In most MMORPGs, your beefy max-level character can take on some monstrous enemies and withstand a serious beating—but have you ever survived a nuclear blast? City of Heroes is giving players the opportunity to test their staying power against atomic explosions in an epic finale against Tyrant—the main antagonist of the Going Rogue expansion—in the upcoming Incarnate Trial, The Magisterium.
First, let's talk about why we need to take this guy out. Tyrant is the evil version of the game's überhero Statesman. He rules over Praetorian Earth, a parallel-dimension where he's practically worshiped as a king for defeating an army of invading horrors. The Well of the Furies, a not-so-nice sounding place where all Incarnates draw their power from, has chosen Tyrant as its champion. As a hero character, I simply cannot let that stand—this jerk's going down.
Luckily, the Dream Doctor feels the same way. Best known for saving kidnapped children in the 30s and founding the Midnight Squad, one of Paragon City's top superhero organizations, I was feeling pretty confident with him on our side. We entered The Magisterium, where an assault on Tyrant's tower was already taking place. As soldiers and members of resistance cells fled from the battle, we're sent in to defeat Tyrant's army, then his lieutenants, and ultimately take down Tyrant himself.
Like all of CoH's Incarnate Trials, this one scales to the number of players present (12-24 for this one), and our group is first tasked with defeating 250 enemies in front of the looming tower before us. The enemies are incredibly numerous: condensed into tight packs but still spread out over a large area. Our group started by rushing into a pocket of them and I quickly found myself surrounded by opponents, with plenty more waiting in the distance, giving the impression of being outnumbered in a large-scale battle.
When we'd finally decimated most of the outside army, the gauntlet boss fight began. It's a three-boss wrecking crew of Shadow Hunter, Nega Pendragon, and Chimera. You have to deal with all three at once, but your best bet is to focus on taking one down at a time. We chose to take on Shadow Hunter first, and had the manpower to off-tank Nega Pendragon, but we couldn't do anything about Chimera, leaving him to rain down arrows onto the group until we fought him last. The fights had some fun mechanics, such as the Shadow Hunter switching to his arcane form when he reached 40% health, making him look like a canine Anubis with ancient markings all over. More deadly however, was the fact that Nega Pendragon's power has grown with each attack (whoops, should've taken him down first), and when he finally died, he unleashed a massive wave of power through his sword Excalibur on anyone unlucky enough to be in its way. When Chimera was the only one left, he began teleporting all around the tower, making us constantly chase him until he was defeated.
Just when we thought we were safe, Black Swan, one of Tyrant's last lieutenants, appeared and used the Quills of Jocas on the group to siphon away our Incarnate power. She then opened up portals to Shadow Earth and called in enemies to help her kill us. In summary, she's a total jerk. We focused on taking down the portals first, to stop the flow of adds coming at us. Then, as we held the Black Swan at bay, we started gathering the Quills of Jocas scattered around the area. Just as we're starting to feel confident about our chances, the big bad Tyrant himself shows up and detonates a nuclear bomb in a last-ditch effort to take us out. Because we're awesome superheroes, we survived the blast, although it wounded us pretty bad. We healed ourselves as quickly as possible so we'd be ready to take on Tyrant.
As expected, a nuclear blast drastically changes the environment. The air fills with embers and smoke and we were suddenly standing in a giant crater surrounded by the rubble of nearby buildings. Tyrant's still there, though, and he summons wells of light that boost his power. Luckily, the Quills of Jocas we picked up earlier can destroy them to prevent his power from growing. One of the most interesting parts of the encounter is that death isn't the end. If and when you die, you're transported to the Dream Doctor's realm and must defeat the wards he places to get back into the fight. As Tyrant's health drops, his connection to the Well of the Furies severs more and more, transforming him into a weaker version of himself until you ultimately take him down.
The Trial took about 30 minutes to complete. It's not as difficult or intricate as the endgame raids I've played in World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic recently, but City of Heroes has never been about tough, crazy mechanics with harsh punishment for positioning your character in the wrong way. Incarnate Trials are about making players feel as powerful as superheroes, and taking a nuclear blast to the face in The Magisterium definitely accomplished that. Issue 23: Where the Shadows Lie, which includes this Incarnate Trial, doesn't have a release date yet, but The Magisterium is available on CoH's test servers right now.