Review by Bremen
Free-to-play just got serious...
Vindictus is being promoted as "the ultimate FREE fast action fighting massively multiplayer online game" by Nexon and the game developers. That's right, this is a Nexon game so those of you familiar with other Nexon games such as Maple Story and Dungeon Fighter Online probably have a good idea of what you are signing up for when you play this game. However I'm here to tell you not to judge the game by what you think you already know about this company. Fans of action rpg's and MMO's should definitely give this game a look, you might be pleasantly surprised.
The overall gameplay of Vindictus is actually quite unbelievable, in a good way. The game is built using the Source Engine so if you have played Left 4 Dead, Half-Life, Team Fortress, or even Alien Swarm, you should have a good idea of what the engine can do and how the game possibly looks and feels graphically.
The technical aspects of the game are actually quite good. They are smooth and fluid and have very few "glitches" to speak of. That being said, there are a few glitches that you can find that usually don't cause much of an issue. The game is still technically in a "beta" cycle so not all of the content has been released yet. The game is a Korean-based game so people playing it in Korea are actually quite a bit ahead of us with the content they get to play. This actually ends up being a good thing for North Americans playing the game because it gives the game developers a chance to tweak and fix issues before they ever get to us.
Some examples of a few of the glitches that can be found in the game technically are things such as items that can fall through the floor or even occasionally enemies and so you cannot get to them. This doesn't really affect the game in most cases since you can just repeat the levels as many times as you want per day. Other minor issues are things like the translation from Korean to English sometimes gets a little funny and the difference in font sizes or text lengths sometimes truncates. Overall it really doesn't affect the game much at all.
The most annoying aspect of the game is currently the stability of the game. At various times, especially peak times, the server lag can be very poor and you might get kicked off the server frequently. It seems that with each patch of the game this gets a little better, but it certainly has a long way to go before it's fixed. I think that because the game is free-to-play, it gets a little more leeway than a pay-to-play game would with this aspect, but it won't be okay forever.
Hardcore or Casual?
What many people want to know about an MMO is if the game is geared towards the hardcore crowd or the more casual players. So is this game for the hardcore or for the casual crowd? Vindictus as it stands right now is geared a bit towards what I would consider a more casual crowd. Korean games have strict policies on what they can and cannot do so they build in measures to prevent people from spending too much time in the game. In addition, this is a free to play game so they do have some pay items. The good news is that both casual or hardcore players can do pretty much anything in the game without having to pay a dime. Pay actions are relegated to avatar looks and clothing items and additional tokens for accessing levels.
Let's talk a little bit about the token system. In order to access a level you have to spend tokens (after you get past the introduction levels which are 0 tokens to enter). You get basically your 50 tokens refilled every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. On average, each level costs you about two tokens to play. The number does scale up to 3 or even 4 tokens after playing a certain amount of times in a single real day, but basically, you can choose to spend those tokens as fast or as slow as you want. Players can also "purchase" additional tokens with either in-game gold, or with real cash money. So depending on your play style or desire to play, you can play as much or little as you want and you can as much real or little real money as you want.
As for the avatar shop, things like adding an eye patch or cutting your hair costs real money so depending on if you care about that, you can buy them or not. Aside from those minor aspects, that's about all that is paid with real money.
This is where the game really shines in my opinion. The gameplay is just fun. The action aspect of the mmorpg really stands out here. The fighting has an almost street fighter appeal and dynamic aspects to it. You don't simply click auto-attack, you actually level up and acquire new moves that you can actually string together in button combinations. The game is in 3rd person view so you see your character on the screen smashing almost anything on the levels including pots, columns, huts, and enemies. It's almost got a Gauntlet type feel to it. You can interact with almost anything in the environment and pickup almost anything to use as a weapon. For example, you can break a stone column into little pieces by smashing it and then pick up a decent sized chunk of the stone and either swing it around hitting the enemy or hurl it at them from afar.
