Having taken advantage of several Open Beta Key giveaways for Nexon’s Vindictus Open Beta, my better half and I have found ourselves spending considerably more time exploring this title than we usually devote to online gaming. I’d say we are about knee-deep into the amount of content (for certain values of content) that is available in the OB, and thus far it has made us forget all about a certain Cryptic MMO’s weekly episode updates, daily Guild Wars bounties and Zaishen missions, and even Guild Wars 2 media watching for the time being.
In a gaming first, I am playing a male character, since the Lann role is a dual sword-wielding damage-dealing tornado DPS with little use for subtlety, while Fiona is the tank a sword and shield character with powerful knockbacks and a bit more skill involved in utilizing her to her full potential. The game even warns you at character creation: Fiona is not for noobs. My better half plays her more than aptly.
Despite these character role/gender limitations, which normally put me quite off a game, I am enjoying myself tremendously in Vindictus. The smallest contributor to my enjoyment is how beautiful the game looks; even on my midrange rig, graphics flow smoothly, look great, and still deliver a decent framerate at normal settings, and yet the detail is stunningly impressive when you crank it all the way up to max. The story is nothing to write home about, but as an admitted story aficionado I appreciate the effort and that’s half the battle.
No, what impresses me the most about Vindictus is that the combat is so much fun, and that isn’t something I ever thought I’d say about an action game. My experience with Dungeons & Dragons Online was appalling, and with Chronicles of Spellborn I found combat something interesting, but more to be endured and grown accustomed to than something I was genuinely excited about. Action-oriented combat was one of my last niggling fears about Guild Wars 2: that if I can barely manage or remember to strafe in GW1, how can I be expected to add dodging to the mix? The answer, in Vindictus, is that it’s all in how the game lets you handle the controls. I have never felt dexterously-challenged by the lack of skill buttons to be mashed, or targets to be selected, by the use of the right and left mouse buttons or by context-sensitive kicks and throws. Not only that, but there’s something so incredibly satisfying about breaking apart a stone pillar, and subsequently picking up the pieces of that pillar to club enemies over the head with. Or picking up an enemy and throwing it at another enemy. Or grabbing an enemy by the neck and slamming its head into a wall.
Three days into the beta, and my better half and I are looking for ways to fit more Vindictus time in. It has already been declared “the best free MMO ever” in this household (though not by me), and we both know that when the game goes live, we’ll be rolling the Evie character and laying waste to everyone and everything with our Golemancy. While I will add the caveat that there does seem to be a degree of dungeon repetition the likes of which I have not previously tolerated in any given MMO, the ways in which combat can be switched up and varied on the fly really does lend to replayability in ways I didn’t expect.
It may not hold us off until Guild Wars 2 releases, but the environmental interactivity might give us a taste of what can be achieved with a good engine and implementation.