City of Villains is a stand-alone expansion pack to the City of Heroes MMO. This time around you play as a super-villain instead of a one-dimensional good guy, because—let’s face it—being bad is always more fun than being good.
You begin as a villain-in-training in new zones within the Rogue Isles. You’re a minion of Lord Recluse and the Arachnos organization, and as in CoH, you’ll work your way up the social hierarchy by completing missions, meeting new contacts, and collecting clues that move the global story forward.
The missions are twisted reflections of a hero’s normal day at the office. Instead of rescuing civilians from muggers, you’re robbing banks, beating up rival clans, and planting bombs. Unfortunately, despite the new take on quests, the formula begins to drag when you’re sent to the same dungeons repeatedly. Playing in teams makes missions more bearable, and lets you challenge more difficult opponents.
Character customization includes more skins and nearly infinite appearance options. We welcomed the change from spandex tights to zombified brutes and hulkish monsters. But your villain can look almost the same as your hero, if you’re particularly attached to that look.
New classes, like the mastermind, are wildly fun to play. You can create robot drones or ninja lackeys to tail along and fight by your side. Team battles become a visual feast when two or three masterminds join the fray. Lair building is another new feature; your guild (cleverly called a supergroup) can purchase a base, which they can then customize. Protecting your base keeps you invested in your supergroup.
Player-vs-player (PvP) combat unlocks at level 15, but is limited to just four zones. The frame rate really chugs in these arenas when too many characters are present, but dueling with other players is a blast when the frame rates are smooth. You can only interact with heroes if you have both the original game and the expansion, but there’s no monthly fee increase if you have both.
City of Villains contains enough new material to make the expansion a must-buy for current CoH subscribers. Newbies can play either way, but most players will eventually want both games to maximize PvP features.