At the 2010 Game Developers Conference, we had the chance to meet up with Min Kim from Nexon to get a look at the next product that the company is planning to bring to the North American market. What we saw was certainly outside of the norm for games developed in the East and then brought over to the Western Market.
The game, where it was originally developed, was known as Mabinogi Heroes, a prequel to the last game that the people over at Nexon localized for our market, Mabinogi and while it may be in the same family as its predecessor this upcoming game, titled Vindictus, departs significantly in both presentation and gameplay from what came before. Where the original Mabinogi made use of an anime-like art style that belied its combat based gameplay, Vindictus makes use of a more realistic style to really drive home the game's brutality.
From the little that we were able to see at GDC (a gameplay video) Vindictus is a game best described by using the company's own words, a term that describes both the visual look and the overall design philosophy, "Brutal Elegance."
The premise of the game is simple enough: The humans, following the words of their goddess go to war with "the others," the human's name for anyone and anything that is not one of them.
Vindictus has been designed to make the players feel like heroes, going over the top with everything from characters that include a dual wielder, sword and shield and a mage, to extremely interactive environments.
Built on a modified version of the Source Engine, the game uses its environment in a way that we haven't seen yet in a Free to Play imported game. Not only do the environments around the players literally break apart, but the pieces left behind can often be picked up and used by the players against their enemies. It isn't just the environments that break down, however. Perhaps even more impressively, as a player's armor degrades statistically, it does so visually as well, sometimes appearing to be held on only by the thinnest of threads.
From what we've seen, Vindictus takes interactivity to a new level, allowing players to pick up and use smashed pieces of the environment and even each other as characters grab, throw and swing anything they can get their hands on in order to win the battles. This, combined with the overall pace of the gameplay that we saw makes the level of violence almost jarring so that while players aren't performing gruesome beheadings or any of the other common violent MMO tropes, each and every hit is felt and victory feels hard-fought.
While the gameplay might have violence at its core, that doesn't mean that it's done mindlessly. Encounters in the game are designed to encourage grouping, requiring players to use ingenuity, strategy and cooperation in order to overcome the odds. Groups for the main missions will be limited to four players while that number grows to six for larger raids.
The game's missions will be almost 100% instanced, with a design akin to Guild Wars or Dungeons and Dragons Online that sees players meeting up in large open group town and the grouping up (or not) to run a series of instanced missions.
While our introduction to Vindictus may have been short, it's easy to tell even at a glance that Nexon is trying to break its own mould with this game. While we have come to expect a certain level of quality from the games that Nexon has localized for the western market, none has caught our eye as AAA Western MMO players in quite the same way that this game has. We look forward to bringing you more information on this game as it becomes available.
Vindictus is currently scheduled for a 2010 launch.