It certainly looks like it has its pros (interactive environment with boss fights) and its cons (no visible NPCs anywhere). It'll be interesting to watch for developments from.
Let us all take a moment before pressing play to look at the inappropriate title picture (or whatever you call the picture that displays before you actually start a video).
I'm sure this wasn't intentional...
This game is awesome. There are infinite beta keys if you do it right.
That guy is providing a beta key to anyone who follows his stream. When you register your key, you get 2 more in return for registering. You must give those 2 to him, that way he can keep supplying keys to everyone who wants one. So go grab your beta keys.
Originally Posted by Khilbron
So I'm ready to drop my end of closed beta review of Vindictus:
First I want to give you my general impression and opinion, so subjectivity incoming.
I don't really think there has been as satisfying of a hack n' slash for PC since DII. I have yet to have been completely bored with any particular combo or move, nor have I been overwhelmed with too many buttons to push. The controls are intuitive and simple, but boss fights require more finesse than LmBx4 -> RmBx1 -> repeat. Having actual control of your character is important and identifying boss moves, their counters, and having the reaction time to apply them separates joe-average from leet-pete. Secondary weapons bring another element that can be either fun or profitable.
Most importantly, I have fun playing. Is it grindy? sure. But combat is fast, so, to me, it doesn't feel like that much of a chore. Finding new and interesting ways to break up landscape and use it to destroy your enemies is still fun. Combat is smooth [with a caveat that I'll get into later] and the settings allow you to tweak how much manual input you provide.
So, with that out of the way, I'll do a short list of high and low points:
Graphics: Just fantastic work with character models and environment. I haven't seen cloth and hair move so fluidly in a MMORPG that wasn't a cut scene. There are a plethora of animation face points which allow for a wide variety of character expressions. Armor is unique and each set feels drastically different from each other. Physics engine is good, though often something will seem like it was hit with more force than it actually was. For instance, go kick a pot or hit the fish with a spear on the boat.
The biggest "controversy" in the Graphics category is the treatment of NPCs. NPCs exist in shops. Shops are in town and when you enter one, a "shop instance" is created just for you. When you enter a shop, you basically enter a glorified menu screen. The background is the shop itself, with the camera panning slowly back and forth, and the NPCs are 2D avatars with chat boxes.
Now, this may seem strange in a game that I've touted as having fantastic graphics, but I generally like the direction the developers have taken with NPCs and towns for this particular game. First of all, by "instancing" the shops, you don't have to deal with 20 people crowded around the same NPC. From a story line enjoyment perspective, I feel more like the hero when its just me and Fergus jaw-jacking back and forth, rather than 20 other "brave mercs" who are getting the same treatment. The characters, to me at least, feel more personal as 2D avatars, as opposed to 3D models. Sure, they could have created unique models for every NPC, but even in WoW, I really don't pay attention to the detail on unique 3D models [after they were released]. Regular merchant/story NPCs in WoW? They have no chance for remember-ability, unless they have a quirky name. With the 2D avatar, they can switch the facial expressions as different text is displayed and generally show more detail to make them memorable. While I don't think this is good for all games, I think it works well here.
Gameplay: I went over some of this above, but the "hack 'n' slash" style was executed very well. If you don't enjoy hack 'n' slash games, this isn't for you. Breakable and interactive terrain is tons of fun. Picking up a barrel over your head and smashing it on an enemy is satisfying. Grabbing a gnoll, slamming him into a wall, and then smashing him with your shield is very satisfying. Grabbing a kobold and kicking him into 7 kobolds, knocking them all down, is near orgasmic.
"Trash" is easy, as is its intention. There are some pretty cool traps in the game that, while easily avoidable, add a little extra spice to the instance [these include: rolling Indiana Jones boulders, giant mechanical spiked rolling pins, tripwire suspended tree trunks (a la Endor), and reverse spike pit traps (in soviet russia, spike smash you)].
Bosses, however, are not trash with more hit points [like some DII bosses felt]. Well, I suppose that is a matter of perspective. Ya see, Vindictus has a "group size difficulty slider" system for most dungeons. This means that you can run a dungeon that is supposedly tuned for one person, two people, three people, or four people. Now, most MMOs that I've tested that employ this system work something like this: Solo mode = Easy mode and 4 person mode = "how-the-game-was-properly-tuned" mode. So, solo mode is there when you just want to knock something out fast, or don't have the time to wait for a group.
