By G. Lance Brazell AKA -Avalon-
Well, Vanguard has been out for over four months now. In that short amount of
time, we have seen the rise of Sigil, the fall of Sigil, SOE take over the game,
and several other changes. There have been many in-game changes. Performance has
gotten better overall, content has increased, teleports have been included, and
more. But have the characters changed much? How do the classes fare that have
changed a great deal? It is easy to research where they stood at the beginning
of the game. So, where do they stand now?
There are four main defensive fighters: Warriors, Paladins, Dread Knights,
and Inquisitors. Inquisitors were promised to be in the game at some point in
the future of the game, but as of yet, have not been included. They were
supposed to be a hybrid between warriors and psionicists, but currently all of
the information out there is speculation and rumors. Otherwise, the role of the
defensive fighter has been, and will always be, the role of the tank. A tank is
a hero who is meant to stand up in the face of insurmountable odds and take the
brunt of damage so that his/her friends can kill the enemies from safety. They
are intended to draw as much attention upon themselves as they can, and either
ignore a portion of damage, or take it and like it!
The warrior is the most straight up version of these fighters. Warriors have
undergone a few changes but not many. They have the highest amount of damage
mitigation allowing them to reduce the amount of damage they take. They also
have the most hit points, and the most armor class per point of armor they wear.
These abilities combined together make them the longest lasting of all classes,
but they do not feature a healing ability of any sort. This means that although
they can theoretically stay alive longer than any other class, they cannot
continuously fight unless a separate form of healing is included through
grouping or items. The best parts of being a warrior are the ability to wield
nearly any weapon found in either hand (dual wielding), use of shields, and
several abilities that make them more like a general than a group member. These
abilities allow the warrior to give commands to party members such as a command
that increases the target party member's damage by 10, 15, 20, or more, percent
for 8 seconds.
Paladins have been changed a decent amount. They started out as on of the worst
defensive fighters, as there was very little reason to choose to use the "Sword'n'Board"
approach to tanking. Sword'n'Board means using a one handed weapon, usually a
sword, in the primary hand, and a shield in the off-hand. Later, included in
patches, paladins were given special abilities that focused on their shields.
Although the paladins do not gain any way of using a wide variety of weapons,
and do not have any special benefits to using two-handed weapons, nor do they
gain the ability to wield weapons in each hand, they are the best at wielding a
one-handed weapon and a shield. The holy knights in this game have the usual
ability to heal, but also have the buffs and auras that allow for expert undead
fighting(which there are tons of undead, unlike other games), and also give
party members an instant endurance regeneration.
Dread Knights are not necessarily an evil breed as the name suggests. They focus
on an aura which instills fear and doubt into their opponents. They are also the
defensive fighter that has changed the most as far as I have seen, and also need
the most changing in the future. Some of their abilities are still very broken,
and the developers have said that they are in the works for being fixed, so
let's not go into those right now. The abilities that they possess truly strike
terror into any who are on the receiving end of their massive strikes. They have
not received any sort of special bonus for using the "Sword'n'Board"
style, and they cannot dual wield. So most dread knights wield two-handed
weapons in favor of the devastating damage amounts and crippling critical hits.
This is partly due to the fact that their own flavor of healing is determined by
how much damage they do on particular hits. It is easy to imagine the confusion
and terror that comes about from fighting an enemy who not only wields a weapon
as large as the target, is enshrouded in darkness and shadows, teleports around
leaving the target wondering where the next attack is coming from, and saps away
the target's very life energies to fuel their own ability to continue to fight.
Even though the role of the offensive fighter has remained the same, the way
they perform has changed pretty dramatically. The offensive fighters are
rangers, rogues, bards, monks, and berserkers. Yet again, we were promised the
berserker at some point, but have yet to see or hear much about them. The rest
are out and have seen many changes from the launch of the game to the current
state. The point of an offensive fighter's existence is to produce massive
amounts of damage. As time has gone by, another definition has been added: to
allow the group to deal amazing amounts of damage above and beyond what they
normally would do without the offensive fighter.