The game also has several options for playing style and classes. Right now, the game has three unique classes to use for playing, with an additional two more coming out soon that we know of. The three primary types are a sword/shield paladin type (tank-class), a dual-wielding sword (melee class), and a staff-wielding magic user (mage class). However each of the three classes can use an alternate weapon to change the play style a little. For example, the Evie class (mage) can switch to a battle scythe and go from being a mage class to a strong melee class fighting side-by-side with the sword users.
Now, the classes are a bit different in this game compared to other MMO games. The classes are defined by the person you choose. As I said earlier, you choose one of three right now: Fiona (tank), Lann (melee), or Evie (mage). This means that they look like that person. You might think this really limits the variety of the characters you see in the game and you would be partially correct. It's not quite as robust as in other games, but you can still customize your character a little bit such as changing the hair color, eye color, skin color, hairstyle, and of course the name among other things. So the customization could be a little stronger, but you won't really notice or care too much because everyone is wearing full armor in the game anyway.
Now, the battles follow the same basic formula, start a level, smash and grab on your way through, possibly fight a mini-boss along the way, and then fight an end-boss. You obtain quests and missions in the town you start in by talking to NPC's in town. Right now the game only has one town in it and all your missions will be launched from 1 of 4 boats currently available. Each boat has about a dozen levels and more boats and towns are scheduled to come online in the near future.
As of the writing of this review, the level cap is 44, however the anticipated final level cap is around 200 if the game continues to be popular and roughly 10 total boats being available.
Endgame & Rewards
Since the game is still in-progress with more content coming available periodically, there isn't a whole lot of what I would consider endgame content. The rewards are good throughout the game and easy enough to acquire without having to spend too much time to get. As the Hero instances of the dungeons and raid type levels become more available as well as additional towns, I expect the endgame content and need for more social aspects of the game to rise.
The graphics of the game are actually quite good. The water, equipment, facial expressions, movements, real-time physics, and structures all look really good. The game has good lighting and shadows and has a crisp graphical feel to it. The graphics really shine in the depot and avatar shop or when you are creating your character as it showcases the up close view of your character and armor. The game also has some in-game cutscenes that are kind of nifty with a changing of the camera angle for affect. Outside of the opening mission they don't appear much more aside from some boss intros, but they add a nice effect to the game.
In addition, the game has a nice artistic feel to it with the NPC interactions by showing drawn images of the NPC's while they are talking to you. The overall user interface is graphically appealing and has a nice drag and drop implementation that is easy enough to use.
The sound is good in the game with some decent music scores though they aren't overly prominent and diverse, but decent nonetheless. The sound effects are good and vary enough not to annoy you through multiple playthroughs of the same levels and some ambient noises add to the overall experience.
This game really relies heavily on it's gameplay and battle style for enjoyment, however it also has some decent stories to it. From main missions to little side collection quests, it does a good job of pulling you in. They even managed to throw in some surprises I didn't expect in some of the story quests. I found myself starting to get to know many of the major characters in the game and connecting enough with them that I wanted to continue the stories or complete the side-quests to see what was next. However, the stories are also implemented in a way that those who don't really care about them can simply ignore them and treat them as a means to an end.
Well the replay value on this game is a bit different than your standard game because it really never ends. Nexon continually adds additional content that can keep the player busy for many months. Right now, getting to the maximum level cap and acquiring the best equipment might take the average person about a month or so to do depending on your play style and commitment, however, new content continually gets added so by the time you hit the end of what you think is the road, they've already added a whole new segment for you to travel.
Overall Vindictus is a fun to play action MMO that does a great job of getting you in the game, teaching you how to play, and hooking you in. Best of all, the game is free. It really doesn't hurt anyone to try the game out for themselves and see if it fits your definition of fun. If you do end up giving the game a shot, you may find out you really enjoy it and discover that, thanks to Vindictus, free-to-play just got serious.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Vindictus (US, 10/27/10)
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