Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 11, 2007
A more positive spin on Vanguard

Reading through mine and other people's Vanguard impressions, it struck me that they come out a bit too negative. The problem here is that it is so hard to evaluate a game purely on its own merits. You always compare it to something. And compared with the accessibility and polish of World of Warcraft most games, including Vanguard, make a bad figure.

But I am having fun in the Vanguard beta. My gnome cleric made it to level 10, and got his first mount. Only 30% faster than walking, but the idea to give mounts earlier is a good one. And at 12 silver 50 copper it wasn't costing more than I had. I do like playing a cleric in Vanguard, because in that game clerics are more like I think they should be: healers with melee combat abilities, just like in D&D. My cleric wears heavy armor, and has 2 melee moves, but only 1 ranged damage spell. I like that more than the World of Warcraft cloth wearing damage caster cleric.

If I had been in a coma for the last 5 years and gone straight from Everquest to Vanguard, I would totally have loved Vanguard. Besides the obviously better graphics, the gameplay improved a lot from EQ to Vanguard. The death penalty is less harsh, you get a chance to summon your corpse for 10% of the xp to next level; costly, but better than losing all your gear. There are a lot more quests in Vanguard than in EQ. And the downtime between fights is a lot shorter. The diplomacy system is great. So what is not to like?

The problem is that I haven't been in that coma, and while Vanguard moved in the right direction compared to EQ, World of Warcraft had already gone much further in that direction. So from a WoW perspective Vanguard is moving backwards. It isn't the dinosaur that some descriptions are labeling it. But it is a step backwards. It is a good game, but less good than WoW, in all aspects: technical, artistic, and gameplay. I said I wouldn't buy it, but I'm wondering if that is my last word. What if in a month I'm bored with the Burning Crusade? Apparently you can get Vanguard on the Station All Access Pass, together with all the other SOE games, which sounds like not such a bad deal. But still the problem remains, how do you fairly review the second-best game?
I think you left out EQ2 in your estimation.

The thing is that WOW is number 1, and EQ2 with all the patches and expansions is number 2.

Vanguard is still in beta, from all reports requires a huge beast PC to run (and EQ2 still runs better), is about 17GB in size.

It just has too much going against it right now to even consider launching I think.

But then again what do I know, I'm just one semi-informed gamer right?
One thing that keeps irking me is that people are insisting that the dual targeting system is a new idea. It's not!

If you download and play the now free Anarchy Online (I don't recommend you do, as it's not so fun) you would notice...*Dun dun DUN* A dual targeting system! You can have an enemy selected, and an ally selected at the same time. All offensive spells hit the enemy target, all defensive spells hit the ally target.
EQ2 also has 'dual targetting -- it has the same 'indirect' dual targetting of CoH/CoV -- if you target a mob, beneficial spells go to it's target. Target a player, and detrimental spells go to her target. Simple enough.
No review is completely objective, it is always coloured by the reviewer's experience. As long as one knows where the reviewer is coming from and perhaps also some motivation included behind why something is good or bad, that is pretty much as good as it can get.

Vanguard looks a bit to be in a similar position to EQ2 at launch and just as EQ2 has improved a lot since then, I think Vanguard will likely improve also, if they manage to go through what I think might be a rocky start.
Also Vanguard is still in beta, so some of the stuff you pointed out in your first post are understandable, or at least might be better by retail.
I'm hoping I wasn't too negative on the preview I did. The beta previews (and thats what they are) have generally said that the game isn't ready to be released. I don't think that's a negative comment, just an honest one.

I think we all want to see Vanguard be successful, because it does have potential. I think I will buy it eventually, just not at launch.
I don't know that you should eve try to evaluate a game on it's own merits. Each one of us only has a certain amount of time to play games. When we make a decision to spend time on one game, it's because we deem that to be more rewarding. Any good review needs to take into account the competition. In that respect, you do a fantastic job. If you had only ever played WoW and that's all you compared Vanguard to, I'd be disappointed. However you have a pretty good grasp on many of the games in that space. In my mind you've done exactly what a good game review *should* do: told me the basics, given them a comparison to other games, and given me info I can use to decide which game is a better use of my gaming time.
The thing that jumps out at me in these reviews is this:
If you're going to offer a new MMO, you'd better give players something truly new.
In the case of Vanguard, I'm under the strong impression that the only thing that seems to be feeling 'new' to experienced MMO players is the Diplomacy profession.

Other than that, it seems that "more" is what is offered, rather than "better".
For instance, more races, more classes, more ground to cover (more slowly), longer time to level, etc. -- things that seem to be nuances of the same-old, rather than truly original. In my book, that's not what I'm looking for in a "new" MMO.

To use an analogy, that's one reason WoW was skewered for the pally / shammy thing -- it's not "new"!
People wanted a Monk class or something - anything - truly new and different.

And in another case, Vanguard seems to be equating "harder" with slower travel at the very time when WoW has been responding to player feedback by making travel easier -- recently adding flight points, and in the BC, adding main-city portals and new travel forms. It's a no-brainer - people generally log in to play, not to travel!

So as I said in another post, I'm not impressed with many of the design decisions of Vanguard, and I thank the reviewers posting here for saving me time and money.
"Also Vanguard is still in beta, so some of the stuff you pointed out in your first post are understandable, or at least might be better by retail. "

They have announced a Jan 30th release. Its almost sad how far this game comes from its potential :(
OMFG. Jan 30th? I played the beta for a couple of hours. . as much as I could stomach of the brutal graphics performance, dreary terrain, and endless running. Despite all that I saw some potential and my mental summary was 'this could be a good game in 6 months'.

10 days? 2 weeks after BC launches? It's going to tank and hard.
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