First Impressions of Vindictus

The following was written after the first hour of play and several more researching forums and fansites. If anything is misrepresented here, please feel free to share it in the comments below.

Follow-Up: As I played the game for another hour or so this evening, I encountered an issue I’d only heard about previously. When you enter a dungeon, you’re entering an instance hosted by a pre-selected member of your party. Animations for mobs and your party members are based on that connection. If it’s poor, the game cuts big chunks of the animations making everything jerk and flash across your screen. So, alternately, the game can go from lots of fun to a frustration from party to party. As yet, I don’t know if there’s a punishment for dropping group mid-dungeon. The game is still in one of those extra-extended F2P open betas, so I won’t consider it a game breaker until the game actually launches (what the difference between “launch” and “beta” is really negligible when you get to keep your characters). Be prepared if you plan to roll now.

Your first boss battle and a little girl's pet: ain't it cute?

Vindictus is an interesting game. On one hand, the game clearly stands out in contrast to almost every other MMO on the market. It’s not action bar based, out-details nearly every other MMO on the market (if not EVERY other MMO), and puts an emphasis on fast-paced action. Battles are big, viscous, and have the ability to feel epic. As a matter of fact, within the first few minutes of playing you’ll find yourself fighting one of the nastiest spiders ever to grace the genre; it’s your mission, as a noob, to stop the massive arachnid, also, and very strangely, a little girl’s pet (who got her THAT for Christmas?), from destroying the town chapel. On the other, it feels very familiar, almost to the point of wondering why we haven’t seen a game like this already.

All of the awesomeness comes at a cost, however; Vindictus differs from your average MMO in several important ways. First, and perhaps most notably, is that there is no open world. Instead, following the tutorial, you are thrown into a dockside town whose ships serve as the launching point for instance-based missions. You’ll visit NPCs and see a story unfold but at the end of the day you’ll find yourself limited and possibly even feeling the lobby-esque nature of the world more than you’ll like. As you can probably infer, this means that there is a lot of instancing. Without a world, you can expect towns to be pretty packed. The game performs well, though, so most machines should be able to run it on decent settings with little lag. And, for a game that looks so good, that’s a really nice thing.

With the game being so self-enclosed, it does lead me to the conclusion that the game isn’t an “MMO” in the sense that WoW is an MMO. Really, though, I find it to be another grain tipping the scales towards a re-definition of the term. Even without a world, Vindictus delivers on much of what we’d expect in a more traditional game of the genre: loot gathering, dungeons, crafting, story, economy, and more. What’s more, crafting will be one of the most important aspects of the game, as reports indicate that dungeon loot is sparing at the best and non-existent at the worst. The importance of that loot is yet to be seen; however, I think the brawler nature of the game demands it play an important role. The developers have also hinted at arena-style PvP.

Though you will customize your avatar to make it uniquely your own, every player will choose a pre-set character to experience the story; available now are melee types Lann and Fiona

What struck me about this game is similar to what struck me about FFXIV: this is what we would get if a console game was turned into an MMO. It has been compared to God of War and rightly so. It’s not exactly what we’d expect yet it delivers on almost every level of an online counterpart. While it offers up the opportunities of player interaction common to online RPGs, it also retains a lot of the hack-and-slash epic combat we’ve come to expect in console brawlers. Players can  use the environment to their advantage, picking up items (and bodies of vanquished foes) and hurling them at the enemy and sending them sprawling. Encounters are scripted, yet much less in the antiquated “take action A, then action B, move to point X, execute action C” type manner that pervades most MMOs. Through deft camera work, voice overs, and high definition graphics, fights here really trump anything I’ve seen in LotRO, Aion, WoW, or WAR.

Then again, even though the games are within the same genre, we’re talking two very different experiences.

Since I’m still very early in, I’ve yet to experience much of the social scene. I was surprised to see a complete lack of WoW comparisons in chat, though, and that was a very nice change.

The game is free-to-play and, as yet, I’m not sure what that will mean for the game. The item shop is still under wraps, but I’ve been reading a bit about a “token” system that sounds a lot like a play-limit for non-payers. Effectively, the system breaks down like this: each week you’re given a certain amount of tokens that you use to enter dungeons and experience the main content of the game. Each dungeon costs a certain token-amount to enter, with higher level dungeons costing more. Deciding which dungeons to run will play an important part in determining how much you’ll get from the game over the course of a week. From my understanding, it’s possible to use your weekly tokens in a day or two, should you be inclined to do so. I can only imagine that they’ll be selling extras in the shop.

Then again, as the game stands now, the token system may serve the same purpose as FFXIV’s fatigue limit: slowing the players down. While FFXIV has lots of content, I can’t help but feel like, for a game without an open world, there aren’t enough dungeons to keep things fresh for too long.  I mean, there are quite a few, and lots more still to be released, but from this list, it’s hard to imagine grinding not playing an important part in leveling up. If all the dungeons are fun, that may not be a problem. But, like so many things, I haven’t seen it for myself, so I’ll reserve judgment.

From my reading and initial play, I’m left with a very positive impression. The most important thing to remember in reading any critique of this game is that it’s being offered for free. If the game doesn’t have enough to do now, okay, just come back later. In many ways, I feel like the game is designed to be picked up, dropped, and picked up again a few weeks later. That’s the beauty of this payment model, you’re not married to the game, it’s simply a toy to have fun with. Taken as such, Vindictus is primed to change the face of what we expect from free-to-play games.

Postscript: I’m in the process of editing up some of my own videos, but, in the meantime, why don’t you check out this one of the game’s first major battle…

3 pings

  1. Weekend With Vindictus | Kill Ten Rats

    […] is unfortunately still some discussion on whether this game is an MMO.  From a standard… uhh.. standpoint it already loses points […]

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