Great moments in PC gaming: Creating a hero in City of Heroes

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

City of Heroes

Developer: Cryptic Studios
Year: 2004

Rest in peace, City of Heroes, the first and still one of the only MMOs that had the courage to not only let players run wild with character creation, but to make everyone awesome at Level 1. Whether a Blaster or a Controller or whatever else, you entered the world feeling like a living god. Leaping reasonably sized structures in a single bound. Towering over the citizens, many of them there to tell you how awesome you were. Wielding your choice of superpower, and dispensing justice against street-thugs and criminal goons. No bags snatched on your watch, no sir!

Of course, over time that Level 1 power would skyrocket until you were ready to take on super villains, and giant blob monsters, and everything else you’d expect from an MMO. Take a step out of your level range and you’d be punched right into the nearest hospital. Ah, but it didn’t matter. Within those starting areas you were a living god, and it only got better when you unlocked your travel power and the ability to speed and fly and teleport around.

And it wasn’t just about power. While City of Heroes had its archetypes, it offered unprecedented freedom to create the hero you wanted, with just about every costume piece available up-front for you to play and experiment with (capes were added later, and made a mark of progress). Pick your power. Create a look. Then realize that the name you wanted was taken and go back to the drawing board. Then after about five attempts, find something that hadn’t been taken! It was almost more fun roleplaying your heroic alter-ego than biffing and bashing baddies, to say nothing of reading up on characters like Ascendant and his epic phonecalls. City of Heroes wasn’t the last superhero MMO, but neither Champions Online nor DC Universe Online really nailed that fun and freedom.

We still miss it. Hopefully we’ll see its like again some day.