On Vindictus…

(***NOTE: This post was originally written on my other blog on the SA Current website on April 10th, 2011. It is under the name “The People’s Gamer”. I am reposting here on my own blog to maintain all of my personal work. In any case, hope you like it.)

Most gamers will agree that the phrase “free to play” is intentionally misleading. Sure, you can download the game, set up a character and have it running without paying a penny, but within a few hours you’ll start to see what else you didn’t pay for—non-existent story, unbalanced combat mechanics, and incredibly buggy gameplay. Fortunately, Vindictus is a rare gem in the free-to-play world that refines the fundamental aspects of online games into simple, repetitive questing that is equally addictive and entertaining, if only to keep you distracted until the next big game is released.

Vindictus comes from the Korean-based game publisher Nexon, which also hosts several other web games for various interests. It traveled to theU.S.market when it garnered several accolades when it was presented at E3 and PAX conferences. As mentioned before, it is completely free to download and play, but for those who wish to splurge on their avatar there is an in-game store that uses their Nexon credit system to buy special items. These can be anything from weapons and equipment to extra storage space or tattoos and new hairstyles for your character.

The majority of the game revolves entirely around a small city hub called Colhen, in which players are given “stories” to complete by traveling to a dungeon and slaying the final boss. These dungeons never last more than 15 minutes, and the difficulty is accurately paced to be simple for those starting out and expertly challenging by the time you reach the level 70 cap (as of this writing, although new content is added to the game every month or so).

For anyone who has ever played an MMO before, the classes are almost exactly as any you’ve played before: A magic user, a damage dealer, and a tank to stand at the front lines and take most of the damage. Unfortunately, these roles never become necessary until the higher level dungeons and most of the game centers on four players spam-clicking the enemy to death. Enemy AI is basic enough to be extremely predictive, but still doesn’t enter the territory of idiocy. Enemies will focus on those dealing the damage, but anyone caught trying to heal themselves or others will not be left alone for long. Recent patches have introduced additional features such as a very basic PvP system for one-on-one duels, an expertise system that is essentially a carbon copy of the profession system from World of Warcraft, and transformations for higher level characters paired with a very simple talent tree for a very small degree of character customization.

Many can argue that the aspect of “grinding” in MMOs is counter productive to having fun with other players, but I have always found myself in disagreement just a tad. The ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ cycle exists in nearly every MMO to date because it is a mechanic that not only works, but it hooks you. Achievement-based gamers have long been catered to by MMOs as they offer a process of repeating the same actions in order to achieve the next level; World of Warcaft is guilty of this, as is Vindictus, yet the biggest difference is that Vindictus doesn’t burn 15 bucks a month… at least, not if you want it to.

While Vindictus certainly doesn’t offer any kind of real depth or central story such that full-fledged or subscription-based MMOs have, it is nevertheless entertaining and a solid game that exhibits style and polish better than many other MMOs out there. After 3 months of play, I still throw in an hour or two a day because my achievement-inner-child is still alive and kicking, and that’s more than enough reason for me.

See you in the next level,

Gray

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