Long time MMORPG fans have been following Sigil?s first title, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes rather closely. Since the lead developer of the project, Brad McQuaid, was one of the core people responsible for the original Everquest, many people consider Vanguard the ?spiritual sequel? to Everquest.
I got my first close up glance of the game at E3 and the first thing that struck me was the game wasn?t as attractive as some folks had made it out to be. It?s far too early to pass final judgment, however. Besides, those giant hi-def TVs can do strange things to the way games look.
At the core of Vanguard are four activities: harvesting, crafting, diplomacy, and adventuring. All four are fairly similar in certain regards, and can be viewed as different forms of combat. While crafting that resembles combat is nothing new (recent games like Everquest 2 have done that), harvesting has always remained a dull point-and-click affair. What Vanguard has done is make this more like its own unique type of battle. For example, when harvesting a tree, you must attempt to meet a certain quality quotient before running out of stamina, and the tree itself has its own resistance meter that must be overcome. The better you succeed at combat, the more quality and quantity you get in materials.
I mentioned diplomacy above, and you?re probably wondering what I?m talking about. Diplomacy is just what it sounds like, you vs. an NPC while you try to get your way. In many situations, it is an alternative to killing an NPC, and there will likely be many unique ways to solve quests that involve using diplomacy instead of killing everything in sight.
Combat seemed fairly typical for the genre. Sigil hopes to keep combat more active by incorporating position and interlocking abilities. One example is the ability many tank classes have to ?guard? an ally from damage, taking a percentage of the damage. This is something several other games have incorporated in one form or another, but rarely as a core ability seen early and often.
Many MMORPG?s seem to be going the route of instancing in order to solve the problem of too many players and not enough content. Many of the lead developers behind Vanguard really don?t like instancing because they feel it isolates the players too much. After all, the point of an MMO is to play in a large world with other people. Their solution to the instancing problem is with group-specific encounters in dungeons. You may run across a location or item that triggers a series of events that can only be interacted with by your party. So you will still be playing in the same game space as everyone else, but for specific events you can be assured no outside interference.
It?s clear Vanguard wants to cater to the more hardcore MMO player. It looks to be shaping up nicely, but only time will tell how well it works.