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A Vanguard Preview

Previews By Carolyn Koh on January 30, 2007

A Vanguard Preview

With the launch of Sigil's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes now at hand, Carolyn Koh takes a peek inside the game pre-launch to give us her impressions of this new MMORPG offering.

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I did not know what to expect when I logged into Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Despite a couple of previews at shows and an interview with Brad McQuaid and Paul Luna, I had a nebulous idea of a game with lots of grinding in various forms of game play.

I had deliberately not played in beta as I wanted to approach Vanguard as a new player. While the game patched, I read the manual which was surprisingly well written. Score… one point.

I could have read the character creation screen for a much longer time than I did. Placing your cursor over each race brought up a character sheet giving you racial attributes, starting city and background. Clicking on a race toggled all the classes it could be, and the true was the same in reverse. The choice is wide. Score… two points.

Creating a Goblin Blood Mage on Kojan, I named her Sweete Treate, decked her out in pink and logged her in. Nope. Not quite. Another screen came up. It was her background history – which gave me an idea of what to expect. I was faced immediately with my first quest giver. I waited a few seconds for my character to appear before I realized that the default camera view was first person. The words “Just like EQ” came to mind. The scroll wheel quickly took the camera back over the shoulder and I obtained my first quest.

I was to find that races starting in different cities had different starting background stories and newbie experiences. However, on every continent, some races shared starting cities, and hence, starting experiences.

Some races still start out hunting the proverbial rats and bats. As experienced by my Morbedi Human on Qalia. Starting out, he obtained two quests immediately. One was to kill beetles, and the other, harvest the leaves of a plant. Running around in the deserted newbie area, each plant he harvested, another beetle spawned. Much like a quest received by my WoodElf on the continent of Kojan, except that these little guys were not as large as I was, nor aggressive. Neat method to make sure there are plenty of mobs for players on the same quest or getting a little XP, I thought, except that judging by the empty area, this didn’t seem to be a very popular race to play.

“Friend, where may I learn to harvest?”
“North of here lays the town of Leth Nurae. You will find many trainers there.”

With nasty level 9 critters in between where I was and the town. Hmmm… My Thestran human was the first to learn harvesting and diplomacy as the starting area was basically in the outskirts of a major city, and the quest givers sent you into town right off. At level two I was already felling trees (harvesting) and making loud criticisms (diplomacy), whereas my High Elf was still trying to figure out where the town was at level six.

As designed, this is a grouping game. Although solo advancement is possible, advancement will come by faster if you are a social player. I asked another player to group in order to see what it would do for our fledgling harvesting skills. We figured that tress fell faster, and the yield increased. Being that there was no way to split physical loot, we went round robin.

“This is surprisingly fun! More fun than dying to spiders anyway, which was what I was doing before I started this quest.”

After a dozen trees or so, he suggested buying novice axes to see if that would increase the yield even further, and purchased one for me as well – my toon was level two remember?

Some players came by to watch the animation of the falling trees. Interestingly enough, the animation of the falling tree is much better than the wooden animation of the human NPCs in town. I’d have expected better idle animation. In fact, humanoid models felt wooden and static. But this is still pre-launch. As often as servers were taken down, I’m sure more will be patched in by the January 30th launch date.

Players used to World of Warcraft type non-aggressive newbie mobs that stand around picking their noses while you slaughter their brethren, be warned. If you are engaged in combat with a similar critter and they happen to wander into aggression range, they will assist. That was how Sweete died the first time. I’d been lulled into incaution by EQ2 and WoW.

The in-game map is a large over-view of the continent with some key points marked. A general guidance direction is also marked on your compass for some locations. Players are provided some information but are not spoon fed.

“Mileage may vary?” Depending on your experience with MMORPGs, and as mentioned above, the newbie leveling path depends on the starting area chosen. You can be seeking out diplomacy, harvesting and crafting at level two or you may not have even found the main town yet at level ten.

.At first glance, color me impressed. The game looks engaging, and tips and tutorials were easy to follow. The player experience is diverse and rich, with enough quests and fun game play to keep players engrossed for some time. With this many starting areas, the frustration of hundreds of players all hunting the same 20 rats is alleviated. Allowing players with pre-orders to start before launch also spreads out players.

Indeed, starting out in Vanguard, there seems to be many, many choices so that players can do what they wish to do and be what they wish to be. So despite the annoying bugs – disappearing mobs while in a fight, losing your guild tag and having to camp out and back in again, I am engaged enough to want to continue playing to see where this game goes. To see if it really gives me back the challenge that EQ was without the tedium. Besides… I think I’m hooked on Wood-Elf diplomacy *makes demands*.

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