MMO News, Reviews & Opinions
- Written by kefkah
Genre: Sci-Fi Space Simulation MMORPG | Monthly Subscription Rate: $9.99 | Free Trial Allotment: 8 Hours
Vendetta Online is a space based mmo made by Guild Software, Inc. that has its work cut out for it - at least in the sense of escaping the shadow of EVE Online. Therein lies the irony as Vendetta Online is quite unlike EVE in many aspects and stands on its own as a quality space combat simulator. Interestingly enough, the differences between the two games shouldn’t be held in comparison to each other but rather that they compliment the full spectrum of the oft ignored Sci-Fi mmorpg genre. So with that in mind, let’s stick to talking about what Vendetta Online is and what it offers.
First off though, when Temploiter suggested this game for review, I must admit that I was hesitant because space shooters are not really my cup of tea. I mean outside of Space Raiders for the Atari 2600, a brief stint with Wing Commander and of course the expected stint with SWG’s Jump To Lightspeed, I am more noob than seasoned space vet. The whole dozen buttons, multidirectional combat scenario aggravates me to no end. That and the fact that most of these kinds of games deny you the ability to jump out of the ship and have a land based life with your avatar on the side...
Still after having visited the official website for the game, I found myself curious enough to give it a go especially in light of the fact that the site indicated that the developers actually listen to the community. I mean how many games do you know offer game clients for Mac, Linux and Windows? All of which play on the same server, I might add. Also, due to the community’s demands, they implemented a voice chat system AND graphical upgrades ala detail textures. Clearly, there is no impassible divide between development and will of the players.
The download for the client is a respectable 150 Megs that can be obtained via torrent or a slower direct download. It installs itself within minutes and has numerous graphical settings that adapt the game to your rig. For the record, I was playing on my low end Dell laptop again and was encouraged by the complete lack of issues or warnings about just how crappy the visuals may be should I attempt it on the current system. That and the patching afterwards cost me a minimal amount of time.
The trial I downloaded allowed for 8 hours of unrestricted game play. At first, that didn’t seem like much but the simplicity of the game, which shows itself from the very moment of player creation, allows you to learn about the meat of the game well before you have used a third of that allocated time. Experienced mmo vets (and/or Old School PC gamers) especially those accustomed to FPS style systems will be out of training and into space in less than an hour with a pretty sure grip on the game mechanics and play style. Quite simply, it’s WSAD with R and F for more tilt control. The mouse steers your ship in the assisted control mode while in the Physics mode (pressing ‘ while in space), the ship is controlled by the keyboard and the mouse controls the turrets.
You start off with very little choice in character creation. There are three factions (Itani Nation, Serco Dominion and the Union of Independent Territories) to choose from and once you make your choice you go straight into the Station menu. This interface represents what happens when you are docked at a space station. Training begins immediately with interactive lessons with the interface and buttons. You learn how to buy ships, stock them with weapons, how to get missions as well as other game functions such as trading commodities and using the cargo hold for loading and unloading hauls.
These training sessions for the Space dock can get a little tedious sometimes as well as confusing when you don’t happen to notice what button the game decides to highlight for you to click on. That being said, it becomes quickly apparent just how intuitive and simple the mechanics are to use when docked. There isn’t much of a learning curve as it reminds me of early 1990’s pc games’ systems that kept it simple so that you could be up and running the game before you got bored or too confused.
Once you finish the training for the dock, it opens up missions. The missions screen is again one of my bigger issues with the games I have tested so far. This particular time, the mission screen is bland filled with rectangular boxes with generic text. The only thing that really means anything to you is the title of the mission which tends to indicate what kind of run you will be doing. Still, later in the game, when there is 12 or more listed (some of which are old missions that seem not to go away from the list despite you having completed them), it all runs together and a bit underwhelming. It would be like getting missions written on a stack of tax return papers. Now I am not saying make them colorful and animated – let alone putting exclamation points over someone’s head. What I am saying is add some space between the boxes and alternate colors or something. Excel spreadsheets do not excite me nor instill a sense of grand adventure.
Despite that fact, some of the training missions are quite fun and ingenious. My personal favorite was when you do out to deep space to meet up with the captain of this huge ship and two other “recruits”. There he gives you the run down of the way things are in space all the while getting you used to plotting “jumps” to other coordinates. It is visually interesting and gives a sense of realism to the whole thing. I mean they could have written it all down in some kind of manual that an npc thrusts into your lap but the devs chose to make you live it and that is the kind of stuff that the major market mmos need to learn to do with some of their quests.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of milk runs and S&Ds but the vastness of space seems to allow you to pick and choose your battles in Vendetta Online. In games like WoW, S&Ds force you to one exact area where you will try to outkill the other dozen or so players undertaking the same mission. In Vendetta, you can pick your own little quadrant of space and have it out. True, there are other players and depending on where you are at, they may well blow you to bits but in the huge expanse of space, you don’t encounter all that many and if you do, doesn’t it add that bit of fear that seems to be missing from “zoned” mmos?
