A New Saga Begins - A Fresh Look at Vanguard

Posted Mon, Aug 03, 2009 by Ralsu

I love Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, but I always have tried to remain objective about its faults. I am sure Sony Online Entertainment was none too happy with my review in September of 2007, which gave Vanguard a below-average score despite my insistence that I enjoyed it. I left Telon amid guild drama and personal conflicts roughly four months later.

Now almost two years since my review, I have returned to Telon. What has changed? How would I rate my experience now? Read on to find out!

First, I want to note some important factors about the changes in my PC build between Vanguard beta and today. Then I had a Pentium 4 3GHz hyperthreading processor, 1.5GB RAM, and a GeForce 7600GT 256MB graphics card. Now I have the same Pentium 4 3GHz hyperthreading processor, 3 GB RAM, and a GeForce 8600GT 256MB graphics card. Better, but still not top of the line material.

 New Vanguard characters have a choice between starting out in the old areas available at launch and visiting the Isle of Dawn (IoD), the area available to the Vanguard 14-day trial. I chose the Isle of Dawn to see the new content and get a sense for what the in-game community is like these days. Ten Ton Hammer’s Eric “Dalmarus” Campbell has written plenty on the Isle of Dawn, so I won’t belabor the point too much.

As Dalmarus noted, IoD does a terrific job of explaining the many facets of Vanguard in bite-sized chunks without overwhelming the player. I am not sure old starter areas had any deficits as far as tutorials went, but the tutorial on IoD is polished and fun. The central story focuses on the invasion of the Ulvari, sinister creatures from another dimension. Your budding hero gets a chance to thwart this invasion, taking the fight all the way to a temple in the mountains accessible only by a Pegasus mount.

The design of almost everything on IoD is of high quality and looks very deliberate. My character ran quests that ranged from the standard kill and fetch variety to a number of interaction quests and even some encounters with a minor deity. One early task had me work my way through a cave to shut down an Ulvari portal by destroying the generators that powered the portal. A new player might have marveled at the open dungeon that went “miles” under the earth. As a returning player, I was thrilled again with the feel of a good dungeon crawl.

The final quest in the Ulvari temple was nothing short of genius. I had to use a Pegasus mount to reach the place. Getting those trial players on winged mounts where they can experience that feeling of flying and can appreciate the beautiful landscapes of Telon is a smart move. As a returning player, I felt the urge to get my own permanent flying mount.

The first part of the quest had me go seek the aid of a rock deity who had recently been corrupted by the Ulvari. Then I needed to face down the Ulvari leader. The temple was laid out well and provided a fun challenge for a duo.

One huge advantage to the design of IoD is that the NPCs carefully connect the player to the stories on the main continents after you complete all quests in the trial area. When I had stopped the Ulvari threat, I was a hero on the Isle of Dawn, and my deeds were already known in Telon proper. As such, I was given a choice of three places to go where a hero’s aid was needed. This gave me a very direct, if very generic, connection to the place I was going next. Veskal’s Exchange needed help, so I was going there. At least I had a bit of buy in for the local problems when I got there.


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