Several months, maybe even years ago, I tried out Vanguard: Saga of Heros and wrote a blog about it: Kickin' it Old School. I wrote it with mixed feelings.
It's the only MMO I've played that reminds me of the wonderment I experienced when I first played an MMO.
Vanguard takes place in an open world. There are no invisible walls. If you can't climb it, you can rent a mount and fly over it. There's all kind of places to explore. I have to remind myself that I don't have to adventure from quest to quest, I don't have to search for next quest hub, I can just explore.
The Adventure, Craft and Diplomacy Speres are all unique and fun -- once you figure them out. This is another plus for the game in my mind: It ain't easy. One has to explore the game and figure out how things work. The Isle of Dawn Theme-Park newbie-area helps.
But the Isle of Dawn also misleads. The big world of Telon doesn't have that theme-park structure. Resource nodes aren't easy to find or in abundance. Quests, especially crafting and diplomacy, don't lift one through the levels smoothly. And no one experiences the death penalty on the island. One has not experienced the true joy of playing Vanguard until they've had to do repeated corpse runs for multiple corpses. The experience-pointt loss is frustrating enough.
Vanguard is level driven, a personal pet-peeve in itself. This issue is further inflamed because the tiers and the levels don't clearly mesh. The best gear for a tier-two character are the tier-three items that are made by tier-four crafters. So minimize your hopes of making your own gear. And then that gear may only be good for a couple of levels. No surprise, like every other MMO out there (and vast parts of the real world), the money is to made selling resources.
As I've written before, Vanguard is an old-school MMO. It was developed in a time when MMOs weren't focussed on being user-friendly. It's a big world and one has to spend a lot of game time just travelling. I spent hour crossing and recrossing one of the continents just to learn how to craft the next tier of weapons. And that was only for that continent. I have to do it two more times. And that crafter is not skilled enough to complete any of those new recipes.
This challenge is further exacerbated by it's lack of support by Sony Online Entertainment. They bought it from Sigil and then basically shelved it. While many of its early bugs have been fixed, nothing new has been added for years. Players might debate what kind of tweaking it may need, but the fact that it isn't being tweaked is inescapeable. There's a blurry line between challenge and frustration.
My girlfriend loves the idea of building a house. But one has have access to high-level crafters, vast resources and platinum just to think about it. The process of having a house is so daunting that it is not inviting to casual players. So she is sticking to EQ2. Most of the fans of Vanguard would disdain her desire for an easy mode.
This game will never compete with World of Warcraft. Nor should it try. I like that it only has two servers. I like how the fans of it go out of their way to show newbies how to enjoy the game. But I regret that playing means that I neglect my easy-mode friends.