OK, so I think I’m pretty much ready to start my impressions of Vanguard. As promised, this “review” comes with TCSGamer’s second podcast…you know, for those of you who are too lazy to read. I’ll put a separate Podcast post as soon as I have it completed, which should be later tonight (it’s recorded…just got to put bells and whistles on it).
Now a couple of things we need to cover before I get into the meat of this stuff…this is not really a review. This more like a set of impressions that I have had over the course of the game from Beta 3 (I started on December 21/2006) all the way to now, post release. I’ve got to be honest, nothing much has changed from my beta impressions save for a couple of things which I will go over here. I’m hoping that there is enough here to give some of you an idea of whether or not this game is for you.
I’ve got to admit…this has probably been one of the more difficult games to judge and as of today, I’m still not completely sure what I really think of Vanguard. As of this review, I’m only level 16 and not 20. I think that it would have been at least another month for me to get to 20 in this game with my play style…and I know you’re all eagerly waiting for my impressions to come out (yeah…riiiiight…)
That all being said, lets get on to the nitty gritty.
AMD 64 3500+ Processor
nVidia 7900 GT Video card
2 Gb RAM
and so on….
Getting into the game
How easy you get into Vanguard or the “newbie” experience of Vanguard really depends on where you start off. From what I’ve gathered, if you start off in Thestra, you seem to have an easier time with the progression in the beginning than in the other continents of Qalia and Kojan. This is also what I can gather lately out of some of the forums available…some areas simply aren’t complete compared to others in the game at this point in terms of content. Of course, they are constantly updating content so this won’t be the case for very long.
If you stick to Thestra, you’ll find it pretty easy to be introduced into the world of Vanguard. You pretty much have your standard newb quests of kill this..get that. You’ll find yourself getting up to levels 6, 7, 8-ish pretty quickly. Another thing you’ll notice as you level is that getting a level means quite a bit in Vanguard. When you do level and get more spells, there is a noticeable difference in the power that you get. I like this. It gives me more of a sense of accomplishment when I see and feel a real difference in my character’s power. I hope Sigil keeps this model for as long as they can.
You’re given quests for all spheres within the game when you start out: adventuring, crafting and diplomacy. Each of the introductions to these spheres is very well done and I really had no trouble getting the hang of either of them.
State of the Game
As of this writing, Vanguard just put in its first content update and they called it…well, Update#1. The following day of the patch, they put in a “Restart” patch to balance some of the classes….again. Since I’ve started playing, there have been 11 patches to the game….now this should tell you something. Essentially, Vanguard is still in beta right now and will probably remain so until we only see patches once a month or quarterly. I’m not really pleased with the current state of the game to be honest…even with the really nice additions from Update #1. The game is still kinda clunky and classes seem to be tweaked almost weekly, so you can’t really get into a good rhythm I find.
So, as of today, keep that in mind when you purchase the game. If you have a high tolerance for a good game with bugs, broken quests and questionable performance then go get Vanguard.
Honestly the graphics in Vanguard really don’t appeal to me that much. I guess I’ve been spoiled with the lush graphics that I found in Lord of the Rings Online. Vanguard is supposed to be state of the art when it comes to graphical prowess and I find myself saying “meh” quite often to a very dull looking world. The colors they use for foliage, and rocks , trees etc, just look wrong for a state of the art game. OK, I know I said that the game is essentially still in beta so yeah, lots of the textures may still be undergoing changes…but still, my first impression is not a positive one even when I keep that fact in mind.
The facts are that this game may look really good in 2-3 years and thats really a shame…because I want to enjoy this game now, not in 2 years when I may have a better machine to run it with.
The one thing about the graphics that really bother me is everything that has to do with your player character. From the combat animations to the the jumping. Ohhhhh God the jumping….I look like a frickin school girl every time I jump. W….T…F!! On the good side though, the creatures in the game are AMAZING. We went into this troll cave and the amount of detail they put into these trolls was spectacular. If Sigil put as much detail and love into the player avatars as they did the creature…wow…I’d be a very happy man.
