Into the Super-Verse: Rediscoveries I made diving headlong into City of Heroes Homecoming


Last week, I wrote about how my game came back. It was a big deal to me to know that City of Heroes was really as back – legally – as it could possibly be. So after the stream we all jumped on, I made a point of getting my game on with a character not meant solely for streaming and without a joke supergroup about how we kinda wanted seafood.

I don’t remember what context that was in, but it was make when the rogue servers first started rogue servering, and I’m not sad to still be there.

However, playing for myself meant that to a certain extent I had to sort of re-learn how to play the game; it has been a while, after all, but Homecoming has also had several years of development and changes since the last time I dived in. The result is a game that is still recognizable to me, and I very quickly found myself back to feeling comfortable… but I also found myself seeing new things that were new to this version of the game, or maybe ones that I just forgot. And I want to talk about them.

I'm purely decorative!

Single-origin enhancements right from the start

If there’s one major quality-of-life change to CoH that I noticed right out of the gate, this is it. For the first couple of characters you leveled back in the day, there was something cute about going from training enhancements to dual-origin to single-origin, but because of a variety of factors, the charm of that wears out pretty quickly. Heck, after the crafting system became a thing, it was just more efficient most of the time to slot in some early IOs until you could grab SOs and then forget about them.

The early-level SO enhancements you can nab from the trainers now are, admittedly, kind of expensive and thus require a little bit of an investment to get started. If you’re short on Influence or just like to be frugal, there’s reason enough to avoid them. But the fact is that the option is there if you’re willing to invest a bit to keep yourself ahead of the curve, which both helps balance out the lower end of the game and gives you good reason to keep looking for influence. That’s a good thing.

You can just upgrade with a button click now

Speaking of things that will eat up your money but are totally worth it: There’s just an “upgrade” button on the enhancement screen now that’ll let you upgrade all of your enhancements immediately at a set influence cost. (I believe the cost is based on buying enough to merge into a +3, but I’m not 100% certain.) Still, that means that not only is it quick to get yourself up to a reasonable power level, it’s also quick and easy to just catch up after you level up. This is really remarkably straightforward and welcome.

It does, however, drain your influence pretty quickly. So be fairly warned about that right out of the gate.


The new power sets are fun to play around with

The current server has a mixture of power sets that can be applied to archetypes that previously didn’t use them, power sets that were in development when the game shut down, power pools that are in a similar place, and even some new stuff. And these are… fun? I mean, it’s not exactly a surprise; the reality is that most CoH power sets for a given archetype work along fairly understandable lines. But it’s nice that in the time since the game went away, players who felt they had just played every variant on Brute or Scrapper or Controller that was out there now have new options. And they’re fun new options.

Yeah, the flow of those sets is not what it used to be, but this is also a passion project undertaken by people who love the game. I’m all right with development being a bit slower than it used to be when it had NCsoft’s money behind it.

The Tour Guide Tips are a fun addition

As a general rule, I’d gotten in the habit of gluing myself to radio missions while leveling, but as I was getting back into the game, I decided to spend more time working with contacts – the way the game used to be played. And I’m glad I did so because I otherwise would have completely missed the fact that there are new tips devoted specifically to showing you important landmarks around the city that can earn you an exploration badge.

You get these only while street sweeping, and while street sweeping is generally something that the game no longer requires you to do outside of specific missions, it’s not pointless, just generally busywork. It’s nice as a bonus for people such as myself who aren’t specifically badge collectors but do appreciate being pointed to the highlights. I like little things like this, reasons to search around the world and find stuff you could otherwise miss. It contributes to how alive the game generally feels.


There’s still fun content in the game I’d never seen before

Remember how I mentioned my usual approach to leveling? For various reasons, I had kind of missed out on the entirety of the old Twinshot contact arc, which is… really nifty! It’s a nice introduction to the larger world of CoH and the characters involved, it has a charming sense of humor, and at first I thought it was actually a new piece of content on this server before I checked and found it actually came from Issue 21. I just tended to skip it for various reasons, but having done it this time around, I’m glad I did.

The structure of CoH in general is still as loose as it has ever been, and there are a whole lot of stories and experience that it’s easy to miss out on almost by accident. So I’m really happy that having the game back means diving into some corners I had previously ignored and getting a look at content that flew under my radar before the shutdown and still deserves to be seen. Nothing can make up for the stuff we lost, but we can still enjoy what we do have within the game.

It’s still just as fun as ever

One of the things that I expected (from having last played the game for a stream in 2019 when the aforementioned rogue servers came out and otherwise hadn’t really bought in) was for the game to feel more… dated. And there are definitely aspects of that here. You can tell that the character models are older, the combat is slower and stiffer in many ways, and some game components have a modicum of jank to them. You can absolutely tell that the game is not a recent release. But all of that is also cut by the fact that on a whole, the game is still as fun as I remember it being.

Beyond the slightly aged elements and the modicum of jank is a game that shows why it remained the gold standard of superheroic MMORPGs well until its shutdown and even past it. And that’s one of the happiest things to learn, to find that at the end of the day, this old game still has just as much heart and inspiration as ever.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.
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