By contrast, I have always felt that the starter quests of the
Kurasahsa (one of the best in any game you’ll find), ended in
disappointment once the player reached Qalia. The story abruptly
shifted from your infiltration of a world and the relationship between
the Kuras and their symbionts to whatever mundane chores are to be had
in the Lomshir area. Compared to the sudden shift in the Kura story,
the IoD quest line does a much better job of adding continuity to your
character’s role in the greater world.
If IoD has a deficit, I believe it to be the lack of explanation about
the different factions that exist in Telon. Every race and combination
possible exists on IoD together. Sure, the story is sort of a
“band together to save the world” type of thing,
but I didn’t really find an explanation to warn me that my
Thestran human might not be welcome in the home of the dark elves or
that a necromancer might be kill on sight in Khal without some faction
grinding. Unless the factions in Vanguard have changed dramatically, I
think players leaving IoD need some warning about that.
Roughly thirty months since its launch, Vanguard remains a beautiful
game. Sadly, SOE has had to compromise some of the beauty to improve
performance. The new character models are a little on the blocky side,
and I saw more than one NPC who appeared naked from a distance because
she wore a tan jumpsuit with too little detail. Character models aside,
the landscapes remain breathtaking. Trees and forests look so very real
from a distance of 300m or so. Up close you can see them for the
polygons with textures that they are, but they still look good. I would
say only Age of Conan and possibly Aion eclipse the beauty of Vanguard.
The sounds and music in Vanguard remain as they were when I last
played, which is not a bad thing. The music includes sweeping scores to
haunting melodies that fit their chunks. The sound effects are better
than many games; metal on metal clangs appropriately, and metal on wood
gives a satisfying thud. After playing some of the Aion beta and
quickly learning to hate my cleric for saying what sounds like
“seeilookgay” with every cast of a particular
spell, I appreciated the fact that Vanguard keeps spell sound effects
to an appropriate mystical tingle without trying to tie in incantations.
As far as the eternal question of stability in Vanguard goes, I found
my play experience on IoD to go smoothly. I had one crash, which may be
one too many, but I can’t say for sure it wasn’t a
server outage, which is a usual type of crash. The trial area had
plenty of people in it, and I seldom experienced any lag, chugging, or
any other detrimental reaction. Whenever I loaded my character in the
last village prior to the Ulvari temple, it took my PC a while to
render all of the buildings and NPCs there, so I was frozen in place
for a good thirty seconds while everything loaded.
I have never placed raiding or PvP as priorities for my gaming, so I
still am not the best person to comment on those. I do know that SOE
has been working in raid content and has optimized it for the planned
maximum number of participants. I’ll let the real raiders and
long term subscribers comment about the pace at which that raid content
is added, but I’ve never known a hardcore raider who was
satisfied by any developer. It’s just next to impossible to
put out content fast enough for skilled, dedicated raiders. Meanwhile,
Vanguard retains a single PvP server, and little effort is devoted to
PvP events or content. It’s up to the players to keep the PvP
server exciting, but the ones I have encountered in the official forums
Vanguard still offers as much (or more) variety as any game around.
Your character always has plenty of quests to do, or you can get caught
up in a single dungeon for days. In addition to the standard
adventuring and crafting, players can partake in the diplomacy system.
Diplomacy may not have the depth that was promised by Sigil during
development, but SOE has worked to smooth out the kinks of what is
there. Players who love lore will enjoy digging through each races
story as a diplomat and then traveling the world in search of new
parleys. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the city buffs to
crafting unlocked by diplomacy.
The ultimate question a player must ask himself when playing a trial is
will I continue to pay to play this? Considering the current state of
Vanguard and my play style, the answer is a resounding yes. The
performance in improved enough that I feel as if I could recommend it
to a friend without having to apologize, the vastness of Telon caters
to my adventurous spirit, the graphics are still among the best
available, and the gameplay has enough options to keep a casual gamer
busy for years on end.
In the near future, I will take a closer look at Vanguard through my
eyes as a returning player. I will examine combat mechanics and take a
look at how well the refined performance holds up on the mainland.
Expect some commentary on the player base, too. Finally, I’ll
look at what Vanguard offers in comparison to the competition and