UPDATE: This game has been shutdown and is no longer available
Vanguard is the natural heir of games like EverQuest. With an emphasis on group PvE, this game will appeal to social games and old schoolers alike. Very few classes are self sufficient, especially in the later levels ,which necessitates grouping to advance. Vanguard has great visuals, assuming you have the machine to handle it on the upper settings. Free trial players may be restricted to the tutorial zone, known as the Isle of Dawn but will still have a chance to experience all that the game has to offer including combat, crafting, harvesting, and diplomacy. The games races and classes include:
Races - Thestran Human, Dwarves, Halfling, High Elves, Vulmane, Varanjar, Lesser Giants, Kojani Humans, Wood Elves, Half Elves, Orc, Goblin, Raki, Qaliathari, Gnome, Dark Elves, Kurashasa, Mordebi Human, and Varanthari
Classes - Warrior, Paladin, Dread Knight, Ranger, Rogue, Monk, Bard, Cleric, Shaman, Disciple, Blood Mage, Sorcerer, Druid, Psionicist, and Necromancer
Vanguard Featured Video
By Erhan Altay
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was originally created by Sigil Games Online but is now developed and published by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), the same company behind many other pay-to-play MMORPGs including EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, Pirates of the Burning Sea, and Matrix Online. Rushed to release in early 2007, Vanguard was unfinished and nearly unplayable. Luckily, the game wasn’t abandoned and after a year’s worth of patches, is now in a much healthier state. If you’ve ever thought about giving Vanguard a try, keep the 14 day free trial period in mind and read on!
Many of Vanguard’s lead designers were involved with the development of the original EverQuest and nowhere is this more apparent than in the number of races and classes players can choose from. Vanguard takes things a step further than EQ and has a whopping 19 race and 15 class options. Not all races can play as all classes and each race has its own unique racial strengths & weaknesses. The races are categorized by which of the three continents they originate from. The Thestra continent is based on the geography of Eastern Europe, Kojan has an oriental feel and consists of a series of islands, and Qalia is the obligatory desert continent based on the Middle East / Africa. Actually, describing the continents to you was somewhat useless since all trial accounts start on and are restricted to a forth location: The Isle of Dawn, but more on that later.
Vanguard has one of the most in-depth appearance customization systems I’ve ever seen. The only game in the same league would have to be the free-to-play MMORPG Perfect World. There are literally dozens of sliders for such mundane things as nose width, shoulder length, foot size, arm size, arm length, and so on. Of course female characters have one extra slider — breast size, which is always fun to play with. I encourage new players to take some time to create unique looking character but don’t be too concerned since Vanguard allows players to change their appearance in-game at any time. The only permanent character features are race, class, gender, and name.
Welcome to the Isle
As mentioned earlier, all free trial players start on the Isle of Dawn which is located outside the regular game world known as Telon. There are several towns and small encampments scattered across this island and enough quests to keep players occupied for days. It is a fairly large island despite being a mainly tutorial area that paying players can leave at any time. Upon arriving, players will notice that Vanguard’s interface is similar to World of Warcraft’s. Movement is done via the W,A,S,D keys, toolbars and hotkeys make navigation easier and the mouse is used to control the camera and target objects. There are plenty of graphic options available making it possible to run Vanguard on a dated machine but the game truly shines on the higher settings. The game’s graphics reminded me of Oblivion, they have a realistic feel to them but are still obviously in the realm of fantasy. Environments are generally wide and open which can overwhelm players at first, especially when there are no other players around. Even with only 4 live servers (2 US, 1 EU, and 1 PvP), some areas are still very sparsely populated.
Start Alone, Finish Together
Despite which of the 15 classes you pick, you’ll be spending the first few levels grinding it out alone. Quests are available from the start and it is encouraged that you complete them. Not only do they provide large experience boosts but also have useful rewards such as additional bags which expand inventory space. As you hunt monsters, you’ll notice that your standing with various factions will either increase or decrease. This concept was first introduced in EQ and it is good to see it implemented in Vanguard. The experience rate is somewhat slow but this is mainly because the level cap is set pretty low at 50. The Isle of Dawn is large enough to keep players occupied until the late teens to early twenties. At this time, grouping with other players will become more and more a necessity since very few of the classes in Vanguard are built to fight alone. Before the Isle of Dawn, new players were thrown into the middle of the world and for the most part left to discover the game’s features on their own. Now with the tutorial zone, many of Vanguard’s non-combat related activities can be taught to new players in an orderly way.
Diplomacy and Crafting
Characters in Vanguard have three distinct levels, as you battle with monsters and complete quests your ‘adventure level’ will increase but not the other two. Crafting and Diplomacy are the two other major ‘spheres’ that are important enough to have their own levels. Crafting shouldn’t be a new concept to those familiar with MMOPRPGs, it involves using resources gathered via the less important ‘Harvesting’ sphere to make gear, weapons, or other goods. Diplomacy is an interesting concept where players attempt to gain the favor of NPCs by challenging them to card games. Turns consist of playing cards like ‘Compliment’ or ‘Good Point’ to one-up your opponent. Victory yields buffs or special items. Special clothing is available to boost your chances of diplomatic success but even so, diplomacy is generally a dull feature that adds little to the game’s enjoyment. The only people I’ve seen who bother with it are completionists who want to ‘max out’ there character after already hitting the max adventure level.
Vanguard is a much better product today than it was at launch and the fact that it has survived this long means it has found its niche. This isn’t a game for PvP enthusiasts, while there are dueling options and an entire PvP focused server, PvP itself is of limited importance to the developers and to the player base in general. With so many races and classes there isn’t even the pretence of balance which is fine since the classes weren’t meant to be self sufficient in the first place. In many ways, Vanguard is EverQuest 2.5. Many recent MMORPG novelties such as flying mounts are available in Vanguard. Even a personal favorite, player housing is included. Players are given one house slot per account which they can decorate and where they can store extra items. If I could give SOE one piece of advice it would be to extend the tutorial by either allowing players to leave the Isle of Dawn or by getting rid of the 14 day trial and letting players explore the Isle of Dawn for as long as they like.
Final Verdict: Good
Vanguard is a polished PvE focused MMORPG with plenty of features including flying mounts, player housing, and over a dozen playable races and classes. The in-game world is large and beautiful but the free trial prevents players from exploring beyond the starting zone.
Vanguard Character Creation
Vanguard Gameplay Footage
Vanguard Isle of Dawn Footage
Vanguard Official Trailer
Vanguard Saga of Heroes Gameplay Trailer
OS: Windows 2000 / XP
CPU: Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or 2400+ AMD
RAM: 512 MB Free
HDD: 20.0 GB Free
Graphics Card: 128 MB video memory
OS: Windows Vista
CPU: Pentium 4 3.5 Ghz / 3500+ AMD or better
RAM: 2 GB or more
HDD: 20.0 GB Free
Graphics Card: 256MB video memory