introducing the Black Blade.  I made her a swordswoman-again with the melee!-and made her a thief of occult treasures and artifacts.  Since Runelord’s backstory included possession of a fairly potent artifact, it would be a fair hook for any future writing I did (alas!), as well as give him a villain who wasn’t necessarily focused on simply rending him apart.  Her minions were your traditional ninja; I’d not worked out why they worked for her, but I’m pretty sure I was leaning towards them being bound to the owner of the sword she used.

Why yes, she IS threatening you.

Gunfighter was another character who had a Nemesis available, and she was still at large; Mind Ripper was a telepath, and she came from the same program that had produced Gunfighter; the difference was that instead of being given tech to take advantage of exceptional skill, she had her very genetic structure remapped to produce telpathic powers-which drove her nuts.  Her minions were thugs-who also wielded telepathic powers.  My rationale was that she had effectively created a hive-mind with these thugs, so they no longer had any will of their own.  I’d given her a maniac personality; that’s something worth mentioning-each Nemesis could have one of three personality types:  mastermind, savage, or maniac.  It could lead to some dialogue that didn’t really make much sense, and three is just limiting-you’d think it wouldn’t be hard to add more types, but again, that would require developers to actually iterate on the system.

The hair alone should qualify him as “mad”.

The last Nemesis is the most recent, and is tied to my recent hero, Asteroid.  When I was working up a backstory for him, included a reference to a mad scientist who had owned the moon base that Asteroid now uses; Asteroid referred to him as “Doctor Whatsisface”.  So I decided it would be a good direction to go for his first nemesis.  Since I liked the humor I was putting into the character’s backstory, I decided to continue a bit of it for his Nemesis.  I decided that the name “Doctor Whatsisface” actually stuck, and that’s what the media started calling him.  So now you have a mad scientist who has put conquering the world as a secondary goal, with a primary goal of beating up and burying that alien buffoon who stuck him with that ludicrous nickname!  I gave him a gadgeteer powerset, which is pretty nasty as I hear it, and gave him insectoid minions with the power-armor powerset:  genetically engineered and heavily armed, I wanted to put the “mad science” into my mad scientist.  Given that I didn’t have a lab coat costume part to work with, I think he came out pretty good.

The Nemesis system may have its flaws-I’m sure the missions can become as repetitive as time goes on, but it’s still one of the better parts of CO.  And really, what’s the fun of making a hero if you can’t make a villain to go against him?  The only negative is having to get a character all the way to level 25 to do it, but given how deadly those villains can be, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.