Perfect Ten: The City of Heroes basic Archetypes ranked

So it’s just about that time again – we’re remembering when City of Heroes launched and when it said goodbye. Which is a bit of a sad time, y’know? I loved that game. I still do. Is it my favorite game ever? Heck no, but the fact is that it was a good game, and I wish it were still around. I could, of course, just rewrite my last column when I was talking all about that game for this year… but that’s not how I do things.

No, this year I want to go a different route. At the time it closed down, the game had 10 normal archetypes, which were and were not classes; they were most cleanly classes rather than anything else, but a given archetype contained more variability than your average class in most MMOs. Yet leaving aside the epic Archetypes, we’ve got just the right number for this list format. So while we all know Crab Spiders would be at the first-place spot if we included those… out of the original basic archetypes, how do those rank up, worst to best?

Thus, that’s what we’re doing this year. Which archetypes were the most original, fun, and nifty, and which ones were the most boring? Which means this time we’re starting at 10, because I like countdowns.

10. Stalkers

Sorry, dudes, but someone has to be in last place. And this is a pretty easy sell, because Stalkers are the least thematically appropriate archetype of the lot. They’re not exactly bad, but they’re focused around a stealth-based backstabby format that was pretty clearly massaged into the game to answer a question nobody asked, and pretty much all of their superhero concepts mapped pretty quickly to Scrappers without needing a separate option. Plus, you know, they had serious mechanical issues all the way down.

Of course, it’s saying that I still played and enjoyed Stalkers, so being “worst” in this case is still pretty good.

Sometimes it's about tweaking the right people.

9. Controllers

Where Stalkers lose out because they’re not very fitting for the genre, Controllers lose out from a combination of mechanical issues and the fact that there’s a strictly better option out there. Everything Controllers did well was something that another class did significantly better. Not that they weren’t a cool idea, but the team didn’t really stick the landing… and they got the whole thing much better, on balance, when they headed to the Rogue Isles.

8. Blasters

So… perhaps oddly, perhaps not, from here on out most of the entries are all kind of in the winner’s circle. I mean, Blasters are winding up pretty low on the list overall, but they’re not bad. They’re a little bit worse than their functional replacement which winds up higher on the list, but their biggest “issue” was just the typical Mage Problem, where there’s a certain contingent of player that latches onto the Big Group Damage Numbers Class early on and never really moves on. Later, of course, they’d lose that niche, but that would take a while.

Anyhow, Blasters. They’re fine, they occupy a niche, but they don’t occupy that niche quite as well as some other classes. It’s all good.

7. Defenders

Why am I ranking Defenders higher than Blasters? Well, because Defenders were a pretty clear picture of the design philosophy behind City of Heroes, and if you wanted to explain how the game worked using only one Archetype, you… well, you have some really weird thematic restrictions, but you could do worse than Defenders.

The thing about Defenders is that they really drive on the idea that your goal isn’t necessarily to just heal people, but to help your party. Sometimes that means direct heals, but a lot of tricks to boost defenses and reduce incoming damage can do the same trick. It meant that group content by its very nature was going to be a bit less structured, but it also encouraged forming odd ad-hoc parties without too much worry about roles.

It also meant arrows.

'Shout' by Tears for Fears, released 1984

6. Dominators

All of the controlling goodness of a Controller, but given both a mechanical and thematic upgrade. The sort of characters that Dominators were meant to replicate usually felt a bit more true to comics than the ones you could fit under Controllers, and Dominators had a much clearer picture of how to actually work alone without the pseudo-pets-but-not-really of Controllers. I always did like these guys.

Then again, it’s probably clear that I liked a lot of villainous archetypes. The designers had more practice for making these things work here.

5. Tankers

They’re tankers, they’re tankers, they’re big, they’re heavy, they’re wood! They’re tankers, they’re tankers, they’re better than bad, they’re good! And that about sums that up.

