Vanguard: Saga of Heroes just went into Open Beta, but I've been playing for the last three weeks, and actually had some fun. After downloading the Beta client, I started up the game and immediately made an Orc Dread Knight, chosen simply for cool factor. Dread Knights are considered Protective Fighters. The game has four types of main groups for classes: Protective Fighter, Offensive Fighter, Healer and Caster. Not all classes are available to each race, which may disappoint some, but as a fan of Orcs, I had no complaints.
Character creation is really well detailed with a variety of options that rival Oblivion for customization level. You could easily spend 45 minutes getting the right combination. My only concern here is that they chose to put breasts on the female anthromorph races, meaning this game has a chance of garnering the third highest Furry population behind Second Life and WoW Druids. After getting the right look, I named my Orc DK, and set off for adventure!
The Kojan starting area looked really nice. Until I tried to move. This game is highly graphics intensive, so the first thing many will want to do is turn down the graphic details to Best Performance. However, for those with nVidia 8800's, you should be able to see just how good the game can look. I started out on a slave ship, and had to beat down a guard for a key, then make my way to an outpost where the first few quests are getting some payback on the slavers.
Combat is fun, and there are two things to pay attention to while attacking. The first is attack chains, meaning that certain attacks will trigger follow-on attacks with the chance for higher damage. The second is opponent afflictions, in that certain attacks may stun, confuse, or stagger your foe, and some attacks will do extra damage to mobs with those states applied. This makes for some very effective combos to be put together.
Quests are generally fun, with the exception of one called Unlikely Aid. This is one of the worst quests I have ever come across in any game. You need to deliver a tribute to an Ogre King. This Ogre King never becomes unaggressive. In order to complete the quest you will die two or three times while desperately trying to click through dialog options. This wouldn't be so bad, except the death penalty in Vanguard is hardcore: live corpse run and XP loss. The corpse run can be avoided by two means, either paying money to summon your corpse to an altar and forfeit your lost XP, or have someone drag your corpse to a safe area. Thankfully, you cannot lose a level from dying.
I didn't do much Crafting because it is almost as confusing and tedious as Auto Assault's. My playstyle means I avoid non-killing activities so I didn't have much to do with Diplomacy either.
As much as I would like to say that Vanguard is a fun and challeging experience, I can't do it without saying that the game is being rushed out the door at least six months earlier than it should be. Untested features, missing features, starting areas lacking content and non-functioning basic gameplay components are what you can expect. How many of these features and fixes will actually make it into the game by launch? That's a question that really needs to be addressed, and soon. I do think that Sigil has done really well with what is included, and some of their ideas are a refreshing break from convention, but it's sad to see them forced to compromise for the harsh reality of profit margins.
Bottom line: It's a real Catch-22. If you get the game at launch, you will be buying a largely unfinished game and will not have a rewarding experience. If you wait six months to see if things have improved, you may find a game that suffers from not meeting subscription expectations. Personally, I plan on getting a retail copy at launch and then actually installing it this summer.
Feel free to comment on what you feel I missed out on in some of the other areas, and if there is anyone who has experience with the Crafting or Diplomacy, I'd like to be convinced that it's worth my time.