System requirements: Windows 2000; Single Core 2.4 GHz CPU; 512 MB RAM; 5+ GB HDD; Geforce 5xxx; Broadband Internet connection.
Genre: Action MMO
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: Available now
For the past few years, whenever people happen to discuss MMOs, a comparison to World of Warcraft ensues. In most cases, similarity is being spoken of as a Bad Thing, although quite frankly WoW has a lot to teach other games. Either way, the new kid on the MMO block is Vindictus, and for better or worse, it is absolutely nothing like WoW when it comes to the mechanics of the game. Otherwise, it is your standard swords and magic MMO fare. NPCs give quests, you kill things, things drop loot, you sell loot and craft items, et cetera.
Vindictus differentiates itself from most popular MMOs in a number of ways. The first thing you will notice when you start the game is that there are only three playable characters (with two more said to become available later), and the characters in question are already pre-made for you. There is a white guy with two swords, and two Korean girls, one with a sword and shield, and another with a staff and spells. You do get to name them, change their height, and hair, and tattoos and scars are available via micro-transactions. Oh, almost forgot, you can adjust the women’s breast size. The lowest setting is pretty large, the highest setting is just plain ridiculous, and I will not further comment on this design decision.
After a brief introductory tutorial, during which you get to kill some enemies, learn the basics of movement and attack, and meet a couple of the NPCs, you start the game proper by appearing in a village. If you’ve played Diablo or Torchlight, you already know this village. It is tiny, has shops, and in the shops there are NPCs who give you quests and sell items. You never actually see them as character models, nor are you able to walk around while inside. What you see is a shop interior and a 2D drawing along with the text of the conversation. I can’t imagine any good reason to do it that way, but that’s what we get. And prepare to run back and forth between NPCs – a lot! Conversations require you to click after every phrase, but once done you will be sent to kill stuff. Unlike WoW or even Guild Wars, there are no common areas whatsoever. If you want to fight you are going to have to take a boat into an instance. To do that you need to go to the harbor, which requires a loading screen. This is odd, since both it and the village are quite tiny. Once you select your destination and the particular quest you plan on doing, there is another loading screen and you appear on a boat, where you can smash stuff, and buy a few things from an owl. Once all of the people in your party are ready, there is yet another loading screen and you are finally in an instance.
Instances are reasonably pretty, but extremely linear. They are also created with the venerable copy/paste method, so you’ll encounter the same exact chunk of dungeon in more than one of them, and with loading screens in between. Of note is the fact that each quest has it’s own instance, thus you cannot do more that one at a time. When it comes to monsters – they are easy, even if you elect to run a dungeon on “hard”. So easy, in fact, that you can expect to get to the boss without being hit once. The only purpose they seem to serve is to drop crafting materials. There are also a lot of destructible objects, such as boxes and pots, which often contain health and money. Bosses are harder, but (at least in the beginning of the game) appear to have only minor, mostly cosmetic, differences. You can group with other people for instances, but there is no incentive to do so, at least in the beginning. Instead, there is a huge incentive to not group up. The lag while in a group was some of the worst I’ve seen in a PC game since the days of a 14,400 bit/s modems. Just go alone and hit things. Speaking of hitting things, you fight by turning towards your target and clicking continuously. If you feel like it you can do combos, but that’s not very necessary. You can also throw bombs or spears, but once again there is very little reason to bother with those, all you have to do is keep clicking. To be fair combat looks pretty good on a purely visual level.
Vindictus uses Valve’s Source engine, but doesn’t seem to apply it as well as Half-Life 2 Episode 2 did. One thing that I found particularly annoying were the low resolution textures. They look good from far away, but approaching them reveals something unfit to be displayed at 2560×1600. The much touted physics implementation is disappointing. Breasts bounce and dead foes can be kicked for rag-doll effects. Still, this didn’t improve my experience in any way, I’d much rather have the controls be more precise. Lastly, the general chat was unusable during my playing sessions, due to being flooded by gold-selling spammers.
Overall, Vindictus seems like a game I like more in theory than I do in practice. It has its moments, for instance the story appears as though it may have potential, but otherwise it is pretty mediocre. On the positive side it is free, and as such has a definitive edge over much of the competition. As with most free games, the most reasonable course of action is to give it a shot. You might very well like it, in which case please post below and explain the error of my ways to me. Meanwhile I think I just might give WoW another try.