Vindictus Review: Painfully Awesome



Vindictus Review: Painfully Awesome
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist

Vindictus, Nexon's newest action title, is here and in full swing, and unlike Nexon's current lineup, this one plans to be the most painful MMO you'll ever play. This isn't your little cousin's MMO with cute monsters and such. Vindictus contains destructive beasts; deadly environments and balls-to-the-wall action that will make you squirm with joy.

Starting out

Right from the starting gate, there's a bit of both joy and disappointment. The character selection is currently only limited to three different heroes: Lann, Fiona and Evie, each with different playstyles. Lann is a offensive dual wielding fighter that sacrifices defense for quick strikes that can rack up the high DPS, Fiona is the tank characters that has slow but powerful strikes with a sword and shield, and Evie is a master magician that can mix between close and long ranged magic attacks. Nexon and DevCat plan to add in more heroes later on, but the pickings sure are slim.

The first scenario you'll be dropped into is with a bunch of mercenaries trying to stop a giant white spider from destroying an old church. This scenario serves as your tutorial and does an amazing of getting you pumped.

Spider
Blood for the blood god YAY.

The control schemes available options between keyboard, mouse and gamepads. Keyboard only controls nicely and so does gamepads, but ultimately, the keyboard and mouse combo is the best option letting you aim your more accurately. So you're fighting the big bad spider until it gets impaled with ballistae, some oracle woman cries her eyes out over it and then suddenly: character customization time!

Character customization is fairly standard, offering adequate hair, eye, skin and body size options. Only downside with the customization is that every particular Lann, Fiona and Evie will have the same exact face, no matter what.

Anyway, the game world is another one of those heavily instanced game worlds like Guild Wars (town serves as a lobby, have to join rooms with other players, you know the deal.) The town is also your quest center to walk you through the story and lore of the game. Speaking of which: The story of Vindictus is a precursor to Nexon's other MMORPG title: Mabinogi, only set a century before it (how the story and lore went from grim & brutal to KAWAII DESU NE XD anime cuteness, I'll never understand.)

Gameplay

Try to imagine this: Capcom's Monster Hunter (MH) and Atlus' Demon Souls (DS) had a baby together and they loved that baby very much, but then DS found out that MH did it with Valve's source engine and DS wasn't the baby's daddy, so DS walked out them and MH couldn't support the baby much longer, so the baby was placed in a foster home where it was later then adopted and raised by another family (DevCat)

Silly as it sounds, that's the best way I can describe Vindictus in a nutshell. It plays just like Monster Hunter, but with more brutality. You can slam enemies into walls, perform backbreaking wrestling moves, shove enemies into steamrollers of pain and everything else in between. And the best part: just about anything in the area can be used as a weapon. See that pot over there? Go pick it up and throw at the troll you're dealing with. See that big stone column you broke? Take a piece of it and smash it over your foe's head.

One time when I was up against the Gnoll boss, I knocked its helmet off and used it to beat it to death (no joke!)

Overkill
Beatdown in progress

Most missions are primarily focused on running through the same environments and areas over and over again, usually ending off with a boss battle. Environments are littered with traps and enemies that will try and get in your way, but really, after a couple of runs they'll become nothing more than an afterthought. The boss battles, on the other hand, are the major highlight of the game, shifting the focus over to teamwork to take them down (soloing is still very much an option, though.)

Boss battles won't seem like such a highlight until you reach Gnoll Chieftain, which is basically the first brick wall that will teach players that spamming attacks is not the way to go.

Wolf
This baddie will break your button mashing ways.

Defeating the later monsters might seem tough at first, but it's really all about learning how to not be greedy with your attacks and looking out for a couple of "tells" in their animations that will give you a clue to their next assault. Once you know all the "tells" in their attacks, that boss that was kicking your ass a week ago will be a pushover.

When playing co-op, you have a bit more options towards defeating bosses, such as chaining the monster's legs down so your teammates can get some hits in. Employing strategies like this into combat was a nice idea, but team tactics end up resorting to making sure you and your team knows how to hit and run properly.

Outside of boss battles, you'll spend your time re-running missions to collect materials and earn ability points for increasing skill ranks. A good chunk of equipment can only be earned through crafting and while it may be tedious, earning the gratification to strut your stuff in your new digs should be more than enough to keep you going.

Presentation

Vindictus is a game that will make your PS3 and Xbox 360 jealous, because it has a strong console game vibe to it. The visuals convey a nice medieval world to explore, made possible by the power of Valve's Source Engine. (Finally, the source engine is being used for something other than shooting games!) Animations are all nicely done with anticipation of each attack you pull, so when you bash your foes in the head with that heavy object, you're going to feel it too, but in a good way!

The story that goes along with it is mandatory to participate in, but does a fairly good job of keeping you intrigued with narrative that doesn't bog itself down with unnecessary dialog. Most of the time, however, the story is carried out by NPCs that are nothing more than still portraits.

Crazy
Quit staring, geez!

Cutscene moments that go with the story are few and far between, but strangely enough, I actually wish there was a bit more of them. The voice acting with each cutscene wasn't half bad, either.

The music made for Vindictus was slightly disappointing, especially compared to Mabinogi which had such wonderful tunes, but Vindictus the music is just... quiet... and almost non-existent. The only time you'll hear music is in town, during boss battles and post battle results screens. That's it.

My thoughts

The biggest gripe that players were having with Vindictus was with the token system that limits how many high level missions you can play through. Certain missions require silver and platinum tokens to be spent and you only get a handful of them. Once you've ran out of tokens, you're pretty much done playing until your tokens are re-stocked on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, or until you purchase some from Nexon. People that don't have much free time on their hands will find this to be a blessing and others that want to play for long hours without spending money on NX will see this as a curse. The token system is supposed to keep power playing in check, because even with the tedious mission runs, players can hit the level cap in around a week and will be burned out that they won't have anything to do since there isn't a lot of content at the moment. Nexon made several changes to the token system in an attempt to make all players happy, but I was fine the way it was either way.

One gripe I had with Vindictus was how poorly optimized it was. My PC build is pretty solid with a quad core processor, 4GB ram and whatnot, but I couldn't manage to get any more than 20 frames even with medium settings. People with similar builds have reported that the game runs flawlessly and others with more powerful PC builds have stated that it runs like crap. I don't know how DevCat managed to screw up optimization for the Source engine so much, but they pulled it off fantastically.

Conclusion

Vindictus aims to please anyone that's looking for a little more gruesome-ness to their MMO action. With the token system and lack of content being the only real turn offs here, Vindictus is easily my most recommended MMO of 2010.

Pros:
- Action MMO with brutal physics
- Interactive environments
- Simple but enjoyable co-op play
- Almost ANYTHING can be used as a weapon.

Cons:
- Not much content available at the moment
- Token system limits progression
- Game engine is not optimized.

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