The base model for the offensive fighter was supposedly the monk. At first,
monks were among the best characters in the game, even though they had no way of
healing themselves much like the other fighter base type, the warrior. The monk
has the ability to choose from three specializations, each focusing on different
things. The dragon style focuses on pure damage from their own attacks; the
harmonious style focuses on causing vulnerabilities in their foes that can be
taken advantage of by other party members; and the drunken master who focuses on
parrying and dodging their enemies' attacks to turn the tide against them. The
monk has since seen many of their attacks lose potency and cost more endurance
to activate, leaving the monk as one of the least played classes in the game.
Rogues have come a long ways on the other hand. They started as undoubtedly the
weakest class in the game and become a very handy hero to have on your team.
They can barely stand on their own two feet when fighting alone, but add a tank
to grab the opponent's attention, give the rogue a good solid back to aim at,
and the rogue will slaughter the enemy! They are one of the most dynamic of
classes in that positioning makes a huge difference. They pride themselves on
the ability to take advantage of almost any vulnerability in the game to grant
themselves great boons in the damage dealing category.
Bards started strong, and became a little weaker over time in some areas, but
stronger in others. They are the one class who really does not need a mount in
the game. They can compose songs that will make the bard and whoever is grouped
with them travel and enormous speeds, levitate, and be invisible, all while
traveling the massive world. Other than traveling, the bard also has components
to put in their songs that allow the group to deal upwards of fifty percent more
damage, regenerate health and mana, and cause secondary damage types like fire
and cold. In those raid situations where NOT taking damage from special attacks
can be very important to the survival of the party, they also have awesome
abilities to add resistances to the group. All of these components are used in
yet the best part of the class: song-making. Unlike in other games, the bards of
Vanguard have a unique song tool that allows them to craft their own special
songs unique to each bard!
The ranger has not moved much overall, but has changed a great deal in the
process. They started as one of the best classes for dealing damage in either
ranged or melee combat. Through a series of patches they have been dropped and
bumped up by varying amounts throughout the four months, only to arrive almost
where they started. Rangers can handle almost anything within reason by
themselves by slowing the movements of the enemy, poisoning them, setting them
aflame, running circles around them firing deadly arrows with extreme precision,
and finishing them with one of the best critical chains ever created. The ranger
wins the "rollercoaster power curve" for having been through all of
the changes and not really being all that different in the end, as well as
repeating the basic moral of life, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it!"
The defensive casters of Vanguard come in four variations currently: Clerics,
Shamans, Disciples, and Blood Mages. The basic role of this type is to heal and
keep the party alive through defensive methods. Some of these methods include
buffs, debuffs cast on the enemy, and in some cases outright damage dealt to the
enemy because a dead enemy deals no damage.
The disciple is the tragedy of the game. They began as a sort of monk-healer
type hybrid, able to dish out huge amounts of damage (for a healer) and heal
their party members while doing so. They do not have any real enhancements to
place on friendlies, nor do they have any real spells to cast on the opponents.
They harness the energy called "Jin" to empower their attacks with
healing or damaging abilities. Unfortunately, through various patches, the
disciple has crashed down amongst the weakest of classes to land at the bottom.
They have been somewhat buffed back up, but it does not look like they will ever
again be what they were at the beginning. Now they do about the same amount of
damage as any other healer, have some basic heals, and do a modicum of healing
with their attacks. This makes them often looked at as the third choice of
healer for a group, and usually the group wants a second healer type along with
The shaman is pretty cool. It has three choices just like the monk, but their
choices make a big difference in the future of the character. These choices are
bear, wolf, and phoenix! The bear pet is a tank, does decent damage, but can
take a licking and keep on ticking. The wolf is fast, furious, and fun. It deals
damage like an offensive fighter, but takes it like one also, making for a dead
wolfy if no one is there to take the attention off of them. Finally, the phoenix
is like having a pocket nuke at all times. It cannot take any damage at all, but
continuously fires off blast after blast of high powered damage dealing magic.
The shaman can tank decently for a healer, which is to say not much at all, but
enough to handle weaker enemies but need a tank for tougher ones.
The blood mage is a great new class that unfortunately is not in demand most
times mostly because the players who play them pretend they are sorcerers with a
bit of healing, not healers with a bit of nukage. The blood mage gains life
almost every time they damage the enemy. They also have the ability to siphon
that damage, or their own life, into their friends, healing them instead. Along
with some of the best buffs in the game, and some truly great straight heals,
the blood mage is a very formidable addition to any party. They also have the
ability to augment their friends and enemies using symbiotes which they harvest
from living enemies and attach to others. Some of the effects include charming
an enemy by taking over its brain, adding spikes that damage attackers, and
making their own blood more conducive to transfers to friends and enemies.
