Info-blam! City Of Heroes Reaches Issue 20

Gosh, the venerable superhero MMO has hit its twentieth major update! The expansion is called Incarnates, and NCsoft explains it like this: “Players will be introduced to the game’s new Incarnate Trials, group encounters featuring a series of innovative game mechanics that will test even the most powerful characters. Taking place in the seemingly utopian empire of Praetoria, Heroes and Villains will find themselves challenged with a cosmic threat that could destroy two worlds.” All of which means new powers and new challenges for groups of 8-24 players.

We’ve got more details on that below, along with a illustrative trailer which show some of the trials in action, as well as some of the characters involved. (If I had a super power it would be this one, so that I could get all these games played.)

Here’s the lowdown:

New Incarnate Powers: Issue 20 introduces four new tiers of Incarnate Powers, new abilities that modify your character’s powers, or even unlock all-new ones. Massive elemental attacks, unparalleled healing powers and high-tech summons are just a taste of what the increasingly omnipotent Incarnates will experience.

New Incarnate Trials*: Firmly rooted in the lore of City of Heroes, the Incarnate Trials will use all-new tech, systems and gameplay mechanics to deliver exciting challenges and propel Heroes and Villains to new levels of power. 8-24 players can team up to fight against the power-driven Emperor Cole and his powerful Lieutenants.

Issue 20 launches with the following two Incarnate Trials, with more to come in future updates as the war between Praetoria and Primal Earth escalates.
Behavioral Adjustment Facility (BAF): Breaking into Praetoria’s most secure prison will require players to use all their skills as they face Emperor Cole’s cybernetic guardians, Siege and Nightstar, while also keeping floods of inmates from escaping in a challenge that’s akin to a game of reverse tower defense.

Lambda Sector: This heavily fortified military base is where Emperor Cole mass-produces his genetically-engineered Olympian Guard troopers. By taking out Lambda Sector and its deadly warden, Marauder, players will deal a critical blow to Cole’s army.

New Task Forces: The Admiral Sutter Task Force and Mortimer Kal Strike Force are designed for Heroes and Villains of level 20-40, allowing lower level characters to participate in the overall story surrounding the invasion of Primal Earth and the mystery surrounding the Incarnates.

New Grouping Features: For the first time, up to 48 players can now team up in a single group with the new League system. The Looking for Group system has also been upgraded with the Team-Up Teleporter, a new UI feature that allows players to easily queue up for the all-new Incarnate Trials, instantly transporting characters to the event once a full group is formed.

And here’s the trailer:


  1. Chris D says:

    Ah, City of Heroes, no other MMO has captured my heart the way you did. There were others after, younger, fresher things, so alluring. They were attractive and we had some good times, I won’t lie. But then I’d realise as I was with them I was still thinking of you. You were charming, funny, sometimes brilliant, not dazzling in the same way perhaps, time takes it’s toll on us all, but you were comfortable, you felt like home and that’s something that we take for granted all too often.

    So what went wrong? It’s a fair question and you deserve an answer. It just began to feel claustrophobic after a while. I wasn’t ready for the commitment. I enjoyed spending time with you, really I did, but you wanted all of it and I needed some space. I have needs, damnit, and I just couldn’t get everything from you. Sorry.

    It seemed so innocent at first, just a little time here and there with someone else, no harm done. It was Medieval 2. She didn’t give me what you could but she had other charms. I found myself spending more and more time with her and she wasn’t as possessive as you. She didn’t mind if I spent time with others. And I spent more and more time with her. In the end, I guess we just drifted apart.

    Sometimes I think about us getting back together. We had good times. But I don’t think I’m ready to give you the commitment you need. I still want to see other games from time to time, and you need more than that. So, though it saddens me, I think we must remain apart. But we did have some good times. I will always think of you fondly and you will always have a special place in my heart.

    • harmen says:

      I just wanted to know if CoH is worth playing these days. I guess this is a ‘you’re too late’.

    • -Spooky- says:

      When you like some kind of “I want to have a fast action mmo without travel 30 min. across the whole damn universe” – this is for you.

      PS: You will spend 2-3 hours in the char editor. Fo´sure. ;)

    • Chris D says:

      Not so much a “You’re too late” as an “I don’t see myself spending enough time with the game to justify a monthly subscription now”.

      I haven’t played in about two years so I’m not really in a position to comment on the state of the game now. On the other hand, while it’s not necessarily the best looking game out there, it is still brilliant, funny, and charming. So, just because I feel I’ve spent my time with the game (I played pretty solidly for months), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out.

      She should have someone who can give her the love she deserves.

    • harmen says:

      Thanks for the extra comments. I’ll give it a (re-)try, I’m in the mood for something like this.

    • MaXimillion says:

      I feel pretty much the same way about CoH. At one point I knew all there was to know about the game, had done every mission, collected nearly every badge, tried all powersets and could make a build for any combination in a few minutes, and had 10000+ forum posts. Eventually I just ran out of things to do, and got interested in some other MMO’s.

