The best way to fully analyze this game is to break it up into parts and then recombine it at the end to see how well each piece complements each other. Since I have only played this game recently, I have not seen how this game progressed at each stage of its evolution, thus this is a fairly current analysis of the game. Here are the categories in which I'll break up this game:
- Game Mechanics
- Gameplay Design
AestheticsAesthetics; this is essentially anything associated with the looks of the game. This includes graphics, artwork, animations, textures, etc.
|Sample of In-Game Character Artwork|
Besides the artwork, you have the graphics. Although the graphics aren't quite top-of-the-line like Crysis, they aren't bad either. This is essentially a DX9 game, but the textures and modeling are fairly decent. However this game is mostly CPU bottlenecked due to the physics, collisions and amount of objects in the game. Thus, if you have anything less than an i5 or quad core, don't expect this game to run at 60 fps all the time especially when there are 6+ players and 20+ mobs on the screen. I'm using a laptop with a duo core 8600, and it runs at around 30-50fps depending on the conditions, so it's actually fairly playable even with a duo core.
Although this is fairly CPU heavy and doesn't bog down on the GPU as much, I wouldn't recommend using anything less than a ati 4850 or nvidia 8800 GTX.
The character animations in this game are really well done. Each attack has their own unique feel and you can easily tell what each animation does just by the look. The only issue with this is that it isn't as responsive as some other games like MvC2, but is good enough that it isn't that detrimental to the overall look of the game.
NarrativeThis is probably where Vindictus is lacking in the most. Although the beginning prologue is REALLY well done and sets the tone of the game very well, it kind of ends there. Once the prologue ends, you're led to a more old school text dialogue chat similar to the way JRPG's had dialogue text back in the day.
What really kills it is that you lose the voice over which is a very important component to the narrative of any game. The thing is, there aren't any more cut scenes similar to the prologue again, just boss fight cut scenes. Thus you are left to reading tons of text to get the story, which in games should be delivered with as little text as possible. However, the actual story isn't that bad and is pretty interesting if you do decide to read it. But then again, if they did have voice overs and done it poorly, it could just ruin the entire experience of the game.
The levels could have also been designed better to induce a more story driven experience instead of you just killing random enemies for no reason, but I'll go more into that later in the Gameplay Design section.
Game MechanicsThis is the core of any game since it's essentially how the game works. Although it is the core of the game, usually this isn't usually the most relevant part of the game in determining whether the game is good or bad. This is because the game mechanics are mostly hidden from the player such as specific stat effects, the exact amount of damage you do, etc. You can think of game mechanics as "it's what's under the hood of a car". As a consumer, unless you yourself are a mechanic/engineer, you really don't care how the car works, but as long as it works and "feels" good, you are usually satisfied.
The main difference between Vindictus and other Action/Adventure RPG's is that it uses a stamina bar to limit the amount of hack & slash you can do. Certain moves require stamina and it only recovers if you are not sprinting or attacking. Thus you have to be smart on how much you spam your abilities which gives a more calculated approach to the game.
What's really nice about the mechanics is that each of the three playable classes that they have out right now (2 additional classes are currently in the works) play very different from each other. Also, within each of those classes, you have 2 different play styles giving the player 12 different styles of gameplay. It's really nice to see the detail and thought put into each class to make each experience unique and fun.
As a whole, the mechanics are fairly sound. Some things here and there could be tweaked in terms of exact numbers, but it generally isn't that game breaking.
Gameplay DesignThis is the most important part of any game since it affects so many different aspects within the game. The design of this game is overall fairly good, but there are certain aspects where it also falls short. Where this game excels at is the boss battles and character designs. This is what makes Vindictus so good and fun to play. Each boss has their own unique set of attacks and are very fun to play against.
With such good boss fights, one would think that the levels themselves would be amazing as well, but here is where the game starts to fall short. Most of the early levels are not that great in terms of level design. Each level from sections 1-5 are fairly bland and straight forward. It almost seems as if each level was created by a random level generator. Most of the way it's designed is kill x amount of mobs in this area before you can proceed to the next. However, the levels get MUCH better once you hit the 6+ sections, but those are essentially the "high level" areas and take a while to get to. If you can handle uninspired level design up until then, you'll be given a very nice treat with the mobs and levels past that, although the boss fights are again really awesome.
Another shortfall of the game is that you'll need to repeat alot of the same levels in order to progress/level to the next areas. However, this isn't that bad since there are different game modes called "oaths" that you can play through such as "Kill the last boss within 10 minutes" and "Win without using secondary weapons." There are some levels (character levels) where in order to progress in the story, you'll need to level grind w/o any side quests. You'll run out of any quests to do and will be stuck running a particular level at some points in the game. This is the biggest issue with the game atm and can deter many potential gamers. However, if you can overcome some of those humps, once you hit a certain level, the game progresses very well until you hit late game where you essentially hit max level.
One game design point that is very well done is that the game encourages higher level players to help out lower level players. Once you get past the early section of the game, you need to spend an in game currency known as tokens to play each level. You can't buy this resource and you can't really gain more by just playing. In order to gain more tokens than what's normally given is to either spend real-life money on tokens that allow you to play that level OR help out anyone who is 10 levels below you to get a form of currency known as a Seal of Dedication. If you help someone that is 10 levels below you beat a level, you get 1 seal. Once per day you can turn in 40 of these seals and get 10 tokens. Thus, if you want to play more, the game forces you to help out the newer player base. As a side note, you also get XP and gold as well.
SummaryWhat makes this game so good is that when you combine the very nice aesthetics of the game with strong game mechanics and great boss fights, you are essentially left with a very, very solid game. Since each character plays very differently from each other and that each character is very well designed and detailed, it makes the combat very interesting and unique. It is only exemplified during the boss fights. However, sometimes there are points in the game where it starts to stagnate due to the uninspired level design and poorly planned leveling. This creates a grind feel that no modern game should have. Once you overcome those obstacles, it leaves you with a very good gaming experience that not many games can attest to.
Overall, this is a very well done and quite polished. There are some flaws in this game, but in my opinion, the positives out weigh the negatives in this game by a good margin. The leveling and actual levels could be done better, but the really awesome boss fights make that game more than worth while. With all the WoW clones and Dynasty Warriors-ish games coming out, it's nice to see a game that tries to be different, but still delivers a solid gaming experience all the while being free. If you haven't played this game yet and loved games like Demon's Souls and Monster Hunter, this game is definitely worth the bandwidth and hard drive space.