|Choosing an MMORPG can be a lot like buying real estate on speculation. Of course, we've all heard the stories of people literally selling their cyber-real estate, but I meant in a more metaphorical way. Now, you can always buy into one of the ritzier neighborhoods such as Everquest and Warcraft, and know exactly what you're getting yourself into . . . or you could be a little more adventurous, and try a less developed "neighborhood," like that of Vendetta Online |
To continue the metaphor, Vendetta Online could be seen optimistically as that neighborhood that, rumor has it, is gonna turn the corner any day now. So if the premise of jumping into a world (well, universe actually) that most gamers haven't discovered yet, and reaping the subsequent rewards if the game does in fact take off appeals to you, then Vendetta Online could be the right game for you.
The original premise of the game caught my eye. According to its creators, Guild Software, Vendetta Online is an attempt to bridge the new, MMORPG, and the old, classic space combat. I'm a fan of old school space dog fighting, so the concept of combining that genre with the level and character building of an MMORPG sounded like a good idea. I was also very intrigued by one of the career options mentioned for players, pirate! But we'll get to that later.
Vendetta comes with a very deep back story, which involves a lost colony of earth that eventually splinters into three factions, the Serco, the Itani, and the UIT. The Serco and Itani, for various reasons, are constantly at war, and the UIT makes money off of both of them. For those that need it, Serco = bad, Itani = good, and UIT = neutral. However, the self described "open ended faction system" means there is really very little advantage to picking one side over another, as with enough work you can become loved, or hated, by whomever you choose. Faction allegiance has various benefits; better weapons and ships, and cheaper prices, from the factions that like you. And if you manage to take things far enough, you can also have guaranteed hostility from an enemy faction, in the form of automatic aggression from their pilots, or just flat out annihilation from a space station's defenses.
So once you pick your allegiance, you're up and running. There is very little in the way of character building, though you can pick the color of the racing stripe on your spaceship. In this game, actions speak for everything. Vendetta provides a very adequate training session, and then hands you a beginner mission to get your space legs firmly underneath you. Once you accomplish this first mission (and its basically up to you as to when you'd like to wrap it up) then you're off to start making a living in the real world.
What you do is determined by which missions you choose. You can simply be a merchant, flying various trade routes and amassing wealth to buy bigger ships. Or, two variations of that: you can be a miner, which means you get your resources from asteroids instead of other space stations, or you can become a pirate, which means you get your resources from the ships you blow up. Vendetta does not provide anything in the way of "crafting" the raw materials that you mine, so the end result of each of these three occupations is returning to a space station to sell the goods. If you had more martial plans in mind, you can take more military oriented missions, and even join massive battles between nations. At least, that's what the box says. Or, when you get high enough on the totem pole, you can become a bounty hunter, and go collect the rewards on those pesky pirates. Judging by the news that comes into the stations, this would seem to be the most lucrative way to make a living, though assumedly it is the most dangerous.
So back to the original premise of this review. Why would I recommend Vendetta as the potentially next big thing? Well, a few reasons. Primarily, the designers of the game were obviously very forward thinking. The universe is huge, and the underlying system is quite stable. Lag time is non-existent, and the fact that they offered the game not only across the Windows and Mac platforms, but also to Linux users, means they are dedicated to including everyone. What is also obvious is the long term commitment Guild plans for this game; the developers are very responsive to fan's suggestions, and the infrastructure is there to continually develop this game for a long time. When the system requirements contain a disclaimer that you may need to upgrade, or flat out buy, a new system to play the game over its lifetime, you know they have long term plans.
Which is good, because right now, this neighborhood does in fact need a little more in the way of attractions. A Starbucks on the corner, if you will. The game's biggest problem is lack of subscribers. You really have to search out other players, and there were many times when I had no indication I was playing an online game at all. But almost as problematic is the fact that there is very little in the game to work towards. Yes, you can acquire money, and buy new ships and weapons, but as far as long term goals go, there is virtually nothing. Given the back story, it is very conceivable that Guild plans on providing these goals as the Vendetta subscriber base grows, but they need to provide something now so the current subscribers don't abandon ship.
As far as graphics and sound go, they are average. The graphics have a certain style to them, they remind me of a more realistic Jetsons. The sound is very generic, some of the effects seem to have come straight off a sound effects CD. But with the exception of there being no indication acoustically that someone is communicating with you, these are minor gripes. However, since Guild Software really wanted to emulate a space combat game, utilizing a more comprehensive display that makes you feel as if you truly were inside a spaceship would have gone a long way. Instead, the screen is set up like its merely a computer monitor, and thus trying to read an important message while you're hunting down a Hive Bot is very difficult. Play control was a little lacking for me as well, though I think using a joystick instead of a mouse would have gone a long way to solving that complaint.
Guild did try to make Vendetta a very safe environment for new players. The areas surround space stations are strict no fire zones, and even in the rest of space, players can only take out other players in consensual duels. Vendetta also utilizes a mentoring system, that encourages stronger players to help the weaker ones, instead of prey on them. It will be interesting to see how successful this program is. The space combat core of the game does go a long way to make the game attractive to non-MMORPG players, but the lack of anything to truly build towards is a severe detriment. But since its very possible that Guild already has those changes in the works, it might be worth your time putting in the grunt work to build up your character now, so that when the fun really starts, you'll be ready.