A View from Atlas Park: I10 – Best. Issue. EVAH?

Anyone with even the slightest interest in CoH/V knows that “Issue 10: Invasion” landed on the Live servers last week, seeing the return of the Rikti in force to Paragon City. The Rikti Crash Zone is now the Rikti War Zone, the Rikti no longer fight naked, the next week or so sees regular zone invastions from Rikti Dropships and for the first time since Issue 1 a whole lot of new PvE only content has been introduced that caters to high-level heroes.

I10 also had a quick release following I9 – by my reckoning (and by checking Paragon Wiki) it’s been less than three months since I9 hit live. Outward appearances indicate that I9 did quite a good job of drawing players back into CoH/V and it seems that a lot of them decided to hang around until I10. I9 breathed a lot of new life into CoH/V and I’ve got to say that I10 has continued that trend.

I’ve been playing through bits and pieces of the I10 content with my hero main and have been thoroughly enjoying it. The Zone Invasions – where Rikti Dropships drop bombs and Rikti shock troops into zones in the Rogue Isles and Paragon City – are exciting and dynamic events. Since the Rikti con the same to everyone, regardless of level, it has been easy to form up a team wherever you are and get into repelling the invaders. It’s been great to see (and be part of) large teams of heroes of all levels fighting off the Rikti in areas just outside the monorail stations.

My first experience of this saw three hero teams of about 8 fighting just outside the yellow line station in Steel Canyon – my team ‘arrested’ over 100 Rikti in that skirmish alone. It was quick and fun to do, breaking up the usual play within CoH. I’ve been in bigger fights since then and all have been enjoyable experiences.

More importantly in some respects, you don’t have to take part in the invasion defence if you don’t want to. You can either put your hero / villain under cover until the zone invasion ends, or just leave the zone. It’s easy to get involved, but you aren’t forced to.

The other (and more long-lasting) part of I10 is the new lvl 35 – 50 content that allows both heroes and villains to team up and fight the Rikti together. Vangard, a Rikti-fighting group long existing in CoH/V lore but not seen before I10, offers a dedicated storyline that explains what is happening with the Rikti – how they are invading, why they are fighting the Earth and (in the worst kept secret) what happenned to Hero 1 and the rest of the Omega Team. Vangard ties in tightly with the revamped Rikti War Zone nee Crash Zone, which feels more active than ever before.

As will all new / revamped zones, the RWZ takes advantage of Crytpic’s latest thoughts on zone design and events. It is fantastic to see Rikti taking on Crey soldiers, or being wiped out by an Arachnos squad, or being taken out by Vangard’s automated defences. The War Zone feels like a war zone (well, at least a game one) should. No man’s land is a dangerous place for a solitary hero (or villain, since it is a co-op zone) – something that fits with the zone’s theme perfectly.

At the end of the zone is the crashed Rikti mothership, which is defended by a forceshield and serves as a raid target of sorts for max level characters (or at least those over lvl 35). Blowing up 18 pylons lowers the shield, which then lets characters plant bombs to damage the ship. Planting enough bombs triggers a special Rikti opponent – the awful pun-ily named Ukon’Grai – to take you on.

I’ve only just started going through the Vangard missions, but they’ve been fun so far. Getting to ‘team up’ with NPC heros Faultline and Fusionette on several occasions is fun and adds to the flavour of these missions.

I10 also contains a lot of other good things – some great new costumes, better drop rates for costume recipes, the awesome-looking new Rikti models, new graphics for Sonics and the Blackwand vet power – that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Ah hah,” you are thinking, “but what are the negatives about I10?” There are really two main ones I see: first off – the lag. I’ve had some small problems with lag (much less after the first post-I10 patch) but there are those who report that Zone Invasions and the RWZ as being unplayable due to lag. As I said, there was a patch that helped reduce this problem, but I think that some people are always going to suffer from lag during Zone Invasions due to their nature. I also think that lag issues may settle down a bit once the novelty wears off the RWZ and less people start going there.

The other major complaint has been the Zone Invasion spam, which uses the Admin channel. Some people find getting the messages about the where and when of Zone Invasions as being irritating. I can’t really get behind this problem – it’s a very short-term problem since it will mostly go away when the frequent Zone Invasions stop in about a week from now. After that point, it will only appear when some group completes the Lady Grey Task Force and spawns an invasion. Personally I think everyone should know that an Invasion is happening so they can choose to take part or not. Sure, a different channel would be nice, but using the Admin channel is fine for now.

Is I10 the best issue yet? I’ve been pondering this question for a while. For my money, I10 is the best issue I can remember – lots of content, a narrative that drives the CoH/V meta-narrative forward and no notable nerfs. It’s got players interested and teaming up with each other, even across red- and blue-side lines. It’s challenging without taking away from the fun factor.

Now I can’t wait to see how I11 is going to top it. 😉

[i] – UnSub [@UnknownSubject] unsub {at} warcry {dot} com 1 August 2007[i]

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