- 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.
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.