      I wish I could go back to CoH again, but the few times I’ve tried during free weekends, it just doesn’t feel the same. It still is my favourite MMO, and has some things I wish all other MMO’s copied (especially Global Chat).

    • Wulf says:

      Considering that Champions Online is free, and in my opinion, superior and more fun in just about every possible way, even when comparing the free version against the paid for version of City of Heroes, I really don’t see any point in going back to it, and especially not spending any money on it. If CoH/V started doing the free to play thing, then it might be a viable option, but you’ve already got access to something better for free.

      And the nice part with CO is that they’ve been working more and more lately toward making the game as fun and sans grind as possible, it’s still got traditional MMO elements, but it’s a lot further on ahead than City of H/V. It’s a much more modern game. It’s also a game that requires you to move around a lot, and pay attention to the battlefield, and is far less about just cycling your fingers over buttons. It’s basically the evolved form of City of H/V, by the same people, and it’s getting better all the time. They’ll soon even be adding weekly content in the form of comics, too, so it just gets better and better.

      And really, the costume options are better, too, as they provide a lot more choice for all sorts of crazy character designs than City of H/V did. So… I’d say that you’re too late to truly enjoy City of H/V because, again, in my opinion, it’s become completely irrelevant, and I couldn’t see why you’d pay for City of H/V when you can get something better for free. And I honestly wouldn’t even recommend getting a subscription for Champions Online, either, because if you can resist massive transaction store splurges beyond a few costume packs and the two adventure packs, you get all the content regardless, s subscribing to CO is actually completely redundant.

    • Torgen says:

      Wulf: One game tanked so badly it had to go F2P, while the earlier game didn’t. CO is so grindy that I FORCED myself to finish the endless, grindy tutorial, only to have the door slammed in my face with a “buy the game if you want to see what the real game looks like” when trying to exit the tutorial zone. Even free to play, CO has fewer people than CoX. Plus, the graphical look is like a worse WOW-clone cartoon look.

      Everything Cryptic has done since selling CoH to NCsoft has tanked, and it’s due to the design philosophy Emmert and Roper took. NCsoft became MUCH more responsive to the customer base, and the game is far better for it, and doing better than their competition (CO and DCUO.) With the introduction of “Ultra Mode”, NCsoft has updated the graphics for new cards while retaining the ability of their customers with older hardware to continue to play.

    • Torgen says:

      @Harmen: If you’re on Virtue, let me know and I’ll help you out.

    • BooleanBob says:

      One great thing that CoH/V has tucked into its utility belt is that it’s really – now bear with me on this one – well written. Content that would otherwise be grindy (especially if your mates force you to play an empathy Defender; Marfy, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry) and repetitive (‘streamlined’ if you prefer) is enlivened by confident writing that, well, I can only speak for myself. But I found it to be well worth my time in reading.

      Nothing of the measure that Messrs Avellone and co. would put out even on a bad day, mind you; but all the same it sparkled with just a slight hint of self-aware charm, underpinning a solid body of hack-writer’s pulp-comic goodness. Who could forget that big Rikti reveal? The head-banging frustration barely concealed by your contact as your latest adventure turned out to be yet another plot of the immortal Belgian steampunk overlord, Nemesis? Or, say, the first Ghost Widow arc from City of Villains?

      The effect of such good writing woven into the structure of contacts, mission briefs, story arcs, task forces, server events and even trivial things like enemy and item descriptions was to create a mythos that remained compelling even when the activity of any given mission – as rinse-and-repeat formulaic as that of any MMO – had lost its novelty. So yes, the player base may well have shrunk (it was never huge), but the amount of quality content will only have grown over the years I’ve been away – so unless you find slightly lonely environs a definite dissuasion, in some aspects there’s probably never been a better time to be playing it.

      Plus combat in groups always teetered on the absolute brink of studious tactical engagements and undignified, untameable melee, which in my book is very much a plus.

      Oh and the travel powers and character creator are absolute class.

    • harmen says:

      Went to ncsoft, couldn’t reactivate old account because I don’t know the birthday. Ok, bought a new copy, out of 4 options available, no idea what the difference is. Worked my way to myriads of capatchas and unhelpful error messages and forgotten selections. No trace of any CoH in my ncsoft account. Enabled trial version, than found you need to go to ‘add serial’ to enable your just-bought copy. Works, downloading 4GB. Doesn’t bother to warn me there isn’t near enough diskspace to install. Installed, told me my graphics card is good enough to enable ‘ultra’ mode. Click the button, game ask me again if I want to enable ‘Ultra’. Done the loop a few times just hit cancel. Screen turns black and stays. Fiddling with alt-tab brings up a screen, in paltry 1024×786 (‘Ultra’?!?!). Ok, created a character as good girl (no explanation what the difference in gameplay between good, ban and enforcer is). Dropped in some tutorial, first thing I want to do is fix the resolution. [Esc] doesn’t do anything, but ‘menu’ button found. Changed to normal resolution, and enabled Ultra(!). Needs restart to change resolution. Ok, exit, start and behold, downloading all 4Gb again and fixing files for 5:31:04 remaining, longer than the original download!
      People actually manage to play this game?

