If you weren’t fully committed to roaming the lesser seen corners of E3, you might have missed Vindictus in its large but unassuming place in the Nexon booth. In fact, the most that many show attendees will ever know about Vindictus is the awesome concept art they featured on the massive SWAG bags that were handed out.
It’s a pity that every time I walked past this booth I saw it rather barren, because inside rested one of the most unique innovations I saw all week in the MMO genre. The fact that it was overlooked is entirely unsurprising. After all, hard core North American audiences are incredibly uninterested in free MMOs. Any mention of the phrase F2P sends most of them into a coma of boredom.
For some reason, these haven’t caught on in America the way they have in places like South Korea and China. Westerners just don’t seem to be keen on the idea of playing for free, but paying for smaller items like potions and weapons. If I had to hazard a guess I’d chalk it up to years of feeling bamboozled by companies that promised their games were free to play only to reveal later that they removed integral parts of the experience unless you paid for it.
When first starting my adventure with Vindictus, I was first amazed by the fluidity of combat and the amazing graphics. It’s splendidly detailed characters would make World of Warcraft weep with envy. The combat as well is a ton of fun. It’s fast and visceral while making use of a cool combat system that feels way more like Devil May Cry than an MMO.
But the coolest thing that Vindictus brings to the genre is its destructible environments. Tons of objects all throughout the game’s levels can be destroyed. The end result is that when a battle takes place in a room, that room reflects that battle afterward. Huge chunks of stone pillars and tree wood are strewn across the battlefield, giving you the sense that the world is reflecting your actions as opposed to the static, never-changing environments of every other MMO.
The most amazing thing about this isn’t just that the environments are destructible. That alone would only put it on par with some console games that have achieved that interaction long ago. In Vindictus, you can destroy something, then pick up a huge chunk of what you just destroyed and bash somebody over the head with it. Or throw it at them from across the room, whichever suits your mood at the time really.
During the level I played, I thought I had seen the highlight of my enjoyment of Vindictus as I smashed an enemy with a seven-foot long length of broken tree branch. But as we got to the boss battle at the end, I found that this mechanic was actually weaved into the gameplay. The boss chamber was filled with giant pillars. To defeat him you need to force him to charge at you and break one of the pillars. Then our party picked up all the huge chunks of cement and bashed him with them. This caused him to get knocked down and make him vulnerable to strikes in a way that swords couldn’t achieve.
I was also enthralled to see that the ability to throw things at your enemies extends to traditional weapons as well. I was shown how I could stand back – while my party continued the assault – while throwing huge javelins at the boss creature. This isn’t just a canned auto-attach though. You actually switch to an over-the-shoulder camera view reminiscent of a Gears of War type of thing. Your javelin throws are based on how well you aim and lead your target. This may not sound like much, but after years of games like World of Warcraft in which everything from swords to guns are based on invisible dice-rolls this much interactivity is a breath of fresh air.
For all of these reasons, Vindictus is one of the best new games on my radar after seeing it at E3. Nowhere else at the show did I see a single other game trying to do so much to advance the gameplay of an individual genre. In fact, this was ultimately a year of incremental improvements for most genres rather than brave innovation. The slasher genre got a relatively uninventive new 3D Castlevania, and the third-person shooter got the interesting but seldom original Vanquish. Not to mention games like Rage and Bulletstorm, which while amazing in their own right, aren’t attempting to rewrite the rules of the genre.
Vindictus is about to enter closed beta on July 22nd, and frankly we can’t wait to see more of the game to find out if the rest of it is as exciting as what we played..