Wednesday, February 7, 2007


From last time:
Phew ....

I think I dodged a bullet with Vanguard. I'm kind of glad I downloaded the Beta. Gave me some time to see the game with my own two eyes.

And what's more important ... It let me get over that "Wow!/Cool!/" phase and take a hard look at the game.



Well, after talking with my friend at work (Satan) who bought Vanguard, I was curious. He said the difference in performance from Beta to even the Pre-Launch was like night and day. Since the performance issues were so bad it didn't allow me to even try the game much, I figured Vanguard needed another look-see.

Now, if you didn't already know, I'm a cheap bastard. So there was no freaking way I was going to pay to try the game again, especially since the bit I did see wasn't all too exhilarating. I had to find another way in.

Some guy on the MMORPG.com forums decided to have a little quiz to give away his buddy keys. He, like some other people, bought the Collector's Edition of Vanguard, and it comes with 10 buddy keys. It's Sigil's way of trying to get people to bring their friends/guilds over from other games.

So, the guy on the MMORPG.com forums asked some relatively obscure questions, and I figured "What the hell?". It was probably the easiest way to get a second look at Vanguard. The question I got right was actually about some spoofed G.I.Joe cartoon public service announcements. I hadn't seen them before, but the few I watched were /fucking hilarious/. I was laughing myself silly.

Check them out: G.I.Joe PSA Videos

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Back to Vanguard.

I got the key from the guy, DLed the Beta client from Fileplanet again (since I'd deleted/uninstalled the thing completely after the Beta. It was almost 20 Gbs!) Took some time, but I DLed it while sleeping so it didn't take long.

After the extraction, install, patch and subsequent defrag, I finally got to try the game again.

Wooooo .....

The game was much more playable, and there was almost zero "hitching" like before. It was so bad in Beta I almost smashed my computer. Fucking brutal. But, happily it was gone. So I finally got to see how Vanguard really plays.

And the word to describe it would be: "meh".

Overall, if you discount the bugs, and performance issues that are still there (though nowhere near as bad), the game isn't all that interesting. I have done god knows how many quests, and not one of them was even /remotely interesting/. All of them have been either, "Go see ", "Take to ", "Kill X of ", or "Collect from ". There hasn't been one quest that had an interesting twist, a special NPC, a twist that I didn't expect, etc. All around it's been /mind-numbingly boring shit/.

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Quests aside, I got to see more of the levels, some different classes, different races and their starting areas, and different spheres of levelling.

Let's start with the levels.

I got one character to level 9, and another to almost level 11. He still has 4-5 quests to hand in, and since most XP is from quests, he'll most likely be level 11 in no time. Anyway, some people have said that the game doesn't start until level 10+. I think they are on crack or something. The game has /never started/ for me. I simply played through to see how things were, to explore the different areas, and see if I was wrong about the game.

I'd have to say, aside from SWG (which I exclude because it was a sandbox MMO, and buggy as hell at launch), this has to be /the worst/ game for a newbie experience I have ever played. There is almost no reasoning behind any of it. WoW has the nice little intro when you make a new character, giving the player a hint of the story in the game, and where their character's race stands in the gameworld. Who they hate, like, etc. I think that's one of the best features an MMO could have. Give the player some insight into /why/ they are killing rats and pigs for their skins/tails/eyes/etc. Vanguard has a little text description once your character is ready to play, but that's not the same thing. After almost 11 levels of adventuring, I'd barely seen anything of an overall plot, or even a simple reason why I was doing any of it.

This brings me to my next point: The other spheres of levelling.

I only got to experience the Diplomacy sphere, a minor amount of Crafting, and none of Harvesting. I skipped the last two pretty much cause the Crafting tutorial was fucking boring, and buggy as hell. I skipped Harvesting cause realistically, it's the same fucking thing as in almost every other MMO. 1.) Find a resource and click on it. 2.) Wait. 3.) Collect the materials from it.

The Diplomacy sphere is the best part of the game IMO. It's basically a mini-collectible card game, like Magic: The Gathering, but you use it to talk to NPCs. I'm not sure exactly what you can get with it later on, but for the first 20-something levels (max 150) that I saw, you might get some Diplomacy gear, or crappy items to sell to a vendor NPC ("vendor trash"). You can apparently get a free mount instead of paying for one at level 10, but it's nowhere near as fast, and classes with speed buffs can outrun you. Overall, not so great. And the mount at level 10 is only 12 silver or something. Most adventuring quests I had were for 1s 50c, or something like that. So it's not expensive at all.

Diplomacy is, however, the /best way/ to find out more of the Lore in the game. When you talk to an NPC, you get to read the dialogue between you and them, as it unfolds when you play certain cards. I got to solve a murder case, resolve a dispute between two rival fishing families, and find out that they were fighting because they were being manipulated my some extra-planar beings. It was quite enjoyable. The only problem becomes when you cannot get cards you need, and you can't get past certain quests without them. I had an NPC who I had to "defeat", and she kept using a card I had no equivalent for. So she would keep the conversation going her way all the time, and handily defeat me. It was getting exceedingly frustrating.

But, I have to say, Diplomacy is the best part of the game and I did find it highly enjoyable. Plus, it takes place mostly in cities, so you aren't in danger. It's also a solo-only activity, so you can do something if no one is around to group with. But I'm sure at some point you'd hit an impasse, like I did.

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As for different races and classes, I tried a large number of them. Most of the Protective Fighter classes I couldn't stand. They had fucking piss-poor animations, and were slow ass for killing stuff. Mostly it was the animations.

As for the Offensive Fighters, I tried the Rogue, Ranger, Monk and a tiny bit of the Bard. I found the Monk was the most fun, but the Ranger definitely does the most damage. I couldn't stand playing any of them except the Monk, as they all had crappy animations as well.

