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Impossibilities met and then something else

Within City of Heroes, I had achieved what I had thought impossible, but this ultimately lead to one fundamental truth: I needed to do something else for a bit. So I did.

Intelligence is an insatiable monster that becomes fixated on sufficiently engaging things in order to chomp its way through. However, sooner or later you run out of substance to chew on. Thus, in a scenario of hundreds of possibilities, it is no a small amount of shame that I make the following confession:

"I think I've finally run out of possible new characters to create in City of Heroes."

My rolling alts was a form of experimentation as I really felt out the game, but now this phase seems over. I may not have used every single power, but I've probably used an identical-feeling version from another power set.

I now believe that the core of City of Heroes balance, laid bare, looks like this:
ArchetypeWhat they do bestMy favorite combination
BlasterQuickly Apply Damage.Assault Rifle/Electric Manipulation
ScrapperEngage Dangerous Foes.Dual Blades/Dark Armor
TankerSoak Initial Counterattack.Stone/Dual Blades
ControllerPrevent Harm To The Team.Illusion Control/Storm Summoning
DefenderNothing. (See Below.)Dark Miasma/Sonic Blast
KheldianAdapt To Team Composition.Not Applicable

The "what they do best" column focuses only on what an archetype does better than any other archetype, not every type of thing an archetype can potentially do (which is nearly unlimited given the flexibility of the system). Considering the main difference between archetypes are various maximums and baselines of effectiveness in certain facets, this is perhaps the most pure way to look at what an Archetype is really good for.

The Blaster is the only archetype that really suits their simple label: "nuker." Defensively weak (in fact, the only heroic archetype that doesn't always have a means to mitigate at least 33% of the incoming damage) the main advantage a Blaster has is ease of application of powerful Area of Effect damage.

The Scrapper does about as much raw damage as a Blaster but it falls short due to melee range restriction. However, the Scrapper is much more durable, ideal to engage foes a Blaster cannot survive a counterattack from.

The Tanker can soak damage better than any other hero, but actually most heroes can prevent quite a lot of damage on their own. The real requirement of a Tanker is to endure the sharp spike damage that comes from the initial "alpha strikes" from a newly aggravated group of foes.

The Controller's "control" primary and "buff/debuff" secondary set combine to give them the greatest capacity to prevent harm from befalling the team. Ultimately, the Controller is a sort of a "soft tank" that keeps the team alive in a less direct manner than the Tanker does (and sometimes even more effectively).

The Defender has greater buff/debuff potency than a Controller, but his secondary set is wasted on a much weaker application of the Blaster's primary attacks. In the end, the Defender is more of a "Jack-of-all-trades," good at defending the team but less specialized in defensive or offensive aspects than a Controller or Blaster respectively.

The Kheldian (Peacebringer and Warshade) have the unique ability to shift between offensive, defensive, or balanced support forms. They're a different kind of Jack-of-all-trades than the Defenders in that they can choose a form ahead of time and then fulfill that role more efficiently than one who is not specialized that way.

In the "My Favorite Combination," column, these are not representative of the very best examples of an archetype but rather combinations I've learned I enjoy playing the most. This could very well mark the end of my alting around with heroes.

Next Mental Occupation: City of Villains

Ironically, I found myself dusting off an old level 17 City of Villains Mastermind of mine and found it more enjoyable than any of my current heroes. I enjoy the Ninja henchmen but there's clearly some issues with their survival while I'm using Trick Arrow. So I'm considering rolling up yet another alt, this time in the shady Rogue Isles. (I'd be in heaven if I could roll up a Mastermind in Paragon City.)

When I've engaged in such serious consideration of the core mechanic, to an extent I've stopped being a player of the game, and it's a sure sign I need to take a break. I've actually picked up two games lately which offer a nice reprieve along these lines:

Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

License spin-off games are usually pretty crappy on the grounds that they're considered a form of merchandising for the main event. However, sometimes a game is allowed to be developed by somebody with some real talent. Which is Harvey Birdman: Attourney at Law, a newly released game for the PS2, PSP, and Wii?

It looks pretty much like an episode from Adult Swim, which is hardly surprising considering the original talent was behind the production.

For those who have played the Phoenix Wright series, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law borrows the core game mechanic that involves finding clues and presenting them in court. This game substitutes new Harvey Birdman show footage where there would be story and ample dialogue in Phoenix Wright.

Phoenix Wright is a great series, but Harvey Birdman does not quite capture the appeal. The footage is often hilarious, but limited, and every time I pressed someone for evidence only to be met with a recycled clip I was disappointed: I really could have connected with the characters more if I would have had an actual response to everything I pressed them on. The (mostly comedic) audio added to each piece of evidence and profile actually was a bit jarring and overplayed. The actual cases were easy to solve for any Phoenix Wright veteran.

Having played and finished the PS2 version of the game (it took me about 3-4 hours) I'm going to say Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is neither the crappy sellout nor the talented gem. It managed a medium that's made me glad I rented it.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is the start of a new Nintendo DS strategy game series based off of Bluebyte's Battle Isle old cardboard strategy games the original Advance Wars series originally released for the Gameboy Advance.

There's not much to say about it the core gameplay, really: It's good, well-balanced turn-based strategy that you'd have to absolutely hate the genre not to like (and then maybe be surprised and like this game anyway). I think there's actually three more important things to say about this game than how it plays.

First, there's a multiplayer mode that also includes the ability to design and submit your own battle maps for other players. This is first time the Advance Wars has gone multiplayer and is considered a major ground breaking for the series.

Second, all your old characters are gone and apparently the world has suffered an apocalypse. This is so different from the previous series' fairly happy-go-lucky approach to war that I suspect many existing fans will be turned off by it.

Third, I don't like the new vehicle graphics. Sure, they look a bit more realistic, they went for this 3D cel-shaded imitator look. However, the old, clear-2D graphics had a lot more charm.

Nonetheless, it's still a damn good turn-based strategy game for a portable device and I suspect very few people will regret shelling out $30 for it.
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