Don’t get me wrong; Tankers were pretty cool, but they had a bit of a heavy lean on “do less but be harder to kill” up front. Did it make sense? Yes. Was it as neat as it could have been? Not so much. They’re very functional, but a touch on the bland side.

4. Corruptors

Oh, this is what I like to see. Corruptors neatly fill the slots of both Blasters and Defenders, and the result is an archetype that I really just plain liked out of the gate. I don’t know if I’d say it’s more fitting for the genre than the individual archetypes before, but boy, they were fun to play. Thematic differences are something I can overlook from time to time.

3. Brutes

Ah, big smacky tanks-and-beatsticks in one package. The biggest problem Brutes had was that they were based off of a rather one-dimensional archetype for supervillains; that’s easy to overlook, however, in light of the sheer kinetic thrust they provided for the actual game. Brutes encouraged aggression mechanically, which is always tricky, and as a result they fed upon the idea of just plunging forward without a slice of regard for your overall safety.

It’s kind of odd I didn’t play more of them when I liked them so much. Who knows why?

The Angel of Technological Problems.

2. Scrappers

There’s a lot of neat stuff going on when it comes to Scrappers, I think. They’re pretty hearty, but not able to quite stand up to a sustained beatdown; they’re aggressive, but they can hang back when needed; they’re self-sufficient, but only to a point. It’s weird, but they actually feel like the hybrid between Tankers, Brutes, and Stalkers, a midpoint between aggression, durability, and damage. They are, unsurprisingly, the archetype I tended to play most frequently, for better or for worse.

In fact, I bet a lot of people expected that they’d be my top pick. But no; they’re probably my favorite to play, but they’re not the best example of what the game could offer.

1. Masterminds

It’s been years since City of Villains came out, but I still think that Masterminds are perhaps the best example of capitalizing on the sheer niftiness of what this game was capable of doing. The idea alone was so clever that I can’t help but love it. You could basically turn the game halfway to being a strategy title as you juggled your various minions, but you also had plenty of things to do on your own to keep managing things.

Seriously, it’s hard if not impossible to think of a more perfect match to the game’s themes and mechanics. Masterminds are still astonishing, and I can kind of understand why they don’t show up more often simply because it’s hard to pick another setting where the theme and the mechanics match this well. It’s almost uncanny. I never liked playing one all that much, but I think they’re a good example of how imaginative, fun, and neat this game could be.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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42 Comments on "Perfect Ten: The City of Heroes basic Archetypes ranked"

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Jon-Enee Merriex

I LOVED my mastermind. It was such a great archetype to play. Sending my minions to do my bidding. Healing them from the back or cc’ing a baddie while the team worked on another. No one has done this class since. It makes me sad face.

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chriskovo .

Ohh masterminds were so much fun. Loved my robots but think they completely missed an opportunity but not having evil clowns as minions, it would have been creepy and cool.

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Peregrine Falcon

I loved my Masterminds. And all of the other archetypes as well.

I am sad now. Thanks MOP.

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Bryan Correll

I find your lack of faith in controllers disturbing, they’d be #2 for me. I do agree on the top and bottom of the list. I tried playing a stalker a few times and always ended up thinking “why didn’t I just make this character a scrapper?” And masterminds are just plain awesome and probably the best pet class in any game ever. Ever.

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Barry G.

I had more L50 Controllers than ANY other AT. Of the original AT’s, a good ‘Troller (depending on primary/2ndary) could do ANY/EVERYTHING.

DPS, debuff, buff, tank (with PA), lock down, immo, you name it, I could do it. Before the Pet Nerf, when I had 3 Phants (the 3rd only briefly), ‘Trollers were the only AT soloing Giant Monsters (which is what I think brought about the Pet Nerf, among other things, like hordes of Fire Monkeys killing EVERY mob in Bricks so no one else could level there).

CoH Controllers were the most fun I’ve EVER had playing any class in over a decade of damn-near every MMO that’s come out since.