I tried the Blood Mage and the Disciple for Healers, and I have to say: Vanguard has /the best healers/ of any game I've tried. They were actually /fun/ to play, but that's probably cause the two I tried are the most combat orientated. The Blood Mage is like a Mage/Healer. You cast DoT spells and build "Blood Bond points" , then you can cast instant damage spells and burn Blood points, or cast better Heals (Blood points make Heals do more). It's a pretty good blend of Mage and Healer IMO. I definitely killed mobs a lot quicker than my other characters. /But/, you are a very fragile class, and so it doesn't take much to get you into trouble. Kind of like a Blaster from CoH, but with healing capacity.

The Disciple was the class I liked the best, mostly because the animations were top notch. I don't know why the other classes didn't have animations like the Disciple's, but if they did, things would be a lot better. The Disciple is like a Monk/Healer. You do melee dmg with Monk style weapons (bare hands, staffs, etc.), but you can Heal really well too. Not so much on Buffs, but good Heals all around. Most of the time I was soloing, even the few group mobs I tried, I barely needed to use my Energy (ie. Mana) to cast Healing spells. I could use some of my Abilities instead, and use Jin (something you build up, like Blood points) to heal myself. I used some of my Energy, but for the most part it was always full.

As for the Offensive Mage classes, I tried a couple, but for the most part, I found them too weak for my tastes. The Necromancer could be a potentially good soloer (lots of people say they are), but I found it a lot like a Hunter in WoW or a Mastermind in CoV. I stand back and let the pet do damage, occasionally casting a spell or two. For some reason, I can't stand it. It's like watching paint dry. The other mage classes would be good for grouping, but I'm a soloer first and foremost, so I didn't bother.

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The different starting areas are nice and varied, and each has their own feel. Some races start at the same place, but that's a good thing, cause the majority of them are fucking all over the place. So it makes the world seem a whole lot bigger, and a whole lot emptier. Plus it makes teaming up with your friends at the start fucking impossible as you can be /continents apart/ and what's worse, you could be Kill On Sight to your friend's race. It makes it so if people want to team up, they have to pick the same race, or make characters who start at the same place, like Goblins and Orcs.

But overall, the different races are varied enough to make things interesting. Races are restricted to certain classes, and their attribute points are distributed differently each level. Dark Elves are good spellcasters, and not as good as Orcs when it comes to fighters. You could pick some weird class/race combo, but it's not really wise. It only gimps you in the end.

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But, after putting a large chunk of time into Vanguard, I'd have to say, without a doubt, it's not really that good of a game. That's not to say it's all bad. Hardly. There are a few thing I /really like/ about it.

The Pros:
  1. Seamless world
  2. Diplomacy
  3. Some of the animations
  4. Better healing classes than most MMOs
  5. Nice environment
  6. The music
  7. Varied classes/new classes
  8. An actual penalty when you die/corpse run (yes, I'm a sadomasochist )
Now that list doesn't make it sound that bad. But let me tell you some of the annoying things.


The Cons:

  1. Animations: Combat, Crafting, Idle, you name it (most of them are fucking horrible)
  2. Lag/Performance/Bugs
  3. Inanimate looking NPCs (everyone looks fake)
  4. Some of the textures (rocks and the water, especially. Some buildings look retarded)
  5. Boring quests
  6. Lack of decent lore
  7. Lack of an overall newbie "goal"
  8. World is "too big" a lot of the time
  9. Names above characters/NPCs heads (looks like 10 yr old font to me)
  10. Chintzy looking UI
  11. Things look "too perfect" (Buildings especially. Too square)
  12. Clunky controls
  13. NPC voices (lacking and sound bizarre/annoying)
Basically, it feels like a game that is a "giant step backwards" for MMOs. They tout that it's the first 3rd generation MMO, that it breaks all the rules, expands the genre. It doesn't do anything new besides Diplomacy. The classes are different, but they mostly conform to the stereotypes of MMO classes: Tank, Healer, Melee Dmg Dealer, Ranged Dmg Dealer. The levelling is old-school, and a lot slower than most MMOs. The graphics may be more advanced, but the artistic style is completely lacking, so everything looks "off". WoW managed create an excellent artistic style and make it far less resource hungry. Style is king. Bump mapping, pixel shadering, and the like don't mean jack shit if what you're looking at is ugly as hell.

Vanguard for the most part feels like Everquest 1 probably was at the beginning. I say "probably was" and "beginning" cause I have never actually played the game just heard about it from others, and I know it's radically changed with the expansions over the years. The game isn't horrible, it's just not great, and it's definitely /not/ what I'm looking for.

And what's funnier, is that Satan (my co-worker), who was all hyped up about the game, and actually bought the pre-order online before playing the Beta, has barely touched it since it went live. I think he's played one character to about level 8. I got to level 9 with my Blood Mage in about 4 hours! And he's been able to play the game since the 26th of January, cause of the Pre-Order headstart. I'm betting he's pretty disappointed with it. I think he even said that he was going to level his characters a little, then let his account lapse. Maybe to pick it up later on. I'm not sure if I heard him right, but since all he mentions is EVE Online when we go for coffee breaks, I'm betting he's not all that into Vanguard.

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Well, that was a /fucking brutally long/ entry, so I think I'll go reward myself with some booze. If you actually read all of that, go have one yourself. Hell, even if you didn't, go have one. Just having to put up with the Rev should give you a license to drink all the time.

Next time I'll try and talk about something other than MMOs. Even when I talk about regular video games, I don't get this worked up. There's something definitely wrong with me and MMOs. Maybe the Rye and Coke will help me figure it out.

Laters.

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