Review: Vanguard: Saga of Heroes — The MMO Gamer

Review: Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes review: Two Years Later.Staff Writer Ryan Plas delves into the world of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, to discover if it really is possible for an MMO title to rise from the dead. Read on for his review.

Oh Vanguard, how we all wanted to love you.  When you were originally released, we were excited.  The latest brainchild from two of the people who designed the original EverQuest, with art from the famed Keith Parkinson (Rest in Peace buddy, you’re missed), and gameplay designed to be a new take on the original “vision” of EverQuest, you had a lot of hype.  With Brad McQuaid pushing as hard as he could, and even a good presence on the premier EQ 1 guild site, we had high expectations.

And those expectations were dashed, and I mean strewn across every type of rock imaginable, when it came time for release.  Plagued by problems with funding, Sigil and Vanguard were dropped from Microsoft and later picked up by Sony Online Entertainment. The original release of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was a buggy, ill received mess.  There were issues galore, lack of content from 40-50, and horrbile “chunking” and performance .

People pronounced Vanguard dead in the water.  And unfortunately, Sigil as a company pretty much followed suit.  Almost the entire was team disbanded and fired, or hired into other SOE projects, from the parking lot.  It was a sad day for Vanguard and Sigil.  But while the Vanguard team today is but a fraction of what it was at release, here is the good news:  Vanguard has turned into an amazing game.  While still plagued by nagging bugs, performance has been increased dramatically and the infinitely small dev team currently at SOE has been working their tails off to make the world of Telon full of content, and more attractive to today’s MMO audience.

I want to interject here and state this; no matter what I say, or what kind of impressions I give, Vanguard may still be a sinking ship.  While there are still a myriad problems with the title, by far the biggest issue facing Vanguard today is the playerbase.  The good:  the people who currently play Vanguard are mature and sophisticated, and almost always friendly.  The bad: there is nowhere near enough of them.  People still have a bad taste in their mouth from the original release of Vanguard, and the drama that befell Sigil still appears to be holding people back from trying the title.

And that is really too bad, because if you were to try out the title today, either as a returning player, or a new face, you would be in for a treat.  The new “Isle of Dawn” content that was added as a 14 day trial for Vanguard is a GREAT starter zone, and really gives you an idea of what Vanguard could be; a top or second-tier MMO.  The content there is plentiful, the story is interesting, and the entire experience for the most part is exciting.  There are usually people on at all times of the day, crafting or adventuring, or doing Vanguards third ” sphere,” diplomacy.

Diplomacy is like acard game that people can play, designed as an entirely different way to progress or level your character.  Same thing with crafting.  Crafting in Vanguard is treated as its own 1-50 game.  And you can do either crafting or diplomacy completely separate from adventuring levels.  Granted, you may have trouble getting resources for higher level crafting, or have to purchase mob-dropped cards for the diplomacy game through the auction, but it is still possible to play them separately from your normal leveling.  And at higher diplomacy levels, you can flip “switches” in the main towns in the land of Telon that give other players buffs.  And those buffs range from crafting and diplomacy buffs, all the way to adventuring buffs such as increased HP or damage for players.  Higher end guilds frequently  keep track of what buff is up in what city, so that they aren’t fighting other guilds to get the buffs up that they might need to raid that night.

It is an interesting way to get diplomacy involved in the higher tiers of content.  Crafting, while  giving you the ability to make boats and housing for other players, hasn’t  been as instrumental at the higher levels as a lot of people would want.  But if you enjoy crafting, it is decently fun system, just keep in mind that you might not be making items that a lot of other players will want so do not go into it with making a ton of money in mind.

One of my favorite things about Vanguard is the world of Telon.  People talk about the size and look of Telon in a lot of other impressions or reviews, but you will never be able to understand the variety of content, and variety in the looks of the land if you don’t see it for yourself.  Telon is a beautiful world, with screenshot-worthy scenes almost everywhere that you turn.

There are a lot of people out there that think that Vanguard is one of the prettiest MMOs out there, and I will agree with that wholeheartedly.  From the Asian inspired continent of Kojan, to the Middle Eastern reminiscent area of Qualia and finally the typical fantasy visuals of Thestra, the different amount of themes in Vanguard can be staggering.  And the best thing about thse different places is just about everywhere you look, you can find some kind of content for your level range.  The problem that you run into, is that not all level ranges are represented as well as they should be, and their are particular areas and quest chains that you really HAVE to do in order to keep up with gear.  Content up until level 45 or so is supposed to be smooth, and then gets a little grindy from 45-50.  But after 50-55, the content becomes a major grind, through faction, tier and XP.

Recently added to help that out though is the mentoring system.  Max level players can mentor down to lower levels if they want to go back and experience content that they might have missed, while still getting kill xp at the rate that they normally would.  And while I hear that XP rate is minimal when it comes to actually level 51-55, it still is a bonus if you are the type of person who wants to experience all the content that a game has to offer.

As far as race and character choices go, Vanguard has around 15 classes and 19 races.  Races are varied and yet still alot of overflow, example being that Vanguard has 3 different human races.  But along with those, you also get your 3 elven choices, High/Wood/Dark, Dwarves, Halflings, Half giants, wolf/tiger/fox people, Gnomes, and a few others.  The classes in Vanguard feel really well done.  Most classes feel and play a little different than others of their Archetypes.  Examples being, in the tank archetype, Warriors dual wield, Paladins use a sword and shield, and Dreadknights use 2 handers.

Healers are also interesting; you have the prerequisite Clerics in plate using direct heals and Hot’s, Shamans who focus a little more on DPS, and two of the most unique classes in Vanguard:  the Bloodmage and the disciple.  Bloodmages are cloth wearing healers that actually generate healing to others through causing damage to mobs, and Disciples are a monk/healer hybrid with Jin and mana based heals.  Jin being something that Disciples get outside of mana, that regens and can be used for healing or damaging attacks.

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