As previously established, xyzzysqrl, swordianmaster, and I have all found ourselves back in City of Heroes. This means everyone in Clan Sugardoom except Sara plays, and she probably would, but, you know.
As we grow in levels, we're starting to put together some actual team dynamics and synergy and strategy, which is... not something I'm used to. Even the last time I played CoH way back in the day, I played a Scrapper, which was marketed as the "So you hate people and want to solo the entire game" archetype. This time, though, we all seem to have found our preferred playing styles, and said playing styles work together surprisingly well.
I play Tahaki, an old OC from Axe Cop-like comics I "drew" around the 6-14 age range, now dusted off and brought back to life as a Psionic Melee/Willpower Brute. To break this archetype and power set down:
Brutes are sort of like specialized Scrappers, which is and always has been my preferred playing style in this game. Not quite as tanky as the actual archetype made specifically for that (Tanker), not quite as hard-hitting as the long-range glass cannon caster archetype (Blaster), Scrappers are still pretty solid at both giving and taking hits, making for a sort of jack of all trades melee fighter. In a pinch, and in the absence of an actual Tanker, they can function passably well in the "main tank" role. A margarine substitute main tank, if you will. If you can't get your own homegrown main tank, a storebought Scrapper is fine.
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Back in the day, Scrappers had a reputation for being the antisocial loners and outcasts, and there was a sort of mutual contempt between them and every other archetype in the game (but especially Controllers.) If you were playing a Scrapper, it was because you wanted the class that could solo the game; you neither needed nor wanted groups. Which was fine, because most groups usually didn't want you, either.
There was a long-standing schism over mutually incompatible playing styles, you see. Crowd control archetypes (the people that hold/stun/sleep/debuff/otherwise weaken the enemy) were reliant on "anchor mobs," as many of their powers applied negative effects to a target mob and everyone standing next to it. That negative status cloud was lifted when the target mob itself was slain. Therefore, "kill everyone except that guy; we need him as the anchor to poison the rest of the group" tactics were common.
Scrappers were built not to play by these rules. As a melee sort-of-tank who can't actually tank as well as the actual tank, the best defensive power set in the game is the knowledge that the sooner a mob dies, the sooner it stops hitting you. Beginning a battle against a crowd of six enemies is incredibly dangerous. Using the Scrapper's ability to fight back, though, they can quickly turn the situation from a six on one into a five on one, and then a four on one, which is much easier to survive. By the time you're down to two or three, the battle is practically over. This encourages a phenomenon known as "Scrapperlock," where a Scrapper will wade into a field of enemies and go into a blind frenzy, killing every enemy in range. This isn't a lack of attention, carelessness,r being bad at the game or anything like that. This is how Scrappers work. Every enemy on the field needs to die, quickly, before the Scrapper does. Scrapperlock-frenzied Scrappers are evening the odds for the sake of their own survival.
All that said, this brings us to the basic incompatibility with most grouping setups. Not that either side is necessarily wrong, they just... have different, opposing goals that were almost impossible to reconcile, at least back in the day. If there's one thing a Scrapper excels at, it's killing dudes. If there's one thing a Scrapper does not excel at, it's not killing dudes. Every Controller going on about "for the love of God please stop killing the anchor mobs" might as well have been speaking vague abstract noises like the grownups from Peanuts. Hell, I used to play a Katana Scrapper, a powerset that relied on "swing your sword in a giant circle and hit everyone around you" melee cone and melee point-blank AoE moves. I literally couldn't be picky about which enemy I was or was not targeting.
All that said, a Brute is... a specialized Scrapper, like I said. They were formerly a villain-only counterpart class, so there's a lot of overlap. Only Heroes could be Scrappers, only Villains could be Brutes, yet both sides needed a way to accomplish the same basic goal, so the two archetypes are comparable. This restriction has since been lifted (Tahaki is a Heroic Brute) but the overlapping structures stuck.
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Anyway, compared to a Scrapper, a Brute is slightly sturdier (but still nowhere near Tanker levels) and does slightly less damage as a baseline (but still more than enough to beat dudes and effectively solo if they so choose.) The main difference is that Brutes have a "Fury" mechanic, which is sort of like an FF7 Limit Break gauge that rises as you fight and lowers over time. Instead of there being a big move at the end, though, it's just a simple multiplier; the higher your Fury, the more damage you deal with all of your moves. This incentivizes fighting forever just to keep Fury up, because if there's one thing this archetype really needed, it was for Scrapperlock to be even more directly and specifically encouraged.
Psionic Melee is one of the flavors of primary attack powers and offense for the Brute and Scrapper archetypes, as opposed to building your character around using swords, guns, etc. This is largely for aesthetics and flavor, but the sets do have different gameplay approaches too. Psionic Melee is a very single-target boss-killer powerset. It hits the big guys hard, at the cost of not really having a ton of options against large crowds of flunkies. (I mean, you can easily hit them hard too, just, you know, one at a time.)
Willpower is one of the flavors of secondary defensive powers and, again, is half for thematic flavor and half for gameplay. Willpower is sort of a jack of all trades defensive set that offers very good resistances (but not as good as, say, Invulnerability), very good self-heals (but not as good as, say, Regeneration,) and so on. It is one of the few sets that doesn't have a built-in weakness. (Most of the others have things like "this power makes you highly resistant to all incoming damage except Fire" right there in the description.) It can handle pretty much everything... up to a point. Its big weakness is that it tends to crumble against so-called "alpha strikes," aka those big heavy Samurai Showdown moves that take 50% of your health in one blow. The balance is those big heavy swings they tend to be on slower cooldowns, which means that it is in your best interest to drop enemies quickly before they can use their deathblows again, and this is where Scrapperlock comes from.
