PC Review - 'Vendetta Online'

by Mark Crump on March 29, 2005 @ 12:34 a.m. PST

Vendetta Online combines fast-paced, real-time “twitch” based flight and combat model with the RPG gameplay in a colossal online galaxy. The forward progression of the detailed storyline allows for great plot variation contingent on the actions you take. The vast number of choices to be made in Vendetta Online makes playing a truly unique experience.

Genre: MMO
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Guild Software
Release Date: November 4, 2004

I look for three things in MMOs: the fun of playing with other people; the sense there’s a point to affair; and a reason to stay up too late. I found none of these things in Vendetta Online — simply put, this is one boring excuse for an MMO

You can use your imagination to put the obligatory "gosh, [the developers] are a small house, let us acknowledge the plight of those who compete against Blizzard and SOE" comment here. I don’t care if you’re Blizzard or two kids in a basement: If your game doesn’t meet those three things I listed above, the game is Not Going To Be Good.

With some more development time and the Three Great Things I mentioned above, Vendetta Online would have been a great game. Instead, it feels more like a watered-down version of Freelancer, a single player game.

There are a few things Vendetta Online got right. There is a fantastic backstory to the game. Almost ¾ of the 64 page manual details the conflict in which three factions — Serco, Itani and Union of Independent Traders — are engaged. The manual reads like a history text, with a detailed timeline of major events of the war. The big problem is, it’s a waste of talent and paper as that’s the only major reference to the conflict. There’s scant (read: no) reference to it in the game. You choose one of the three factions, do missions for that side, and maybe if you happen to run across a player from the other faction in one of the PvP areas you can fight them. None of the missions have anything to do with the story. There’s no plot advancement as you work your way up a quest ladder and dispatch those evil members of the Other Side into their own hell.

The central nexus to the game are the space stations scattered throughout the galaxy. There you can get missions and buy new components or ships, and as a bonus, your ship is repaired for free when you dock.

The missions are the usual kill, deliver, retrieve missions found in every other MMO. You’ll spend most of your time navigating from one jump point to the next, rinsing, lathering and repeating along the way. The missions reward you with credits which you’ll use to purchase ship upgrades.

The combat in the game isn’t badly done. It’s twitch based, so you can dogfight, although most of the time combat seems to involve more colliding than shooting (seriously, it was like playing bumper-spaceships). It is refreshing to not hit auto-attack and walk away; I just wish the AI was a tad smarter. You won’t find any classes in the traditional sense, either. You’ll fly around killing things gaining xp in weapons skills; once you’ve gotten a certain amount of XP you’ll unlock a certification for a better weapon.

One of the things that’s sorely lacking in the game is any sort of tradeskills; you can get missions to go out and mine mineral that just end up being handed in for coin at the space station. Granted, tradeskills aren’t a requirement in the game — City of Heroes proved that point — but having player crafted ships and weapons would have been a great boon to the game.

The lack of tradeskills underscores another big weakness in the game: little to no reason to interact with your fellow players. Sure, you can group up to get tougher missions, but you can’t trade with other characters.

These failings add up to a game that’s not very addictive, a curse in an online game. Granted, from a small developer I don’t expect a game that’s got the production qualities of an EverQuest or a World of WarCraft. What I want,though, is a reason to keep on playing, and running the provided missions didn’t do it for me.

The interface takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it works well. The game uses the WASD keyboard scheme and you can also use a joystick if you are so inclined, but getting around space is fairly boring, though. Most of the time, you’ll just plot your course using the navigator, move out of range of inanimate objects, and engage the jump engines to head to your destination.

The graphics are fairly decent as well, especially the asteroids. The space stations and ships, while they look generic, are well done. Likewise, the space zones aren’t hard on the eyes and do a decent job at immersion.

I did manage to find some things I liked in here, though. The developers obviously care about the game, and there’s a vibrant, helpful community on the boards. There’s also a great backbone to what one day might be a great game. The game subscribers are very helpful, and the community alone is free of the bad sports you might find on the "bigger" games. It’s a refreshing change to go to a developer’s forum and not see a significant amount of whining.

The entry price of the game is very low. You can buy the game for peanuts at the store and get the first month free, or download the game for free off their website and get an eight-hour trial and then be forced to pay the 10-dollar monthly fee. It’s also worth noting that the eight-hour demo runs out as you play it online — your eight hours is an honest-to-goodness eight hours of playing, not a demo that runs out eight hours after you install it, regardless of whether or not you play it. The game also runs on Window, Macintosh and Unix.

Reviewing — and scoring — games like Vendetta is tough. As a reviewer, I’d give Vendetta a 10 for developer and community caring. Unfortunately, that’s a small portion of the product, as many players might just pick the game up and never check out the forums. Vendetta is also a niche game and has got a certain amount of anti-establishment feel to it. If you’re looking for a lot of polish here, you’re not going to find it. If you like space sims, and Star Wars Galaxies isn’t doing it for you, it’s worth at least downloading the free client and checking it out.

Score: 6.0/10

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