MMO Roundtable: Vindictus XE Europe CBT Part 2

Having spent a little more than a weekend playing in the Vindictus XE European Closed Beta last week, Staff Writers Daniel Owens, Tobias Masters and Cody Hargreaves sat around to chat about their experiences. Yesterday, they talked mostly about how much they wanted to be playing it again instead of sitting around talking about it, but they did manage to take a look at the impressive visuals and performance, and how much they enjoyed fighting the White Tyrant. If you haven’t read it yet, take a look now, and prepare for:

MMO Roundtable: Vindictus XE Europe CBT — Part 2

Cody: Sometimes, it the smaller things that make the biggest differences. Once upon a time, before we had high-definition visuals and adrenaline-fuelled gameplay, we had the RPG. It was a subtle addition to gaming that had one of the biggest impacts of all time; it introduced so many core game elements — like character and story, quest progression and grinding mobs to increase your level — and while many games still borrow these elements today, they rarely do it well.

Vindictus XE does, and it combines them with the best of the modern age to create a genuinely enjoyable experience on multiple fronts. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about ‘repetition’ and ‘grinding’ — elements of the RPG we’ve enjoyed since the SNES — and not enough talking about the characters, which I can tell you now, become significantly more meaningful during the Ainle stages, and the old-school art direction of Colhen.

Tob: I never made it as far as Ainle myself (I was too busy tackling the bear). Visually, I thought Colhen was actually the least impressive part of Vindictus we got to see. It wasn’t bad — it serves its purpose as a hub town perfectly — but compared to the other areas of the game it seemed a bit dull. The boat makes for a great comparison here: on the boat, while waiting for your party to ready up, you’ll find loads of objects and toys to play around with to keep you entertained whereas Colhen is comparable to any other MMORPG town.

Aside from that, the NPC interaction interface in Colhen is a huge step forward. Being able to walk straight into a shop and be able to instantly navigate what you want to do with just a few clicks is great.

Dan: I think Cody hit the nail on the head; Colhen has an old-school SNES flavour that comes out in the art direction. The town architecture, villagers, the familiar stores and inn all present the vibe of a much older generation of RPG.

The whole setting just pulls me in and once I’d learned that it was a prologue to the Mabinogi MMORPG I was much more excited. Not only does Vindictus XE expand upon the lore of an MMO I quite enjoyed, it also delivers the tale in a very personal way. It very difficult to introduce a traditional RPG storyline into an MMO due to the nature of the genre, but Vindictus is one very large step closer than the others.

Cody: I think that an important point, Dan; Vindictus is a step closer to becoming a real RPG, and not just an MMORPG, and that shows in other places, too. Take the prologue as an example. This type of cinematic introduction / tutorial is a mandatory element of an RPG; you don’t just appear randomly in a forest next to a guy with a quest in any RPG I’ve ever played. There a story, a cutscene, some characters that will reappear throughout the game.
This is a rare occurrence in MMORPGs, and it even rarer to find one that actually engages you long enough to watch it without hitting escape. Vindictus achieved this without effort, and as a result, I immediately felt connected to the world.

Tob: The opening moments of a game (or any narrative media for that matter) tend to set the level of immersion for the gamer, and the opening cutscene instantly had me willing to suspend my disbelief and throw myself into a world where seemingly crazy women try to talk a giant white spider out of destroying a town.

It amazing how much of a difference facial expressions can make to a game and Vindictus puts a heavy focus on them. Not just in the cutscenes either; every character changes their facial expression based on what they’re doing, even with simple emotes. Seeing Fiona change from a battle-weary grimace to a beaming smile as she greets another player made me smile as well, every time.

Dan: Vindictus is clearly bridging the gap between hack & slash action-RPG and MMO, and proving to everyone else that there is still room for creativity and we don’t need to adhere to the same dated gameplay mechanics forced upon us each time.

Personally I hope other developers pay attention to what Nexon is trying to do, pushing the boundaries and offering high quality titles for free. While Vindictus isn’t perfect, it definitely has my seal of approval.

Cody: Mine too; it a near-perfect blend of my favourite genres, and it clear that this was built with love. DevCat, the developers of Vindictus, deserve a strong mention here too. After all, they’re the guys responsible for most of what we’ve been playing.

They’re the ones responsible for the Campfire, an item that can be taken with you into any dungeon to heal your party and increase your damage and defence for a short period of time. They’re the ones responsible for making players find wood for the fire before it can be used, and the ones who saw the social benefits to having a group of people sit around a campfire for a few minutes and talk about their battles.
Again, these are all elements of the RPG. The campfire is more reminiscent of a pen-and-paper RPG like Dungeons and Dragons, and that perfectly okay with me. It another small step in the direction of creating a truly captivating an immersive role-playing experience, and if were a betting man, I’d put my money on Nexon being the guys who eventually achieve exactly that. 

In the meantime, Vindictus XE is about as close as we’ve ever come to that ‘perfect’ RPG experience within the confines of an MMO, and that why I’m going to be playing it every chance I get.
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