Last thing on missions though, quitting the game in the middle of one seems to render many of them useless. When you log back in, you can’t really do anything with the mission save for hit the abort button and from personal experience, that mission may not be available again. This is annoying and frustrating to someone who is a casual player and hopefully they either fix this issue or have a darn good reason for having it that way.
As you go along, completing missions and killing other factions as well as the universal foe “The HIVE” (mysteriously reprogrammed droids who aim to kill on sight any player), you get points towards your piloting license that when is upgraded allows you to fly bigger and/or faster ships. When you get to this point, better paying missions emerge for hauling resources, mining and so on. You also get more slots on your ship and access to better technology and weaponry to give your attacks more bite.
I will take a moment and point out the one issue I had with arming the ships. The menu says that you can select the slot you want to place the item in and then click the item to have it go over to it. Wrong. What you need to do is drag and drop and again, there are issues with that. The slots don’t really give you any sort of indicator as to what can fit into them. Sure it is simple trial and error unless you get an item like I did that simply would not go into any slot – small or large. I obtained some kind of shielding pod and tried in vain to get the thing equipped onto my Revenant (large cargo ship with 2 small slots and 1 large slot). Twenty thousand credits went straight out the window on that one and I know I could have used that shielding on the mission I was on.
Anyway, besides piloting licensing points, you also get faction points which helps reduce costs on certain space stations as well as grants you access very special weaponry obtainable nowhere else. Faction is very important in this game and can literally leave you stranded should you pull some boneheaded antics like attacking other players inside of protected areas.
I can’t really go into this segment of the game much as I only witnessed the fighting and did not participate in it. I can say that the various factions cannot communicate with each other as our chat (channel 100) only allowed the faction I was in to speak in it. I am sure this helps reduce the amount of Edrama that would occur should it be one big room for all factions to voice their grievances or more than likely boasting in it. As it was, there was plenty of infighting among our faction and that got tiresome quickly.
Balance seems to have been attained in the overall PvP system as it seemed battles came down to skill, knowledge of weaponry and a bit of luck. There were no gripes about any overly imbalanced weapons or anything that one faction had over the other. It was all pretty straight forward combat and no real sore losers. As a matter of fact, in the time that I played I only heard one complaint against the developers. It was about a feature that in the game but had not yet been fully implemented or was bugged. It wasn’t game affecting and the conversation ended in three statements.
PvP is usually the biggest issue for developers to deal with. Make one change here and it imbalances another class there. Vendetta Online seems to have nailed this down with the simplified system and universal ships and weaponry selection. I am sure that is something they pride themselves on as well as allows them to work on other aspects of the game instead of trying to plug holes in a constantly breaking dam.
Overall, the community is very chatty. Not the spamming, help me type at all. It’s full of boasts, conversations and play by plays of combat. Ask a question and you will usually get a good answer. Ask a lazy question and you will get chided for it. Still, the dialogue was always constant and in some ways, a valuable facet to the game as you learned a lot just listening.
This is not to say there isn’t your occasional jerk or two as such reflex gaming tend to attract to brash and boastful. But the majority was a collection of decent players who seemed to be enjoying themselves and interested in helping others out as well. I consider the community to be a plus to the game.
Support: The greatest testament to a well designed game is the fact that you can claim that you never needed to call in support. In the time that I played, the only question I had was about the missions bugging out when you logged off. Figured that out by simply aborting it. Everything else was pretty much intuitive and the amount of bugs was so miniscule that I don’t think I ever looked up how to contact Support. Good coding, Guild Software.
Keeping in mind that I am using my underpowered Dell, I was not disappointed with the graphics nor was I overly impressed. It definitely had its moments on the jumps and when you were near certain constellations. I know for a fact that I was on the lowest graphical settings and did not experience some of their high detail textures. I am sure that had I been on my home rig or even more so a modern system, it would have been more visually impressive.
The video below is fairly recent and shows off some of the game's better graphics...
Despite my disliking of FPS space combat games, I found myself enjoying the time I played on Vendetta Online for the most part. I made a few bonehead moves and found they were easily correctible and I held my own against the droids that I encountered in space. There was a sense of advancement and opportunity with every completed mission and the randomness of loot drops made it all the more unpredictable.
I can imagine that if you like testing your reflexes and piloting skills ala Wing Commander like game play, Vendetta Online may well be right up your alley. Especially if you like supporting smaller MMOs (the development team is composed of 4 people). Those who play EVE Online might see it as a downgrade in features, controls and the overall expanse of game territory but I will also say that those who were turned off from EVE due to its learning curve may well find a home in Vendetta Online.
The game isn’t for everyone but I can think of quite a few people who may enjoy its style of play. The one issue I foresee for those who would play this game after having come off of playing a major title is the subscription cost. True, you don’t need to buy the game to play it but at $9.99 per month, you will be paying standard industry subscription rates for an independent game. If you have no objection to this because Vendetta Online fills your need for space combat then have at it.