When I previewed Vanguard: Saga of Heroes I had a number of reservations, I also praised the game for its potential. It's probably worth reading the preview before this review. I doubted the game would be ready given the stated release date. It appears that I was right, the game simply doesn't feel like a finished product. So I've started on a negative note, that doesn't mean that the game is a complete failure in fact there are many things that deserve further praise.
When creating a character rather than races being separated by faction (such as World of Wacraft) you choose by continent. What's impressive is the difference between starting locations. The early quests for each race can be massively different and make a huge difference to how the game plays out. For once in a MMO game I wanted to try different races to see how the early story lines played out. The range of classes is excellent with each being fairly well balanced, every gamer will be able to find the right race/class combination to match their play style.
One important point to consider is the games size. Some games are big, some are huge, V:SoH fits into the next category, immense. The scale of the game is somewhat overwhelming and with the time I have spent playing the game I have barely scratched the surface.
It's good to see that criticism was taken on board by the developer. The inconsistencies with waypoints that I discussed in the preview have been resolved. Now when you are given a quest, it will list important waypoints, with a simple click you can add a marker on your map and compass, this massively reduces the frustration in questing and makes the whole experience far more enjoyable.
Like all MMO games V:SoH is frequently updated with bug fixes, new content and resolved balance issues. Fortunately for gamers this has meant that many of the broken quests have been resolved and odd bugs have been eliminated though the game is still far from perfect. I still believe that the game was released a little early with a few months extra the game could have been significantly more polished and could have been a much better experience. It's always more difficult to change things when you have well over one hundred thousand subscribers. Apparently the game was released early due to the funding for the project running out
If I had to choose a game that V:SoH feels like then I would have to say Everquest. This is no surprise really as Sigil Games is made up of the original Everquest developers.
Due to the size of the game and the often vast distances between areas mounts (thankfully) are available very early on in the game. As the game progresses other transport options are made available to you.
Gameplay doesn't stray from the standard MMO formula, early quests will have you carrying out tasks in an easy starting area, such as collect a number of items or killing a certain number of enemies. This slowly builds your character and offers improved weapons and armour as rewards. Gameplay features and skills are introduced slowly so as not to overwhelm the gamer. There is nothing innovative with this system, but to be honest no-one really expects anything different. We have all come to accept that this is the best way to start a MMO game, and games which do things differently rarely succeed. One thing that the developers have done a little differently is the respawn rate, it's remarkably fast. I was expecting this to change from the beta to the full release as I assumed it was there to make the testing a little easier, though it has made it through to final release. It means that there is always an abundance of enemies though if you are not quick enough to make your kills it's quite easy to get swamped by enemies.
Once you gain a few levels a good set of armour and the rest of your basic adventuring equipment you get a bit more choice in where you are headed. Like all MMOs areas are limited by level, you can't just wander anywhere as you are likely to get slaughtered by a high level enemy.
Once a character hits about level 10 quest difficulty seems to increase significantly. It becomes clear that it's going to be dangerous to solo. In fact it's nigh on impossible. Getting a group is really the only way to succeed, whether this is a plus or negative is down to the individual gamer. Some people love to solo, others love to play in a group. In other words if you like MMO's like Dungeons & Dragons, or if you love hitting instances in WoW as a group, you are likely to be at home with V:SoH. If you are a bit of a lone warrior, you will most probably be alienated. Fortunately, the developers have recognised this and have worked on the grouping experience to make life a little easier, The user interface gives you all the info you need and replicates what you might expect to see in certain WoW add-ons. I think if the developers hadn't done such a good job of this then V:SoH could have been a terrible experience.
Graphically the game is a mixture of frustration and wonder. Character models are detailed and environments are rich and varied. Each race has its own distinct look and character customization allows for many subtle differences to help make your character your own. Looking out at vast expanses of lush scenery is a great experience. Building architecture has received a lot of artist attention. Sadly though most people won't witness this due to the ridiculously high system requirements. A dual core processor is a must and 1Gb of DDR2 memory will not be enough, and you will need a 256mb PCI express graphics card to enjoy the experience. Whilst at it's highest end the game looks better than other games out there, at anything less than a beast of a machine the results are not comparable with other games out there.
Overall, V:SoH is an enjoyable experience, it won't win many awards and it won't steal many subscribers from WoW. Though, if you are looking for something a little different, your PC is high end and you enjoy playing as a group, this game could be well worth a try.