Game:Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape
Developer: Adam Ryland
Publisher: GreyDog Software
Genre: Text-Based RPG
Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape is the latest text-based video game from Adam Ryland and GreyDog Software, the masterminds behind the awesome Total Extreme Wrestling and World of Mixed Martial Arts series. While those two games deal with booking a wrestling or MMA company and becoming #1, Comic Book Hero is more of a text-based RPG of sorts in which you create a superhero (or take control of an existing one) and manage his everyday routine of battling crime. Is it another big hit or does it stumble along the way?
The world of Comic Book Hero is set in the INFINITY-verse, a fake universe populated with heroes, anti-heroes and villains. Even when the Universe is not based on any real life comic book property, expect to see characters whose looks, backstory and/or special skills match those of real life comic book heroes. Like all Adam Ryland-created universes, the world is fun to play in and the characters are interesting to play as. I have never played an Adam Ryland game whose universe isn’t fun and interesting. However, if you want to play in a big real-life universe from Marvel, DC or something else, be aware that like all Ryland games, CBH packs a powerful editor and a strong mod community who is already working on this type of stuff. As a matter of fact, the editor is my favorite aspect of the game and I think it is even better than the ones provided in TEW or WMMA. If you want to create any type of universe or character, it’s possible.
But how does the game play? Well, in a way it is similar to Ryland’s old Wrestling Spirit series. You control a character, decide what he will do, who he will befriend and were to allocate the stat points you earn for performing actions. On the main screen you choose your mode of play, from Role Play (select an existing character, with his current popularity level, skills and existing relationships) to Clones (Clone an existing character, but drop all his popularity and skills to the lowest level so that you can challenge yourself), Custom (create a brand new character from scratch and customize all his skills) and Back Story (select a pre-existing backstory, fill in some basic details and the game randomly generates a character for you). All of them are fun to play and offer a different experience, especially with 3 selectable difficulty levels. So it doesn’t matter if you want to role-play an epic level hero like Mr. Infinity or a low level character like Doug the Ninja, or create a new character from scratch and fill in all the details. Back Story is cool as well, since you only pick the origin of your character and then the game generates powers for you. So for example, you can select something like Avenging Loved Ones or Martial Artist or even Found Mystical Object and the game will generate an appropriate skill set.
Once in the game proper you have a multitude of options, including training your skills, going out on patrol to stop random acts of crime (which sometimes leads to uncovering plots and longer story arcs, befriending other heroes who come to help and more), tracking down a specific villain or hero, trying to establish relationships with other characters (like friendships and even romantic relationships), doing civic work, moving to another location, visiting your Team HQ (if you are part of a team), recuperate (to heal yourself) and even going out in public under your civilian identity (if you have a secret identity to protect). All of these options (except recuperate, which is essentially taking a turn off to rest) can lead to something else. Being part of a team is a huge benefit since you can go out on missions, train with your partners (which grants more points than doing it by yourself) and build upon relationships. Heck, you can even become the team’s leader with time!
Battles play out in turn-based fashion and takes into account your level, your skills, your powers and those of your opponent. Each character has specific strengths and weaknesses. A fire-based character might have a damage reduction rate from fire attacks dealt to him, but might be weak to water based attacks. Skeletons (yes, there are undead enemies and monsters) might have damage resistance against piercing weapons like swords and so on. There are also passive powers that can come into effect, like a supernatural character (ghost-like) being able to phase out and escape harm entirely and stuff like that. There are a ton of dice rolls running behind the scenes (although you can enable an option to see all the numerical results) that guide all the happenings in the game. So in a way, it’s like playing a superhero Dungeons and Dragons. Hell, with the editor tools you COULD make a D & D-like universe.
Your character’s popularity level is measured by units of comic books sold. No, you don’t get to produce comic books in the game. But this is a nice progression system. Every time a big event happens (like an encounter with a villain) an “issue” is created that details how much over or under target percentage of sales you hit. That percentage is your popularity level. Hit 100% and you move to another level.
The experience of the game varies from character to character. For example, some areas can only be accessed by characters that can travel across space and even across dimensions. Inactive or “retired” heroes and villains might make a comeback. Playing an anti-hero can be extremely challenging since they tend to alienate all other heroes and building relationships is next to impossible. Developing relationships is a trial and error process that requires you to approach different characters in different ways. The intensity of your approach, the personalities in question, all of that needs to be taken into account.
Like I said at the beginning, the editor is powerful and flexible, allowing you to create almost anything. Medieval swords and sorcery setting, a futuristic space setting, alternate dimensions, a typical city setting and even a combination of all of the above (and certainly much more) can be easily created, as long as you put in the time. I am sure dozens upon dozens of awesome mods will be available in the next few weeks.
However, the game is not perfect. There is no multiplayer, which would have given the game a whole new dimension. You can’t play as a villain. The biggest one to me has to be that the game eventually ends. I mean, it can go on forever, but eventually when you hit maximum popularity and have beaten everyone there is nothing left to do but start over with a new character or in a new mod. Games like TEW and WMMA would run forever (as a matter of fact, I have a WMMA game that has lasted me 25 in-game years) but that’s almost impossible to do with CBH. I guess that’s OK, since you have over 100 potential characters to play as in the default data and that number will likely be 10 times over when all the mods come out.
Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape is not for everyone, but fans of text-based games, comics, super heroes and RPG’s (and even tabletop games like D & D) will love it. The editor is incredibly powerful and flexible, the combat system feels satisfying and more importantly, it is easy to learn and fun to play. GreyDog and Adam Ryland have done it again: Comic Book Hero is a winner.
-Lots of characters to play as
-Incredible editor/mod tools
-Can’t play as the villain
Final Score: 8.5/10