I've played in a lot of betas, but I've never bought a massively multiplayer online game. MMOGs are notorious time sinks, and I don't like the idea of an ongoing subscription for games. But I decided at random to get City of Heroes, a pretty good MMOG. Alas, it's still boring.

There are some good things about CoH. The comic book genre is great: crazy and fun and not taking itself seriously. CoH doesn't license any other comic book IP, so the world is free from past association. And the character costume creation is fantastic, allowing an amazing variety of looks.

But the game is hugely boring. It's the exact same level treadmill of every other MMOG I've seen: you're rewarded for time spent mindlessly clicking, not for any decisions you make. The game makes a bizarre design decision to have no items - no loot to find, no objects to show off, no opportunities to customize your appearance over time. The costume creation that's so wonderful at the game's startup is essentially unavailable after you've started *. The environments are boring too, no distinctive landscapes.

The worst thing is that CoH totally squanders the chance to have interesting story-telling. The writing is non-existent: as far as I can tell the plot consists of "go here, kill these guys, read a paragraph of boilerplate". Over and over again. Single player RPGs like KoToR or Planescape: Torment tell compelling stories with depth and richness. I understand storytelling is harder in the chaotic genre of MMOGs but please, throw us a bone!

CoH does have the virtues of being pretty and mindlessly amusing. But I don't have 10+ hours a week to commit and I have better uses for my $15 a month. I think we're a long way from a really rich MMOG experience.

  2004-08-01 16:35 Z