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The Complete Newcomer's Guide to City of Heroes: Introduction to the Game


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City of Heroes can be a little confusing if you're just getting into it. Many of the guides on this forum (including most of my own) are aimed at people who already have some passing familiarity with the game. The wikis (Homecoming and Paragon) are great for looking up specific things, but they don't provide much in the way of an overview. That's why I'm writing these guides. If you're thinking of starting playing—maybe the recent one-year anniversary of Homecoming piqued your curiosity, or maybe a friend who already plays invited you—then this will hopefully give you a good place to start.



City of Heroes is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, or MMORPG. This is an Internet-based game in which multiple players can get together and adventure, playing the roles of superheroes or villains fighting against criminals, villains, heroes, and other adversaries. Characters gain experience by defeating adversaries, or by completing missions that take place on instanced maps (which some might call "dungeons" in the old RPG parlance). As characters gain experience, they can "level up," increasing their ability to take and give damage and gaining additional powers that let them do it in new ways. 



City of Heroes was the original game in which characters played superheroes. City of Villains was an expansion added later on, in which characters could play villains in a different part of the world. (Although it was marketed as a separate game for a while, it was always just another part of the same game—as demonstrated by the way NCSoft eventually made both games free to anyone who owned one or the other.) Going Rogue was a new expansion added shortly before the original game shut down, in which players could take on the role of characters from the Praetorian "mirror universe" which features in a number of City of Heroes/Villains storylines. For simplicity, I'l refer to all three under the umbrella name City of Heroes in this guide.


If you're just getting into City of Heroes, you should probably wait to play a Going Rogue character until you're more familiar with the original game. It was designed as an "advanced" setting offering greater challenges for experienced players.



As an MMORPG, City of Heroes does not have a single finite narrative the way single-player games do, with a defined beginning, progression, and conclusion. Instead, character progression is more open-ended. There are many narrative story arcs characters can take part in as they level up, but there's no "end" for a character to reach—no specific point where you can say you've "won." Players are free to set their own goals, of course; many players consider their character "finished" when they have leveled up all the way and have all their powers unlocked and enhanced for maximum effect, but they can still have plenty of fun playing those "finished" characters even after that. There are also plenty of achievements and badges to collect.



Like all MMOs, City of Heroes is made to promote teaming up. A good team-up, with characters who complement each others' abilities, can be a lot of fun. However, there are some times you just want to be by yourself. Fortunately, City of Heroes characters are balanced enough that it's possible to play nearly any well-built character solo through at least some content.


The best soloing classes will be both tough and capable of dealing good damage: Brutes, Scrappers, Tankers, and Sentinels, for example. "Squishier" damage classes like Blasters, Corrupters, and Stalkers can solo nearly as well if they're careful; support classes like Defenders and Controllers won't do as much damage but can still adventure solo through most content, albeit a bit more slowly. Not all content can be soloed by all classes—archvillains and monsters need a lot of damage to put down. But almost every class can do at least some things by themselves, if the character is built well—that is, if their player chooses the right powers and upgrades them in the right ways.



The game can seem fairly complex at first, and there's a bit of a learning curve. (That's why I'm writing these newcomer's guides, to try to provide a grounding in basic concepts that you can build on as you learn more.) But once you start to pick it up, you'll find it gets significantly easier. Some higher-level content can be especially challenging, but by the time you get there you should be able to play well enough to deal with it.


As for how difficult individual missions are for your hero or villain character to complete, that's largely up to you. There is a system of difficulty control built into the game that will let you choose how tough or easy you want your missions to be, and whether you want just a few or a whole lot of enemies to appear in them. If you're having too much trouble, you can lower the difficulty (though you'll get less XP for defeating less difficult enemies). Or if you want more of a challenge (and more XP), you can ramp it up.


In the game, this system is called "Notoriety." You'll sometimes also hear it referred to as "Reputation" by veteran players, as that's what it used to be called back in the old live days.



Veterans of other MMOs may be concerned about "loot"—valuable items that enemies may drop, or that you may have to do specific quests to obtain, that you may lose if your character dies and someone loots their corpse. When City of Heroes originally launched, one of the most appealing elements was the near-complete absence of this factor. And while more loot-like items or powers have been added to the game since, there is still nothing you could lose or have taken from you if you should be defeated, and the very rarest items in the game are still within pretty easy reach of any player who knows how to get them.


There is a currency system in City of Heroes, called "Influence" on the hero side, "Infamy" for villains, and "Information" for Praetorians, abbreviated universally as "Inf". This currency actually doesn't have anything to do with financial money; heroes and villains are assumed to be just as rich or poor as they want to be. Instead, it's supposedly tied to how renowned the hero or villain is. It can be earned through adventuring, or by selling things on the in-game market. (It can also be earned by "farming" easily-repeated content, or by converting and reselling certain crafted items, but those are more advanced topics.)


In the "live" version of the game, Inf prices of rare items on the in-game market could and often did go through the roof, but Homecoming's economy has price controls that keep everything within a more affordable range. Super-rare items do cost a lot more money than a new player would have, but they can still be obtained with sufficient time and effort put in.


There are also a few secondary forms of reward currency, called "Merits," that are earned via completing certain types of content and can be used to buy certain rare items, but that's a more advanced topic to go into later.



Yes! Although the City of Heroes version of them is called "supergroups." These are organizations that characters can join to play alongside friends and players of other like-minded characters. Being part of a supergroup means you can see which other players in the group are online and what they're doing right now. It also means you have access to the supergroup base, which includes amenities like teleporters, item storage, access to trainers or vendors, and so on.


