Nexon is out for blood with Vindictus. It's unlike any other free-to-play MMO the company has published, and might sway the opinions of players who previously scoffed at the cute and cartoony likes of MapleStory and Dungeon Fighter Online. Other MMOs can lay claim to intricate crafting systems, treasure troves of epic items, and vast expanses of terrain. Vindictus does one thing, and does it well; stylish, bloody combat.
There are three classes to choose from, with the possibility of more in the future. You can play as the dual-wielding Lann, who focuses on fast strikes that deal massive amounts of damage. Fiona, the sword- and shield-toting knight, acts as the tank with her parries and defensive abilities. Evie is the newest addition since beta, and she is a welcome member of any party with her powerful offensive spells and healing powers.
The core structure of Vindictus is simple, with little time needed to introduce you to the basic mechanics, and more time kicking ass in dungeons. Colhen is the central hub from which you pick up tasks, buy and sell items, learn skills, and socialize with other players. From the Pier, players can summon boats to travel to dungeons or tag along with others to tackle missions. Soloing is always an option, but finding a party is never a nuisance.
It's important to note that later dungeons will require tokens to enter. Though you start off with some already, you will find that they never last as long as you'd like. You're then faced with the option of waiting for more to regenerate every Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Of course, supportive (or impatient) players have the option to pony up some real cash to buy more tokens.
Much like the Brags from Fable, an Oath of Honor can be chosen before entering a dungeon. You might challenge yourself to beat a specific clear-time, die less than three times, or go in solo. In return, Oaths yield extra Battle Points to unlock more missions and Ability Points to increase your character's skills. These additional side-missions provide extra challenges while encouraging replays, and the rewards are absolutely worth the risks.
Combat is the heart and soul of Vindictus. Forget everything you know about traditional MMO combat. Vindictus pushes it into real-time and injects it with an overdose of pure action. You have a regular attack and a heavy attack that can be strung together to form beautiful combos. Grabs will usually act as finishers, allowing you to smash an enemy into a wall or viciously break its back over your knee. It's this visceral brutality that makes Vindictus hard to put down.
Vindictus uses Valve's Source Engine, and the result is stunning. From the tiny details of armor to the fluid animations, this is one gorgeous game to watch. Small touches, like cats and dogs scurrying about, breathe life into the city of Colhen. The same cannot always be said of the dungeons, which constantly recycle rooms from previous areas. It is not a dealbreaker, but I hope to see more variety in future updates. With the Source Engine's physics, wooden barricades can be smashed, suspended bridges can be cut and lowered, bodies crumble as they are cut down, and... certain body parts jiggle.
Vindictus is truly a huge advancement in free-to-play MMOs. You'll still find a shop for purchasing or even renting outlandish outfits for real cash, but without the cut-rate gameplay and outdated graphics that most titles offer in exchange. Even with limited character-options and the lack of a sprawling world to explore, the action-packed combat of Vindictus is unrivaled in the genre.