As some of you may or may not know Blizzard recently conducted what they called a ‘Stress Test’ on some of their World of Warcraft (WoW) servers. The Test was only supposed to last a week and the applications were accepted via File Planet. I had the misfortune of not registering before File Planet closed public sign ups. As luck would have it, I had a friend that registered and he let me use his account. He didn’t play much so I got to play a good amount of time. I made two characters and got both of them both into their early- and pre- teens.

By now you’re asking yourself ‘What does this have to do with City of Heroes’? Since I’m the only person in my circle of friends that has played City of Heroes past the 30 day trial I feel I’m in good place to compare WoW and CoH. I know that last sentence is going to catch me a lot of grief. Some of you might say it’s unfair to compare a game that’s not even in open beta to a game that’s been released for months. Still others might say that the games are too dissimilar. Finally the rest of you might say that you don’t care. Well, here is what I have to say.

1. The ‘Meat and Potatoes’ of the game is done. The games combat engine was in and working properly. The quest system was in and running. The skill and trades skills are in but they are both getting something of an overhaul. This change won’t affect the way the system works but will actually change how you go about learning trade skills. The only thing that wasn’t fully implemented was PvP but the basics of that were in as well. So all of that is more then enough to allow me to compare the two.

2. From my experience playing both games they are very similar. They may not be in the same setting (medieval fantasy vs. modern day superhero) but the mechanics of each work very much the same. The mechanics are so similar in fact I can make several direct comparisons but I’ll get to that in due time.

3. Some of you might care about WoW, some of you might not. Regardless of whether you want to or not in the next few months your going to be hearing a lot about it. I’m looking to give you the point of your probably going to be seeing it from – as hero in shiny pants.

So let’s get into.

Okay first things first World of Warcraft is good game. I really enjoyed my time with it. The main criticism you’ll hear from me about the game is ‘What’s the catch?’ As I’ve stated several times there are a few MMOs coming out the next few months that are attempting to chain us to our computers and run up our credit card bills. To be competitive you have to stand part from the crowd. You have to do things others aren’t. CoH is exploring new ground by being in a superhero setting. Lineage 2 is coming out with underwear. (I can only wish that last sentence was a joke but it looks like Lineage 2 is going for a more adult audience.) Sony is enticing players by allowing them to play EQ and EQ2 (plus all the other Sony Station games) for a reduced price. This irks me because it’s something I suggested NCSoft should do as well. The Matrix Online is venturing into a Cyberpunk with Kung Fu setting. These games have something that sets them a part of the rest.

Here is what I can see that makes WoW stand apart from other games. It’s set in the Warcraft Universe and the game plays well. To be honest I don’t know if that will be enough to set it far part. Sure the Warcraft Universe is cool and all but you’re not taking control of Thrall and running around. Your creating a character in a world where you can run up and see Thrall, but that’s about all the interaction you can have with him. The setting is medieval fantasy a genre which has been done over and over again. Now I know Blizzard. I’ve played Starcraft, Warcraft 2, Diablo 1 & 2, and Warcraft 3. Blizzard has very good record of making outstanding games. Yet I don’t believe simply because Blizzard makes the game stand out. Is that going to be there tag line? “Buy this game because we’re Blizzard and we make good games!” I don’t think so. Wait let me put away the bashing stick. That was supposed to stay in its spot in the corner but found its way into my hand… again. Anyway, the point I’m really trying to get a cross I how are they are going entice players away from these other games. Good game play is the big thing they have going for them now. Yet for players to experience that when the game releases they have to buy the game. So that can’t be looked at as a huge advantage. What I think is going to get a lot players buying the game is the Faction vs. Faction PVP. It really should be the focal point of the game. Time will tell I guess.

As I stated earlier WoW and CoH are very similar. Pull away the shiny wrappers and you get the things that make a MMORPG – Classes, Combat, Quests, Non-Combat System (i.e. Trade Skills and the like) and PVP to some degree. Since the Class structure is so different no direct comparisons can be made there. The non-Combat system in CoH I haven’t tested yet so I can’t give an accurate comparison on that. So the only items I’m going to cover are Combat, Quest and PvP.

Now from what I could gather combat in both games plays pretty close. Every class gets Abilities or Powers which can be placed in a numbered tray and can be activated by pressing the corresponding number. WoW has an auto attack button unlike CoH. This is due to the fact when an ability is activated all Abilities must recharge. So during that brief (and I mean brief) period you can still be doing damage. Abilities like Powers are best used sequentially. What the sequence is differs on class. You’ll know what works best after only a few battles. The one thing about the system that irritated me was the game required you to build up “mana” (whatever it’s called for your class) expect for casters they do get a mana pool. This almost negates the quick recharge time on powers. So the difference between the two and where I think CoH excels is the ability to “chain cast” powers. As long as the power is recharged and you have enough Endurance you can activate the power. The ability to queue powers is another thing that CoH has going for it. Nothing says lovin’ like a Tesla Cage, Zapp then Charged Bolts all right after one another. The final thing I’d like to preach on is – I hate the auto-attack button. If I wanted to simply hit an auto attack all the time I would have never stopped playing EQ. In CoH combat requires your constant attention. At no point in the fight can you just hit a button and walk away.

The next big ticket item that has similarities is the Quest system. Quests are done in linear progression and move you around the world as you complete tasks. This takes you to new places, introducing you to new quest givers and fighting new enemies. Sound familiar? There were two really big differences I saw. The first is the reward system. Since CoH has no equipment, the rewards it can offer are limited when compared to WoW. Hopefully with the upcoming release of Issue 2 we’ll get a better reward system. The other thing is the experience given for each quest and the amount of quests. CoH doesn’t give a lot XP for quests. WoW on the other hand gives ton. At low levels you can probably gain an entire level just by doing the turn-ins for a quest. That is my big gripe about City of Heroes. Sure I can do a quest and get exp but to do it almost feels like the quests are endless and very repetitive. How many Tsoo can I really beat on? WoW by giving out more experience and less quests makes the quest more meaningful. An increase in the meaning of quests would to a long way in providing a more rich game experience.

PvP as we all know is not in CoH so WoW has a jump on us there. Just to let you know PvP was intended to be part of the original release of CoH. I even heard they had a special machine at E3 in dark room, in dark alley, guarded by men with big muscles and no necks that showed Hero vs. Hero combat. I did get to experience some PvP in WoW and it pretty-pretty good. There were two instances I came across. The first was actually on the first day I started playing. We hunted a Night Elf rogue that was killing newbies. (Which was their fault because he couldn’t attack them till they attack him.) We searched for a ½ before I spotted him and owned him. The whole experience was really fun especially when he un-stealthed right in front of us and started attacking. The last experience I had was a raid on a town. A quite sizeable human force attacked one of our towns and we tried to defend it. That experience was fun because I stood around and watched us get owned for about 20 minutes before I waded in. If City of Heroes can offer PvP close to this with City of Villains I’ll be happy.

All in all WoW was a good game even at this early stage. We’ll all get a better idea of just how good the game is when the open beta starts. For right now it just didn’t have a big ‘wow’ factor to pull me out of Paragon. But on the bright side the game can only improve from here. It looks like it could give CoH, EQ2 and Matrix a run for their money. Don’t count CoH out although. It still has a few tricks up its sleeve to try and hold its ground and beat some of these new kids back to their own block. Till Statesman moves to Canada and changes his name to Provinceman, make mine… Cryptic… or something.

– Zameda [email protected] September 17, 2004

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