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City of Heroes Freedom offers free-to-play option this year

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City of Heroes was the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game starring comic book-styled superheroes to really “get it.” This is evidenced in the game’s continued popularity and support from its maker, Paragon Studios. The MMO scene is changing though, and subscriptions are getting harder to hang onto for games that aren’t World of Warcraft or EVE Online. That’s probably a big part of the reason why Paragon has announced plans to embrace a free-to-play pricing model with City of Heroes Freedom.

Subscriptions will still exist for those who wish to take advantage of the “VIP exclusive benefits, content and services,” the press release notes. Freedom offers a pretty complete experience, however, offering players access to both Hero and Villain zones as well as a level 50 cap. The particulars aren’t detailed, but it sounds like non-subscribing players will be able to purchase various expansions to the game’s story — released as “Issues” — as well specialized power sets and other customization features a la carte.

Additionally, a new Paragon Points program will be introduced. Subscribers will earn 400 of these points every month, which can be spend on “costumes, items, services and consumables available via the in-game Paragon Market.” Freedom players will also be able to earn these points as monthly rewards, though the “how” isn’t specified. You’ll presumably be able to buy these points outright as well, for use in-game.

Speaking personally, I’ve always been curious about City of Heroes but tend to keep away from subscription-based games for various reasons. This new setup is definitely going to get me exploring Paragon City, which is surely what the studio is banking on. It’s going to have some competition too, in the form of Champions Online, the superhero MMO from City of Heroes co-developer Cryptic Studios that went free-to-play earlier this year.

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