Welcome, if you will, to the third-age of MMORPGs. Let’s say the first began with Ultima Online, EverQuest, Asheron’s Call and Dark Age of Camelot – games that had a deep appeal for a particular audience, but could never quite manage to attract a mainstream following. Then came the second age. City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, Eve and Guild Wars started to knock out the elements of the genre that put off the majority of gamers, and perfectly suited those who had just taken up broadband and were looking for something to do with it. Well, now we’re ready for a third age; a range of games that, essentially, take the post-WoW MMORPG as a starting point and run from there.
Make no mistake. WoW is very much the elephant in the room where these games are concerned. All the players in the market – new and old – know that they need to either compete with Blizzard’s monster or attract a different audience. While some games are doing the former, using big-name licenses to pull in mainstream punters (Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar and Age of Conan come immediately to mind), Vanguard seems to be positioning itself slightly differently. Its geneology – developer Sigil was co-founded by Brad McQuaid and Jeff Butler, both instrumental in the development of EverQuest – might give you the idea that Vanguard isn’t exactly targeting the first-timer. In fact, it seems designed to provide a bigger, more complex, more grown-up alternative to WoW. Think more choice, more depth and fewer long-term limits.
‘Bigger’ and ‘more’ are very much the themes here. The world itself – Telon – consists of three huge, completely explorable continents, modelled after European, Asian and Middle Eastern settings. You also get a huge range of character races and classes and some enormous skill trees to start off with, plus such lofty long-term goals as flying mounts to ride on and virtual property you can build and decorate. There are even areas that you’ll only be able to access by air or boat. ‘Forget the other MMORPGs’, Vanguard seems to be saying ‘I want to be your one and only, not just now, but for the rest of your life.’