Vanguard: State of the Game

A little over two years ago, one of the most hyped and hotly anticipated MMOs of its generation finally opened its servers. The masses went wild but not in a good way. Vanguard: Saga of...

A little over two years ago, one of the most hyped and hotly anticipated MMOs of its generation finally opened its servers. The masses went wild but not in a good way. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was horrifically buggy, and for a vast number of gamers, it was completely unplayable on their computer systems. Sigil may have touted the game to be the spiritual successor of the original EverQuest, but despite all the prayers of the faithful, it just couldn't survive without some divine intervention. Thankfully, that intervention embodied itself in the form of Sony Online Entertainment.


SOE has owned the game for two years now and what a difference that kind of time can make. Since it's been quite a while since our last good look at Vanguard, I thought it was high time to get back in there and see how things are going. The size of the team may have changed over time, but they're still continuing to make it the best game it can be. Admittedly, I may not be the most unbiased person to write this; I spent a year pouring my heart and soul into the Ten Ton Hammer Vanguard site. But this is an MMO commentary, so hopefully you already realize that this column is just my opinion, nothing more or less.

First off, we can't talk about the current state of Vanguard without mentioning one of the more exciting achievements of the team: the addition of a free trial. Not only is it a free trial, but it was designed completely from the ground up to be its own entity, showcasing the talent and skills of the development team. SOE really took the time to explain things in a much clearer manner than had been done before, but without force-feeding everything to a new player. What sometimes feels like an unwelcome chore to endure in other games became a path of natural progression. Read my Isle of Dawn overview for a much deeper look. The team did an amazing job and it shows.

As a community, we had to wait a long time for the Isle to be released, but it eventually was. I'm hoping the same can be said for the long awaited Pantheon of the Ancients. Those of us that attended last year's SOE Fan Faire got the chance to watch a teaser trailer for the new area and some small hints about how the gods of Telon will become involved in the lives of mortals. The Hall of Shattered Souls was to be the new raid dungeon with Pantheon. I've never made any effort to disguise the fact that I am not a raider in any of the games I play. But the ending words that slowly appeared on the screen near the end of the trailer made me seriously consider becoming one though: "What lies within the Hall of Shattered Souls? Pain... Suffering... Agony... The Truth." Unfortunately, players are still begging that this new area comes to light soon.

I have to say I'm also a little surprised that neither an AA (Alternate Advancement) system, nor a level cap increase, has come about yet. Before I moved to Ten Ton Hammer's main site, I wrote a weekly column called Dalmarus' Vanguard Chronicles. One of those Chronicles contained a desperate plea to the development team to implement an AA system as soon as possible to buy them some time. This hasn't come to pass, and the rumbling from a massive amount of the community continues because of it. The game has been out for over two years now and the number of level 50 characters (the current cap) is staggering when compared to the (guesstimated) overall population. They need more things to do. I'd like to think a plan such as this is still on the drawing board somewhere, but I'll be sure to find out at this year's Fan Faire.

One recent item that has caused quite a stir was the announcement that RMT services would be coming to Vanguard. There hasn't been any official statement on whether or not the service would get its own server or be moved to all live servers. Neither plan seems viable from my perspective. Even though it's continuing to slowly grow, Vanguard (in my opinion) doesn't have the population to support another server, no matter what the rule set. This announcement also enraged a large number of current players and I'd like to believe that the SOE gurus learned their lesson with Star Wars Galaxies and wouldn't disregard the wishes of their current paying customer base by forcing an unwanted service on their servers, thus completely disrupting the current economy. A third (though probably just as unpopular) solution would be to open a new server with the understanding that once the transfers had completed, the remaining non-RMT servers would be merged into one. Oh yeah… and the PvP server would finally be put out of its misery. That’s just my personal speculation on the subject though. Not everything in the land of Telon is fodder for the Doom and Gloom Patrol.

Who are you calling stoned?

I've mentioned before that I spent a significant amount of time fishing on the beaches of the Plane of Tranquility in EverQuest and I loved it. It wasn't exciting, it wasn't very interactive, yet I enjoyed the relaxation of it immensely. When I hopped on for the purpose of making a brief fishing guide to add to the site, I discovered two things. 1) The thirty minutes or so I had originally intended to spend to get a brief overview turned into almost four hours, thus making me late for work. 2) The guide was going to be longer than a few words. The fishing in Vanguard proved to be far more engaging than I ever expected it to be, so I had a lot of fun with the guide in turn. It should be posted for your use (and enjoyment) next week.

Combat is still as fun and exciting as ever in Vanguard. Counter-spells are my favorite aspect of Vanguard’s combat. Being able to counteract an enemy’s spell may not sound like much, but when you’re battling a healer designed for a full group and you miss countering a spell she casts that brings her back up to full health right before your group finishes her off, you’ve just allowed a serious world of hurt to rain down upon your party. Never underestimate the benefits of a well timed counter-spell. I literally can’t count the amount of times that single act has completely changed the tide of battle, for better or for worse. It’s that kind of interactive combat that makes things so much fun and it seems I’m not the only one to notice.

It's been slow going, but the population appears to be growing. To me, that's for one reason and one reason only; even though it's not perfect, Vanguard is still one of the best online games out there. It's not flashy, and it's not meant to be devoured like that caramel cheesecake your mother-in-law just scarfed down. If you're looking for a game with some serious depth, a truly unbelievable amount of content to explore, and one of the most helpful communities that exists, you can't go wrong with Vanguard. It may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you'd be hard pressed to find something better.

What makes it so great you ask? Let me finish this with a brief tale. There's a city that hangs over the edge of a cliff in between a dark elf outpost (Evendusk) and a major city, Ahgram. As I was out hunting, I could see it off in the mist of clouds, always tantalizing me with its secrets. For almost a week, I slowly made my way closer and closer to that city until one day, I finally managed to make my way to it without being slaughtered by the marauding terrors that had previously barricaded my approach. When I finally set foot in that city, I felt a sense of accomplishment that can’t be described. Those are the moments that brought back that magic feeling of the “good old days” in gaming.

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