It's now been 5 years since Vanguard opened its doors, and as most would remember it was a catastrophic launch. Unfinished content and constant performance issues, Vanguard was labelled as one giant fail. But since then a lot has changed, and this year is set to be one of the biggest years for the game.
With Vanguard recently making the shift to a F2P model, a lot of changes have been made, and it certainly isn't the game it once was. So let's jump right in to the world of Telon and see what the recently revived game has to offer!
The world of Telon is an absolutely beautiful creation, and there is no doubt about that. Every part of the games landscape is explorable. Literally, you can swim, run, climb and fly over every inch of the game world and is an aspect which Vanguard builds upon superbly. Upon release many people became familiar with the /flush command, it was a command which hopefully will never see the light of day again. The command itself was used to re-set the graphic engines whilst playing through the game in order to fix the many graphical problems throughout the game. Thankfully, 5 years on, there is no use for this and graphical bugs are absent. But the same high requirement game engine is still in place, which will become a pain with those who own lower end systems.
Playing through the game on balanced settings still looks beautiful, although it doesn't look that much different from playing on any of the other settings available. In comparison to other MMORPG's of today, new players may find the aesthetics outdated but, the art style in which Vanguard holds is unique and is something which sets this game apart from other MMO's on the market today.
The UI in Vanguard is very traditional of an MMO, skill bars, maps and other menus are all in their rightful places and are easy to access/navigate. Unfortunately, the audio aspect of Vanguard is not quite up to scratch and has been carelessly passed on. Zone themes and music are often nonexistent when traversing through Telon, as well as combat effects being buggy. This retracts from the overall feel of the game and somewhat ruins the atmosphere in which Vanguard tries to build upon with its art style.
Game play wise, Vanguard has always been known for having quite a classic, in depth experience and this is just what I experienced upon playing the game. In 2008, a large starting zone was implemented, called The Isle of Dawn. It is a great addition to the game and provides newcomers with not such an overwhelming experience upon arriving in the game. Leaving the Isle is a little overwhelming, but if you enjoy finding your own way, there are some NPC's dotted around rift ways who will give you quests to visit zones around your level.
Combat itself is lacking excitement, and isn't that impressive at all, but this is just a small part of what the game has to offer. Crafting and diplomacy are two huge features of Vanguard, and offer up a more unconventional way of progressing through the game. While Diplomacy is much of a bore, you will find that you need to progress this as it is needed in some raids. Crafting is hugely complex, and I recommend you research this feature in depth before pursuing. Crafting requires the use of many items such as writs, sigils and lots of faction. Despite the fact you are not required to pursue this feature, those who do will find it is very rewarding and adds a lot more depth to the game.
Since the game has become free to play, there have been a vast amounts of content added, and there is due to be a whole lot more. But the one thing which frustrates me the most about Vanguard is the restrictions in which the game holds since becoming F2P. For example, a lot of the more interesting races and classes are unavailable to Free players. You have limited character slots and bag slots, and the biggest annoyance are the item restrictions. If you would like to access these features you will find yourself paying a fee. Despite this, Sony do reward you with 500 station cash per month. I, myself, found this an annoyance and feel that this could hinder newcomers looking for a "free to play" experience in Vanguard. Although this model is much similar to other SOE titles. For the full list of restrictions follow the link.
Vanguard offers an innovative experience upon first glance. But when delving further into the game features, such as the Diplomacy and the Crafting system, it becomes very complicated, and highly time consuming. Any advancement within these areas become a lengthy, and at times "grindy" process. In terms of the game world itself and aspects such as character creation, Vanguard offers a unique experience. With a character creation system that gives you huge amounts of depth and choice, along with a massive game world in which every inch is explorable. The classic MMO gamer within you may want to give this a shot. You may just have to get your wallets out though, as mentioned before, there are some quite horrible restrictions.
In terms of how well the game plays, it's great, but audio bugs and issues with the game engine itself lack a lot of polish, and require some care and attention to bring it up to scratch. Playing on my high end system and still encountering some performance issues was a frustrating process, and took away from my experience of the game. At times I was constantly experiencing lag to the point where the game became unplayable, but this often fixed itself within an hour.
In terms of the games Longevity sure, there are certainly a whole array of features to explore such as, a huge open world, different systems such as the diplomacy system, in depth crafting, raids, I could go on. But, the one thing that should define an MMORPG's longevity, should be, does this excite the player enough? Although Vanguard has been with us for a lengthy amount of time, and with the features that it has to offer, there most definitely is a number of hours to be spent in the game. But is this what the current market needs?
In saying that, Vanguard certainly is a good MMORPG, one in which we will all remember, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Five years on from release, the game has faced a lot of changes, most notably becoming a free to play title. But with this, it is hard to tell where Vanguard will go from here. The restrictions are high and F2P MMORPG players will find this frustrating in the onset. The dedicated/hardcore player base is still there, but it is a small number. Quite frankly, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes may have ran its course. But, it is up to the developers and the community to keep this game thriving, and to see it become a contender on the F2P market. With the current MMORPG's on the market that Vanguard are facing, some of which are truly free, it is going to be a struggle for this game to solidify its place on the "scene".
Socially, Vanguard is thriving, and it is nice to see from initial release. All chats are booming throughout each day and the dedicated player base, which has been with the game since launch, is still here. They are a keen helping hand for the newcomers, which is excellent to see in a game like this. Without its community, the game would be nothing, and rightly so. Players are passionate when it comes to their game. Hit the forums if you are actively looking to play this game, make friends and look for a guild as they a more than alive. If you are looking to call out and argue why you dislike the game, be prepared to be knocked down from those who love it, as you will most definitely run into them.
Those who have been playing the game since launch, or for a number of years, will not worry about the games value or F2P aspect, as they are dedicated to the game. But from a newcomers point of view, and is actively seeking to make the game their new F2P home, will most probably turn their back on Vanguard. While the structure of the model the developers have opted for may seem fair, and go unnoticed for the dedicated player base, I can't help but feel that the developers are being too hard on the F2P community, electing a large amount of restrictions. With this, Vanguard may just be consumed by the truly free titles, which the MMO market has to offer this year. Who knows? Only time will tell.
In conclusion, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes offers up a limited slice of the game for F2P players. With the dedicated player base still residing in Telon and keen to help newcomers, this could be the game that you are willing to spend your hard earned cash on. But with the game engines issues, some with lower end systems may struggle to run the game. With a vast open world to explore and an in depth game play experience, that is often hindered with the chore like Diplomacy system, Vanguard could be for you. If you have the time and money to put into Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, then certainly do, because the world of Telon is a charming place.