I’ve been playing Vanguard again on some new characters; apparently sub-10 characters got scrubbed in the last round of server merges when Seradon went away. SOE was restoring these characters on request for a while, but they aren’t able to any more. Nevertheless, such characters are still showing up on VGPlayers and in at least some cases are locking up character names. I’d filed a support ticket to resolve this and got one of those names freed up, so I remade my old character Mukhtar as a Qaliathari Bard and have gotten him up to level 6.
Now, the Bard is one of Vanguard’s gangbuster classes, in my opinion. He’s primarily a buffing and support class as you’d usually see with a Bard in another game, but in Vanguard Bards get new song components as they level up and can compose their own songs, essentially designing their own buffs. You can do buffs that cost basically nothing, buffs that have a cost around what your energy regen rate is (so you can keep them up but they’ll crimp the budget for other energy-using abilities, and you can make awesome buffs that you can only keep up for a short time. It’s a fantastic class, and at level 6 it’s just starting to come into its own.
Another recreated lowbie is Mnembao, a Mordebi Psionicist, who I’ve now played up to level 7. Since the character model revamp he looks slightly less like Chris Rock. It’s another support class, this time focusing mostly on crowd control. At level 10 Psionicists get an ability called Union of Mind II, which, in addition to providing a buff, gives them access to a worldwide, Psionicist-only chat channel. Later on there’s an ability which makes an opponent a temporary pet, one which will eventually break free, much like EQ2’s Coercer pets. There are high-level abilities which allow you to rummage through an opponent’s mind, stealing one of its abilities to use.
Give me this kind of stuff over finely-balanced, samey classes any day. I once wrote a piece condemning Warhammer Online for being soulless, and pointed out that Vanguard was the exact opposite. I’ve never said that Vanguard was a game you should turn to looking for an old-school, pre-WoW experience. But now, with the evolution of the market over the last few years, I’m starting to think that people that played WoW back in its vanilla phase and miss the days when it was less polished but offered more freedom might find a happy home in Vanguard.
Note that I’m playing these new characters in the traditional starting cities rather than in the Isle of Dawn. The Isle is nice, but I think it lacks the aforementioned soul that the rest of the game has in spades. I know there’s a desirable trinket that you get at the end of the Isle chain, but I don’t care; I’m playing for the world of Telon and for a less linear gameplay experience. However, I do have a level 10 Death Knight on the Isle that I leveled last time around and plan to keep him there to help out new lowbies when the switch happens. Meanwhile, He has most of the crafting and diplomacy chains to work through.
You know, I actually think that a lot of people like Vangaurd. More people than you might think. I know that it has a fair number of fans in the blogging and commenting community. But for a lot of us it’s often (or always) been left in the second tier of MMOs that we’re just not willing to pay a subscription for. It’s a game we’d love to dabble in and maybe we occasionally pony up the $15 to return for a little while, but mostly it stays off the table because of the sub. Vanguard as a free to play game is going to literally be a world-shaking shift for that type of player.