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?