The fun thing about City of Heroes is… well, there are lots of fun things. But one of the fun things is that the game is set up so that even the worst picks a player can make can still usually wind up being viable. The old joke went that you could make a secondary set that actively lowered your defenses, did no damage, and capped off by just killing you… and people would still figure out how to build it in such a way that you could solo groups at +1/x2.
But the purpose of these guides isn’t to tell people about that; it’s to give people who have no idea what the various archetypes are about some idea of what each one will feel like in play. Last week, we took a look at the heroic archetypes (and Sentinels, because they fit in nicely there); this week, it’s time to go for the villainous ones. Even though these days everything can be heroic or villainous. You know how it is.
Despite the name, Brutes aren’t really mindless hitting machines; instead, they’re like more momentum-based Scrappers. While they sit somewhere between Scrappers and Tankers in terms of durability, they have the benefit of their Fury bar, building up and boosting damage the longer the Brute smashes away at targets with reckless abandon.
Advantages: Generally speaking, if you’re rolling a melee character, odds are good that you want to just go to down smashing things. And that’s what Brutes are all about, getting more potent the more things get smashed and the more relentless your playstyle. It’s a glorious thing when you find your Fury bar maxing out and you start pinging ahead to just keep up the damage dealt.
Disadvantages: The momentum of a Brute is so intoxicating that it’s really easy to find yourself in over your head by having rushed ahead faster than you really should have. Meanwhile, being more cautious means that you’re also getting stuck with lesser damage dealt, making it hard to get back up to speed. Also, as with the other melee archetypes, you’re out of luck when it comes to dealing damage at range.
A dark mirror to Defenders, Corruptors are ranged damage dealers with support backup, thereby also nicely filling the niche that Blasters traditionally do… except with a secondary that’s more likely to be useful than risky melee powers you likely won’t need. You also get to start dealing critical hits at range once your enemies start losing health, so mobs that are dying tend to die faster.
Advantages: You’ve got nasty ranged powers and you get more powerful as things are dying. Plus, your secondary set is actually complimentary to your primary powers. That’s all good, isn’t it?
Disadvantages: Well… here’s the thing. Corruptors don’t actually hit as hard as Blasters do, and they don’t have the dedicated support bonuses that Defenders do. You’re trading some damage and some support here, and the net result is a bit of a hybrid of both. It’s a good pick for party play, but you might sometimes feel like the jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
While Controllers plink away with weaker attacks and a pet, Dominators hold the enemy and then unleash melee wrath. Yes, this is a wholly different experience simply with the loss of your pet and the presence of a damage-based secondary. You still have all of the control effects of Controllers, but now you can actually hurt things!
Advantages: You still have all of the control effects of Controllers, but now you can actually hurt things. Was that somehow vague the first time? What could possibly go wrong?
Disadvantages: Oh, right, something could get resisted. Controllers have those layers of safety with holds and defensive powers and pets. Dominators have holds and… well, then we’re down to being a much-less-dangerous Blaster trying to kill things before they kill you. There’s a reason why you build up to a stronger control casting as your inherent power.
Right, forget all of your other pet classes; this is a pet class. By the higher levels Masterminds have a whole roaming army following them, complete with support powers to back up the rest of the team and the pets and a few ranged attacks. It’s a really cool Archetype inherently, and it gets even more cool watching them work with a group.
Advantages: For one thing, it does away with the usual hands-off nature of pet classes; managing your full squad requires quite a bit of work, along with the use of your secondary powers and a few attacks of your own. It’s also an Archetype as at home with a group as solo, since in a group you’re like a healer with a pet army. Also, hey, it’s just cool.
Disadvantages: I don’t really feel that Masterminds are complex in the usual meaning, but they are definitely involved. You have a number of moving pieces to keep going at any given moment, and for new players it can be overwhelming. You also only have a handful of different powersets to choose from, and because your pets and their buffs take up so many of your slot picks, early on it can feel pretty dull to be the human in the party while your pets do most of the actual fighting. Plus, groupmates can sometimes become annoyed when your pets are clogging up the landscape (and the doors).
Oh, Stalkers, you can join the club with Tankers in terms of Archetypes that never really wound up as relevant as intended. The idea of Stalkers is solid enough, though; it’s the squishiest of the melee options, but you also get to stealth up to people and directly stab their faces off, giving no thought to how impossible that is from a physics perspective. Ker-face-stab!
Advantages: If you really like playing the hide-and-backstab sort of character in MMOs, Stalkers fill that niche in a way nothing else does. They really are the stealthiest archetype, and they have pretty great burst potential for taking down tough enemies before the rest of your group has even engaged.
Disadvantages: Well… CoH isn’t a game about bursting down tough enemies. There are tough enemies, but they always have backup. In groups, you want to have everyone crushing large groups, and when solo, that squishiness will really hamstring you. Thus, they’re another archetype that I wouldn’t ever really recommend to a brand-new player; you have to know what you’re doing and why you’re making a Stalker.
Funnily enough, Bree says she associates me with this particular archetype, despite the fact that they’re not anywhere close to my most-played archetype. But I do love spiders, and for good cause. Someone once described Soldiers as being Scrappers with a dash of Blaster, and that’s pretty much accurate.
Advantages: You get access to ranged abilities and melee along with defensive tools, and the result is that you can focus on going mostly ranged, mostly melee, a combination of both, or even on more esoteric tricks. There are many fun options when it comes to your power selection, whether you want more ranged stuff via Crab Spider or more melee stealthing via Bane Spider.
Disadvantages: Aside from Bane Spiders being a bit underwhelming, the biggest problem a Soldier has is that you’re not really built for one thing, and that shows. Yes, you can make an all-ranged Soldier build, but you’re not going to be good at that as dedicated ranged archetypes. You’re useful in a group, and your hybrid nature is fun to play, but “Scrapper but with range” is really where your design stops.
Continuing the theme of the above, Widows have an interesting mesh of different abilities. Either they’re Stalkers with range and control, or they’re Dominators with melee and defense. That might seem like an odd combination, but much as with Soldiers the idea is that you get to do a lot of things pretty well rather than doing one thing very well and another thing decently.
Advantages: If it isn’t obvious, Widows as ersatz Stalkers are probably a bit better all around than pure Stalkers, with less burst but more overall utility, in short. But more than that, Widows have similar advantages to Soldiers with a more esoteric setup, and since multiple builds can be a thing you can have a character who focuses more on stalking and killing one day and more on control the next.
Disadvantages: And, just as above, your biggest downside is that while you can be a mini-control character, you’re never going to be a Controller or Dominator. You can do more, but no one thing you do as well. Which can be an asset, in the long run, but in a party full of control you can feel like your holds just don’t cut it.
Hopefully this guide (and our Blueside guide) will help new players at least come to grips with what the heck can be done and why. There’s a lot more going on with powersets, like how the right builds can make Blasters almost into control characters… but the point is figuring out what the heck you can play. Pick the archetype that sounds appealing to you and go enjoy yourself. The game is really fun, you guys.