Monday, June 13, 2011

Vanguard- Forever?

Sometimes I think I could stare at the sky, in Tealon, forever...
This is the first post in a series I want to work on, trying to compile some information for Vanguard while documenting my thoughts and ideas as I play through the game, as well as [trying to] help bring some new blood into the game. Lengthy post inc!

Since SOE handed out game time for all of my games with the welcome back promotion,Vanguard has been on my mind. I actually had to reinstall it, I don't remember removing it but I install so many games on a regular basis it is a possibility. Anyhow, I decided to wait a bit on Vanguard until the mood hit me and, yep, the mood hit me last week. Is it worth it? Is the game dead? Why should one even bother playing Vanguard? Well, maybe you can even help Vanguard grow. Read on and find out how and how it's going for me

I've never played Vanguard past the Isle of Dawn, so these are my thoughts through the eyes of a fresh player. Ok, I lied, I tried it at launch and removed the game the next day, my computer ran it like hell and I had some issues with bugs. Point is, I didn't get to scratch the surface, at all. I'm an eleven year MMO veteran who has not felt like a such a newb in years. But it is all good. It is fun to learn things and feel that things are fresh and new, not letting things get you down and keep pushing forward.

The biggest problem I have is acquiring information about Vanguard. There is info out there but you really, really have to dig for it. So, this long winded post maybe will help a few newbies out there- and as long as I continue to play I will continue to compile information and links I find. The biggest bit of advice I can offer is ASK the community. Those players in the game have a wealth of knowledge. Maybe there is a player who won't help you, there are others out there willing to aid you because they want to see new players come to this game and stay. Don't be afraid to ask. I probably get on peoples nerves, however I do ask questions but mostly because I cannot find information for it online- or sometimes I'm too tired to look.

Starting out. You might not like the first class you try. From my experience some characters don't start to shine until around level ten and I've heard some not until 14 or 15. Try a few out, class mechanics are different and while you may hate one class you may find you love another. Don't base the game off trying one class.

The Isle of Dawn is a very interesting starting area. It has a nice feel and offers a lot of fun quests. I've heard it is best to start out here so I did. I think with my next character I may skip it just so I can see the original starting areas. It's not a huge deal. I found out, after leaving the isle (you can only leave at level 10, by porting with the riftway), there is a very nice reward worth doing this for- Sadly I cannot find an actual of link for it. Bracelet of Charms. Supposedly it increases in power every ten levels.

Limited flying is still handy.
I did try my hand at grouping on the island and it's really hit or miss. I managed to group with a seven year old who couldn't type, at one point, probably the best player I met there- to people who rush forward and die,  and others who were quite nice. The first dungeon was buggy and the 'air lift' bugged us quite a few times to where we had to [/stuck yes] port out and run back in. So many times that I had enough after an hour. It would be nice if SOE would keep up on this stuff and at least fix it. There are nice rewards if you can get through the dungeon, I just ended up giving up and moving on.

Vanguard has two servers, EU and US. While the population is small there is still a population. I found people to either totally ignore me or be extremely helpful. Being the social creature I am, I looked for a guild once off the island and joined up with one. A small friendly guild, the only one to answer my lonely cry for friends ;) I was very happy to find them.

Once off the island I wanted to know two things. Where do get a horse and where do you set your bind/recall to? Which led to, where do I get my recall spell at? Mounts. You can buy these in major cities. Ok, great. Where are the major cities? Anyone? Hello?! Google? Nothing?! For crying out loud!! Thankfully a kindhearted player helped me get my bearings.

For those wondering how- Veskal's Exchange, if you're not there you can use the riftway stone to port there. Once there grab a griffon and fly to Leth Nurae, the griffon will only last four minutes but that is more than enough time to fly there. The location is to the North West and you can see it listed on the in-game map (it is sort of embedded in the mountains). Once there ask a guard where to find the stables. The marker on your compass will show you the direction you need to go. The mounts cost about twelve silver and you'll want to grab some barding while you're there and maybe horseshoes. I forgot those. They will add a slight speed increase to your mount and the barding will add the look of some tack on your horse, instead of it looking like you're riding bareback.

