A review of Vendetta Online.
Vendetta Online is a commercial MMORG game available with a native Linux client (which is why I tried it out). It is basically a modern interpretation of David Braben's classic Elite game. (which last incarnation has a Linux port. I ran that port recently (screenshot) since I used to love playing the game back when it was released.
Anyway this review will look at how Vendetta Online compares to Elite. Obviously the graphics have moved a forward by a huge leap and same with sound.
So lets start with the good points of Elite/First Encounters. The nicest thing of the game was its feeling of a huge universe which you had a real feeling of things happening in. A big part of this feeling of aliveness was the ongoing storyline presented through the various newspapers you could subscribe to. There where also a lot of quests which you could go on which tied in with these stories. There where also tons of quests which did not tie in with any background story of course. Another nice feature where the huge range of spaceships and how you could modify these ships with a lot of different accessories all with different tradeoffs in terms of usage of space and capabilities.
The bad parts of Elite/First Encounters where the real lack of logics in regards to getting attacked. Space combat is fun, but it is not fun when you are getting attacked 50 times enroute to your destination. Space combat could also be rather tedious and borinng depending on which weapon you had. I also often got blasted out of the sky before knowing what hit me due to the 'fast time' option in the game. The motivation for those attacks where also a bit unclear as the monetary cost to any would be pirate would in most time make it cost prohibitive to be a pirate, meaning the value of your goods would allways be much lower than the cost of their repairs if you just got in 1 hit. The game also seemed to favouritize doing some rather boring stuff. For instance I quickly learned that the fastest way to earn enough money to buy the bigger cooler ships where basically fly back and forth between Earth and Alpha Centauri trading goods. This route where pirate free, short and the two systems complimented eachother well on what they needed. Bounty hunting, passenger transsport, military assignments and so on could be fun in their own regards, but they often cost as much as they gave in terms money for fuel and repairs. Another boring part of the game was the time spent flying to space stations and planets. You always warped in quite a way from the space station or planet in question meaning it took time getting to the planet. There was a fast time option which would have solved it was it not for often getting you killed before being able to react.
So over to Vendetta Online. Have they managed to get the good things in elite over and the fix the bad stuff?
Not so sure. Being an MMORG they have a good chance to make the Universe come alive around you. But the newspapers which where such an integral part of FFE is not there, newspapers which they could have both generated based on what players did and even probably get some players to help out writing. There are three grouping in vendetta just like there are in FFE, but they seem more stereotypical than their FFE counterparts. Being able to buy stuff has changed a lot from FFE, in Vendetta you need to get 'licensed' before being able to buy stuff. Not sure how much I like the concept compared to the pure pricing system of FFE. I think it makes it feel more like a game system than a 'real world emulation'. To some degree the licensing system can be compared to the military assignments and leveling in FFE, but since everyone seems to be basically a 'soldier' for their respective group in Vendetta it means you have to work the ranks before being able to buy anything.
Vendetta also has less spaceship customization options than its source of inspiration. So where FFE let you trade cargo space for protection for instance so are there little tradeoffs to be done in Vendetta. For instance FFE demanded you put aside space for a tractor beam/cargo scope if you wanted to grab cargo from ships you destroy, this beam would then grab the cargo for you in you where close to the cargo. In Vendetta this is just about 'hitting' the cargo boxes with your ship.
Space combat do seem to have improved over its predecesor. It isn't forced upon you all the time and the system for doing it seems aimed at making some more gameplay out of it.
They have some nice improvements to trading, for instance so will prices start to fall if you do the jumping back and forth thing which I did with FFE. The trading system could still be improved, since they allow for universal communication they could for instance allow you to get information on good ideas for trading. I am sure that in such a future world there would be an organisation gathering prices from around the universe and selling you the information. Like a system where you could pay 50cr and be told that since you are on planet xy, you could consider these options which would earn you this or that. They do not however have the trading in illegal goods that FFE had which was another thing to bring flavour.
Never tried mining in FFE so I am not sure how it compares to mining in Vendetta. Guess the comment is that Vendetta lowers the barrier for your first mining mission.
Player vs player combat is of course a unique feature of vendeta since its a MMORG. When I was out flying on a mission I noticed an enemy ship in my sector. I tried attacking it, but I never seemed to get any hits. I didn't recived any hits either. Seem to remember reading something about having to challenge people to be able to do that, which I think is a stupid concept, at least in 'unregulated space'.
So to summarize. Vendetta is a beautiful game graphically, and I truly recomend anyone to download the free 8 hour demo to test it out if nothing else to look at the beautiful rendering of space. The technics of the game like combat and space station handling are also good IMHO, but the developers really need to work more on adding stuff to add more flavour to the game, make the socities feel more alive and vibrant. FFE beats them hands down in this area, which is a feat considering how old the game is. Moving away from the license level/ working for the group system towards Elite's system of free enterprise might also be a nice change.