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A New Saga Begins - A Fresh Look at Vanguard - Page 2

Posted Mon, Aug 03, 2009 by Ralsu

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 are enthusiastic.

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 upcoming games.

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