E3 Preview: City of Villains

I’ve been a fan of the superhero-themed MMO City of Heroes for quite a while now (see our City of Heroes standard and DVD editions reviews), so when I learned that developer Cryptic Studios and publisher NC Soft were planning a hands-on demo of City of Villains at this year’s E3 Game Expo in Los Angeles, I leapt at the chance to attend. Located behind the ear-shatteringly loud concert stage at NC Soft’s E3 booth, the City of Villains area comprised several workstations running hands-on versions of both the game’s new costume creation system as well as its Base Builder application. The other side of the display was dedicated to running 4-vs-4 hero/villain Base Raid missions, the prize of victory consisting of a special edition CoV cape and a chance to win a slot in the game’s upcoming beta.

City of Villains will be a stand-alone game set in the same world as City of Heroes, and allows the player to experience the darker side of the superhero-themed world. Players that purchase City of Villains will not be able to enter Paragon City without also owning City of Heroes, and likewise, players that do not own City of Villains will not be able to experience any content in the Rogue Isles, CoV‘s setting.

The Rogue Isles, set off the US Atlantic coast, looks to be a dark and gritty place, filled with seedy bars, abandoned buildings, questionable movie theaters and dangerous parks. From the few screenshots that Cryptic shared with us, the world designers seem to have really outdone themselves with City of Villains, crafting a world that is at once reminiscent and yet totally different from City of Heroes‘ Paragon City. Villain character creation has also been redesigned to better reflect the setting’s dastardly look and feel.

The avatars that the players construct will be dark versions of the existing City of Heroes archetypes, with similar powers in many respects. Cryptic Studios has hinted that some unique powers and archetypes may be available as well (the rumored Mastermind archetype sounds particularly intriguing). Hints have also been floating around the City of Heroes forums that a way to convert an existing CoH character might be possible via a specific quest, creating a “Fallen Hero” in the CoV world, but no confirmation has yet been given.

We asked several designers and artists in the Cryptic booth about the possibility of world cross-over (villain raids on Paragon City, for example, is something that fans have been clamoring for since the game first went live), but details are scarce at this point. What we do know, however, is that some level of hero/villain interaction will be possible between CoH and CoV, primarily in the form of base raids. We had the opportunity to learn more about this exciting new feature during our hands-on time with City of Villain‘s base builder software.

This feature will allow villains and groups to build their own customized hideouts and bases, which can be decorated to taste and filled with lovely props and even functional defenses (gun turrets, etc.). The interface for this system is surprisingly simple and intuitive and consists of spending the Supervillain Group’s pooled Infamy Points (CoV‘s equivalent to gold or money) to carve out a room or suite of rooms on one of the game

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