Not satisfied with the massive amount of discontent that I’ve already accumulated from the dozens of MMO’s that I’ve played over the years, I have gone ahead and jumped into the early pre-release period of Brad “Mister EverQuest” McQuaid’s Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.
Now, let me start off by saying that I don’t claim to be a Vanguard expert. At the time of this writing, I’ve only reached level 10, and as such, there’s a whole hell of a lot of content that I haven’t experienced. However, I’ve played long enough to form a few opinions on the game, and I’ve definitely discovered that my “this is EverQuest 2.5″ assumption is pretty much dead-on. (Although, I’m not really seeing the game do anything above and beyond what EverQuest II already has, so the “.5” tag doesn’t make too much sense.)
Anyways, here are a few positive and negative opinions:
WHAT HAS IMPRESSED ME SO FAR:
- KUNG FU: The Asian-styled races, classes, weapons and environments are pretty groovy and somewhat make the tired fantasy theme a little bit more tolerable. I’m playing a monk and digging on the martial arts.
- COMBAT (TO A DEGREE): Vanguard has the EQII-styled “chains” for special combat abilities… which is better than NOT having them, I guess. The varied fight animations ARE cool, however.
- IT’S A BIG WORLD: Although I’m sure I’ll be more impressed by this as I go along, the world seems to be pretty damn large. (For the near 17 gigs of hard drive space this game consumes, it damn-well better be.)
- A VIEW TO A KILL: Vanguard has this feature which allows you to see WAY off into the distance, and it’s pretty damn great. It really makes the world seem more realistic, and I was surprised to discover that looking down from a very high place can actually create a small bit of vertigo. Rad.
WHAT HASN’T IMPRESSED ME SO FAR:
- GAME ENGINE: Ugh. VERY resource intensive and near-impossible to dial in for all-around good performance. Reminds me a whole hell of a lot of Horizons: Empire of Istaria. Just when you think you’ve got the options set for good performance, you hit a town or city and the framerate drops dramatically. Just…freaking…terrible. (Of all the things that developers SHOULD be ripping from World of WarCraft, a smooth, fast-running game engine that runs on just about any gaming rig sadly isn’t one of them.)
- BUGS: Enemies vanish during combat, forcing you to run backwards till they pop back into view; some quests (even major ones) are broken; players sometimes displayed as corpses moving along the ground.
- DIPLOMACY: This much ballyhooed feature is actually a card game that, honestly, I find to be an uninteresting bore. I really don’t want to have anything to do with it, which is unfortunate, ’cause apparently some high-level content can only be accessed by those proficient in it.
- COMBAT: This is essentially like every other fantasy MMO out there. Meet enemy, click through series of combat abilities on hotbar, repeat until end of fight, move onto next target. *Yawn*
- LACK OF ORIGINALITY: Seriously, from the visuals to the gameplay, it seems like every few minutes you have to think about it and remind yourself of which MMO you’re actually playing. So far I haven’t seen anything that even remotely comes off as highly original or innovative. I might as well be playing EverQuest / EverQuest II / Dark Age of Camelot / Asheron’s Call / World of Warcraft / Horizons, etc., etc.
- COST: The monthly fee is $14.99, which is standard, but what gets me is the $49.99 cost to get started. My opinion may change as I progress a bit more, but at this point, the $50 price tag feels like a ripoff. I’m sorry Sigil Games’ marketing team, but $24.95 would have been much more appropriate.
So, much like a rat trained to repeatedly push a lever for a pellet of food, I shall continue on in my Vanguard journey. I have donned the blinders that keep me from acknowledging reality, all in the hope that the next time I report on the game, I’ll be stating things like, “OMFG! Vanguard is TIGHT, yo! Finally, someone has topped old-school UO and made a game that I actually CARE about and want to play forever!”