I will start out by saying that once upon a time, even I considered the purchase of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes to be my worst video game purchase ever. That's right, I saying, "in my whole life I have never had a more disappointing experience."
The reason wasn't with the game itself, the core game I really enjoyed. In fact, I wanted to be able to get past the unfinished feel of Vanguard and be able to play the game I wanted to love. However, as a person that played the open beta and stayed for two months after, I just couldn't find my way past the bugs and glitches that seemed to be everywhere. Couple that with the drama that seemed to surround the development team and I just felt, for the first time in a long time, that I had been burned on a purchase. Vanguard was uninstalled and tucked back in to the case it came in and thrown among the unsorted box of games.
Then Sony tried to get me to go back in. It was around Christmas of last year that I received an email inviting me back to see the changes. I longed to do just that, knowing that the development team had been working on this game the entire time. I didn't take the bait, still feeling bitter about a game that had let me down. I had vowed vengeance against the Sony Hierarchy, both for what they did to others and what they foisted upon me as a gamer. Yet I soon realized that I came into the universe of Vanguard with my eyes open; I had played the beta, I knew what to expect. Maybe the mistake was on my part that I didn't give the game another go. I came to that realization a bit to late, the free month had come and gone.
For some reason Vanguard stayed in my consciousness as I lived my life. As I went through the year I kept wondering if I should've at least tried the game again; a free month is a free month. At least I could've said for a fact if the game was bad, or if it was just released way too early. I even thought about buying the super cheap copies of the game I saw in stores, just to get a free-ish month. I had actually planned on it, seeing a hugely discounted Collector's Edition at my local gaming store, when I received an email from the ever magnanimous SOE. "Come back to Telon!" it read. Just install your copy again and play for free!
My copy being inaccessible, a swift search of the Internet and one link later, I was downloading the 18 gigs needed to run the game. Luckily, I had access to a really uber-gaming computer, so I knew that any flaws in the game this time around would not be about hardware.
Although the download was long, I finally was able to log back into the game. My account? Reactivated just as the gentlemen at Sony Online had promised.
The characters I created were still there, although far removed for their original servers. My team PVP character was now on a Free For All PVP server. My Role Play character was now on just a regular server and the server count itself? Down to four. I decided to forgo the FFA nature of PVP and started on my old RP character. I loaded it up, noticed that there were still some graphical anomalies, and started to play.
I have to say that Vanguard ran 100 percent better than the game I had played earlier. I found out quickly that there were still things I didn't like about the game, but there were so many more that I did like. After playing World of Warcraft for the past year or so, this game felt like a fresh burst of air in the MMO space. Not that WoW is a bad game mind you, but Vanguard felt like a real and open world.
Now, time to gripe a little:
Of all of the issues I have with the game, my biggest issue is with the character models. They all felt, and still feel to me, generic and ugly. Granted, I have not tried out all of the races and the various customizations you can do with them, but honestly the character models are my biggest complaint. Luckily for me, the developers at SOE have stated that new models are on the way and should be implemented this year. Part of the reason the models are so odd to me is that most of the original customization was ripped out of the game; the devs do promise that it will be put back in with the release of the new models.
To sum it up:
The things I do like about the game outweigh the weaknesses in every way. Often liking or disliking a game is a matter of balance; in this case the balance tilts towards the area of fun. The game has a great and wide open world. As you ride through Vanguard's world of Telon, you feel like you can go anywhere. You don't feel boxed in, like you are in a zone made for a specific purpose. Although I'm not too fond of the character models, the view in Vanguard is gorgeous. You can see clouds building up for a summer storm; you can view animals running up a path as you ride down in to the valley. The view looks great and the world feels lived in. Telon doesn't feel like a generically themed fantasy area. The world has a history and it is written in every rock and abandoned ruin you come across.
That is Vanguard for you; a world that breathes and has a history waiting to be discovered.