Clerics are almost a completely new breed, even though they have been in almost
every game out there. Every other game has the cleric as the poor weakling that
needs a tank at all times to protect them from dangerous things like dragons,
minotaurs, and the occasional rabid paper bag. Vanguard instead puts the cleric
in the position of a strong hero who can solo through almost every fight they
get into on their way to the top. The cleric has the best heals, which are
almost non-interruptible to begin with; the best buffs overall, some of which
make their spells less interruptible; and great secondary spells that allow for
mass carnage and mayhem. This makes for a character who wears heavy plate armor,
can take a few good hits, can heal the damage they take, and not be interrupted
while doing so. Clerics are amongst the strongest of heroes in Vanguard, and
have been changed hardly at all, except for a few enhancements to their power.
The final archetype in Vanguard is the offensive caster. They include
sorcerers, psionicists, druids, and necromancers. Their role in the game is the
same as it was in the beginning: deal tons of damage in some manner to the enemy
and do it fast!
The sorcerer is the basic blaster of the game, and has changed some, but still
focuses on the same thing. They burn, freeze, and blast their enemies to
smithereens in very small amounts of time. Their spells also usually have
secondary effects. The fire based spells have a damage-over-time effect that
follows after their initial burst. The frost spells have either a snaring effect
that slows the enemy down or roots them to the spot entirely. The arcane blasts
return a small amount of energy to their mana pool allowing for more follow-up
The psionicists is just a pretty name for an old-time favorite, the enchanter.
They hold monsters in place by hypnotizing them and placing them in a trance
state. Also, they can trick an enemy into believing it is being attacked by a
clone of itself. Other tricks of the trade include changing their appearance
with illusions, and messing with time. All in all, this class seems the least
focused overall. It is called a psionicists, because it can mess with the mind,
but it can also control time which has nothing to do with the mind. It is a lot
like the enchanter of old, but it can create clones of enemies and perform other
non-enchanterly activities. I think it is a collection of abilities the
developers wanted to have in the game, and labeled under a title that sounds
cool and fits a decent portion of their abilities.
Druids seem to be the most confused class in history at this point. No one can
figure out exactly what they are supposed to be doing. They are a protector of
all things natural by definition, but in prior games they were included as
healer types meant to keep the group alive and going. In Vanguard, they were
originally called "Arcane Casters", but that didn't float with the
vast majority of players who cut their teeth on pen and paper rpg's like
Dungeons and Dragons where the druid was a divine class. So the name was changed
a few times, and over all, offensive caster has been the universally accepted
archetype since. But that still leaves us with the question of how is the druid
an offensive caster, not a defensive caster. The developers answered this with
the spell lists. Druids have some very potent blasts, but also have the damage
over time variants that allow for killing things slowly while running around in
circles (kiting). They have some good buff spells, too. The most potent thing in
their arsenal though, is called Phenomenon Points. With these, the druid can
deal truly wondrous amounts of damage in different ways; one of them is calling
down a meteor to smite his/her foes into dust!
The final offensive caster is called the Necromancer, or necro for short. The
necro is able to summon a zombie for a pet, raise dead enemies for an army, sap
the life from the living, and cause the ones who do not succumb to the overall
godliness of the necro to just simply run away. Probably the best soloing
classes in the game are the cleric and the necro. Necros can tackle three or
four enemies by themselves by starting at just one, killing it, raising it,
fighting against two more by fearing them to make one run away, sending the two
pets (zombie and ex-enemy) against that one while rooting the other and sapping
its life to fuel the necro's fighting ability, and on and on. The necro is the
class that requires the most concentration overall, followed closely by the
blood mage, which is often thought of as the little brother to the necro due to
its ability to siphon off life energies to feed the caster.
The classes have changed a great deal. Some have changed more than others,
and a few have been killed effectively in the process. The ranger has been on a
rollercoaster, the rogue has been given a red bull to drink, and the disciple
can rest in peace. The rest really have been better off and the ones who haven't
changed much are no worse for wear. The only question still lingering around,
though, is, "Where are the inquisitor and berserker??"