    • RakeShark says:

      Personally, I would have bought the latest retail disc of CoH/V. Saves a lot of time from the download/patching.

      Anyway, my vote is for giving CoH/V a shot. I still have an active sub for it, even though I don’t play it nearly as often as I used to. I’ve found it’s one of the most socially-accessible MMOs for any kind of gamer. People playing for only an hour can usually find a team or two to group, and more time-spending people can pretty easily find friends and supergroups to work with. There’s still plenty of wiggle room for concept characters, and the crafting system is both simple and deep enough to reward time spent on it.

      I think Eve and CoH/V are the only two MMOs I’ve kept subs for YEARS, as opposed to played for a few weeks/months and buggered off like CO/SWG/DCUO, also noting that I couldn’t get into WoW.

      However, skip CO. Post-NGE SWG for a new player (which I was in 2009) is more fun and fulfilling than CO. God bless my buddies at Cryptic, but God damn what a disappointment. I purged that turd off my computer, I wouldn’t touch F2P CO with a 10 foot pole unless you were flat broke, living in a cardboard box, and for some reason can’t stand Turbine’s honestly better DDO.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I’m not big on MMO’s (subscription based gaming bothers me) but I have to say I did enjoy CoX well enough as a game, and the MMOey stuff was easy enough to ignore if I wanted to or enjoy if I was in the mood. I have to admit I probably spent more time crating characters than actually playing them, the freedom of the character creator I felt really encouraged creativity and allowed me to tell a story. My favourite amongst my creations was a hellish demon summoned to earth to perform in the circus, bound by mystical chains and wearing clown pants. Freed of his oppressor, he vowed to rid the land of villainy. His name was… Jugglenaut!

  2. Gothnak says:

    I wonder how all my characters are faring on their dusty servers.. Paul Daniels, Dr Bovril, Dravid Copperfield…

    I loved that game for ages, but never got anyone past level 20, just got too repetitive… Then again, i’ve still not fully levelled a character in any MMo even though i’ve played pretty much all of them. When you fight the same enemy with red/blue/orange skin for the 10,000th time, my brain tends to lose interest.

    Unfortunately now i have played CoH, the fact no other games have awesome travel powers or the sidekick ability to play with friends, i hate them within about 4-5 hours when my addicted friends have power levelled off to the distance.

    • Torgen says:

      You now get the entire “fitness” skill tree for free now, so you can use the free respec to free up three power slots. Also, veterans get to take a travel power without having to take a prerequisite power now if they don’t want it (Get Fly without having to take Hover, Super Jump without having to take Combat Jumping.)

    • BooleanBob says:

      This makes sense; the fitness powers (well, the stamina one, but you had to get two others just to get it) were pretty much mandatory for any viable build in the first place.

  3. Ginger Yellow says:

    Bah. Yet another retcon.

  4. Torgen says:

    Funnily enough, I returned last month after letting my sub lapse last June.

    It’s a far, far different world than even a year ago. I found myself asking guildmates or people on some of the custom server channels questions almost every play session for two weeks.

    Tweaking builds in Mids Hero Designer is *strongly* recommended, as tweaking your build with the various invention origin (IO) enhancements can dramatically increase your power. The game is still balanced around SOs, but when you can set your mission difficulty to simulate the challenge of an 8-man team and carve your way through the masses of enemies solo, well, there’s really nothing like it.

    With Issue 20 released today, the devs continue to build a totally new end-game, while also paying attention to the low levels. The ability to start *any* archetype in the new Praetoria alternate Earth, then decide at level 20 whether to go hero or villain regardless of your class, is very nice.

    • MaXimillion says:

      Surely it’s been far longer than a year since SIO’s were added?

    • Torgen says:

      Yes, IOs have been in for a good long while. I kind of segued back to talking in general terms there, meaning to say that even if you’ve never tried the game before, don’t be put off by the invention sets- you can still use SOs and generic IOs and be fine.

  5. bigblack says:

    CoH is a ton of fun, and it now has some genuine and enjoyable end-game content whose rewards have important effects on how your characters work. I’ve been on-and-off since beta way back when, and am always happy to come back and see the new stuff, and there is a LOT of it. Agree also that the changeover to NCSoft has been a god-send to the aging City of Heroes, and the changes they’ve implemented are downright fun and useful. They listen to the players and concentrate of QoL, challenge and fun, all without upsetting balance. No small feat!

    I must finally respectfully disagree with the Champions praising above; I found it ugly, boring, shallow, and interminably grind-y. I will never be back.