One of the elements that doesn't get explored often enough in MMOs is the concept of the people who didn't quite make it. It's generally accepted on some level that adventurers or superheroes or whatever you play are a cut above normal people, but there's still a point at which you stop being a Assault Rifle/Devices Blaster and start being just a guy with a gun and some toys. And the people just below that mark, just shy of reaching the big time, have a story to tell, just like the player characters.
So today's look at City of Heroes'
villainous groups highlights one of the game's suggestions about what happens to those people. It's a group composed of those not quite strong enough to make a name beyond thuggery but just strong enough to be more dangerous than the low-level mooks you don't even notice. I'm talking, of course, about the Outcasts, the elemental-themed gang of mutants that terrorizes Steel Canyon, goes to war with the Trolls, and makes a cottage industry out of being almost good enough to hit the big time.
The Outcasts don't have the claim to history or pedigree like some of the other groups in Paragon City -- they're a very new gang of super-powered mutants disenfranchised with the state of being a superhuman. They're also essentially the vanity project of one man, but that's something to address later on. But despite their youth and size, they're a notable threat to law enforcement and the citizens of the city simply because all of their members are in some way superhuman.
Of course, in a city where superhumans are so common that the City Hall has several offices and departments devoted solely to them, being a mutant isn't actually all that special in and of itself. And that's where the Outcasts come together. Nearly all of them are criminals who just don't have the raw punch to consistently handle heroes and cops on their own; they'e joined up to essentially form a gang of thugs with some genuine powers behind them. The gang is roughly divided into chapters based along elemental affiliation (and that's "four classic elements," with apologies to Tom Lehrer
), but any conflicts between those chapters is more or less put to the side when the group is faced with external threats.
Group activities and powers
Chiefly active in Steel Canyon, the Outcasts have no overarching goals beyond being the biggest dogs in the junkyard, so to speak. They're not a group that will ever be challenging Arachnos for control of a major location, but they can drive out gangs like the Trolls and prove to them that they're not so special. Considering that they've got the same level of power as the Trolls and no crippling gang-wide addiction, this has gone over remarkably well.
The group has also moved into the Hollows chiefly for the same reason: They have the option to do so and they want a chance to kick the Trolls around a bit more. Unfortunately for them, the Tsoo are putting pressure on them in Steel Canyon from the north, and considering the overall talent involved with the Tsoo, I'd say it's a testament to the group as a whole that it hasn't been crushed outright. Like many gangs in the city, the Outcasts have expanded to the absolute limits of what their loose structure can actually support, but parts of the group keep grabbing for a bit more power because they think they can make it.
The most notable Outcast is also the group's leader and founder, and ironically enough it's arguable that he's not even a member any longer. Frostfire, real name Leonard Calhoun, was obsessed with superhumans from a young age. He also manifested his powers of extreme temperature control from a young age, but what he had in determination and motivation he lacked in common sense. His first effort as a hero wound up killing several people due to his poor control over his powers, and he was sentenced to jail time, albeit with a very lenient sentence. Unfortunately, that tipped him over the edge, and he broke free. The Outcasts that gathered around him were just street thugs with small-time powers, but Frostfire could have been a heavy-hitter if he'd just been a bit more patient and careful.
As it turns out, though, time healed that wound. Recent tip missions reveal that Frostfire is trying to turn over a new leaf, or more accurately, turn one back over. He's working on being a hero once again, although it's slow going for him, and he's working with the equally reformed Miss Thystle
to try to put things right. Of course, that raises the question of what's going to happen to the Outcasts now... but the answer is probably that they're going to continue with or without Frostfire. Sooner or later, he's going to need to learn how to put fires out instead of start them.
Could I be one?
I don't think so. André 3000 and Big Boi seem pretty satisfied as a duo.
Wait, sorry, I got distracted for a moment. It's certainly plausible to have your character as a former Outcast; the main problem is that the Outcasts by definition are the second-stringers, the ones who couldn't quite hack it as full-time heroes and villains. Of course, depending on your view of the stories, that could be a result of individual power or it could just be a psychological issue. With a bit of practice, they could be fully able to run with the big names.
If anything, being a former Outcast gives you the option of exploring some of the stranger power combinations available in the game. Beam Rifle/Thermal Radiation? Sure, you might have been small-time before, but now that you've got this new prototype Crey gun to make your mark...
As I mentioned right in the intro, I always liked the fact that the Outcasts were just shy of first class. Beyond that, however, they're not one of the better-defined gangs. They don't have the overall sense of purpose that many of the other gangs do, such as the Hellions, who are consistently looking for things that would wind up killing them, or the sense of ancient inevitability that comes with the Circle of Thorns and the Tsoo. So we're left with the suggestion of something awesome that doesn't totally deliver.
Oh, well. At least they get awesome ringer tees. Maybe the cops should talk to the guy who keeps making those.
That's all for this week's column, and as always you can send your comments in to firstname.lastname@example.org
or just leave them down below. Next week, I think it's high time I sank my teeth into the new starting zone, yes? And I can even work in some ethical commentary in there.
By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.