So excited here, my first mount. Always very exciting for me!
Before you go you may want to set your bind location. Most of these are just outside the towns/outposts. The one in VE is just to the West, down the path a bit. Click on the binding stone and it sets your recall point there. Where is the recall ability? If you open your spell book and hit the general tab it should be there. If it isn't, go to your class trainer (in the outpost) and train for it. If you started on the island you'll most likely have to do this.

So, those are my few tidbits of newbie knowledge. Maybe you die, what happens? You lost xp. If you summon your tombstone (no corpses) to a stone you will take a 7% experience loss and lose durability. When you die you lose 9% experience. If you run back to your tombstone you only lose 1-2% I've heard both and this information is just what I've researched and asked around. I've also been told that if you die too often you also gain an xp penalty but you can never lose your level.

Death, check out the UI while I take a dirt nap... under the world.
So, off to the new large, expansive world! The world is quite lovely, I could get lost easily if it weren't for my handy-dandy map. And that map is handy, quest objectives will show up if you track them, not all but a lot of them will. It is not the prettiest map I've ever seen but it functions. While I'm out and about, exploring, my mount isn't super fast but it helps me feel like I am adventuring- and really it isn't that slow. I suppose I've not had the chance to try a faster one, so I'd think it feels pretty fast. But the world has depth. You really feel like you are adventuring. This is how I thought Rift would feel like. Mobs are not packed so densely that you cannot explore without fighting through waves of mobs and falling off your mount like an idiot who can't ride. It is enjoyable- adventuring. The grass and trees sway in the wind and when it rains... you can't see the rain. Yeah, an ongoing issue I've read about. But the world feels immense and mysterious even with a few imperfections. I love the sky in this game. This is what I have been craving for, thus far at least.

Vanguard isn't for the faint of heart. While soloing is very possible I'm told that the group part of the game is what makes it. I try to group anytime I can. However, at my level soloing when I can seems fine. I hear it can get tough. Some people say soloing is impossible to the cap, others say it is quite possible. I don't think it is impossible but it probably is a bit slower if you only solo. I wanted to group all I could so I made a cleric. The cleric is supposedly the slowest dps in the game but it is slow and steady. I can hold my own, in most cases. Not always! Sometimes I have to run or even die. I will try my hardest to solo and group as I can, making the upward journey to the cap.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to play Vanguard was that I wanted questing and a game that offered more than just soloing all the time and more rewards other than just shiny loot. But- If I have to solo, I'd like some questing, instead of grinding (EQ anyone?). While I try often to find groups, I don't always find them. So far it feels alright to quest. I can hold my own and do what I need for experience. Experience is a bit slow but I'm not in a big rush to fly through things. I still have a lot to learn. There are plenty of quests about and I've heard that you will not be able to complete everything with one character. You also gain an ability to lock your xp bar and stop leveling, so you won't out level content. I doubt I do this but it is a nice option.

A few other things I like and look forward to would be things like: Mentoring, the brotherhood system, guild halls, housing, boats, mounts, flying mounts (free reindeer mount for Christmas!) fishing, crafting, diplomacy- to name a few. I also like that guild halls and houses are out in the open world! Appearance tabs make me happy too, I match already! I bought a cheap set of gear that looked sweet. You can use the appearance tab at level one, if you wish. You also change sets when you do different things such as diplomacy or gathering and crafting- A cool aspect. Things I love. You can move and cast. You can get knocked off a mount, which has only happened to me maybe...twice? But you can keep running and get back on your mount while you do. Very cool! You slow down a tad but you're still moving.

