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Vanguard: Saga of Heroes – First Impressions

I picked up a pre-order of Vanguard last week so I could try out the “play 3 days early” feature that the pre-order provided. It’s not that I was particularly excited for this game – I can vividly remember being excited for Star Wars Galaxies, AC2, EQ2, and WoW – it was more that I was hoping this game would just be amazing, for no good reason. No screenshots I saw really amazed me and the main website really didn’t have much info about the game. Reading forums on the matter (especially official forums prior to a games launch) really just end up being flamewars and fanboys going crazy. So I just tried to keep an open mind and hoped something would stand out. Unfortunately, the only things that really stood out were its lack of polish and graphical errors.

Now I must disclaim, before I start talking about my experience with the game, that I only played two different characters (a Goblin Necromancer and a Vulmane Ranger) up to level 5 each. So I can claim no great knowledge of the depth of the game, but for MMO’s the starting experience is just as important as the endgame to me.

After my time with the game I felt like it was EQ2 meets WoW – except not as good as either one. The interface was very similar to WoW’s and the quest system had similar conventions as well (Icons over the heads of quest givers/targets etc). Not to say thats a bad thing, if there was one thing WoW got right it was making the play experience very streamlined. I’m not sure how I feel about it in the end, it is definitely hand-holding – but sometimes thats not a bad thing. Maybe more games should offer that as an option to turn off, I’m pretty sure EQ2 lets you do that.

I’m really not sure how VG hopes to capture their player base (or create one for that matter). I think the main selling point for the game is supposed to be their 3 “spheres” of focus for the game: Adventuring, Crafting, and Diplomacy. Well lets see, Adventuring. Its more of the same, select target and attack and hit your specials. Again, not saying this is horribly wrong – but its nothing fresh. I liked how EQ2 had the Heroic Opportunity wheel and all that (of course who knows if that ended up being useful or necessary). FFXI had that crazy ass skillchaining, but if you got it down to a science it was really awesome and definitely helped you mow down shit. Maybe combat in VG gets more in-depth later in the game, but I doubt it.

Crafting. I only tried this a little bit, got a quest to go chop down a tree and bring back the shit. I must admit the animations for the harvesting is pretty cool, and the fact that the tree actually falls down after your down is awesome. Definitely cooler than the disappearing resources we see in other games. I can’t go into much more depth on this, as the only thing I created was a pile of sticks. Hopefully it will follow a SWG/EQ2 path of crafting, but only better. They could be on to something with that. Oh and evidently you can build players houses and ships to sail around in. If it works, that would be cool.
Diplomacy. The only truly fresh thing I saw in VG. Diplomacy allows you to handle different relations of factions in the game, and I believe I read that high level diplomats could get charters for player made cities. Diplomacy is handled by playing an in-game card game. You get various cards (like skills) from quests etc. Then before you begin a parley (diplomacy “combat”) you setup your hand of 5 cards from all your available ones. There is a goal number you have to reach, each round that you are winning the parley the number decreases. Once you get to zero you win – if your opponent gets there first you lose. I thought this aspect of the game was really cool. Once you understand the mechanics, its all up to strategy of picking which cards are best for the task at hand. I’m sure people will figure out some min/max for this – but before it gets trivialized its a lot of fun.

Besides all that, VG is full of graphical bugs. When you open a window (quest log, socials, inventory, etc) for the first time it tends to load in a different resolution from the rest of the game (read: huge and weird looking), or it just comes up as nonsense and you have to drag it to make it look correct. I heard that they suckled on the teet of ATI this time around, so Nvidia users got the initial shaft. Maybe thats my problem. The game stutters from time to time, the LOD pop-up is pretty annoying (i turned up settings to a reasonable level and it still happens – though I noticed the same in EQ2).

So.. EQ2 had next-gen graphics and a pretty awesome story (that was supported by a great lore campaign on the main site). World of Warcraft was Blizzard, new, and had a pretty unique graphical style. I’m not really sure what VG has. Though I am pretty sure that they’re kicking it out the door in an unfinished state. The world is huge, and thats great, but they didn’t have time to fill it. The game lacks some seriously needed polish. I’m not sure I played the game enough to rate it, so I won’t even try. But for a game thats being released to pretty much compete with the WoW juggernaut Burning Crusade, they’re gonna need to do some miraculous things very soon. They may get lucky in that respect though. Figure that a lot of people may be burned out on WoW: BC in 3-6 months. In that time period VG could really get their shit together, then they could see a shift in player base. But, there are many other MMO’s coming out soon that have people excited (Warhammer, Conan, Pirate of the Burning Sea) so who knows.

For reference, my gaming rig is as follows:

  • AMD Athlon XP 3800+
  • 1 gig Corsair RAM
  • nForce3 Lanparty mobo
  • BFG Geforce 6800 Ultra 256
  • WD SATA drives
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~ by Matt on January 29, 2007.

PC, Video Games

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