Now, in Vindictus, the paradigm is: solo mode = pro mode vs. 4 person mode = roflstomp mode. These two modes are so vastly different from each-other, I really can't tell which is closer to "how-the game-was-tuned" mode. It is a totally different experience between 1v2v3v4 people in a group. Solo mode, for many fights, can be down right brutal and crazily time consuming. It requires patience, reaction time, boss attack pattern recognition (if there is any), and has leeway for very few mistakes. This is opposed to 4 person mode, where even though the health of the boss increases, generally any group can zerg a boss to win.
What gets even funnier are raids. Jack that number to 6 and you can accomplish the only currently testable raid encounter in the game in the hardest mode availible in less than 30sec with timely use of spears wearing nothing but your weapons.
Now, this may be a bias on my part, but it seems to me that you want to make encounters more complex and more challenging when the players have more options available to them. At the very least, solo mode and 4player mode should feel equal in difficulty.
Now, there are a bunch of reasons why one would make solo mode more difficult. Some legitimate, some less so. I will not list them, but I'd thought I'd mention their existence. Suffice to say, this is one of the things that disappoints me the most. I first attempted the polar bear raid with two people. It was exciting! Lots of dodging and moving! Clutch use of secondary weapons and environment! Precise positioning and timing needed to land a powerful smash attack! That was on normal mode. Then I ran it on hard, with the difficulty turned up, in a group of six. I was pumped! We killed it in 30sec. Better and more loot dropped. More exp was gained. =\
This is, in my opinion, a cultural design thing. Being an Eastern design company, Nexon will develop their game primarily from an Eastern perspective, for an Eastern audience. The paradigm for the Eastern gamer is just vastly different from the average U.S. gamer. U.S. gamers, generally, believe the greatest rewards should come from the hardest tasks, regardless of the parameters (reinforced individualism). Eastern gamers, generally, believe the rewards should be static to the task, with the task becoming easier with more people involved (reinforced collectivism).
So, we see a game like WoW move towards evening out the "difficultly" of 10s and 25s in order to offer the same rewards, which, in theory, should increase the U.S. player base.
Vindictus, designed primarily for an Eastern audience, already has equal rewards across the board, but has nearly an exponential decrease in difficultly for every new person brought into a group.
Take it as you will. People will agree with one paradigm or the other. I don't think one is "wrong." I just know I, personally, enjoy one over the other.
Tech:Now, I'm not a tech person, but I'm generally satisfied with the state of the coding (bugs, etc) for a closed beta. The one big beef, which is most likely the one at the top of my list, I have is the hosting system. When you do a dungeon run in a group, the instance is hosted by the party leader, not a dedicated server. This is understandable because the game will be FtP, and having dedicated servers would, quite frankly, demand a subscription.
The problem comes in when you have someone create a party who is an exceptionally bad host [tech wise]. You will be jumping all over the screen, the game will lock up at horribly inconvenient times, and you will get 1 frame every 5 seconds [regardless of how awesome your computer is]. At this time, there is no way to easily see on the "launch" board how good a host the party leader is.
Now, in a recent patch, it seems like some of these hosting issues have been fixed. Hopefully they can change it so that the game automatically chooses the best host out of a group, instead of the party leader. Perhaps they are still tweaking, since it is in closed beta after-all. I'm willing to give this one time, but if not fixed it will be a major stopping point for many players.
Community: Difficult to say how this community will end up being. As of closed beta, I've run into very few "ragers" and people generally seem to be forgiving of mistakes. Now, this may be because you are rewarded for rezzing people with feathers... or perhaps because the game hasn't been out long enough... or perhaps because its closed beta. There will be a guild system set up, but I see this as more of a convenience for friends than something necessary for success in the game.
I don't think it will ever have a WoW level of community, but it'll be more vibrant than, say, HoN/LoL.
Keep in mind that these are thoughts from closed beta. Only two characters are available for play: a tank and a dual-wield melee DPS. Half of the game features are not implemented [enchanting and alchemy are the most glaring]. When the game goes into open beta and ranged/magic characters are introduced, the game is going to vastly change.
Final verdict from closed beta: B+ [A if hosting issue is fixed].
I am still enjoying the heck out of this game and full agree with Spiritus!