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Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Sigil Games Online
Media: DVD/2
Players: MMO
Genre: MMORPG/ Card Games

Graphics & Sound:

PC Gamers looking for a new MMORPG to throw at their cutting edge Gaming PC need look no further. You need a pretty powerful rig to do Vanguard: Saga of Heroes justice, but if you've got the graphics hardware, Vanguard will keep its part of the bargain. The environments are beautiful, with trees that move in the wind and dynamic weather; if it rains hard enough, expect to see flooding in low-lying areas.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes lets you choose from First Person view or Third Person View from a wide range of distances and from any angle. You can switch to First Person View by pressing F9, or by simply zooming in while in Third Person until you are looking out through your character's eyes. While I think this is an interesting way to treat the view, I think it may contribute to some of the clipping issues I've seen. Certain spots and viewing angles will result in seeing your character's head from the inside, resulting in a gruesome look, where eyeballs are disembodied and floating inside of the circle that is your character's head. This is not really a show stopper, but was a bit disconcerting early on in the game; it seemed to happen more frequently when I was first playing, assumedly occurring less as I got a better feel for distance and played in First Person View when in more cramped areas.

The music in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is excellent. I know this not only because I have heard it myself, but because my wife comments on how beautiful the music is every time I play it. This is important in a game that is to be played for hours and hours. The soothing orchestral music is, surprisingly, not limited to instrumentals, but there are a few with lyrics in what I assume is some fictional language -- perhaps elven? At any rate, these songs are just as beautiful sounding as the instrumentals and manage to avoid sounding comical, as the music in The Sims does with it's fictitious lyrics.

The sound effects in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes are, in general, pretty well done. There are a few things that stand out from time to time, however. One that springs to mind is a tavern where everyone seems to be somewhere between disillusioned and disgruntled; every few seconds you'll hear another person sigh in disgust. Most of the sound effects, however, do a good job of filling it with atmosphere without taking attention away from the game.


Gamers looking for a MMORPG with more choices and diversity will either be very thankful for the choices in Vanguard or overwhelmed to the point of not being able to make a choice. You have fifteen races from three continents and a total of 15 classes to choose from. That's not the end of the choices either. Even though you make your original choice of race and class, once you are in the game, you'll determine which of three spheres you want to focus on -- something that you can choose to change dynamically as you play. You can choose from the typical adventuring sphere, work on advancing in the Harvesting/Crafting sphere, or try your hand at Diplomacy, where you can work your way up to an influential place in your world.

I found myself drawn to the Diplomacy aspects, regardless of which character I was playing. The point at which I truly realized that I really liked the Diplomacy aspect was when I realized that I had been playing for over three hours in a session and had not killed anything in two of those hours.

Crafting things is an important aspect of Vanguard, which many players specialize in, but I found it difficult to follow and advance very much. I did try the Harvesting aspect of it a bit, but never could get started in the Crafting aspects. I think the important point here is that with Adventuring, Harvesting, Crafting and Diplomacy, there's probably something for everyone.

The Diplomacy game is actually a "Collectible Card Game" that is completely located inside of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. You are rewarded some cards to start with when you first learn diplomacy, then can gain new ones temporarily in certain areas (by enchantment) or as rewards for completion of diplomatic quests. As an interesting twist, you can parlay with almost every NPC in the game. The trick is that you have to build up a certain amount of "presence" for that Non-Playing Character (NPC)'s area, whether it be Academic Presence, Military Presence, Crafting Presence, etc. You will need to improve your Diplomacy skills and then start off engaging novice NPCs in an area before you'll build up enough presence to be able to approach more advanced NPCs. Mind you, you'll need to build real strategies and work on improving your deck of Diplomacy cards as you go, because the challenge increases as you work your way up through the NPCs.

One side note, for those who aren't big into using a keyboard when playing games... I tested Vanguard: Saga of Heroes with the Sandio 3D Game O' gaming mouse, and found that I could do pretty much anything I needed outside of conversing with other players using the mouse alone. The 6 degrees of freedom allowed me to have complete control of my characters' movement and the 12 programmable buttons allowed me to map my macros. If you're looking to get away from using the keyboard so much, you might want to check it out.


Learn quickly, but try out whatever stupid stuff you feel is necessary before reaching level 7. You see, you don't "qualify for the death penalty until level 7". After that, you'll suffer Experience Penalties and have to retrieve your items from a tombstone that is erected where you died. This means that you'll have less of your items and you'll have to fight your way back in to fetch them. You can summon your items at certain shrines in the game, but you will have to pay a fee and suffer worse experience losses. One thing that helps to ward against these penalties a bit is to soul-bind your items. This can be done with some items, and once an item is soul-bound, it will stay with you, even through death. The downside is that you won't be able to sell that item after this binding.

Finding quests can be as easy as looking around your area for NPCs with a certain symbol above their heads and talking to them. This is really easy for the first few quests, then gets a bit more complicated as it goes on. Quests are primarily for Adventuring, but you can keep busy outside of quests through Harvesting, Crafting and Diplomacy, so you should never find yourself with nothing to do.