So, put it all together, and a Psionic Melee/Willpower Brute is a build that tears into crowds like the Tasmanian Devil. I want everyone in the room on me so that I can build Fury, but I also want everyone in the room dead before anything has time to go wrong. (And also because I'm the second- or third-tankiest archetype in the game, so better I get hit than any squishy friends I might have along.) A Psi Melee build might be more willing and able to play along with the whole "be careful which enemies you take down" anchor mob thing, since it's so much more single-target focused than my old Katana build used to be. However, I would still greatly prefer the freedom to be an indiscriminate damage tornado.
Which I guess makes me the front row of our team! I apologize for spending ten pages on the intricacies of my powersets while more or less glossing over what theirs do, but I haven't ever played the archetypes they do, so I just don't know as much about them as I do about my own build. I'm just calling what it looks like from my end! If xyzzysqrl or swordianmaster would like to correct any misinterpretations, add any context, or otherwise fill us in on the experience from their respective ends, they are more than welcome to do so.
That said, Xyzzy is a Dominator, which is to a Controller what a Brute is to a Scrapper. Mostly the same thing because they used to be alignment-restricted, now they're just Controllers with a small twist. This means that Xyzzy's playstyle is... well, crowd control, mostly via holds, sleeps, and other types of negative status effects that prevent enemies from fighting back. Her powerset does not appear to rely on anchor mobs (thank God,) so I totally have her permission to attack indiscriminately, which is nice.
Dominators have a gauge that fills in combat like Brutes' Fury, but instead of a passive damage multiplier, it actually is a Limit Break-like special attack that does... something really cool, anyway? I think? Xyzzy has elected the Mind Control and Savage Assault powersets, which compared to other options have more of mrhrnm *mumbles into napkin* Xyzzy help.
Anyway, Xyzzy is the reason that I can have a million enemies on me and not die; thanks to her, they're "on me" but they're all too busy nursing debilitating ice cream headaches as I beat them down one by one, so no one's damaging me.
Sword is a Peacebringer, which is weird even by "City of Heroes has nonstandard archetypes" standards. It's one of two classes that are deeply tied to some in-game plot thread about Kheldians, aliens that kind of look like Absolute Virtue from FFXI) fusing and forming Venom-like symboitic relationships with player characters. The two Kheldian archetypes are Poo from EarthBound type exceptions who have their own power sets instead of any of the regular options. They're sort of... Druidy, maybe? In that they have alternate forms they shapeshift into that do different things?
Sword currently has access to a base form that can... doesn't really do anything and isn't really meant for combat, and exactly one other form so far that is. Archetype-wise, his transformed self seems to be a glass cannon ranged DPS. He can nuke things from orbit at a pace that puts even my "I could be a Tanker but I'd rather damage things" damage output to shame, at the cost of going down fast and hard if anyone so much as breathes on him. He and I complement each other because I keep enemies away from him, and he sort of keeps them away from me by playing into my "kill things quickly so they stop hitting me" playstyle.
Because Kheldians just have to bring their own everything to the party, that includes special weakness enemies, too. Having a Kheldian in your group flags your party, such that the enemy groups that spawn to fight you will start to include special "void" or "quantum" units in their ranks. These enemies are specifically designed to 1) no-sell Kheldian attacks, and 2) hit Kheldians with a damage type they have no answer to, turning them into a fine red mist. Having a Kheldian around is kind of like being able to team with Superman, apocalyptic megaton punches and all, but doing so will make a random small handful of enemy swarms start to include actual Kryptonite golems. This, too, is where Xyzzy and I come in. Not being Kheldians, their anti-Kheldian weaponry doesn't scare us.
And there you have our team. I wolf things from the front and keep as much attention on myself as possible, both to build Fury and to keep people from hitting my more fragile teammates. Xyzzy disables them, so that me having an entire room full of people on me isn't an instant death sentence. Sword blows them the fuck up while Xyzzy and I keep them busy, unless they're anti-Kheldians, in which case I guess I kill them in order to protect Sword. Good team, in theory. Does it work in practice?
Mostly, yeah! Every problem I've run into has been a symptom of being low level, in that there's a power that would specifically solve that exact problem but I'm just not far enough along to acquire it yet. It would be great if the main tank had a taunting ability to make sure enemies are attacking me, for example. I can pick that up in two levels. I also recently found out that I have my limits, not being a Tanker and all, and I guess there is a such thing as too much heat for me to handle. Willpower has a passive ability that greatly boosts how fast I recover health when I have multiple people on me, which would have been perfect for that. I'll get that one not long after Taunt. I'm semi-sure Sword and Xyzzy have holes in their powersets as well (I mean Sword has at least one other entire shapeshift form.) Oh, well. We're working on it!
All in all,
Anyway City of Heroes is neat and I love playing games with clan. I'm not used to treating an MMO as a social experience (you know, being an ex-Scrapper and all,) but apparently MMOs are a lot more fun if you have friends. Who knew?
This is a cross-posted entry that originated from https://kjorteo.dreamwidth.org/447404.html. Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.