Fighting Words: EQ2 vs. Vanguard (Part 2)
Dum, dum, dum, dum. Dum dum, dum dum. Dum dum durr. Rising up, back on the street, took my time, took my chances. Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet, just a man and his will to survive. So many times it happens too fast, you change your passion for glory. Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past; you must fight just to keep them alive. It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill or the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival, and the last known survivor stalks its prey in the night and he’s watching us all in the eye. Eye of the tiger.
Hello and welcome back to the Sony Online Entertainment Battle Royale. In part 1, we saw some magnificent body blows, a couple of stinging hooks, and dozens of brutal upper cuts. Leading at the break is Vanguard, but how will it fare in the final half of this match-up? As always, clench your buttocks together in anticipation and enjoy the carnage. Who will win, Brad Mcquaid or that slightly chunky man from Sony? Let’s get ready to rumble!
In the red corner
The SOE juggernaut that is EverQuest 2 is currently behind on the scoreboards, however, winning the visual, player character and newbie categories, this game still has everything to play for. With six years of constant improvement, EverQuest 2 still has the arsenal to get back in this fight.
In the blue corner
Like Rocky Balboa, the underdog that is Vanguard is currently rising to the “challenge of our rival” and going the distance. Leading on numerous categories such as EverQuest-ness, Vanguard is the little engine-that-could.
Both games will be scored out of ten in a number of categories. The highest scoring will be deemed the winner. Take a deep breath; grab a stiff drink and repeat “it’s just an opinion."
The hallmark of a great MMORPG for this generation is accomplished solo play; who would have thought MMORPG players had actual physical social lives to lead. EverQuest 2 offers great solo play to anyone who wishes to play alone. While the game does not exactly offer an original experience, SOE have provided enough quests and grinding opportunities so that a lone trek throughout Norrath is done with ease. With a slightly top heavy population and as the game isn't difficult, EverQuest 2 is probably best attempted solo; but this does not mean that this is the only area in which the game succeeds. 8/10
In my own personal view, to play Vanguard solo would be missing the whole point. Vanguard is a game which craves a single companion or many; however, it does give solo opportunities. Like any modern MMORPG, the game offers quests as a single source of experience and a player could easily manage the cap without any aid. As the game has a low population solo play is sometimes forced upon the player; however, this is a game you will want to play with a buddy. While entirely fine played on your own, this is one MMORPG which shines with others. 7/10
As stated previously, EverQuest 2 is a game in which you could easily rise to the level cap without company; however, you would be missing out on some spectacular sights. Dungeons within the game range from terrifying to beautiful and with a surprisingly in-depth dynamic to grouping, EverQuest 2 is great adventuring with others. Not every dungeon is instanced, and you may happen upon fellow explorers in the bowels of some sunken temple ,and it’s in this area that EverQuest 2 packs its immersion. Grouping is also not as top heavy as you may think also as higher players can make use of the mentor system and accompany newbies. My only issue with this element of the game is that it can be of putting to the newcomer, in that grouping requires some learning and some veterans have a short fuse if you misunderstand the term “body pulling”. Do your homework before attempting but it’s a blast for sure. 9/10
Vanguard was always going to be a winner in regard to group experience. There is nothing like collecting a bunch of like minded adventurers, and heading out into some unknown dungeon in search for nothing but fun and danger. The game completely echoes the experience given in EverQuest; dying in a dungeon will result in a loss of loot if you aren’t resurrected or able to reach your slain avatar. The sense of real fear and trust while grouping is what encapsulates the whole experience and Vanguard is simply some of the best online grouping on offer today. Grouping in Vanguard is simply perfect in all regards. 10/10
Crafting & Other Pursuits
EverQuest 2’s approach to crafting is extremely satisfying and collecting resources becomes like popping metaphorical bubble wrap. Players can create weapons, armor, furniture, potions and so on. Crafting becomes a really worthwhile pursuit because items are of real use and nothing is simply Auction House fodder like in most games. The In-game mechanics of crafting are also interesting as there is no simple create button; items are crafted by completing a short but challenging mini-game. My only problem with the whole system is that most things you labor to create are leveled out of within a few hours due to the game's difficulty. Enjoyable and worthwhile, EverQuest 2’s crafting is great. 9/10
Vanguard splits its game play into three spheres: adventuring, crafting and diplomacy. Due to the sphere related gameplay, the games crafting system has received a great deal of attention, and as such is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. Players specialize in an area and use a mini-game to create items. Anything can be made in Vanguard from weapons to ships and crafting is an essential element of the immersion gameplay. Diplomacy is also a card game of sorts which to be quite honest, confused me, but still it’s nice to have multiple paths of progression rather than your simple PvE. Enjoyable, addictive and multifaceted, Vanguard packs a bang with its crafting. 9/10
As both games don’t really do PvP, (especially surprising as EverQuest 2 has two opposing factions) this is a category that will be omitted. End game in EverQuest 2 is all about raids, dungeon crawls and other such jiggery pokery. EverQuest 2 has such an enjoyable group dynamic, raids are fun and most classes are needed within a defined role (except Monks apparently, but I’m not bitter). The game is privy to constant expansions, the end-game is forever changing so content doesn’t have time to become stale as new stuff is always appearing. With a better use of PvP, and one or two more options, the end-game in EverQuest 2 could be amazing; as it stands it’s just pretty damn good. 8/10
Vanguard isn’t too dissimilar to EverQuest 2 in terms of end game content. PvE raids are the flavor of the day and this is handled with style and fun. The only problem with Vanguard however, is that content updates are few and far between, and while this has been addressed by simply making the slog from 50-55 monumental, it can feel as though there is little to climb towards. As the dungeon design is so brilliant within the game, raids are absolutely fantastic; however, Vanguard can leave a little to be deserved in this area. Most people spend their time building boats and other such pursuits at the level cap anyway. 6/10
Editor's Note from MMORPG.com's Meddle: This article states EQ2 does not have PvP which is not true – I played EQ2 on the PvP servers for years and they are actually some of the most populated servers at that.
