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: 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.