A New Saga Begins – A Fresh Look at Vanguard Pt. 2

Posted Tue, Aug 18, 2009 by Ralsu

Vanguard Combat

Sony Online Entertainment has been open about the “intensive hardware requirements” of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes from the outset. As my new saga in Telon continued, I reflected on the game’s performance often. After all, it’s safe to say that the poor optimization of Vanguard at launch was a major contributor to the title’s tepid reception by the market. Exploring the current state of the game was chief in importance to me because it helped me recall some of the things promised during development and much of the disappointment that came when those plans never materialized in the finished product. Ultimately, I delved into the status of Vanguard with two mindsets, that of the returning player who carried with him the prejudices of unfulfilled expectations and the new resident of Telon who knew nothing of the game’s development. The two perspectives led divergent paths to the conclusion that SOE has a perfect game for casual players and guilds in Vanguard.

This commentary is not a review. I did not dive into every gameplay aspect or sample the user base about their experiences as I often do for reviews. I’m sharing my experiences and any insights I have about the game in the confines I have already described; I want to see what Vanguard is like for a returning player.


Any discussion of Vanguard must start and end with a look at performance. My system meets or exceeds each of the recommended (not just minimum) system requirements. See the chart below:

SOE's Recommended Specs Ralsu's PC
Windows® 2000/XP/Vista Vista Sp2
100% DirectX 9.0c compatible computer DirectX 10
100% DirectX compatible keyboard or input device Standard Dell wired keyboard and mouse
3.0 GHz Intel OR 3500+ AMD processor 3.0 GHz Intel
Vertex and Pixel shader 2.0 compatible hardware with 256MB of texture memory NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT 256MB
DirectSound/OpenAL compatible audio hardware SoundBlaster Live! 24-bit
Broadband Internet Connection ADSL
16X Speed DVD-ROM 16X Speed DVD-ROM
20 Gigabytes Hard Drive Space 160GB hard drive

While my graphics card and processor are only barely what SOE calls for as part of its recommended system, everything else critical is above even what they recommend. I felt it important to share this comparison line for line because Vanguard plays about the same for me today as it did when I left the game in late 2007 despite all of the optimization work from SOE. My graphics card still chokes nearly to death when loading in a major outpost with a ton of objects, especially character models, to render. In roughly forty hours of play time using balanced settings, I have crashed three times and suffered slideshow-like lag twice.

The performance I have gotten since returning to Telon gives flashbacks to the founding subscriber in me. Back then, I used third party user interfaces (UIs) that traded out some of the massive image files used in the default UI for simpler ones. The third party UIs also gave information that the default one didn’t (e.g. the location of harvesting nodes within the chunk or current buffs on a mob). Most of the third party UI coders I followed have moved on from Vanguard, an inevitable and sad fact about MMO gaming. I wouldn’t want to use their UIs right now anyway since SOE recently increased the default inventory size by a decent amount and the message of the day warns that most third part UIs will not see the new extra slots.


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