Sound of Muuuuusic…lalalaaa
The only music set that really stood out to me was when I was in the High-Elf area…everything else really grated on my nerves. If you recall, I have a crazy theory that music should be “seen and not heard”. I know, it sounds weird but hear me out. Music in a game should blend into the visual experience and never be noticed. It should enhance the gameplay and set the tone for areas of the game. In Vanguard, except for the high-elf areas, the music hits me right in the face…I always notice it and I find myself going into the options to turn it off. It just seems like the music does not fit what I’m seeing sometimes…its kinda hard to explain and I may be waaay in left field on this impression. Shutting up now.
The rest of the sound effects are ok but they fall kinda flat. You have your regular “woshhhh”, and “clang” noises of swords and bows. You also have keying sounds that give you an audio cue that one of your defensive or offensive chains can be fired off. Its kinda a mixed bag of stuff here in the sound F/X area.
Questing is OK and really follows the standard MMO template. There seems to be a good balance of solo, small group and group quests in Thestra right now. There are reports that the other continents are not so lucky.
One of the more memorable parts of Vanguard so far have been the group quests. Achatlan and the Troll Caves so far are the only ones I’ve really done so far and both have been very memorable. I’ve only had the pleasure of one asshat group so far in Vanguard, and the people in the game are very much like those you’ll find in EQ and EQ2.
I really didn’t get too hot an heavy into the other spheres of crafting and diplomacy in Vanguard. I only got up to level 6 in crafting and about level 9-ish in Diplomacy. I don’t think thats far enough to really comment on these areas of the game…so I won’t. There is lots of places you can go to look up other peoples impressions of both crafting and diplomacy.
The atmosphere of Vanguard is well done I think. I really believe that the developers over at Sigil where going for a very grand high fantasy game and they achieved it. You feel as if you are in a very large world that is full of danger and adventure and the whole design of the game seems centered around that concept. No other game to date has really given me a feeling of being a big world and I must congratulate and thank Sigil devs for pulling that one off.
Some of the starting areas such as the Wood Elf or High Elf areas are just great and are oozing in culture and architecture. The Vulmane area gives that native/nature feeling to it and pulls you into the back story right away with both the quests and the environment that you find yourself in.
From what I experienced, Sigil put a lot of thought into how to make the player feel like part of a big world, however; the game still has those parts that feel unfinished. If you’re paying attention, you can be pulled out of this big world by some of the consequences of releasing this game too early.
The Future of Vanguard and Final Thoughts
Now, if you’ve read through this whole thing you’ve probably got a slight negative vibe from this review and honestly, overall, thats not how I feel about this game. Actually, I feel very neutral about Vanguard right now. There are some moments that I’ve had in the game, such as the troll cave, that I’ve said, “wow…this game is good”. There are some moments where I think, “why am I playing this buggy piece of crap”. There are moments in between as well. I guess thats part of the problem…the highs are not outweighing any of the lows of the game.
Another weird thing is that when I’m at work, I’m not thinking of going home and playing Vanguard. It’s only when I’m playing it that I’m thinking, “yeah, I should be playing this game”. I liken Vanguard to my exercise routine. I never really like getting up and going to the gym…I only like going to the gym after I’ve been there and I say to myself, “I’m glad I went”. It’s an odd feeling to have for an MMO.
Now, I’ve said this before…Vanguard has a TON of potential to be the next big adventure for a lot players. It’s interesting, but I once read that the term “potential” is an unusual compliment because it comes with an expiration date. At one point or another, “potential” is transformed to other words like “disappointment” or “waste of time”. It can also turn into “genius” or “wow…awesome”. I’m wondering what Vanguard will turn its potential into and what the expiration date on its potential will be.
Now, should you get this game? If you are a big fan of EQ or EQ2 then I would say yes, you need to get the game and take a good look at it. If you have no patience for buggy games AND are a fan of EQ or EQ2, then I would say wait for another 6 months or so.
I still hold the belief that this game will turn out to be a pretty big deal in a couple of years. One thing is for certain…the guys and gals at Sigil are working very hard to realize this game. I just want to let them know that this gamer appreciates the hard work they’ve put in so far. I wish them luck and all the best for Vanguard.