This blog post was prompted almost immediately by this morning’s Daily Grind topic on Massively Overpowered, which opens the comment box to any number of interesting MMO and multiplayer-related questions. Today’s question: who’s the best MMO villain?
My answer was just as immediate as this writing prompt inspiration: Ghost Widow from City of Heroes. And when I realized that I could run on and on about her, I decided to spare the MOP comment section my diatribe and take to my personal space to elaborate.
For those who missed the City of Heroes boat, allow me to brief you. Ghost Widow was one of the primary archvillains who worked in consort with the MMO’s main villain Lord Recluse and his villain group Arachnos. Born Belladonna Vetrano, she was a member of the Night Widows, a sect of Arachnos assassins, until she was killed during a mission that went horribly wrong. However, her loyalty to the Arachnos organization was so strong that she became a spirit that tethered itself to the villain group’s mere existence and dutifully works with Lord Recluse as the head of the Night Widows.
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for super characters that have a tragic backstory (blame Batman), so almost instantly I was intrigued about Ghost Widow when I learned about her in City of Heroes. When City of Villains’ Issue 7 update came out and we all learned we could learn powers from her, that almost immediately sealed the deal.
See, in both City of Heroes and City of Villains, you could take missions directly from the primary characters and learn additional powers on top of your build’s abilities. By and large, these were more thematic than actually useful, but in an MMO that was all about looking cool first and being optimal second, learning awesome-looking skills from the Ghost Widow herself was an amazing hook.
So, admittedly, I came for the look, but I stayed for her awesome stories, which hit all of my favorite comic book buttons for me. Betrayal, revenge, and a sense of tragic fealty all wrapped together to make the story of Ghost Widow one of the more compelling in the City of Heroes canon and one of the best story arcs in the game. Honestly, none of the other characters were nearly as interesting. Even Lord Recluse himself was just your typical, fist-clenching despot; a Cobra Commander with equally silly organization theming.
Ghost Widow’s presence was so strong, it even compelled me to roll up as the Widow elite powerset before the Soldier purely because being associated with her organization was more interesting to me. Also, the Soldier powerset branched into either a boring-ass laser mace or a guy wearing a spider-legged backpack and man were neither of those appealing.
The fact that the Widows were elegant, swift, and calculatingly lethal characters further made Ghost Widow look just as badass in comparison. Whether you chose the nimble claws of the Night Widows or the otherworldly dark grace of the psionic Fortunatas, the whole group was oozing in style and generally made for more open character backstory creation.
As with many things in City of Heroes, though, the thing that linked me most to adoration of Ghost Widow was the fact that I wasn’t alone. There were many, many players who shared my infatuation with the character for what I suspect were many of the same reasons.
I remember one time when one of the game’s GMs took control of Ghost Widow and showed up at the Pocket D nightclub, the shared non-combat social space for both hero and villain characters. Almost immediately, the character model was besieged by dozens of players, both heroic and villainous, to get screenshots beside her and to just be in her presence. The GM handed out temporary titles and random dancing broke out nearby…it was pretty amazing.
Incidentally, it’s that community that I miss most out of City of Heroes and one that I hope other in-development superhero games are able to capture and encourage. I’m almost certain that they’re still out there; a quick search of “city of heroes ghost widow” on DeviantArt returned over 100 hits from people who still remember.
When my mind went back to Ghost Widow and the associated time spent in City of Heroes, it instantly brought me a sense of joy and happy nostalgia. And I guess that’s why, ultimately, she means so much to me. She’s a tether to a delightful time in my MMO gaming life that compels me to smile more than rage at the game’s closure. Just the mere mental image of her floating effortlessly in place conjures nothing but glee.
So, yeah. Ghost Widow, man. Ghost muhfuggin’ Widow.