“Everything Controllers did well was something that another class did significantly better.” What, HUH?!?

NO other Class locked down the adds that CoH was famous for like a Controller, they were a MUST in some encounters, I had more issues getting Teams on my Defenders than my Controllers because so much content was ridiculously hard, if not impossible, without them.

The lock down & debuff double-whammy was irreplaceable. No offense, but makes me think you either never really played one, or didn’t play with any good/great ones. ALL of my ‘Trollers were ALWAYS in demand, just TRY replacing a Controller with some other AT on a TF & see what would have happened.

Sheer madness man, really.

R.I.P. Hikaru L50 Ill/Rad (my 1st L50)
Triumph Server, member of Riders of Apoc SG

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Duane Does not check email

I loved ALL the archtypes except the soldiers and flying squids. … the widows were ok. Even the puny stalker that seemed to die 7 times an hour until level 32.

the classes played to all players from the solo to group. I agree the mastermind was the best and I have never found another class like it in any other game that I enjoyed to pay as much as that one.

ceder
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ceder

I miss my master mind

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Roger Christie

Bah, disagree on almost every choice. Controllers vastly underrated. A fully leveled and enhanced fire/fire controller was awesome. 1st three should probably be Scrappers, Blasters and Controllers. Defenders were terribly boring.

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Barry G.

I totally agree. CoH Controllers were the most fun I’ve EVER had playing any class in over a decade of damn-near every MMO that’s come out since.

“Everything Controllers did well was something that another class did significantly better.” What, HUH?!?

NO other Class locked down the adds that CoH was famous for like a Controller, they were a MUST in some encounters, I had more issues getting Teams on my Defenders than my Controllers because so much content was ridiculously hard, if not impossible, without them.

The lock down & debuff double-whammy was irreplaceable. No offense, but makes me think you either never really played one, or didn’t play with any good/great ones. ALL of my ‘Trollers were ALWAYS in demand, just TRY replacing a Controller with some other AT on a TF & see what would have happened.

Sheer madness man, really.

shazanti
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shazanti

For the entirety of this game’s existence, I called it my ‘forever game’. It might not always be the game I played every day, but it was my ‘always there’ game. I played it when I craved it more than anything else, and I played it when nothing else looked good but there was always time for punching things with my Brute (or whatever archetype I was in the mood for).

I don’t know if I can do an honest Top Ten, or even a Top Five. I loved Brutes and Masterminds the most, and equally. After that would come Blasters, Controllers, and Dominators, followed very shortly by Corruptors. As for Tankers, Scrappers, and Defenders, I only ‘clicked’ with a couple of those each, but I can’t really rate them ‘low’, it was more …I hadn’t found what builds worked to make those shine for me. Which was all my own fault, because I’d just make another Brute or MM or something when I wanted something new, instead of trying out archetypes I hadn’t found a build that I clicked with.

Damn The Man. I really miss HAVE FURY, MUST SMASH!

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David Ummel

Defenders fun and playability increased with the size of the team. An all-defender team was legendary.

Masterminds were fun but they didn’t start as juggernauts out of the box. The upgrade issues and the zoning issues (enter an instance and all the minions DIE) and lack of area of effect buffs made it slow slogging solo early on.

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wratts

All the CoH love turns it into that ex who insists on calling every couple months to say hi. It’s like the breakup is never complete

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Controllers would be my number one easily. I loved my Dom, but I never felt more powerful and like I was the glue in a group than when I was on my Trollers.

I never personally liked Stalkers or Blasters for actual play, but then I don’t usually like squishies anyhoo.

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Bryan Correll

You should punish Eliot for his anti-controller stance. Something that really hurts like…..assigning all future penis related articles to other writers.

styopa
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styopa

Blah on your ‘boring’ tankers.

I still can’t hear Sweet Dreams/Without Me mashup without *immediately* reminiscing soling 4+ purples at a time and kicking their asses. Plus, the beat was exactly in synch with the big ‘smash’ cooldown from my tank.
“Now this looks like a job for me, so everybody just follow me…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nMjrn_ftE4 NSFW eminem lyrics, obviously.

