City of Heroes Meta’s Verse: The Fifth Column!
If there is one thing that is important in any setting, it is what you are set against. For this, the fifth column from your very own Meticulous Meta, how could we not talk about one of the biggest threats in the City Of world? The Fifth Column.
Nazis, as a wise and intrepid teacher of archaeology once said: “I hate those guys”. With good reason too, they’re one of the quintessential bad guys. Always there to be the baddest of the bad when your setting needs some evil.
The Fifth Column have had a varied history in the game. Starting out as one of the original bad guy groups, they took a long leave of absence from all things in Paragon City. In the lore they were some of the worst that Paragon had ever seen. Organising themselves as a fifth column of troops hidden in the Swiss cheese that passes for bedrock in Rhode Island, they struck at the First Hero Brigade just as it was organising to ship out for the war. This little bit of history in the game eventually led to the name of the most popular of the newbie zones, Atlas Park. Atlas, having been a hero who fought and died defending people everywhere from the evils of the Fifth.
In the game however, the Fifth Column, a constant thorn in the side of heroes everywhere was soon to be temporarily removed. Starting with Issue 3 and with (co-incidentally) the games launch in Europe, the Fifth found themselves fighting a losing battle in the streets across the entire city to a new usurper faction borne from the same ideals but with a decidedly extra-terrestrial flavour, The Council.
It wasn’t until the launch of the Oroboros Flashback system some years later that the threat made a reappearance. First in the opening arc to get you used to time travel and then in one of the missions the Menders send you on to try and tweak the time stream. The bloody in the streets battle which many players witnessed between the two sides eventually was given further story treatment in this arc, where it turns out you yourself as a player are responsible for … well. We won’t ruin all the surprises.
Soon after the first glimpses of this “old” content in time travel arcs, the Fifth made yet another appearance, proving that when regular old super science just isn’t evil enough, Nazi Super Science comes to the fore and gave players an added foe to fight in the area of Cimerora. After all what spells FUN better than the group you love to hate, a new task force for the ousted leader Imperious and giant robots? This sighting of both the Fifth and of their leader back in his proper role, Requiem, started the comeback for the bad guys. From a bit part in a time travel story, to a major part in a time travel based taskforce, they went on to feature heavily in yet another high end task. The Reichsmann, think Statesman if he grew up on Axis America Earth had finally awoke. Heroes coming together for the tough task sought to break his power and if possible bring him to justice. Villains, being such paragons of virtue, also had a high level task force revolving around the Reichsmann and his escape and eventual beating… if not for justice, then because of his stupid hat.
Now though, now the Fifth Column is back proving that there’s always a bad guy that everyone loves to hate. They’re back on the streets, back in missions and “living” content instead of one time travel mention for old times’ sake and back fighting against the Council that originally broke the column. You won’t see the battles that sent the Column hiding throughout time and space, but anywhere that the Council and the Fifth Column compete for recruits or for training, we get the added spice of them going for one another’s throats. It is after all the little things in life that make a zone seem alive.
It feels good to be so bad
Why though are the Fifth so loved by players? They’re bad, bad guys. They don’t just kick puppies, sometimes after a rightful beating up of the guy who fired a rocket launcher at you, they mutate into giant werewolves. How is that fair or endearing?
Simply, it’s because no matter where you sit on the moral spectrum, from shining hero through the shades of grey to a darkened villain, everyone can get behind hating a group so steeped in the truest villainy any of us have ever known of.
If you can measure the worth of a hero or of a character by his enemies, what better enemy could there be for players? It doesn’t matter if you are thwarting their plots as a hero, roughing them up as a rogue or vigilante or even perhaps taking over the business venture as a villain, you have a yardstick by which to measure your worth and your actions. Every setting and everyone needs a villain to fight against, to be better than and to beat. They may not be the most cunning, that crown belongs to Nemesis. They may not be the most fractured and varied, that’d be Arachnos. They may not even be the most dedicated to their goals, that would have to be Malta. No matter what they are not, they are and always will be Nazis, and like the great Indiana Jones says.
I hate those guys.
I wouldn’t have them any other way.
Meticulous Meta left Snuflé at home for this article and hit the streets to see the action. She will be back in Paragon next week.