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May 21, 2007
Vanguard - A Diplomatic Review
 

By G. Lance Brazell Aka: -Avalon-

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is one of the newest online games on the market today. It features many different elements from various successful games. Features such as a versatile user interface, a well rounded quest system, and enhanced travel methods. I think the game needs to be looked at in a different approach.

The game includes a game to manipulate one of the three spheres, diplomacy. To play the game of diplomacy, one needs to understand the pieces of the game. There are four suits: reason, flattery, inspire, and demand. Everyone knows what they mean in a basic way. For instance, a red card, demand, means that the player is requiring and forcing their statement or actions on the non-player character. But, let us apply these suits in a different way.

Flattery

Vanguard is a very gear-centric game, pretty much like every other online game out there. For what hero would rather be called "The Knight in a Patchwork Tunic" versus "The Knight in Shining Armor"? What fool would challenge the deadly flame breathing dragon with his somewhat trusty toothpick, sorry, rusty dagger?

Nay, gear-centric is unfortunately a major way of being for online games. Not only does the better equipment help your character survive the new challenges of the next dungeon around the bend. It also provides a character status within their server, and possibly even the game itself. But what better and higher level gear does best, is make the character look the look. If the best armor in the game looked like a barnacle ridden, rusty suit of plate mail, then what fair maiden would lower herself to even think of asking the knight wearing it to go forth and save her kingdom?

Vanguard hosts a large variety of equipment both crafted in the forges and shops, and dropped by slain enemies. These items come with an even larger variety of benefits. Unlike in some games, here heavy armor actually has a huge difference in armor bonus over the next tier, medium armor, which has just as much difference under it to the light armors. Axes can do the most damage potentially, but can also do the least damage potentially due to the large difference between its minimum and maximum damages, whereas a long sword has a very tight damage ratio and gives a more consistent damage output.

Equipment in Vanguard also has some of the best designs and artwork thanks to the work of Keith Parkinson and other artists on the Sigil crew. Even some of the lowest level outfits look somewhat heroic, and the weapons look anywhere from mundane as can be on up to brilliantly forged from master dwarves of ancient times.












Inspire


Speaking of artwork, the quality does not stop at the gear. Some of the scenes in the game are so wondrous and awe-inspiring, that it has caused skeptical players who did not think much of the game at first to pre-order the game during beta testing. With the recent performance boosts, and additional artwork patched into the game, it truly is a masterpiece of eye-candy.

Along with the artwork, the soundtracks are pure beauty. Players can hear the Arabic music of Qalia, or visit the High Elf lands around Leth Nurae to hear ethereal vocals. In dungeons, the sounds turn to dark mystery and danger, which is especially potent when combined with a very detailed ten foot tall gleaming black spider so real one would half expect to see real poison dripping from its fangs!

The game continues to draw players back over and over. Players are making videos showcasing the art and sounds of the game. The castle of New Targonor perched upon its seaside cliff. The green mist clad ruins of Trengal Keep with the winged dark shapes barely seen in the sky only hinting at the dangers that lay within.








Demand

One of the harshest parts of this game is its requirements. The game truly needs a decent computer just to run it on its lowest settings. Players, since beta, have been posting tweaks that can be made to the client to be able to trick the game into running better on lower end machines. But by doing so, players are doing a couple of things. First, the game seems to not like being messed with, as the more it is tweaked the more often CTDs (crashes to desktop) seem to happen. And, secondly, it cheats the player out of seeing what the game really has to offer visually, and, as sound being turned off bumps the performance a great deal, musically.

The game is akin to trying to do some of the higher end race tracks with all the turns and twists. If someone tries to take a ford Taurus on the track, they are going to be sorely upset over the performance, whereas if they took one of the tinkered high power racecars to try it out, they may actually place in the top twenty.



Reason

It is a fine balance. The developers have already said that they had a choice when they made the game. Paraphrased, the choice was to either plan the game around today's capabilities and in two years it would need improved heavily to keep up with the newer technology, or plan two years ahead and build it for then so that the game would have a great deal of longevity. This trade-off has its prices though, and stability on machines of today is one of them. As time goes by though, players will start to have better machines, but will Vanguard have been forgotten by then because so few could play it back when it came out?

 
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