Vanguard: Saga of Heroes finally installed. I was curious because fans called this a "hardcore experience in the biggest online world to explore" (paraphrasing here) and I was interested in being immersed in a digital secondary world that did not lead me by the hand, where I really got this feeling of exploring a fantasy world the way I wanted, one step at a time.
There were a lot of character creation options, which is a good thing. One of the biggest drawbacks of a game like World of Warcraft, for me, is the limited choices in building characters. As a tabletop roleplayer, I love to be able to use my imagination in creating a character. After checking out the various options - most classes being limited in levels due to it being free to play - I decided on a dark-skinned human guy, more specifically a Qaliathari. For his class, I went for Sorcerer. Basically, he ended up looking and feeling like an underpowered Quick Ben (from Steven Erikson's oft-mentioned-on-this-blog series). Having finished the character, I was excited in that geeky love-for-fantasy way, you know, like opening a new book and you have no idea what's going to happen except that you'll be vowed by...the fantasy of imaginary places and people.
Upon entering the game, I was asked whether I wanted to start out on the Island of Dawn or my Homeland. Not understanding what the choice implied, I went for the Homeland-option. I wanted to see where I came from, where I lived, you know, get a flavor of the continent of Qalia, and its residents, the Qaliathari. And so began the adventures of...well, I admit I forgot his name.
He woke up, standing rigid on a sandy cliff. All around him, horribly big bugs were scuttling about. There were plants there, glowing faintly; the sky was dark - it was night. There were three people also standing on this cliff, and as he looked around, he saw that a tower - or was it a lighthouse? - rose from the compound on the height above the sea.
He walked over to one of the others, a woman with a glowing shield above her head.
She asked him if he could do her a favor and kill a number of those bugs everywhere. She did look more than capable to do it herself, but he guessed she could be lazy.
The man next to her had a request too; and so he found himself not only killing bugs by repeatedly throwing magic lightning at them, but also gathering those glowing plants he had noticed earlier.
Yes, Vanguard's start wasn't very promising. It was basically like 90% of the other MMORPGs out there. Collect X, kill X. Having completed these two first straightforward quests, the program decided to shut down unexpectedly. I fired it up again, because there was something that made it appealling, regardless of the graphics being outdated (I do not care that much about graphics though, as long as gameplay and story is good).
He was told to go to the southeast, where lay a Qaliathari village. Here, he would meet up with someone with a complicated name, for further adventures. This new man asked him if he could go down into the valley and destroy scorpions, scuttling about everywhere. He agreed to this, but not before taking a look around.
It took a long time, moving his head around - the lag in the village was truly terrible, slowing everything down. The man also told him of another man who provided training for sorcerers, so he decided to go there first. In the man's tent, he learned a new spell.
Going outside into the village again, he forgot the crippling lag, tried to move around too quickly, thereby forcing the shutdown of the world again.
Two crashes, lag, in the first half hour or so of exploring. My frown deepened.
He was back, standing in the village. He decided to go down the valley and see what was up with those scorpions. He killed a few with his magic lightning, hitting them hard until they stopped moving. Stifling a yawn, he decided he was tired.
Now, for a moment or two there I was actually immersed. It reminded me of another MMO that could have been so much more: Star Wars Galaxies. It promises a huge open-world game, and it may yet lure me back in for further adventure, because it promises a number of immersive details like housing, shipwrighting (I know it's probably not a word), seamless boundaries between dungeons and overland, etc. It is supposed to be old-school, but the introduction was merely old.
I've also played a couple of Magic: The Gathering Online games, and have entered the second half of Erikson's Forge of Darkness, dreaming of a MMO set in the world of Malaz which would be awesome if, well, it had some production designers who dared go beyond the standards of the genre.
Still loving fantasy.