Following SoE's long-established pattern of not doing anything the easy way, or indeed any way that makes any kind of sense at all, having announced an official launch date for Vanguard to go free to play next week, Vanguard went F2P yesterday.
Sort of. It's kind of a work in progress. There was only the tiniest patch needed when I logged in but the patch notes werehumungous! The entire game up to Level 31 seems to have been re-itemized, both overland and dungeons A large number of quests in that range have been revisited, I can only assume to make them easier to complete given the long list of adjusted "Kill N of X" totals. Oh, and they all got new rewards, of which more later.
There also seems to have been some kind of graphics polish. The whole world looks sharper and even more gorgeous. I went to Kasaravi Gulch and I swear my quest Wyvern has a different, more detailed, model. I've flown the darn thing often enough, I ought to know. Could it be my imagination...or could the appearance of the very same wyvern in the brand-new Vanguard SC Store have something to do with it?
I'm definitely not imagining the Cash Shop. Kaozz called it "robust", which is putting it mildly. Most of the stuff that caused conniption fits in EQ2, the kind of stuff they withdrew over there prior to the full F2P conversion, is back and then some. Armor with stats for all tiers bar the very high-end. Absolutely huge bags. Ships. Flying mounts. It puts whole issue of driving crafters out of business and allowing adventurers to buy their way to success firmly back in play.
The F2P matrix they've settled on is a bit of a shambles. Not as bad as the original one but nowhere near as good as I was hoping it would be after the discussion on the forums. I quite like the idea of playing any race up to level 20 then making a one-time payment for each one you want to unlock completely for that account, especially with a low unlocking price of 270SC. That's a more flexible arrangement than EQ2's Silver membership. I'm also not at all put out by flying mounts in the shop. Those and the rest of the convenience and appearance stuff there is fine by me.
But then we come to getting dressed for action. Anything above the most basic magical gear, the Green stuff, is "Gold Membership Required". Even Blue quality Uncommon has to be unlocked, which is a much worse deal than EQ2, where the equivalent, Treasured, can be worn by anyone. On the face of it this would render most dropped and virtually all quested gear unusable without a subscription. Worse still, unlike EQ2 Vanguard has no equivalent of "Mastercrafted" so you couldn't go to your friendly neighborhood crafter to bypass the problem.
This would be bad enough if unlockers in the store were priced as they are in EQ2 but they appear much more expensive. Insanely expensive in fact, to the tune of 450SC per unlock ! That's $4.50 per item! It would make unlocking a full set of gear for one character cost $81.00 !! That cannot possibly be correct.
And indeed it's not As I looked at it I realized that even SoE couldn't REALLY be that crazy. I went to the forums to look into it and In this thread Silius explains that they've added new rewards to all quests, which are are useable by free players. How good those are, he doesn't say. I'll have to go do some quests and find out. Also he confirms that "Much of the crafter stuff is useable to a point. I
have already made some adjustments to the flagging that will go out
next patch". We will see.
Oh, and the unlockers actually come as a potion with 5 charges, although you can't tell that by looking at them in the Store, so that $81.00 to unlock a full set of gear drops to just over $16.00. About three times the price of doing the same in EQ2, in other words, or slightly more than a month's subscription would cost.
I won't go on. It's pretty ugly. I'm sure it will
improve. It will have to. The good part is that if you just want to
travel the incredibly beautiful world of Telon, take photographs or
videos, soak in the superb atmosphere, you can do it for free. And
that's the real Gold Membership.
*** I don't usually go back to old posts and update stuff, but since Syp linked to this one on Massively, for the sake of sanity I should point out that unlockers are now clearly flagged as 5 charges and cost 225SC, which comes to 45c per unlock. From memory I think that's about the same as EQ2. ***