OK now you’ve made me nostalgic, dammit.

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Crowe

“out of the original basic archetypes, how do those rank up, worst to best?”
5. blasters
4. tankers
3. scrappers
2. defenders
1. controllers

Those were the only ORIGINAL archetypes. Heck, even the warshade and the peacebringer came out well before the City of Villains archetypes entered the scene (almost a year if I recall correctly).

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Bryan Correll

For the true originals I agree 100% with your ranking.

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Denice J. Cook

1. Brutes will forever rule! Their raw power and buildup challenge (they did more damage as their health got lower) made them the most exciting to play. Plus, they could tank. My favorite L50 ever was my Stone/Fire Brute, eerily named Unfinished Business. Hopefully some enterprising emu team will rez CoX so I can finally continue my business with her, because it’s crystal clear NCSoft has zero intentions of ever doing it.

2. Controllers are a close second. I had the most L50s of these: five, because of their flexibilty– crowd control, healing, buffing and fearsomeness in open pvp maps– and challenge, which all but left boring defenders and corruptors in the dust in comparison. Troller pets sucked badly, though. They would aggro the world and you couldn’t control them at all.

3. Masterminds were pretty OP, but also cool, and their pets had an actual functioning control bar, a huge leap forward from troller pets, which were best restricted to dance party outings, period. ;)

Scrappers and Stalkers were my least favorites, although my first 50 ever was a Scrapper. Blasters were fun but too squishy, and would get abandoned in the 30s a lot. Tankers got left in the dust by the much more intense and powerful Brute. And I did have one Dark/Dark Defender at 50, but I never played another fender either before that or after. Like Corruptors, they were just too meh compared to their superiors (Controllers) who could stand toe to toe in healing/buffing while doing crowd control and DoT damage besides.

I still miss this game. And this article hasn’t even remotely touched upon adding extra pool powers or end game powers…. *sad panda face*

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Barry G.

Herding the ‘Troller pets was part of the fun, IMO. Even those blasted Fire Monkeys were manageable with really good positioning, but yeah, it took a LOT of practice & patience, & that’s what I LOVED about the Controller AT. Done well, NOTHING compared to it!

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William Tweed

P.S. These articles make me soooo sad but so happy that a long dead game still has such an impact and relevance within the MMO world

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Duane Roelands

I played COH since closed beta and loved it. I still do. I wish it hadn’t gone away but it did.

It is time to stop talking about this game. It’s gone. It’s not coming back. In any form. The “Task Force Hail Mary” projects have all failed. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is.

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mechageist

/jranger

jranger.png
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Duane Does not check email

People will stop talking about the game when the last COH player has died. Then everyone will agree – that guy finally shut up about COH. Otherwise, keep on talking and never let it be forgotten. A good game cut short and a community that was filled with true fans or fanatics.

I ran into a guy once at a fast food restaurant and we happened on the subject… He was so enthusiastic about the game, the community and the lost issue 24. Wow he was weird and I hope I come off that way too about the game.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

No.

camren_rooke
Reader
camren_rooke

I believe you meant

/jranger

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William Tweed

I had so many goddamn Controllers and Defenders… I MISS THEM ALL SO MUCH

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thickenergy

Loved Defenders, but when Corruptors came out they pretty much overshadowed them. They couldn’t provide all the defense that a Defender could, but they provided enough for most groups plus did more damage. The better damage also made them quicker for soloing.

Ultimately though Dominators became my favorite. Blappy goodness plus CC? YES PLEASE! My last character was a Dark/Energy Blue Beetle homage named Scarab Six. Costume in brown and gold tones with most powers having a golden light/glow to them. Damn he was fun to play.

