Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On Patrol : Valiance Online

Another day, another download. This time it's Valliance Online, one of several contenders for the cape of Spiritual Successor to City of Heroes. I forget the names of the others.

I only remember Valliance because of their open door policy. A while back they had a sneak peak/tech demo up and now there's a pre-alpha build available for any interested parties to test drive.

Unlike the Early Access cash grabs of yesterday's post, this is a genuine "come and help us kick this thing into shape" community effort. There are no "Packages" to buy, no NDA agreements to sign, no application forms to fill out. Just an email address, a password and a download and you're in.

City of Heroes was famous for its immensely flexible and varied character creation system. There were supposedly people who played the game for a fair old while without ever getting any further than the character create screen.

Any would-be successor is going to have to at least attempt to replicate that. Valiance is planning on ninety different power sets. For now, though, choice is fairly straightforward. I went with my basic Super Hero fallback, a fire-flinger.

When it comes to choosing costumes and clothing for a new character I tend towards the blue end of the spectrum but fire powers almost dictate reds and oranges so that's where I went.

It was challenging to choose a look, not because of a lack of options but because nothing I selected actually displayed on the image I was looking at. In the end I just clicked Accept and hoped for the best. I think that's why she has huge thighs and a tiny head. At least the color scheme seems to have worked.

Emerging into the dazzling sunlight  found myself in a city eerily reminiscent of the skyscraper streets I remember, albeit dimly, from the original City of Heroes beta all those however many years ago. My abiding memory of that game, which I beta-tested but declined to buy, is of huge plazas, towering buildings and wide, blank streets populated by an unseemly crowd of muggers and petty criminals all just asking for some rough super-hero justice.

If that's what SilverHelm, the developers, are going for then they're on the right track. The very first, introductory mission had me running off across town in search of an elderly couple who'd just been mugged in broad daylight.

When I say "run" I mean prance like a six-year old who's just watched The Bionic Woman for the first time and realized what she wants to do with the rest of her life. I know it's just a pre-alpha and all these animations will be tweaked and toned to unrecognizability but boy, I wish they'd keep this running anim. It's adorable.

Also, when I say "across town" I mean across town. Maybe the designer had the inevitable plethora of movement powers in mind - super-speed, flight, teleporting - but my poor character just has one small heal and a fireball about the size and potency of a burning paper bag. Don't they even have moving walkways in this vision of the future?

So, getting to the mugged couple took a while. Luckily, like all NPCs, they seemed to have nothing better to do than stand around and tell their story to every passing stranger. They also seemed remarkably unphased by their unpleasant experience, chatty even.

They gave me a good description of the perps.  Not that I needed one because a little marker pops up with each quest to give you both direction and distance to your target. It's amazing anyone bothers to break the law with this kind of infallible surveillance.

Another kilometer jog and I found them. Three ne'er-do-wells loitering on a walkway above what might be a sports stadium someday. I would have laid about them with fiery retribution only that was the point when I realized I didn't have any fiery retribution to hand.

Somewhere on the long jog one of my hotbars must have fallen off. You can see it clearly in the second screenshot, nestled neatly below the other one, but when I came to use it it just wasn't there. All I had was a heal and try as you might you can't heal someone into jail.

So I revived and ran back. That was fun. On the way I fiddled about with the options but wherever my bar had gone it was staying there, out of reach.

In the end I tried casting with the keyboard, which worked, technically, in that I threw some fire at a bad guy. Unfortunately, by the time he was beginning to look a bit singed he and his two pals had put me on the floor again. For the first fight in the starting zone I think this might be a tad overtuned.

For a project "in the Pre-Alpha, but moving towards the Alpha phase" Valiance feels quite solid. Super-hero MMOs have never really done much for me although given my very, very long love affair with the comic book version they really should. I'm very glad they exist, though, and I'd be very happy to see more of them.

Good luck to Valiance and all the other CoH flagwavers. May there always be enough muggers and mad scientists to keep your streets full of screaming citizens and happy players both!

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