EverQuest is one of the forerunners for fluff in MMORPG genre. Players can own houses which act as a sort, trophy cabinet for your player. These are filled with furniture and all manner of collectible items and are nothing more than busy work- however they do add a little depth and immersion. Guilds also have housing and also a leveling system. An interesting concept too is collections, while these are lost to the game's difficulty a little, successfully collecting a series of items will give the player a reward which is usually very worthwhile. To further the amount of fluff there are pets, appearance clothing slots and season themed activities such as Halloween haunted houses. To contend with the usual game play aspects SOE have filled EverQuest with all manner of distractions, and this makes for a fluffy but enjoyable game. 8/10
Not to be out done on the fluff factor, Vanguard offers all manner of meaningless pursuits. Players can build homes, ships and other items. The whole game really is an appreciation of fluff as Brad Mcquaid whole design direction seems to be based on the element of “everything under one roof”. Vanguard furthers the MMORPG old-school aim of being bigger, better and more in-depth. For the most part the game succeeds but ultimately doesn’t feel as fleshed out as EverQuest 2’s fluffier elements. 7/10
With any MMORPG it is always important that the developers are fully behind the game. EverQuest 2 is known mainly as the golden child of SOE and as such we have seen almost 10 expansions since its release in 2004. This is one of the games strengths as there is always something new and fresh to play through, however, this is a draw back in that the game is hurtling as speed away from its origins and this is detrimental to any newcomer. If you want to play a game with a lot of developer care and attention, EverQuest 2 is possibly the most mollycoddled of all the MMORPG’s. 8/10
Vanguard is underdeveloped and under supported and this is the category where this shows. While it could do with some much needed attention, Vanguards small development team does a fine job of keeping the game alive and relevant. It would be nice to see some proper expansion materials and enough support to bring in more subscribers but it could be a lot worse. 5/10
While EverQuest 2 may be Sony’s biggest P2P MMORPG, this doesn’t necessarily reflect in the games population. In my experience, the Europe servers are very sparse of players and there are only two servers which reach high capacity. With this said, the servers like Antonia Bayle are full of helpful players who want to integrate new players into the game and you will not really notice that the game isn’t as popular as let’s say, World of Warcraft. 7/10
OK, let’s not dwell upon the issue; Vanguard is not brimming with people in the slightest. There are only two servers remaining and the future isn’t looking too bright. To put that aside however, while there is such a low population, those that are playing make the game feel alive. New players are looked after, veterans run alts through content and it seems strange, but I was never without a group in this game. The small population huddles together for warmth it would seem and the result is a very tight knit community. It’s not all doom and gloom really. 5/10
The Results: EverQuest II 57- Vanguard 49
EverQuest 2 has done it! Coming back from a mid way slump to claim the title. In my personal opinion, the sheer production value and care that has gone into EverQuest 2 makes it a very enjoyable and criminally underrated game.
While writing this article I couldn’t help but notice the amount of missed opportunities within both games. EverQuest 2 lacks a layer of identity and never really steps out of the shadow of its predecessor successfully or willingly. Vanguard on the other hand is a game of soaring ambition that will, disappointingly, never be realized. There is no doubt that both are good games, however, they could have been great.
Thank you for reading my 4000 words worth of thoughts, opinions and erroneous musings. Remember these are my own personal views so please don’t hesitate to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below!