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Cape Theory

One thing that's proved difficult to surmount for me is that there's a gap between theory and practice. What looks excellent on the drawing board does not always perform well when the final implementation is assembled and given a test run. It baffles the finest of engineers in the field, and baffles this gamer in City of Heroes.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's another riveting episode of me trying to figure out what character I feel like playing in City of Heroes.

In theory, for reasons I've documented extensively in the last entry, my Gravity/Kinetic/Psionic Controller is a lovely choice for the ultimate character. Heroic (not a villain archetype) with the wide variety of options and defensive strength only found in Controllers, yet compensating for the Controller's traditionally weak offense with Kinetics power siphoning, finally completing the missing AOE damage component and status resistance with Psionic. The theory seems sound!

In practice, this character crashes and burns like a pre-Wright Brothers airplane design. The trouble is that the application of his powers is very awkward, moreso than a skilled player can effectively compensate for. The actual game plan to wipe out the average spawn looks like this:
  1. Wormhole foes into close proximity location.
  2. Restrain foes with Crushing Field and/or Gravity Distortion Field.
  3. Siphon Speed to boost movement speed.
  4. Rush into melee range and Fulcrum Shift, boosting damage to (or near) the 400% cap.
  5. Start nuking with Area of Effect attacks. (Psionic Tornado and Crushing Field.)
  6. Pick off survivors. (Lift and Propel.)
Each power activation takes time - this sequence of powers would take about half a minute to cast back to back, and some (mostly the attack powers) will need to be cast multiple times before the spawn is finished off. Before you know it, you're up to two or three minutes to defeat a full spawn. Comparatively, Blaster or Scrapper can get the same accomplished in about a minute with a game plan that looks like:
  1. Build up for temporary double damage (replaces steps 1-4 above).
  2. Start nuking with Area of Effect attacks.
  3. Pick off the survivors.
Having high base damage, and not having to compensate for it with awkward methods such as Fulcrum Shift, saves a lot of time. Given they've about 3-5 times as much base damage per attack, the actual number of power activations are considerably less.

The catch: it's riskier for a Scrapper or Blaster, because the Controller possesses incredible defensive capacity. For the Controller, one's safety is of little consolation when you're slowly slogging your way through a mission having to hit foes with five times as many power activations. The critical problem isn't directly the damage output so much as the result: Controllers feel ponderous and boring to play.

It's the same in every MMORPG where everybody wants to be the DPS-machine. I miss the exciting, visceral-feeling characters. They move quickly, spend less time animating their attacks, and look a lot cooler in action. Playing such a character in City of Heroes is playing it at its best. The only problem is that these "visceral" characters tend to be one-dimensional. I get tired of having so little options... and then I'm back to Controllers again.

I can't settle for either, I want both. For months - no, years - I've been trying to find this elusive character. Unfortunately, for all the flexibility that City of Heroes seems to offer, it seems that there simply isn't a character that does this well enough. There's been some near misses: A Dark Miasma Scrapper would seem to have options and damage... but unfortunately devolves into a toggle-heavy and uninvolved-feeling character.  It seems that in City of Heroes, you've either many options or you've better damage potential. It's probably a deliberate balance decision, so my long quest to find a character that possesses both was doomed to fail from the start.
My City of Heroes subscription expires tomorrow, and I think I'll just let it lapse. Maybe they'll drag me back in Issue 13, especially if they introduce a more meaningful level 50 experience or a heroic character with both options and firepower. However, chances are I'll just be holding out for Champions Online, whose core features include total power customization and a dynamically changing world.

My Age of Conan subscription has 20 days left on it. I've contacted Funcom to see if they're at all interested in performing a server transfer for me. Given that a Herald of Xolti is the only class I seem to enjoy, and that I'm not leveling another one up from scratch for 50 levels, that'll make or break it for me.


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