City of Heroes: Going Rogue: review

Seeing as the City of Heroes universe is virgin territory for us at Critical Gamer, it may seem odd that we review the six year old game’s latest expansion, Going Rogue. In a convenient coincidence however, the vast majority of new content has been bolted onto the starting experience. We consider ourselves fresh eyes for the slightly elderly MMO’s fresh start.

As the title suggests, Going Rogue means exactly that. You are no longer tied to the black or white experience of heroism or villainy. Players are free to begin their adventure, and indeed play it out as a mysterious force dancing on both sides of the grey line of neutrality. Instead of choosing to be a vanilla hero or villain players of Going Rogue can choose to be Praetorian, and are whisked away to the city of Praetoria should they pick the latter.

This area is for the first 20 levels that the game has to offer, with the standard MMO formula of NPCs dispensing missions like they were breath mints applied to it. At several key stages you can choose whether to side with the Loyalists or the Resistance, basically assigning yourself to accept missions from the sewer people or city dwellers. Unfortunately, each mission feels incredibly familiar, no matter where your loyalties lie.

In a city full of powerful vigilantes, you can understand the strong police presence

Upon accepting an assignment from your current NPC contact you follow a waypoint to the door or hatch to the instanced mission area. From here you fight your way through henchmen in one of the four environments available; grey tech lab, brown office interior, cluttered warehouse or dank sewer tunnel, each one a labyrinth of familiar corridors. The layouts do shuffle around a bit, but you get the impression that it is sometimes just a case of some doors getting locked and unlocked to funnel you through areas slightly differently. There is more déjà vu here than what you feel when granddad tells you one of his stories that you “haven’t heard before”.

Objectives do vary, but whether it is a case of gathering items, rescuing an NPC or vanquishing a boss character, the mission process is exactly the same. Enter area, kill everything, then do the last little bit relevant to the mission. The lack of variety makes missions feel like more of a repetitive chore than a fun experience.

Once you hit level 20 you leave Pratoria and choose to become either a hero or a villain, and then proceed to the content from the base game. You can however change your allegiance when you feel like it, letting your character experience both good and evil sides of the game.

Robot enemies or 'clockworks' feature regularly - some dissassembly required

Since it was originally released in 2004, City of Heroes looks very aged, and unfortunately it hasn’t gone the same way as fine wine or Carol Vorderman. Environment and character textures just look old, but you have to bear in mind that this is an update to an aging game. A graphics booster was released, but this merely seems to spruce up water, shadow and reflection effects.

Controls feel cumbersome at times, especially when confronted with a crowd of enemies that have swarmed around you. Clicking on enemies and then pressing a corresponding number for each attack can be frustrating enough, but your inconvenience is tripled if the camera isn’t facing the right way. It means that each fight you have needs to be carefully planned, picking up on standard MMO traits such as pulling and managing aggro.

Of course, all of this is easier if you have ranged attacks at your disposal. Our melee character found himself struggling against some groups where he was perhaps refusing to slash when an inch or two out of range, or was overwhelmed by targets and so died a lot more than he possibly could have done. It definitely takes some getting used to.

The greatest super power of them all: a crazy man with two pistols

There are four new power sets for the base archetypes (the class which determines what kind of powers you can use). Our main character was running around, saving the world with dual wielded pistols, but other new powers include demon summoning, electric control and kinetic melee. They add yet more interesting variety to what was already a mixed bag of justice dispensing fun.

Where Going Rogue feels lacking possibly lies with the six year old game it is based on. It does not feel as if there is as much to do here as in other MMOs, possibly due to there being no stat enhancing weapons or apparel to find. What you kit your character out with at the start is purely the aesthetical representation of your power set. You find stat boosting ‘enhancements’ that plug into slots on your abilities, making them do more damage or have a greater effect. Whilst this lets you customise your character’s abilities slightly, the lack of visual change on the character model feels lacklustre. There’s no sensation of finding massive, rare, purple hammers or flying around toting a .45 magnum of overwhelming awe. What you get are merely skins used to dispense the abilities you have lying underneath.

Going Rogue is not enough to pull a huge influx of new players to City of Heroes. If you really want to become your own custom super hero and wrestle with a bulky MMO control scheme, you might be able to squeeze some enjoyment from this. If you have been a City of Heroes fan for sometime and possibly want an excuse to pick it up again to make a new hero, Going Rogue does expand on the formula, but it stays confined to the same rules set by the original engine and game world. There are certainly cracks starting to show in this time ravaged game and some people might find it hard to keep their attention on it for the duration that an MMO demands.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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