Supergroup bases used to have their own in-game currency called "Prestige" that characters would build up by playing, and could be spent to afford better bases. However, in Homecoming, all base items are now free, which means that it's possible to build some very impressive bases. 


There used to be two separate forms of supergroup—supergroups for heroes, villain groups for villains. However, in Homecoming, both heroic and villainous characters can belong to the same group, with access to the same base.



Yes and no. 


The vast majority of content in the game for both heroes and villains is PVE, player-vs-environment, in which human players cooperate or play singly against computer-controlled enemies. However, there are four "PvP Zones," which are areas of the game where players from both sides can enter and clash. Some of them have useful temporary powers offered as rewards to entice players into them. There is also an arena where players can set up PvP matches against other players. (There also used to be a specialized form of PvP called "base raids," where supergroups could raid other supergroups' bases, but that was taken out of the game when supergroup base construction was made free.) There are also several co-op zones, where players from both hero and villain factions can team up to fight common enemies in PvE.


No player is ever forced to engage in PvP, apart from being required to enter those PVP zones if you want to obtain those useful temporary powers. In fact, it's pretty rare for much PvP combat to happen at all, outside of the "unofficial PvP server," Indomitable.



No. The game is made available completely free to all players, and things in the game that used to cost real-world money are now either free or bought with the in-game currency Inf instead. (One of the in-game vendors is called the "P2W Store," a name that often confuses newcomers because "P2W" usually refers to paying real money for in-game advantages, but this is just a little inside joke; the store only deals in Inf.) In fact, anyone charging real money for anything within the game is against the Code of Conduct, and if you see someone making such an offer you should report it to the game masters right away.


The Homecoming servers do cost money to host, and there are some other expenses involved, but these are paid for strictly through voluntary donations, and Homecoming is careful never to accept more donations than necessary to meet those costs. A donation window opens on the last Saturday of every month, and closes as soon as enough donations have come in from players—an hour or two at most, and often just a matter of minutes. 


If you're really concerned about the legality of something, you should ask a real lawyer, which I am not. I can't give you legal advice. That said, to this layperson it seems highly unlikely you would get in trouble for playing it. There are so many players that it would cost NCSoft a small fortune to sue them all, even if there was an incentive to. It's far likelier that the people operating the Homecoming server itself (and the various other independent server efforts like Rebirth, Thunderspy, etc.) would be the ones to get in trouble—and if they were going to get in trouble over it, they probably would have by now.


In fact, Homecoming's administrators have been engaged in talks with NCSoft for several months to establish legitimacy for this new version of the game. Both sides are being very tight-lipped about the progress of the negotiations, but at least they do still seem to be going on. Homecoming passing its one-year anniversary without any significant trouble seems to be a pretty good sign.


Whether you want to get started in the game before those negotiations conclude successfully is up to you. The most you're likely to lose if things don't work out is all the time and effort you put into your characters—the same thing the people who played the game originally lost when NCSoft first closed it down. The difference is, you're not also pouring monthly subscription fees into it!



All of these different servers forked the City of Heroes codebase that was originally leaked and took it in different directions. Some of them run servers as close as possible to the version that existed on the day the original ("live") version of the game closed down. Others (including Homecoming) developed new code on top of it, including their own new power sets or character classes.


This MassivelyOP article discusses differences between different City of Heroes server projects that existed as of May, 2020. Otherwise, if you want to find out more about the non-Homecoming servers, Google is your friend.



Glad you asked! Go to the "Getting Started" section of the Homecoming Forum and follow the instructions on installing the game and creating your accounts.


And once you've got the game installed, go to my next guide and I'll walk you through the process of logging in and character creation.

Edited by Robotech_Master
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If you liked what I had to say, please check out my City of Heroes guides!

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1 minute ago, Glacier Peak said:

Great guide start to finish @Robotech_Master. Is there a section that can be added that alludes to the game's back story briefly or provides some more context besides it just being a super hero game? I mention this because I'm under the assumption that this is written for brand new players.

Well, I'm more concerned with people learning how to play the game. The backstory is something that they'll learn for themselves over the course of the various story arcs, after all.

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Quite a good read for new players (coming from someone who played from beginning to end), but I do have a pair of slight issues pertaining to archetypes:


1.  Tankers aren't really that good at dealing damage.  Soaking it up is one thing, but they're not known for damage output, putting them on par with Defenders for actual damage dealt.


2.  Controllers (with the right build) can solo almost as fast as many DPS characters;  I watched my dad take on multiple groups of higher-level enemies at once with a Mind/Emp Controller (and I was able to achieve similar feats with an Emp/Sonic Defender).

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I've never had any problem soloing my Tankers, and they've gotten even better since the bumps Tankers got in the most recent Page. And I don't doubt that it's possible to build high-damage variations of any class, but people just starting out in the game wouldn't be able to do that. I'm trying to avoid giving them too much information and confusing them. They'll have time to learn about the exceptions to the rules later on.

If you liked what I had to say, please check out my City of Heroes guides!

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20 hours ago, Alsebra said:

1.  Tankers aren't really that good at dealing damage.  Soaking it up is one thing, but they're not known for damage output, putting them on par with Defenders for actual damage dealt.

First of all, this has never been true. Certain sets underperform, but Tankers have always been much better at dealing damage than Defenders. Secondly, I don't think you've been keeping up with the changes on Homecoming. Tankers received a base damage increase and their AoEs are bigger and hit more targets than Brutes and Scrappers. At this point, when it comes to AoE damage, Tankers are top tier.

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  • 3 years later

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