Friday, January 05, 2007

Vaguard Beta Impressions

According to this, the Vanguard NDA is now lifted...which means I can now talk about my beta experience, as limited as it may be. Be aware though, the maximum level that I got to with any character is level 10, so when I say limited experience, thats what I mean. So, take everything that I say here with that in mind.

I'm not going to give Vanguard any score what so ever. I will not do that for any game I preview or review here...especially for MMOs. I consider MMOs works in progress and they usually find their stride 2 years after they first any number I give is useless a this point.

My System:
AMD 64 3500+ Processor
nVidia 7900 GT Video card
1 Gb RAM (I know...I know..)

Now...onto our regular scheduled program.

First Impression - The Newbie Experience

I'll be honest, I wasn't too excited when I got the invite. I heard a lot of bad things about Vanguard from certain sources, but hey, I like to get my own opinion so I loaded it up. What I first saw was not good...the character creation screen. The characters models themselves look very wrong...especially when you start changing physical attributes. Its hard to explain, so let me give you an analogy. Remember when Bonzo the Clown takes those long skinny balloons and blows them up to make poodles...well thats the Vanguard character creation screen. It's like you're given a half filled balloon of a character and if you want to increase the chest or head size, the program blows more air into those areas without any consideration to proportion. It's just weird. I created a human-ish Rogue (who looked like a cross between Pee-Wee Herman and Cher) and entered the world and oh my Lord. The sound was skipping the screen turned black, and oh look, there's my character's head...there's his foot. I didn't measure it, but I had time to go to the bathroom and get a drink while I waited for it to load up....but hey, its beta.

After that, I killed 10 zombie farmers, hit level 2, turned off the game and didn't touch it for another week. I was that disappointed with it.

I went back a week later promising myself to really get an impression of this game. I reminded myself that this is just a beta and carried on. This time, I created a half elf Ranger...and the experience was noticeably better. I was able to get to level 10. I grouped with people and completed a lot of very interesting quests within the newbie area. I must say, once I got over the technical glitches, the newbie experience that I had was very similar to EQ2. So, this is what I recommend you set your expectations for the first 10 levels of your life in Vanguard...a very EQ2-like experience.

I then created a Necro next and was able to experience how two other aspects of the game where introduced to new players. Crafting and Diplomacy (I'll explain those two later on in their own sections)


Honestly, the graphics are nothing that I haven't seen before in EQ2...maybe a bit less than EQ2. Though, the graphics in Vanguard did seem a bit more drab and dark than in EQ2. The starter areas that I was in were either a dark forest, or a red desert-like area or a shore town in which its always raining. Because it was so dark everywhere, I didn't really find the landscape or the graphics that inspiring.

All of the monsters that I encountered were very well done and looked reasonably intimating, but anything that looked humanoid just looked and moved very oddly to my eyes. They looked stiff when they walked and they really didn't give me that organic feel. This goes back to the character creation comments that I had...all of the humanoids just look wrong.

Currently there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of graphical glitches and bugs in the game. I'm sure they'll be addressed with some patches.


The sound is really nothing to write home about. The music track is ok, but it really doesn't get me into the game


I leveled up to 6 in Artifacting in the game...and honestly, I don't really get the crafting system right now. It's much like EQ2 in the way that there are reaction and counter-reactions that you need to watch out for. The one thing that was really cool was cutting down a tree. Yes, to gather wood, you just don't find a log on the ground, you actually find a resource tree, cut it down, it falls (TIMBERRRR!!) and you loot the fallen tree. it's a nice cosmetic gameplay element.


Questing leads you very nicely through levels 1-10. I was lucky enough to find a very good group and we just shoot through them. The quests in that level range where really the kill 10 of this, get 5 of that variety.


This is an interesting 3rd dimension of game play that Sigil has introduced. Its essentially a card game that you play with an NPC as you try to win an argument or least, thats how I understand it. You're given these strategy cards that increase certain attributes of an argument. You set up 5 of your cards as your strategy and you play these cards as the discussion with the NPC progresses. The goal is to get more points than the NPC to the point where you win the argument. I know, its a bit of crappy explanation, and it is a bit more complex than that, but I hope you get the general idea.

The introduction and quests to diplomacy are very well done, so if I completely confused you, at least the game will set you straight.


For the first 10 levels, I got no sense of the world I was in. As far as I was concerned, I was just there doing quests. The Lore in this game and my place in it really eludes me as a new player.

The world is not really that inspiring at all. I didn't log in and get that, "wow, I wonder what's over that hill" type of feeling. Atmosphere is really missing from this game.

What the Future Holds

It's quite simple really, this game is not all. Don't get me wrong, it's got great potential, but it needs another 6-8 months of development and testing before Sigil even thinks about releasing it. The first 10-15 levels are crucial to getting that hook into a new player, and its just not there...not yet anyway.

What Sigil is looking at right now if they release as planned, and I've said this before, is what EQ2 experienced with their release in 2004...and that wasn't very pretty. Its up to them if they want to release, but I really wouldn't recommend it at this point. Sure, the game at level 50 might be better...I don't know, I didn't get to level 50. All I know is that if I had bought this game, I would have canceled my subscription within 1 month. I would have watched it for 2 years and probably get back into it after a couple of expansions and patches.

That's it for now. Beta 5 has started with the Fileplanet open beta offer to subscribers. I encourage everyone to take a look.

To Sigil, you guys really have a good game in there somewhere. If you really want to be successful and deliver a QUALITY product, then you need to delay the release date. It'll be good for you, good for the game, and good for players...bad for the fanboi's I guess.

D out.


Anonymous said...

SOE is causing this early release, not Sigil.

darrenl said...

I truly believe if Sigil didn't want to release the game, then it wouldn't be released. I'm not an insider by any stretch, but I can't imagine SOE pushing these guys to much.