Into the Super-Verse: Gearing up as a newcomer to City of Heroes Homecoming

I did a thing!

I was originally going to spend this week opining on why the Incarnate system in City of Heroes didn’t really work and why it will eventually need some work, but just last week I talked about how the endgame is not the game’s top priority right now, and I decided I didn’t feel like two endgame focused columns in a row. So instead, let’s focus on something that is just as important but tends to be impenetrable to a lot of people, and that is gearing. Yes, it’s the fine art of slotting in Enhancements in the best way possible.

My goal here is not to suggest the best way for you to build any given character; if you’re wondering about which order to purchase your archetype enhancement sets, you probably do not need this guide. But if you are brand-new to the game and looking at enhancements, it can be overwhelming. And while I am really happy with the way that the game has made single-origin enhancements available from the very start of the game, it can also be kind of impenetrable for new players because the costs aren’t totally balanced and the game definitely isn’t balanced that way. So I want to talk through gearing and de-mystify some of the game.

First of all, let’s take a step back to the way that the game was balanced for a very, very long time. From launch, the game has had three main forms of enhancement available to everyone: Training Origins, Dual Origins, and Single Origins. (Or TOs, DOs, and SOs, if you’re familiar.) TOs can be slotted by everyone but offer terrible improvements, DOs can cover two origins and are slightly stronger, and SOs are strongest out of the batch. As originally designed, SOs were meant to get you through to level 50, which means having access to them at level 5 is a huge perk indeed. (The downside, however, is that you have to keep upgrading them every few levels, which can add up in a hurry.)

Originally, of course, you would start the game and get TOs as drops and find them on vendors too. Now, however, the game starts off with DOs and SOs pretty evenly available from the first vendor in Atlas Park, with mostly DOs dropping for noobs. This is a good thing insofar as TOs were so feeble as to be functionally irrelevant, but it’s a bad thing because a new player might look at stores selling batches of SOs and think, “Oh my gosh, gear is so expensive, what should I even do?”

The answer is, to start with… that you shouldn’t really worry about it all that much.

With a little bit of practice, the first levels of the game will fly by so quickly that you will barely even have time to register how quickly they’re passing. The early game at this point is actually balanced around the idea that you have a few TOs at best, and there’s even a passive accuracy buff applied to all characters at these levels to cut down on the whiffing and misses. You will be getting new powers at a breakneck pace, and you will not have a whole lot of slots for powers anyway.

i'm lost help me

As a matter of fact, I would recommend that if you worry about spending money on anything, it should be on filling up your Stamina power with Endurance Modification assets. Bree and I disagree very slightly here; she prefers tossing two extra slots onto Stamina first thing (which, for most of the game, will let you hit your diversification limit – more on this later) and then filling it up, while I usually put just one additional slot there (just to save a respec later, I’ll get to that). But the point is that you don’t need to worry too much about boosting yourself at this level.

If you are boosting your powers, you are going to be best served by starting off with Damage for your attack powers. Your primary powers in particular are probably things you’ll want to eventually fill up with a full six slots, and early on you want Damage, then either Accuracy or Recharge, then whichever one you didn’t do second. But you really do not need to worry about gearing seriously until you hit level 17 or so.

Why do I say that? Well, level 17 is when you can start slotting in Level 20 Invention Origin enhancements aka IOs. And if you want to be economic with your money, IOs are how you save big money over time.

Invention Origin enhancements were added to when crafting was added, and the whole idea is that they work differently than other options. Rather than offering a narrow level band during which they work, like SOs, IOs work forever, in exchange for their potency being based on the level of the IO. And level 20 is important because that’s when an IO is always going to be better than a DO, even fully upgraded.

Now, buying the recipes and mats and then crafting the enhancements can be expensive; if you’re patient, you could also just buy pre-crafted IOs from other players on the auction hall instead. But the thing is that those enhancements will stay put and you won’t have to worry about them again. If you’ve been saving your money for the first 20 levels or so, slotting yourself up with IOs will mean that you can easily reach the higher levels much more cheaply than buying SOs every few levels.

Again, there are a couple of approaches you can take with this. I personally like to swap in better IOs every time it hits another milestone of 10, so 30s, 40s, and 50s. You can also wait longer to slot in 35s (around the point when IOs are roughly as good as SOs) and then that’ll cruise you well into 50. In fact, on Homecoming especially it may be wiser to buy attuned IOs from the market, as attuned IOs don’t just work forever but also level up with you. Either way, while it might cost you a bit of cash up front, it’ll be the cheapest way to stay on-par.

“But what do I slot?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s start by talking about diversification.


Enhancement diversification is a system that was added to basically force you to not be a one-trick pony no matter how much you might like having the one trick. The short version is that any power can be buffed by enhancements of a certain type only to a certain level. Leaving aside the math (you can look it up if you want to), you just need to know that from a functional standpoint it means that any given category can accept either three SOs or two level 50 IOs before you start to see sharply diminishing returns. If you slot three Damage SOs into a power, you will increase that power’s damage by 95%. If you slot a forth, your total improvement will be 100%, meaning the fourth is basically wasted space.

Of course, if you’re primarily focusing on IOs, how many slots each thing will take up will decrease over time. My general recommendation is for damaging powers you should focus on damage first, then recharge, accuracy, and endurance in that order. If the power in question is primarily an attack, this will fairly consistently mean you can throw it out quickly. While some folks might disagree, I put accuracy lower on the list just because as a rule, CoH is just a game where you accept a certain percentage of your attacks will miss. That’s just how the game is played.

If the power in question is primarily doing something else, like a hold, your priority is on hold duration, then recharge, then accuracy. It’s worth noting that the power in question need not be flagged as “this power is primarily a hold.” If you’re playing a Corruptor and you want to make your Ice Blast set primarily about using the slows? Prioritize Slow enhancements and make damage a lower priority. You’d be surprised how much impact this can have on your powers over the long term, although building a Blaster as a melee powerhouse that can’t be hit with Dark Blast/Energy Manipulation is a bit of an advanced technique.

Hopefully this helps somewhat in de-mystifying how to get started in the game, but I’m curious to hear what people think. The fact is that CoH remains a very flexible game across the board, and there are lots of right ways to build your character; I can only hope that this helps, and if you have more questions feel free to leave them in the comments. (Whether I answer them this week or learn I have way more to write on this topic remains to be seen.)

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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