As you may know, I preview and review MMO's for Gamesxtreme. Inevitably when you cover the same topic again and again there is going to be repetition, territory will be familiar and my articles will slowly merge into one. I'm in quite a similar position to yourselves. With MMO after MMO there are certain features that feel the same. After a plethora of grind fests landing on my machine I was beginning to lose hope. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was a very welcome surprise, though like previously mentioned material there is a lack of originality.
I'm not going to discuss the ins and outs of the gameplay and story as those can be found on several other sites. Instead I will concentrate on the current potential the game has and also the games potential downfalls.
V:SoH is a game very much in the World of Warcraft mould, and I mean this in a positive way. The game has very little semblance to the barrage of Korean MMOs on the market. There is a lack of grind, quests have purpose, there is a difference between races and it doesn't feel like a race to high end PvP. In short, the game feels right and is very enjoyable. In addition to most of the features you would expect there are a few new additions. There is a diplomacy system in the game. This is essentially a mini-game based around cards. You choose a strategy before you play and the aim of the game is to count down from a pre-set value to zero before your opponent. This is done by playing cards with a certain value to pull a counter to your side of the board. The feature is an excellent addition and is a lot of fun. The crafting system is also quite fun. Unlike many other games x + y doesn't always make z. There is a random element and also a certain amount of judgement involved.
Ok so I've said lots of nice things about the game, now its time for the bad. Whilst the game is graphically stunning on the highest settings, overall performance is an issue. My machine is struggling to run the game on all but the lower settings, for comparison my machine can run World of Warcraft and Guild Wars at the highest settings with no slowdown. Having spoken to players who were in earlier beta tests the performance is significantly better than before. Hopefully this trend will increase and soon the game will be more accessible to lower end machines. Though for the game to be accessible to the masses there will need to be significant improvements.
The game is laden with bugs, this is not a surprise as a beta process is there to eliminate these bugs. One thing that concerns me is that the game is only a few weeks from release, and I really cannot see all the issues resolved in this amount of time. The game is set for a 30th of January release. From my experiences with the game I would have thought the game would be ready in March rather than January, though its often hard to guess what developers have planned and a huge patch can always be just round the corner. It does seem to be an industry standard for developers to release incomplete MMO's. Many gamers have complained that when games are released in this state that they are paying to beta test the games, if V:SoH is released on the 30th then there will be further ammunition for these gamers. I would hate for a game with so much potential to lose a paying fanbase and fade in to obscurity because it is incomplete.
There are currently inconsistencies with the game. Some NPC's or areas can be set as waypoints automatically and others can't. I wouldn't necessarily want a compass indicator pointing me to every quest in the game as I find exploration an essential part of role-playing, all I would like is a little consistency. Even though I have accused the game of being a bit of a clone, there is a feature I would like to see. When I am close to a quest reward or important NPC I would like it flagged on the mini-map. The size of the play areas, and often vague description of NPC locations can be frustrating, at times I have had three of four completed quests in my log because I cannot immediately find the relevant NPC.
The lack of originality I have mentioned isn't necessarily a bad thing. The game takes tried and tested techniques and brings them all together. It also adds a few innovations of its own. This game clearly has potential and is a game that I am genuinely excited about. Now it's just a case of crossing fingers and hoping that any remaining issues are resolved before the games release.