Summary: At GDC last week we got a glimpse of the upcoming free expansion for the super hero MMOPG titles and lived to tell about it.
As is the case with the previous free expansions for the games, Issue 7 adds so much new content that most publishers might charge for it. The fact that subscribers get both City of Heroes and City of Villiains for the same monthly price of $14.95 and get at least two massive free expansions a year is a huge value for the game's players (the fact that both games are fun to play is a bonus too). The upcoming next expansion is called Destiny Manifest and as the Cryptic and NCSoft team members told us during our GDC demo, this expansion will lean towards mostly upgrading the City of Villains title, although City of Heroes players will get new stuff to play with as well (future free expansions will have more or less equal content for the two games from now on).
City of Villains players get a new zone called Granville and as our GDC demo showed it's a pretty massive place. Basicially its the headquarters of Lord Recluse, the main arachnid-like bad guy in the center of Cryptic's super hero universe, and yes, players will get a chance in the zone to meet the spider man himself (Marvel, please don't sue us; it's just a comparison). City of Villains players will get over 300 new missions for levels 40 to 50 (by comparison, Cryptic told us that there were 300 missions for levels 0-40 in the original City of Villains game. One of the more interesting add-ons in this expansion is the use of Patron Powers. Basicially your low level super villain character gets to choose which high level super villain he or she would like to "worship". In our demo we got to see massive statues of the several different types of high powered villains you get to pick from. Once you select one you get some extra powers and abilities courtesy of your elected choice. But be careful. As is always the case with dealing with super villains, the high level ones don't get along with each other, so choosing one villain may put you at odds with others.
Along with the new single player oriented zone, Cryptic is taking some hints from multiplayer first person shooters like UT 2004 and the Battlefield series with Recluse's Victory, another new zone that's for both City of Heroes and City of Villains players. This time it's all out war inside the fictional Paragon City with the heroes and villains battling out for total control.
There are many smaller mechs, but only three large mechs to control, so you have to be careful when and where you use them. The cool point of the battle is when it ends and one of the two sides gets a victory. If the hero side wins things should look familiar to City of Heroes players with blue skies, clean streets, and Greek-like statues depicting super heroes in Atlas Park. However, if the villains are on the winning side the environment actually changes. The blue skies turn red, the trees turn into dead stalks, and the super hero statues are turned into images of Lord Recluse. It's rare, if at all, that we get to see actual environmental changes happen on the fly in such a multiplayer conflict.
Yet another cool addition for the City of Villains players are the new stand alone Mayhem Missions and that's exactly what they will be judging by our GDC demo. Yes, you robbed, killed and destroyed a ton of stuff in the regular game, but the Mayhem Missions makes those original quests look tame. You get to rob major banks, get extra points, fight super-powered police officers, blow up buildings by setting off bombs, and more. Of course you can get taken down by "the man" but you don't get to go to the clean and neat hospital if that happens. You go to jail. You go directly to jail. Which means of course that you can do the villain role and break yourself out. There are even mini-missions in the game where you can break out other super villains who can then join you on your quests to blow stuff up.
That would be enough expansion content for most players, but Cryptic and NCSoft plan for even more additions in Issue 7. City of Villains players can get new electrical-based abilities for the Brute class, Dark Armor and Dark Melee for the Stalker class, and new thug pets for the mastermind class. City of Heroes and Villains players get some new base features including storage items, support for super group banners all over you base and more. In addition, City of Heroes players get some graphical upgrades including higher resolution textures, bump and specular mapping and more. And even though the games' character creation system has without a doubt the most costume options ever for an MMORPG, Cryptic plans to add even more costume items to both games.
As we stated earlier, Issue 7 is the last free expansion for the game that will be heavily tilted for City of Villains players, but when we asked what the ratio was for playing the two super hero MMORPGs we were told that so far its been 50-50, which the development team admitted was somewhat surprising. As for the future of the franchises, Cryptic is already working on its next free "issue" but what about paid expansions (which City of Villains was originally supposed to be)? When asked the developers admitted they are in discussions now on how to proceed with the addition of paid content but have not yet announced any plans.
Based on our GDC demo, Issue 7 of City of Heroes/Villains will be a huge upgrade with some interesting multiplayer PvP play, some cool single-player oriented quests and even some of that new fangled hardware physics stuff that all the kids are talking about. If you haven't played either game there is still time to get in on the action and have your super-powered character ready when Issue 7: Destiny Manifest will be released for free sometime in April.
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