It has been three years now since Vanguard's catastrophic launch, and as one of the launch-time players who left after the first six months (yes, the launchers who have stayed faithful through thick and thin can scoff at my infidelity), I have always found myself curious about what is happening in the most immersive fantasy-based MMO-world that I have ever encountered. Sure, I've been seeing other games since then, even enjoying them for a time. But the ever-lurking thought in my mind in any of these other games is "I wish Vanguard hadn't been broken."
Well, as the player community of Vanguard will quickly tell me, it turns out that it was me who was broken, because Vanguard is doing just fine, thank you. Last month I renewed my subscription, and almost immediately upon re-entering the amazing game-world of Telon, I realized I wouldn't be disappointed.
Vanguard looks better than ever and, in stark contrast to the bug-ridden launch of the game, is a smooth and streamlined gaming experience. Gone are the vicious lag spikes and broken abilities. It was with great satisfaction that I realized that now, Vanguard is finally the game it *should* have been at launch. The dev teams responsible for debugging and improving Vanguard have been hard at work over the years on their limited resources, but it is immediately apparent that their hard work has paid off. Plus, I have yet to experience an online game world on such scale (it is almost impossible to demonstrate within the frame of a single screenshot).
Now that Vanguard's crippling problem of bugs is out of the way, it is even easier to completely lose yourself in the game world. The three spheres of advancement (Adventuring, Crafting, and Diplomacy) are all expertly executed and provide for lengthy and diverse progression in the game, all of which is quite enjoyable.
One of Vanguard's strongest features, in my mind, has always been the diverse classes available. Whereas a mainstream MMO might offer you a few classes to play around with, Vanguard goes all in and slams a whopping 15 classes down on the table. Whatever issues any of these classes may have had at the game's launch are now ancient history, as each class is expertly conceived, with each offering their own broadening area for exploration in both play style and builds. There's just too much to explore in this game's classes to do it all in a short amount of time. Subscription accounts now have 12 slots per server, which means you can fill them all and still only have 80% of the classes covered. If you're a new player--or even a returning player, like me--you'll probably end up rolling half a dozen before you decide which want you want to try first.
Luckily, this re-rolling of different characters is also quite enjoyable, thanks to the option upon character creation to begin in your character's racial starting area (did I mention there are 19 races? There are 19 races!), or on the Isle of Dawn starting area, which is an entertaining experience that involves adventuring, crafting, diplomacy, exploration, and even a ride (or several) on a winged Pegasus.
Vanguard is also a prospect for those many online gamers who like to have a bigger presence in the world than simply your avatar/mount and the portable trophy rack/museum you carry around on your shoulder plates--seriously, in some games those things would give you scoliosis at best and decapitate you at worst. You know who I'm talking about.
In Vanguard, your worldly possessions--whether loot or crafted--extend to your house, your guild keep, and if you like, your ship(s). All of these are crafted, often by several people working on a team, especially in the instance of the guild keep, which takes a community effort to construct. The ships are my personal favorite, as they allow you to explore new areas, and more recently, allow you to go deep sea fishing for whatever rewards you dare to seek.
Not only that, but they can add a different level to your adventuring experience. I experienced one instance of this when a group member was able to use his ship to ferry the rest of us back and forth to a remote location on the other side of a lake during a prolonged quest chain. This saved us a bit of time in what would have been a long walk (or ride on the very-slow beginner horse, available at level 10), not to mention helped us avoid the groups of nasty monsters between our target and town.
I cannot say enough positive things about the player community in Vanguard. Many of these folks have stuck with the game through its worst times, and it seems that recently they are finally being rewarded for their loyalty, as end-game content has been successfully launched and crafting, diplomacy, and exploration continue to yield their rewards. The players of Vanguard should really pat themselves on the back, since the game certainly wouldn't exist in its restored form today if not for them. New players joining the game will find a community happy to see them and ready to share their experience in Telon.
If you've never played the game before, take some time and try out the Isle of Dawn Free Trial. If you're a curious-about-returning player, renew your subscription and see how things have improved.
This game has seen its share of dark times and dismal prospects, but if my last few weeks in Telon have taught me anything, it's that the sun hasn't quite set on Vanguard, and brighter days may very well be ahead.
In future articles, I will be discussing more in-depth features of the game in its current state, as well as interviewing prominent community members to get their take on Vanguard's journey from launch to present.