The iPad Version Takes Flight
Vendetta Online is an MMO set in space. In a galaxy several thousand years away, where humans in three different nations duke it out to control the galaxy and all its resources. Like other MMOS out there, you gather resources, improve your character (ship in this case), fight NPCs and other players, and with your friends and guild, delve into grey space, and fight other nations in PvP.
It has actually been around since 2002 and has a pretty well developed community. Created and maintained by a small four-man team, Vendetta Online is a cross-platform game, playable on Windows, Linux, Mac OS and Android, and it is device agnostic. There’s only one world and you can play the game with your mobile device or login with your PC. The iOS version launches on April 17th and this was the version I received.
All good, yes? A 300 Meg download and online updates later, I personally discovered all the above. Vendetta Online is a twitched based space flight MMO… I should have checked before accepting the assignment. Since I had used the code, I reached for the candied ginger and fired up the off-line tutorial on my iPad2. (Ed: Shooters and Carolyn’s motion sickness don’t mix... my bad, C-Koh!)
A robotic voice advised me on my controls – which I had the option of changing, from tilt based steering to touchscreen controls only. The UI is laid out well on the iPad screen, with options such as flight-assist and auto-fire. You could also manually fire by pressing the big red button on left. Pretty much intuitive with a target reticule, radar from front and rear, a small blue arrow that directs you should your next target be out of your screen and a button which says… “turbo” for the boosts and the usual stats you’d expect on a HUD.
After shooting down my first NPC, I made myself a nice cup of stomach calming ginger tea, told my inner ear to behave and continued. Flight practice now. Fly through those nice flashing red gates. After a short demo accompanied by robotic voice, I had the controls. Ooh, twitchy! After careening around like a cat on a hot tin roof, bouncing off a couple asteroids and a gate or two, I made it through all the gates. Now to dock my ship. I looked for the green circles with the “S” in them as instructed as I approached the space station. They would be lit up and have flashing blue arrows pointing the way. So I looked. Steering carefully, looking this way and that. Rotating carefully, firing rear thrusters… left… bouncing off a few things…
“You haven’t flown through a red circle in some time,” the tool-tip window flashed up helpfully. “Do you want to restart this tutorial?”
No! I turned around, did another approach, headed towards the green circles on my radar… bounced against something, did a complete 360, turned green and went to lie down.
The UI is a little busy on the small screen of the iPad (and I can imagine what it must look like on a phone), but not so much that the action is obscured. Buttons and windows are transparent with outlines of differing opacity. Important buttons pop out more visually – like the big red “fire” button your left and your ship framework in bright treen on your right.
Control is two hands, thumbs-on, constant contact. The main controls; the joystick and D-pad, the turbo and fire buttons could all stand to be just a little farther up on the screen so you can rest the corners of the iPad in the base of your palm and the weight of the device basically rests in your hands. You can get some good leverage and balance if you stick your pinky under the edge to help support the device, but this is a bit tiring.
The auto-target and auto-fire is a good decision for the mobile player as pressing three buttons with two thumbs is kinda hard. At this pre-launch stage, there isn’t a lot of customization for the UI, however, the Devs tell us that those will be added ASAP. Word is that Android players are out flying the PC/Mac players, having heavily customized their interfaces for better control. The Devs have taken note and incorporated many of them into the default iOS interface. Drag and drop placement of controls and windows would be fabulous.
That said, there are several options available to the player, from changing the controls - tilt to steer, tilt to rotate or touch-screen steering only with the joystick and D-pad. Other options include the auto-assists mentioned earlier which are all set ON default, and there are three camera modes: First person, Third person (default) and Third person alternative (camera pulled out), as well as slews of options for what to show / not show and chat colors.
The controls are certainly intuitive. I visited with my nine year old nephew for him to play the game. How intuitive at the controls? Very. He ran through the tutorial in less than 10 minutes and told me it was the coolest game. “Look Aunty! I can go backwards and upside down!” Nooo…. Don’t show it to me…. Too late.
The iPad3 is marginally heavier than the iPad2 but enough to be tiring when I have to hold it for any period of time, so I usually game on my iPad2. The graphics looked soft but pretty on the iPad2. On the 2560x1400 retina display of the iPad3, they are quite brilliant. Sharp and crisp. The faster processor on the 3 is said to mainly to run its screen and I could not discern if the game played any better.
Once done with the tutorial, you are prompted to create an account and go online. Before you do so and start burning up the trial hours, you may wish to try the free play mode. Both the tutorial which can be repeated as many times as you wish, and free play run offline and allow you to get used to the controls and how missions will be delivered.
Vendetta Online on iOS will be 99 cents to download and is a subscription based game. On Android, it currently is $1 per month. You receive 8 hours of online game play with your download of the Android version (which is free), and that should allow you plenty of time to get a feel for the world. The iOS version comes with a free month for the cost of the download. Travel is through wormholes, character (or ship) progression is via licenses (skills) and you can totally be a pirate. The game is mature so new players can find excellent information about the game online. Lest you think that all it is, is a space shooter with some mining, take a look at the other features:
- Well developed and detailed history / backstory of each nation
- An actual created in-game language - GTS or Galactic Trade Standard - that adds to the immersion and is found throughout the galaxy, mostly on projected neon signs outside of space stations, advertising goods and sometimes just funny messages
- Manufacturing - you don’t just improve your ship, you can create capital ships and crew it together with your friends
- Player created content (mainly missions) through participation in the PCC or Player Contribution Corp
From a scan of the official forums, the player base is stable and growing, with mentors willing to help newbies. Check out the game information on the official site.
This first impression has been brought to you by lots of candied ginger, ginger tea and the use of a motion-sickness prevention wrist band. If you were a fan of games like Freelancer, Privateer and the MMO Jumpgate, and have an Android phone or an iPad, you might want to give this a shot. $0.99 isn’t a whole lot to pay to try this game out and you just might find something worth playing on your mobile devices.