CoH Issue 22: “Death Incarnate”

Issue 22 - Death Incarnate is live!

By all means log in for double XP weekend 16/3 – 18/3, but you should probably stay away from the new content unless you have boundless optimism.

“Death Incarnate.” Not really a name that fits my mood at the moment. And not only the name. Most of the new content in this expansion to City of Heroes is set in a redesigned zone (“Dark Astoria”) which is now actually dark, with a reddish glow, and themed on death and madness.  The in-game lore is that the recent conflicts have wakened an ancient death god from the banished pantheon, who was buried under Dark Astoria. Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, despair and madness emanate to the surface, attracting monsters and villains that enjoy such an ambiance. It is up to the Incarnates – the high level VIP heroes – to try to hold back the darkness and if possible reverse it.

It is a worthy cause, by all means, and I don’t mean that the world’s mightiest heroes should fight kittens in a flowerbed. It’s just that the whole zone and all instances in it is so pervaded by this hellish atmosphere, it really isn’t something just anyone should immerse themselves in for hours each day.

And there is a reason why people my do just that: Dark Astoria is the first and so far only solo Incarnate content. This is a feature I requested almost as soon as I heard about the Incarnate system, which was released near the end of 2010.

City of Heroes had long suffered a reputation for being light on end-game content, compared to other online RPGs. Many players simply parked their level 50 character and made a new, since there are hundreds if not thousands of possible combinations of powers. After the Invention system went live, some people started doing repeatable high-level missions to gather recipes and ingredients for crafting, but it was only with the Incarnate system that a true challenge arrived for high-level heroes and villains.

In the original lore of the game, the arch-hero Statesman and his villain opponent Recluse were the only known Incarnates. They had found the Well of the Furies, and by drinking of it they were imbued with powers comparable to the ancient Greek pantheon.  The event also, as we later learned, unlocked the superpowers latent in scattered individuals around the world, causing this world to branch off from worlds (like ours) without superheroes and supervillains.

In Issue 19, we learn that the Well is actually more of a metaphysical thing. The physical Well of the Furies is gone, but myriad Shards (and later Threads) from it are scattered around the world. Through a special trial, a hero (or villain) can become attuned to the universal Well and begin to randomly find shards when overcoming high-level enemies or completing certain trials. Other rewards related to this also appear, but mainly in trials that are set for large groups of very powerful heroes. Through these, the hero can unlock powerful new abilities. But without taking part in these large-scale trials, the progress was painfully slow and limited to the first of the abilities, the Alpha ability.

With Issue 22, it is possible to unlock and fill all known Incarnate slots through soloing or smaller groups. It is still quite a bit slower than the massive trials, though. And that is why people will have to spend months in this evil twisted zone if they for some reason prefer to go it alone (perhaps because their computers cannot handle massive battles, or they live in a time zone where there are few players).

Or they could just log off and spend their time in prayer and fasting, which would be less depressing.

The Incarnate content up till now has pretty much exclusively been related to the war between Primal Earth and its evil twin, where Statesman has become ruler of the world and is trying to take over the multiverse. So I had expected any solo content to be more of that, more sci-fi. But I guess people who like the whole Lovecraft thing with elder gods, madness and tentacles will appreciate the opportunity. I am not one of those.

Even so, I have run Itland the were-porcupine through a number of missions. It is a little tougher than the usual content, and there is clearly put some serious work into making missions and dialog that fits with the atmosphere. Too bad the atmosphere is one of decay, tentacles and suicides.


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