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mechageist

There were two specific Defender Secondaries that gave them an edge over Corruptors through most of the game’s lifespan: Ice Blast and Sonic Blast. Ice Blast for Ice Storm (until the pseudo-pet was tweaked in the last year or so), and Sonic Blast for everything since it had the Defender debuff values. For a long time Rad/Sonic Defenders were the AT of choice for soloing Giant Monsters.

miol
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miol

And the CoH drinking game continues! ;P

ice_screenshot_20170426-183456.jpg
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TheDonDude

Stalkers – neat idea since CoH hadn’t done combat stealth before, but yeah, they never really worked right.

Controllers – man I dunno about this. They RULED. They’re often listed as one of the ‘why don’t other games have this?’ archetypes. Plus, their Defendery powers were great.

Blasters – yeah ok they’re standard. I loved their Defiance ability, though. When crowd controlled, you can still use your 2 basic (but still pretty good) powers. In an era when player CC is super annoying, why haven’t other games copied this?

Defenders – the success at making support characters that weren’t just about heals was massive. Buffs? Debuffs? Heals? Wacky status effects? These guys ought to be the CoH mascots.

Dominators – I was never a fan of these guys. I found the ‘build up Domination slowly and then spend it all’ mechanic frustrating. Too much encouraging a go-go-go-never-stop type gameplay. I did enjoy that they could sort of go ranged or melee, tho.

Tankers – prior to these guys, tanking sucked! CoH’s tanks were fun since they didn’t rely on Taunt so much, and having 16 bad dudes all wailing on you made you feel pretty tough.

Corruptors – same as Defenders, just with a different prioritization.

Brutes – too much emphasis on go-go-go-never-stop for me.

Scrappers – these guys were fun. Good tanky tank, and them being the one class with Criticals made it fun to one-shot minions and lieutenants.

Mastermind – yeah this was the obvious #1 choice. Awesome and unique class. Yet another thing other games ought to be copying.

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Legend Of Vinny T

How’d that old forum saying go?

I am Tank. I stand between the teammate and the mob.
We are Tank. We stand between the blaster and the debt.

(As always, apologies to J. Michael Straczynski.)

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Amen on Defenders. For so long i though Defenders were just heals then someone said you get more mileage from debuffs. And it was true. Then I saw a Defender tanking missions.

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thickenergy

Yeah, Defenders were super stout for the most part due to all the debuffs they could throw down, but very slow going if soloing.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

For me the Tanker was probably one of the least-comicy things about the game; the idea of a Superman or a Hulk who hit like a wet noodle? Ugh. I’d put that class at the bottom of the list just because of that.

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Barry G.

My Inv/EM Tank didn’t. with Bone Smasher, Total Focus & Energy Transfer, I absolutely RULED in PvE AND PvP. When IOs came out, I made a Regen Tank with max Recharge, so I almost had perma-Unstoppable. When I entered Warburg or RV, everyone left, lol.

R.I.P. Quon L50 Inv/EM Tank, Triumph Server

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Dug From The Earth

The funny thing is, the initial thing that drew me to CoH, was the hype about there being no actual archetypes. This quickly changed during the course of the beta, but the notion of creating a super hero character with the exact powers I wanted, seemed pretty freaking amazing.

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Anthony Clark

For me it was Mastermind, then Blaster. Loved my blaster. Tank was cool too, and controller was fun for a while.

I do find myself missing that ol city…. that city of heroes.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I liked my controller, Nuclear Grandpa, but he was boring to play. Soloing was mass stun, wander into middle of bad guys with Ring of Fire AOE on, let flaming monkeys chew on the rest, pop solo stuns on the few who broke out early. In general though it was just standing around, slowly watching people burn to death.

That does something to a man’s soul…

Something dark…

and chocolatey.

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Barry G.

My Ice/Storm Ella Mental, was the most fun toon I had, with max recharge from IOs (before they got nerfed), I could throw out multiple everything until the whole screen was full of effects, just utter chaos, it was GLORIOUS!!! :)

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