An element that most of the popular Online MMORPG Games’s are lacking is an active, player centric, combat system. Pressing attack, cycling though a few abilities, typically in a set “rotation” until the target is dead, is standard fare for a majority your favourite MMO’s. Games such as Age of Conan have made attempts to have the player more directly involved in the combat, with directional controls that lead the character to attack from a specific direction which you control based on being aware of the targets directional weaknesses. Yet even some of the newest MMO’s still take this mostly non-active approach to combat (Aion being an example). It was only a matter of time before we saw MMO’s adopt a more exciting combat system, similar to some of our favourite console games, which allowed the speed and precision of a player to directly translate to the speed and precision of the character the player controlled. Vindictus, developed by devCAT – an internal studio of popular free to play publisher Nexon – is possibly just the solution we are looking for. During the week of their latest content update, Episode 5: The Lost Artifact, and just over 3 months into release, I sat down to take a closer look.
In keeping with the idea that this title steps away from some of the customary elements we look for in MMORPG Games’s you will notice a few differences right from the very start. In Vindictus your “class” and your “character” are one in the same. As of this moment you have the ability to choose from 3 of the 5 eventual classes: Evie, a staff wielding magician; Lann, a dual wielding warrior; or Fiona, a knight utilizing a sword and shield. To come are Karok, a giant, who is currently only available in the Korean version of the game; and Kai, an archer, who has not yet been released. Think of these names as the class names. Since your character IS your class, the character creation options are slightly limited. If you choose your MMO’s based on your ability to make your character stand out from others, you will be disappointed in this character creation system for sure. Height, hair style, some hair colours (some must be bought in the Avatar Shop), chest size if you like your women curvy and facial expression (not facial design) are elements that can be altered in the character creator. You also have the opportunity to name your character at this point.
Vindictus is, at its core, a hub-based dungeon crawler. The town of Colhen is the center of all interaction with the game and its players beyond activities in the dungeons themselves. Quest givers, armour and equipment shops, general goods shops and the marketplace (auction house) are all located in Colhen. If you are the type of player that loves to explore the lands of your MMO and equate the quality of the world to the size and variations of the land, this game may not be for you. If you don’t mind being generally confined to either the town or the dungeon of the moment, you will notice that both are exceptionally well designed and rendered making it a great visual experience regardless of size. There are many small things you will notice in Vindictus that add to the visual appeal. The fonts used are clear, crisp, easy to read, and blend in with the overall UI style in a way that I’ve never noticed before. The UI itself is extremely functional, containing many of the core elements of most Online MMORPG Games including a mini-map, an action bar (primarily used for potions etc.) and buttons for certain game and system features. If you are a UI snob, or a minimalist when it comes to evaluating the user interface, you would enjoy the Vindictus UI.
There is a story, as well as many random side quests to perform. Acquiring quests is very much similar to many other MMORPG Games other than that you don’t have to go very far – you simply run about town looking for indications that an NPC in one of the many shops or locations has something for you to do and you accept it. Vindictus is very much about accepting the quests or tasks, running the various dungeons related to those tasks, you then rinse and repeat. There is a crafting system in place, and devCAT has put their own spin on it. To craft, you acquire the materials and the recipes, either through vendors or mostly through dungeon drops, you then head to your NPC of choice (depending on what you want crafted) and that NPC crafts for you. Some, especially those who are more interested in playing this title for the combat, will not mind this crafting concept, others may feel it takes away from the immersion factor of the game, a game already pretty low on immersion to begin with.
Finding and running dungeons is a pretty simple exercise logistically. When a player exits town they are faced with a line-up of boats. These boats are the staging areas for the various dungeon zones in the game. To find a group one simply approaches the associated board near the boat entrance and looks for groups forming related to the quests you have acquired in your quest log. At this point it is important to note a very significant technical matter. When you decide to join a group running a certain dungeon, the connection made by the group is peer-to-peer. This means that if you are playing with a group of people and one or two have high latency, you will be confronted with debilitating amounts of lag. It is crucial to your enjoyment of the game that you not only be very aware of YOUR connection speed, but also the connection speed of those you choose to group with. Your ability to enter, complete and enjoy dungeons depends on this more than anything. You can choose to host a dungeon, join an existing group, or run the dungeon solo. Running the dungeon solo will mean the difficulty has been tuned to accommodate one person playing. You will not experience the same lag running the dungeon solo as you may in a group. While it may be tempting then to run every dungeon solo, this again removes a significant portion of the MMO aspect from the game. I would suggest simply being aware of with whom you are playing with rather than deciding to play alone.
Combat is why people play Vindictus. It is fast, frantic, bloody and brutal. By using the mouse buttons to perform various damage combos, you are generally only restricted by your own speed, as well as your characters energy level. Your character has the ability to dodge the brutal attacks of your enemies. Dodging is an active ability, directed by your WASD controls and executed by your spacebar. Unlike standard dodge dynamics in other MMO’s, YOU control your ability to dodge an attack in time to avoid it! Keep in mind that dodging draws from the same energy pool as your attacks – there is definitely some combat strategy at play in this game! By using Valve’s Source engine, devCAT has been able to create incredible dungeon environments to match the great graphical quality of Colhen. The Source engine also allows for destructible and even throwable elements in the dungeons. If there is an enemy on top of some scaffolding – destroy the scaffolding, kill the enemy and you can pick up a plank from the destroyed structure and throw it at the next group! All this chaos makes for a grand ol’ time of killing and destroying – it is definitely what makes Vindictus great!
Vindictus is a very large step in the opposite direction for the publishers of Maplestory. It is a fun, fast paced game with a lot of what most people want: vicious combat. It excels in a number of areas, notably the art direction. The Source engine was a great fit for this game and really brought out some of the best features of this title. What this offering lacks is an immersive MMORPG Game experience on par with even some of the most basic elements of other MMO’s. Vindictus plays fantastically with friends and could be a long term home for a group of people who enjoy the combat and only seek minor hints at player interaction outside of their group. The game grows a little repetitious if you are playing alone. Continuously adding dungeons to the game will help break up the monotony of this dungeon grinder but eventually devCAT is going to need to expand this world. Vindictus is a game worth expanding and its player-base will grow as a result.
Mike WashburnVindictus - Review,