Thursday, July 28, 2011

Further Trials of Telon

I've been continuing my unlikely trial of Vanguard and I'm definitely seeing some things that I like, but also some things that I don't.  A few comments at the two week mark, which would probably be the end of the line for me if I had to pay the full $15/month to continue:
  • Vanguard is not afraid to kick the solo player's rear.  My Disciple is supposedly one of the tougher solo classes out there, but I've died in quests as early as level 5 because quests will not hesitate to swarm players with additional mobs.  On the good side, it's nice to be challenged, and this increased difficulty can help encourage players to actually group while leveling.  On the downside, even when making rapid progress I've occasionally been ganked by rapidly respawning mobs, which could start to get frustrating when the death penalty (exp?) kicks in at level 11.
  • Interestingly, Vanguard does not appear to be that hardcore about travel.  I'm supposedly going to have access to a mount shortly after I get out of the newbie Isle.  There are also flying mount rentals - in lieu of the AFK-autobird, players can rent a gryphon with a five minute duration.  Arriving safely and within the time limit remain the player's responsibility.  There also appears to be some sort of teleport system, though I can't use it yet.  Whatever the case, I think they've got a good balance between trivial travel (like we see in WoW these days) and prohibitive travel (where you might not be able to do what you planned to solely because it would take you all night to get there). 
    Even the newbie zone has rental flying mounts.
  • I'm really enjoying the non-combat questing options; Vanguard offers both crafting and diplomacy quests, and it's always refreshing to see a game where not every problem is solved with a sword.  That said, neither is perfect.  The Diplomacy minigame is just involved enough to keep me focused on the actual gameplay, and away from the text panel where the actual conversation is going on.  I'm also often struggling to actually find the NPC's I'm supposed to talk to, which is by design but which also gets old. 

    The crafting is better, though I definitely feel that there's a lot I'm learning by trial and error.  Unfortunately, one of those things is that I appear to have chosen the wrong specialization, Blacksmith, under the mistaken impression that my Disciple wore heavy armor.  I'm probably going to stick it out to crafting level 10 as a blacksmith to complete the newbie storyline and then either start over with writs on the outside or leave the crafting to the profesionals.

  • The quest system is definitely more like what we had back in 2009 than today.  Questgivers do have punctuation over their heads, but their locations are not automatically tracked on the minimap.  Instead of brightly lit highlights of exactly what to kill on each point of the map, players can expect a compass heading to the correct general area at best, and sometimes no guidance at all.  On the less fortunate side, quest items on the ground are often small and hard to see.  I suppose this contributes indirectly to difficulty, since you may be around longer looking for stuff and therefore have to fight more mobs, but overall you're fighting the camera more than the mobs.
I haven't gotten off the newbie island yet, and I've heard that I'm going to have to find a group in order to do so, which could turn into a deal-killer.  In some ways it's encouraging that I did not make it to the end of the trial area, albeit with detours into Rift and Runes of Magic, within two weeks.  Then again, I still haven't seen enough of the game to be sure that I want to invest money - and more importantly time - in it, which is a problem when that's precisely what I have to do to learn more. 

Fortunately for my little goblin, I was heading back to EQ2 Norrath anyway, and I decided that I could somehow eke $5 worth of entertainment out of upgrading that subscription to the SOE-wide Station Pass.  My guess is that quality of life for solo players will start to outweigh the novelty of a new, old-school open world to explore, but I'd like to at least get off the darned island before I make that call. 


Ardwulf said...

You will indeed have to group to finish the Isle. You don't really need a full group, though - 3 should suffice as long as everybody has their act together and they proceed with reasonable caution.

I advise finishing up the Crafting and Diplo questlines as well before tackling the final dungeon - both will also culminate there.

Magson said...

I've duo'd through the final quest on my cleric. Could have soloed it, but it would have taken *forever* so I was glad another was running it at the same time. Did it i na group with another toon, and have a few others on the island, but not to that point yet.

TBH, I can't recall the last time I logged in though, especially since I let my SOE stuff lapse back in March.

flosch said...

My impression leveling to about 20 is that, after leaving the island, it is still very possible to solo if you don't have a group. Many quests are then of the "slay 10 floozies" category, sadly; not that this makes it worse than other games, but it also doesn't make it much better.

What I did enjoy was the dungeon feel that came with exploring caves and such. The difficulty in there generally keeps you on your toes, combined with the (thuogh declawed) death penalty, you're really watching your shoulder, because a mispull or a stray add may mean an instant trip to the next resurrection shrine.