We'll skip straight past any sort of dubious justification for why I've spent almost 90 per cent of my time in City Of Villains running around as a mini-skirt and suspender beltwearing young lady with a gravity-defying décolletage and a preponderance for performing high kicks at any given opportunity. Suffice to say that's one more item to cross off my Things To Do Before I Die list. Instead, we'll move straight on to a brief explanation of what City Of Villains is: City Of Heroes. A-hah-hah-ha ha ha ha aaaah... No, but seriously folks.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
The first impression when starting life in the Rogue Isles is that this feels like little more than an expansion pack for the game's longserving hero-based brother. Same charactercreation system, same controls, same game mechanics. A couple of hours later, with your first character already nudging the lower end of levels seven or eight and a linear, plotted series of missions under your belt, and the differences between the two games finally start to reveal themselves.
For one, COV seems a much more structured an affair than its free-flowing heroic brother. This is both good and bad. Good in that you're given much more guidance on what to do with your virtual life of crime, with clearly signposted milestones along the way. Bad in that there's almost no variety on offer for players, with everyone's experience being the same every time you play.
FREE FOR ALL
The brief is that you're fresh out of chokey, a villain with powers, shipped off to a series of crime-filled islands ruled by the all-powerful Lord Recluse. Through a steady series of trials and missions you build your powers, up your levels, explore one new setting after another and gradually earn enough prestige points to form your own supergroup and build a base filled with traps, trinkets and teleporters.
These bases are really the major difference between this and COH, although the prior game will be getting them too before long. But mainly it's the bases and their entrance into the cross-gaming world of PvP Hero vs Villain combat that provide most of the interest here.
Conceptually it's a fine idea: fill your base with items of power, open it up to raids from other players and the fun begins. In practice, it's pretty standard PvP fare, familiar if you've tried out the Arena stuff in COH's last major update. There are also several highlevel PvP zones which make for some interesting playing, although they tend to be plagued with griefers at the time of writing. Good teams should clear that up though.
All this can't really disguise the fact that you are really just playing City Of Heroes' evil twin brother. Which puts your reviewer in something of a dilemma, as there are about three different scenarios that could dictate how we score this game. Scenario one sees you something of a COH veteran, or at least a tried, bored and left player, looking for a fresh take on things. In which case, COV can do the job, has some nice long-term options in terms of base-building and that, but ultimately is still as shallow as its forebear.
Scenario two sees you coming to COV a fresh-faced MMO recruit, no experience of heroic cities, the craft of war or questing forever, in which case this might be a great start to your online education. Well structured opening, steady sense of progression, friendly community (perversely, given the subject matter). Away you go.
Scenario three is that you are an avid COH player, interest piqued by the hype and publicity and the thought of 'going rogue', in which case once the novelty wears off, you're in for much the same game. However, as you're not paying any extra in subscription fees (one fee covers both games - a masterstroke by NCsoft, as charging players twice would probably have condemned both games to also-rans), you're not really losing out.