Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

When I heard Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (V:SOH) went free to play, I mentally added it to my list of games to check out. The only things I heard about this game brought to mind various disasters. Since it is on Steam, free to play, and runs fine on Windows 8, I decided to try it out.

The character creation screen contains a button for each race on the left, a button for each class on the right, and a simple naming dialog in the middle. There is hover text as well, listing various racial benefits. I was excited to see that “Monk” was a class, since my favorite DDO class is the monk. Unarmored (I hope) kung-fu combat, woot!

But as I looked at the various character options, I noticed something. Perhaps you will see it too.

This is a typical screen for a male character:

Male character creation
Male character creation

This is a typical screen for a female character:

Female character creation
Female character creation

In case you didn’t notice, the striking difference is the male humanoid characters are dressed, while the female humanoid characters are sporting bare midriffs and large racks. Nice! Oh wait… REALLY? Come on!

Anyway, I opted for a female Varanjar Monk, typed in a name, and clicked next. The next screen asked what city I wanted to start in, either Isle of Dawn or my hometown. Not sure if it matters, but given the text (Isle of Dawn – help people, nothing for hometown) I am guessing the Isle of Dawn is the tutorial area, so I should do that. Click Isle of Dawn.

Then I was asked what server: Telon or Halgar. Halgar was marked EU so I went with Telon. Click Next.

Then I got an error, “That first name is already taken”.

WTF?! How about reordering the creation sequence so I pick my name last, and don’t have to cancel and redo a bunch of clicks. Basically I had to click through a bunch of screens to do a name check. That is kind of frustrating.

Anyway, I tried “Aurora Tian” – error, first name is taken.
I tried “AuroraTian” and no last name – error invalid characters in name.
I tried “AutumnTian” and no last name – error invalid characters in name.
I tried “AuroraTian Tian” – error invalid characters in name.

For the love of all that is sane, these people need to borrow ArenaNet’s system where it tells you as you type, whether or not the name is at least legal. Whether it is taken or not is another matter. Looking back, I think the issue was the 2nd capital letter in the first name. Argh!

After finally finding a name that was OK (“Melancthe”) I advanced to the char designer, where I picked the hair color and other cosmetic stuff. I just took what was there, not really caring too much.

Then I found myself standing in the game! Check it out:

New Arrival
New Arrival

I got the typical intro quest to find somebody else, and they had me find someone else, who gave me a “kill 5 rats gataro podlings” and “collect 10 flowers” kind of quest. Along the way I leveled up. That got me a quest to see my class trainer and pick up a new skill (“Crescent Kick”) and then return to find out the gataro podling infestation was more serious than previously thought. Maybe I can help…

First combat quest
First combat quest
Picking Seeds
Picking Seeds. They don’t glow like gather items do in LoTRO.

But first, I tried another class, the sorcerer. Soon, I was needing to kill 5 gataro podlings again. I looked over the skills on my hotbar, and I had 3: Auto-attack, Force Barrier 1, and Arcane Balance. Force Barrier was a defensive skill, Arcane Balance was a racial skill that distributes energy among a group, and… Auto-Attack with my staff. I’m a sorcerer and I don’t start off with a way to fight with magic?

I attacked, but with my staff damage being terrible, and having no way to heal, I was killed. This can’t be right, so I dug around in various dialogs and discovered I did have an offensive spell: Taqmir’s Bolts 1. It’s just that it wasn’t placed on my skillbar so I didn’t know it existed until I went looking. Grrrr.

Taqmir's Bolts I
Taqmir’s Bolts 1 – my hidden combat skill

This time, using Taqmir’s Bolts 1, I crush the gataro podlings and finish picking seeds. After meeting my trainer, my new skill is “Frostbite 1”.

It was late and I decided to call it a night, taking one scenic screenshot from across a bridge, looking back at the starting village. In addition, I finally figured out how to hide the UI.

Village
Village

So the big question is, will I keep playing. Honestly, probably not, and I feel bad only trying it for about 90 minutes total. It just didn’t grab me right off the bat, and I don’t want to invest too much time into leveling up (to get a few more skills) and seeing if the game grows on me. I’ve got a bunch of other games I’d like to try out so I think I’ll just set this one aside for a bit. I would at least like to finish the starter area, and then finish the Diplomacy quest sequence, since one thing I did hear about Vanguard was how great the Diplomacy system (mini-game?) is.

The graphics and animations do look dated, especially compared to Vanguard’s modern competition. It should be the gameplay that matters the most, and with only a bit of time invested, it didn’t seem that different from the usual formula. The game released in Jan 2007 so if you consider the bulk of the graphics assets and animations were done a year or two before that… yeah the game does stretch back quite a ways! It’ll be six years old in two more months.

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