Flying some more, I don't fly as much as I could, really.
So it is a pretty game and all, the graphics may be a little dated but the game isn't a dinosaur like UO or EQ. Heck, I still like Everquest graphics and these are far better. How is the UI and combat? The UI is nice, it is still decent and it isn't far from what you're use to in a new MMO. There are customizable UIs out there I've read, you'll have to hunt around for them. There are also add-ons for the game and in the options you can move around your bars and what not on the screen to your preference. Combat? I enjoy it. It isn't slow like Everquest (sometimes I take a nap between EQ kills), but is isn't bam, bam, bam, like WoW. I think it has a nice leisurely pace. There are foods you can eat to regen health and mana. I find, as a cleric, I don't have any down time from mob to mob, maybe to regen a little 'energy'. You don't just use mana for attacks, so as a cleric this is nice for me having extra to save for heals and my damage shield.

There is a community and I am sure it is quite top heavy. There is content at high end and much through the whole game to last you about a year, so I hear. The players in this world  do enjoy making alts, I don't think I met too many new players, most were alts. I did meet a couple though. So you won't be alone leveling, I saw plenty of people in my travels and so many people buff you as they pass by. It was such a nice thing! I found myself buffing others quite often too.

I love my mount!
The biggest hindrance Vanguard SOH currently has- No development and basically some wonder how many people are even on the team for this game. I think this has pushed many people away from the game, I mean who wants to play a 'forgotten' game? I saw a player mention, the other day, there is no gear reset, no endless carrot for purples over and over. I suppose that is one way to look at it, enticing, let's get off the treadmill. There are bugs and I think the game needs a bit more love, nothing groundbreaking, but I did manage to fall through the world- careful swimming near the shore, I have gone under it several times while trying to climb up. I managed to swim under and fall below the world and die. A tip another player told me would be to do a [/stuck yes] command, but this takes sixty seconds to execute, I died within two. Some dev love would really benefit this game. I don't know if I'd want more levels as, I'd say, more content for high end. I think those people deserve it.

A guild member lending a helping hand with some quests.
I read on the forums how people have tried and tried to get SOE to actually support this game and stop treating it like the redheaded stepchild. There have been fan-sites and the like trying to breathe life into the community and it never works, I keep reading over and over. But some people don't want to give up. Recently I saw Ardwulf is joining the crusade and trying to get people to join the ranks of vanguard. His hopes are for numbers, players, that they will get the game development. If you have numbers, a game is worth spending time developing, you get the picture. I think it is a great idea to try to help the community grow. But, we need players, numbers, for this to happen. Check out his site(s) Vanguard Forever and MMO Axis to check on progress or even offer advice and tips or find some information. Ardwulf is hoping to also compile information for Vanguard there, which would be such a great help. Please, you wise Vanguard veterans, feed us your knowledge! I think this could be really helpful for new players that are less tenacious as myself, a little bit of information goes a long way for a new player, helping them learn and get their feel for a game instead of giving up in frustration.

There are also the official Vanguard forums. They can be quiet at times but they hold a lot of valuable information. In time I hope to compile more information and links for the game. I just have not found that many so far. One of the best that I've found is Silky Venom, though I don't know how up-to-date it is.

A helpful player, helping me retrieve my corpse.
If you are looking for a solid game that isn't about the endless carrot and has some real depth, I urge you to give Vanguard SOH a try. It has come a long way and I think it still has quite a bit of life left in it. You can tell that this game had a lot of love and thought put into it, you can almost feel it echo through the game. There are still people playing and there is a welcoming community waiting. Tired of every game feeling the same as the next? Take a detour. Try it out. You just might like it. I will try my hardest to stick with this game. I have been looking for something to keep me hooked and interested, for quite awhile. I suppose it all depends if I am able to solo when I cannot find a group, as a newer player I have yet to find out just how hard the grind is. Any veterans wanting to add in some tops, please feel free to!

If you want to read some more in-depth information, here is an excellent read. Here is another great read from a player who wants to give Vanguard a second chance. Want to try the trial? Make a station account (or use an existing one) and download it with the Station Launcher. If you'd like to add my lowly cleric to friends, feel free to! My in-game name is Heavenli.

Since the station launcher has so many issues lately, and I was told by support it is no longer supported. You may want to install the game from here. A direct link to many SOE games from their knowledge base.

See you in Tealon!

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