Vanguard: Saga of Heroes PC Review
As it was created by the same minds behind EverQuest, I approached Vanguard expecting it to be the EverQuest 2 that EverQuest 2 should have been. One thing this game shares with EQ is its aim to please the hardcore players. What do I mean by this? I mean this game isn’t for kids. At least not the kids untrained in advanced MMO’s. This game is the antidote for anyone who played World of Warcraft and felt patronised by its simplicity. And for those of you who played EverQuest and felt it was nothing but a grind fest with no real meaty quests, this game offers you a vast amount of quests with stimulating storylines.
However the truly impressive aspect to Vanguard that makes it stand out from the crowd are its visuals. This game is beautiful and has amazing attention to detail. Geographically it’s stunning – from huge mountain ranges to deep ravines and seemingly endless oceans. However the super high rendered environment makes this game a nightmare for players without high spec computers. The large number of players who can only run the game on minimum system settings will find themselves playing a game that looks extremely outdated – no stunning visuals for them. While I’m on the topic of system requirements, the “Recommended System Specs” listed on the game box is extremely optimistic, it even says “56k internet connection” – which is just plain silly!
Vanguard offers a vast amount of play time and countless ways to advance in the game, and it will take you a very long time to max out a character (if this is possible at all). The game has 15 classes and 19 races with in-depth character creation, making it rare to bump into a duplicate of you. This makes your character seem more significant in the grand scheme of things, however as almost all MMO’s before it, the most exciting aspects of this game are not yet available. They are tantalising promises – online updates not yet delivered.
Vanguard has a unique threefold Levelling System:
• Adventuring (classic MMO Levelling)
All three styles of play are inter-related and whichever style you choose you will find elements of the other two. Crafting and Diplomacy are a massive part of this game, but you can follow any of the 3 paths to level up as a Master adventurer, Crafter, or Diplomat – or even all three. Crafting and Diplomacy are by no means side quests in this game; they offer you the same amount of fame and fortune as classic Adventuring. They are also structured into the game in an almost identical yet separated questing system.
Neither Crafting nor Diplomacy is simple. Crafting uses a collection system called ‘Harvesting’ which has its own Levelling system and can even involve group Harvesting quests – a really good idea. This style of game play is made more complicated because once you have ‘Harvested’ the items required for crafting, you have to do the crafting process manually. This means the different steps of the crafting process are determined by the choices you make not to mention ‘Complications’ as they’re called in which you are given choices about the process of crafting. These are essentially judgement calls that can improve or mess up the final product. For those of you who found the crafting system in WoW as expensive as raising a child, be assured this game is different.
All three levelling systems are equally rewarding and part of the Crafting system is ‘Work Orders’. This means that you level up your skill by making an item then profit by taking your product to a consumer on a quest – there are even story lines for each quest. Crafting feels familiar, but in this game it is far more advanced than previous MMO Crafting systems. However, Diplomacy is a very new and interesting idea. Essentially it is for the RPG player who likes his story lines, but adds a Magic: The Gathering style card game. As you level up you are rewarded with new cards to collect, and from your deck you strategically select five. This game is used to help you advance; winning the card game is the equivalent to winning a diplomatic debate. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this levelling system is empty and pointless, not only can it be used to gain items for the adventuring side of the game, it is also highly addictive.
As I mentioned, there is a lot of character personalisation in this game. The three levelling systems each have their own equipment; you not only collect the traditional adventuring armour, but also a charismatic wardrobe for your diplomatic chats. There is also a wardrobe for Harvesting, and you must collect many different upgradeable tools for your selected trade. There is even armour for your mount and many items to improve its speed. You can even attach a bag to it for extra storage. This system is made perfectly – it does not force you to use storage space to carry your different armour sets: you equip them all simultaneously and the game automatically changes your outfit when needed. This greatly increases the lifespan of the game.
Now to mounts, yes mounts. For those of you who are quickly scrolling through looking for info on mounts, well here goes: Vanguard has done a brilliant job with mounts. It offers many different types such as horses, unicorns, and camels and also promises future upgrades of flying mounts – such as the griffin and the dragon. Unfortunately you are not offered a choice of mount; these are allocated according to your character’s race. However, more importantly, you are given your mount early in the game. As an ex-WoW addict I remember the frustration of being forced to walk for miles and miles while higher levels flew past smugly on their mounts. This game gives you your first mount at level 7, or you can hold out for a faster one at level 10. Either way, you are given the mount whilst you are still a newbie to the game and it seems that getting your mount gives you your wings in the game; it provides a good learning curve and lets you fly the nest and start your exploration.
The Questing system in this game is just as rewarding as in WoW, and you are encouraged to Group up right from the outset. Grouping is also made varied because of the number or races – you are also allowed six to a group. Instancing in the game is fun and many of the dungeons have gorgeous environments. However, they have used a free-for-all system, which I personally don’t favour. Instead of a system of being teleported into an Instance just for your own group, you have to share the Instances with everyone else. This can be very crowded! It also ruins the teamwork and randomises how far you get because it depends on who else is in the dungeon at the same time. The Monsters in this game are not only nicely animated but also they have appropriate behaviours. They tend to behave in the way the quests suggest they should. By this I mean if a quest claims that the monsters are collecting crystals, then they actually do go round collecting, instead of the lazy technique of making them wander around aimlessly. Also, some types of monsters fight each other which can be a life-saver!
This game is perfect for the experienced MMO player however, it is not newbie friendly. The penalty for dying is extremely unforgiving, not only does it include damage and loss of items, but also de-levelling and “Experience Debt”. I would by no means recommend this to anyone for their first MMO experience. However, for those of you who want a step up from WoW or an alternative from EQ then this game looks extremely promising. Sadly, that’s the whole problem. Vanguard is full of promises of content not yet added, the most anticipated of which being player owned and customisable houses and boats. Unsurprisingly the PvP system is not yet in place.
Vanguard as it stands is not ready, full stop. The exciting updates promised can’t be anywhere near arrival and the game is jam-packed with glitches. In the first week of playing I had first-hand experience of falling though the level and having to use the “stuck” command, dungeon teleports bizarrely sending me to a main town, monsters turning invisible or walking though walls while I fought them, armour items not overlapping properly, and a map which seemed to have a mind of its own – randomly deleting and adding locations I’d visited whilst placing my buddy icons in the wrong place. These are major problems, but this game is very promising and involves some brilliant exciting and fresh ideas.
It’s really early days and frankly the game’s just not finished.