If you find that you're lost in a city, you can talk to a guard (either one at a post or one wandering through the city) and they will usually be able to give you directions to some of the more popular places you might want to find. Another thing that worked for me was to ask some of the other players for directions. If you try to be polite and stay in character, you're likely to get good results from this method. I had trouble finding a mailbox, for example, and asking around a bit got me some really good directions to one pretty quickly.

Some things are simply too hard to find, for one reason or another. If you find yourself unable to find something, it may be closer to where you were when you first started looking than you thought. Several times I totally missed something and wandered off looking further away before eventually finding that what I sought had been under my nose. If all else fails, search online. There are some nice fan sites out there that are working on cataloging quest information. Remember to give back, though... most of these sites allow visitors to post additional information. If the website helps you and you end up discovering more information or the entry wasn't completely correct, post something to help out the next guy.

My one last note on difficulty is a tip, really. Learn to use the Macros. You can make a hot key macro that will execute one (or many) commands in a single press. While most places tell you that you can't use it for multiple attacks in the same click, that's not completely true. You can only successfully launch a single attack when you use a macro button, but that has to do mainly with the timing -- the commands are quickly issued one after the other, while the attacks themselves take time before you can execute a second one. The trick is that different attacks may use different meters to determine when they can be executed and will have different recharge times. I find it very useful to make a single macro that calls my favorite attacks sequentially in order of my preference (usually larges damage first, but sometimes preempted by duration or area of effect attacks). Then, I can simply keep firing off the macro; it will successfully use the first attack that I can actually perform at that time. This allows me to decide how I would want to select my attacks in advance and then let my macro convert a more mindless button-mashing attack style into the appropriate attacks based on my status at the time I'm fighting.

Two other things worth mentioning for those who find Vanguard difficult are server selection and special events. Certain servers allow for Players to attack other Players. These are called "FFA" (Free-for-All) servers. If you want to reduce the number of people who can attack you, stay off of these servers. As for special events, there will occasionally be some promotional event, such as a "Double Experience Weekend". Keep yourself informed of these events, and they'll help you earn your levels much faster. They're rare, so you don't want to miss one.

Game Mechanics:

When it comes to graphically intensive games like this one, you get what you pay for; you'll need a powerhouse PC to get everything out of Vanguard. That having been said, I was able to have an enjoyable time on my Sony VAIO from a couple of years back and even my laptop. You'll need to pull back a bit on the special effects if you're not slinging the latest hardware, but Vanguard can still provide a pretty environment for your adventures to take place in.

Some of the names of NPCs and the Quest instructions can be a bit misleading. In the end, it will make sense, but at the time, I was pretty sure I was supposed to beat that 50th level "Cowardly Soldier". Sure, I can look back and laugh NOW, but at the time it was a bit confusing. Always look for things close to where you're given a quest, unless otherwise instructed. 'Nuff said.

I found the Diplomacy Game to be an innovative twist and a fun aspect of Vanguard. As I mentioned, I would be drawn towards this sphere of gameplay with each character that I created, given enough time. It provides a rewarding way to learn more about the realm while advancing your rank in society. I just wish that you could play Diplomacy against other players.

The clipping issues were annoying from time to time. It seems that they become less frequent as you learn to control your character's movement more and get a better feel for proximity, but it still can be aggravating.

All-in-all, I found Vanguard: Saga of Heroes to be an addictive MMORPG, offering more choice that other games in its genre. If you're looking for interesting and innovative content, more variation in race and class and new lands to explore, then I'll see you in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes!

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP, Intel 2.4 GHs / AMD 2400+ or higher, 512 MB RAM, 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible computer with keyboard or input device. Vertex and Pixel shader 2.0 compatible hardware with 128M of texture memory. 100% DirectX compatible sound card, 56K+ Internet Connection, 16X DVD-ROM, 20 GB Hard Drive Space

Test System:

Played on two systems:

Sony VAIO VGC-R820G:
Intel Pentium 4E, 3.2 GHz (Intel Grantsdale i915), 1 GB RAM, AMI BIOS, Radeon X300 Series (128 MB), Realtek HD Audio, Floppy disk drive, 200 GB 7200 RPM, Serial-ATA/150 Maxtor HD (24760 MB free), DVD-ROM, Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-108, Sony SDM-HS73 Monitor, Cable Modem, Sandio Game 'O game 6 Degree of Freedom gaming mouse
HP Special Edition L2999 Notebook PC:
Windows XP Home Edition SP2, AMD Turion 64 ML-37 2.0 GHz/1MB L2 Cache, 2.0 GB DDR SDRAM, 80 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive, DVD +/-RW/R & CD-RW Combo w/ Double Layer Support, 14.0 WXGA BrightView Widescreen (1280x768), ATI Radeon Xpress 200M w/productivity ports, 54g 802.11b/g WLAN w/ 125HSM/SpeedBooster, DirectX 9.0c (from included disc), built-in keyboard, touchpad

Windows Galactic Civilization II: Dark Avatar Sony PlayStation Portable Capcom Puzzle World

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated