Now that the Australian servers have launched, we jump into this hack-n-slash F2P MMO.
By James Pinnell on November 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm
One of the major problems I have with MMO dungeon crawlers is that they all tend to… well.. become a little over-ambitious. Many of them are so highly strung on their own creative hook, whether 2D, or Gothic, balls-out crazy or even 8-bit, that they ignore polish and presentation in order to become so intensely hardcore and ridiculous that very few people find them approachable.
There have been countless times I’ve been excited about starting a new title before becoming bored or completely frustrated an hour in, killing rats or running the exact same route for the 10th time as quests recycle over and over. Meanwhile, the game is screaming at me about how exciting everything is, practically exploding with intensity every time I gain a level, providing me with just enough new power to run the next area by myself.
It’s also by this point that I’ve been showered in so much gear, all of it obscured by incomprehensible Engrish explanations on everything from its level requirements to its trash rating, only for it to be almost immediately superseded by something else just as I’m coming to terms with it. Meanwhile, I’m either being abused by the wonderful community for being to laggy, too slow, too rookie or, on the flipside, ignored completely as I request some company to make that 15th run slightly less excruciating, before wondering why the hell I’m playing this game in the first place.
Funnily enough, this grindy, dungeon-crawler MMO sub-genre is hands down one of the most popular out there, especially in Korea and China — but this is likely due to the sheer repetitive and time sink nature of the mechanics.
Vindictus has a special place in my heart, however, for actively attempting to properly introduce players into what is easily the best implementation of a CO-OP dungeon crawler I’ve found yet. Gone are the astonishingly confusing and stupid lobbies, deceptively simple tutorials and awkward battle systems, and its place are a proper choice of controls which include a superb implementation of keyboard and mouse.
At first glance, DevCat (Nexon’s internal studio) might seem like a western studio, thanks to the superb translation for the English version, including proper use of fonts, formatting, spelling and even voice acting. It also uses Valve’s Source engine, allowing for limited destruction and manipulation of world objects. It also means that the code is properly optimized for PC, allowing for very crisp looking graphics at high resolutions while ensuring consistent performance.
There’s even a little bar that demonstrates how well the game will run based on the settings you provide. Considering the game released back in 2010, it still looks pretty good, although there’s a bit of texture dating but frankly, you’re going to be moving around too much to notice. But what you will realize almost instantly is that there is very little left of the original engine – DevCat have imposed an entire traditional DC (Dungeon Crawl) interface over it, complete with RPG staples like inventory, while at the same time including Left for Dead style control inclusions like GUI highlighted “use” keys for picking up enemies or items off the ground.
It’s probably the best third party implementation of Source I’ve ever seen, and I’d imagine its inevitable sequel on the upcoming Source 2 will be even more impressive.
Vindictus differs from the dungeon-crawling competition on a few major points. The first is its combat system: it’s just plain brilliant. Fast, furious and brutal, you’ll find yourself smashing together combos via the mouse so effortlessly that you’ll wonder why this hasn’t been done on PC before. Even across the various spectrum of classes (from mages to fighters), everyone will easily adapt to their appropriate playstyle. The gradual ramp up of difficulty ensures that there is always a challenge, and the diversity of combat environments prevents that staple repetitive run scenario from occurring I was unsure how I would find using keys across the board in a real-time fighter, but the ingenious way that the game pops up tips and hints as you move your way through the early levels gradually eases you into it.
Secondly, there’s actually a story here. Seriously. With actual dialogue you can follow, towns full of stores you can enter and people you can choose to listen to (or ignore). The sad part is that it’s played out in Final Fantasy-style dialog boxes with NPCs you generally don’t care about. Eventually I found myself skipping a lot of the dialogue outside the more juicier arcs, because really, who gives a toss about collecting ore for merchants? Many of the quests you receive generally involve completing tasks within the dungeons or raids you enter, so much of the story again tends to be reduced since, well, it’s a dungeon crawler. Narrative is welcome here, if only to provide you with a sense of purpose, outside the farming of loot and the repeated deaths of overgrown rat soldiers.
Thirdly, and most importantly, there are now Australian servers available. Previously, Aussies were only able to play via VPN, which meant most of the time you would be booted from parties for having ping too high, or disconnected once the VPN hiccuped and Nexon realised the dirty truth.
But it seems that the lack of actual promotion for this event has ended up with most players transferring their higher level characters, leaving a distinct lack of new local players to fill the boats heading out to the sub-20 areas.
I highly recommend grabbing a few like-minded buddies before heading in to make things a little more interesting, as while things are quite simple to solo in the beginning, prepare to get your arse handed to you by sub-bosses later on. Trust me, I thought I was invincible before a certain giant attempted to turn me inside out. Literally.
If you’re looking for a fun brawler with a bit of substance, great presentation, controls, battle system and community, you would be hard pressed to do better than Vindictus. This is likely the least intrusive of Nexon’s lot when it comes to cash shop harassment as well, which makes it even more simple to recommend. I mean, it has to be better than Maple Story, right? *Pulls on flame suit*