City of Heroes / Villains first paid expansion in a long while launches next week. Going Rogue is Paragon Studios’ big content update, aimed at getting back players who have left, attracting those who may have never played and locking in existing players as the competition continues to escalate.
Unfortunately, I think Paragon has kind of blown their chance at staking out their ground.
Hindsight Is 20/20
Going Rogue was announced over a year ago. The main focus was on the ability to switch alignments, plus an entirely new world to play in through Praetoria. As the road to launch ramped up, more things were attached to GoRo, such as new power sets and a graphical update for CoH/V (Ultra Mode). Further announcements included more powersets plus a new max-level advancement path, known as the Incarnate system.
However, as the launch of GoRo was delayed from probably May 2010 (so that the ‘new’ pre-order powersets would serve as a launchpad) to July 2010 to August 2010, things started to slip a bit. Issue 17 went live in April 2010 and included Ultra Mode, so players got that for free. Information emerged that Going Rogue really was limited to level 1 – 20 play, which doesn’t take long for players to get through.
Following feedback from the GoRo beta, the Incarnate system was held out of GoRo’s launch (which was the correct decision, given that the Incarnate system was “do the content you’ve already done multiple times, but this time you’ll get some new loot to craft” which isn’t really going to bring back max level players looking for something new). Plus a key benefit of electing to switch sides – access to the player market of opposing alignment – became irrelevant when it was announced that the markets would merge with GoRo’s launch.
In short, where GoRo should have been a shining beacon for players to latch onto, it became more of a dull bauble as features were hived off or given away too early. Although GoRo is some of the best CoH/V content released in a long while, it ends up feeling very familiar very quickly. That you can make a choice about which path to take is fantastic, but you can just as easily end up with two choices that don’t seem to fit either (why do I have to kill either Cleo or Washington? Can’t I drag them both in?) and the basic game content is still the same.
On the plus side, some of the maps are instanced new… but not all of them.
This Is My Problem And I’m Dealing With It
A personal peeve I have about GoRo is that the story is a retcon of lore that has existed for 6 years. Added in Issue 1 (June 2004) Praetorian Earth was the ‘evil’ version of CoH’s Primal Earth (i.e. the ‘real world’). Praetorians were power-hungry and blood-thirsty (and even incestuous, given that Dominatrix served Tyrant “in all capacities“, despite also being his grand-daughter). Despite this, the Praetorian world held a lot of potential for what else it might contain and how it worked.
However, along with new writers came the idea to ‘shave the goatee‘ off Praetorian Earth, which generally meant ditching existing lore. Personally I view the retcon as lazy and unnecessary – the existing lore still provided plenty of room to move without throwing out what had come before. I also recognise this as a personal preference, but don’t think a retcon like this sets a good precedent for future lore updates.
Picking The Wrong Side
Players who aren’t buying GoRo will still see an update to their play experience with the launch of Issue 18: Shades of Gray. For an overview of the differences between the content of Going Rogue and the content of Issue 18, the following list has been compiled by Zombie Man:
- 4 new powersets
- Praetoria zones/missions/content
- Changing sides – Going Rogue Alignment System
- 3 Costumes Sets: Resistance, PPD, Clockwork
- Tons of Badges
- 4 new stances (2 hero/2 villain) [Complete Edition]
- Shadowy Presence power [Complete Edition]
- 2 More Costume Sets: Alpha, Omega [Complete Edition]
- 2 Auras: Alpha, Omega [Complete Edition]
- Going Rogue Origin Enhancements (GROs) [Game Stop Pre-Order only]
- Tips system missions (166 alignment mission without the morality missions, nor the ability to gain alignment points, powers, or clubs)
- Support for side switching (teaming with those who have changed allegiance, but not the ability to change)
- Praetorian related mission content upgrades
- Tina’s upgrades
- Maria’s upgrades
- UI quality of life enhancements
- Closest to completion Badge Tab
- Title change any time
- Alignment /info tab and icon
- New icons and mini-map options: MissionObjective; Lounge; Precinct; Trader
- Smart Quickmenu
- color coded player character search
- The Market Merge & inter-alignment trading
- Powers Update
- Flight/Sprint (buff)
- Proc120 (nerfix)
- Tanker Bruising effect (buff)
- Burn (recalibrate without fear effect)
- Shield Charge (nerfix)
- Trick Arrow speed up (buff)
- Fiery Embrace update
- Brute Fury changes (less peak damage, more sustainably fury buff)
- Martial Arts updates
- Cathedral of Pain
- Combat auras
- Pop Help
- New APPs for Villains
- Mission Architect Updates
- XP rebalance
- Designated Helper
- Doppelganger tech
- Tons of fixes, Trina update (rolls eyes)
- Ailenware lighting support
- New Critters in established factions:
- Girlfriend From Hell: Hellion Boss, Demon Summoner (new NPC model)
- Chi Master: Tsoo Lieutenant, Kinetic Melee
- Super Stunner: Freakshow Boss, Electric Control (new NPC model)
- Diseased Abomination: Vahzilok, Wasting Disease aura
- Some new GR badges will be available to all (e.g., defeat Praetorian Clockwork through the new Maria and Tina arcs)
The key flaws I see in the above lists is that GoRo is meant to offer the revamped low level player experience – critical in attracting new / exited players into CoH/V – but that you have to pay to actually access that content. New players aren’t going to buy CoH/V to try it out when a free trial is available and there is no word at the time of writing if trial players will be able to access Praetoria. Looking at that list would appear to point out that players don’t really have to pay for GoRo to get their hands on a whole heap of new content, so perhaps it is worth waiting to see what the Incarnate system and new end-game content in I19 really holds before they outlay their money.
There needed to be more reasons to pick up GoRo, in my opinion. Side switching is a nice idea, but it really only opens up the ability to (for example) play hero content with your villain. If you’ve already got a level 50 hero and a level 50 villain (or even more than one of each) then you’ve already seen that content. Ultra Mode should have been held to I18 / GoRo. The Cathedral of Pain trial should be part of GoRo, not I18. The extra powers are well done, but if the content is old… and so on. It really seems that Paragon Studios was either too nice or too concerned that they’d face a player backlash if a substantial amount of content didn’t come with I18, but the end result is that GoRo ends up looking pretty thin.
Alternatively, the question has been raised about exactly who GoRo is meant to be attracting. Existing players? Exited players? New players? CoH/V’s current player base is fairly loyal, albeit shrinking, with a solid majority of this group likely to pick up GoRo regardless of its content. A key complaint among exited players is that CoH/V was overly repetitious, so simply unlocking both sides of existing content for them to play probably isn’t going to bring them back. This would seem to leave new players as the key focus of GoRo, but it’s arguable that CoH/V has managed to generate enough profile among new and existing MMO players to make them even aware that GoRo is launching. So perhaps it doesn’t matter who GoRo attracts into buying it, so long as CoH/V keeps some revenue coming in while Paragon Studios works on their next title.
We’ll know soon enough if I’m correct – if GoRo sees a flood of players head back to CoH/V (and then stay) or if only the usual new Issue player population bump is going to occur. Regardless, I can’t help but feel that GoRo was a wasted opportunity to cement CoH/V as a game with a clear future but instead really just offers more of the same.