Now that the Motorola Xoom has arrived with its Tegra 2 Dual Core CPU, we're starting to finally see the Android gaming ecosystem spring to life. One game that harnesses this extra CPU juice is Vendetta Online; a space based PC MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game) from Guild Software that lets users join clans, partake in space battles, and customize their ships.
We briefly went hands-on with this Android 3.0-only game to get a closer look at the Vendetta Universe.
Subscription Based Online Gaming
The very first thing to note is that Vendetta Online is a subscription based game, as most MMORPGs are. Thus, after you purchase the game for $.99 from the Android Market and install it, you will be prompted to create an account. They do give you a trial period (which was utilized for the purpose of this hands-on), but the cost to play is in line with most other online games at $7-$10 a month. The good thing here however, is that the Android version of the game (it also runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X with all platform users playing in the same Universe), provides an offline mode where you can do extra training missions and mini-games.
The account setup process doesn't take too long, but in a rather strange move, Vendetta provides its own grossly inferior keyboard for text input rather than letting you use the Android keyboard. We are not sure why, but hopefully this gets resolved in the near future.
Once your account is created, you have to Log on to enter the Vendetta "Universe" where you will be able to join other users in online gameplay.
Story, Nations, and Characters
Once logged in, you will be prompted to choose a Nation and create a character. There are 3 Nations: Itani Nation, Serco Dominion, and the UIT. Attempting to go over the Vendetta Online backstory can be its own post, but in essence, you're in a beyond-Earth future, and through space exploration and advanced technologies, the 3 clans emerged from a once connected human race and now battle each other for supremacy.
As is customary in these kinds of games, you start out with basically nothing and must work your way up. This includes purchasing ships and equipment, as well as selling goods to earn money to buy new equipment, ships, and weapons. It also means you have to go through a number of training missions to become acclimated with the game and endure hours of gameplay to even begin to develop your character.
Graphics & Gameplay
Upon flying out of your Nation's training space station for the first time, you immediately realize how massive the game is. You see asteroids and a beautiful Saturn-like planet in the distance, drone ships flying about, and larger space enterprise-like vessels patrolling the area. The textures of the environments, ships, and planets are really detailed. You can tell Vendetta is making good use of the Xoom's Tegra 2 processing power.
When it comes to flying your ship, things are not as rosy. Some serious playing time will be needed to get used to the controls. This is a first person perspective space shooter, so your entire screen is filled with your HUD or Heads Up Display. To control your ship, you have a number of controls. On the right side of the screen there is a circle which allows you to look 360 degrees in any direction, and on the left are up, down, left, and right arrow keys, with up moving you forward and down to stop. The the left and right arrow keys allow you to move the ship sideways. There are also shoot and turbo buttons on the left hand side of the screen as well. There are also buttons for mission, stop, target, and activate. Let's just say you can tell this was a game ported from a PC.
If you're looking for Ace Combat like controls, you will not find them here. Controlling the ship just seems a bit off balance. Sometimes the the controls are too sensitive and sometimes they lack responsiveness. Also, it feels like the ship doesn't really move that fast because the scale of the game is so big. It's only when you fly by an enemy ship or other smaller objects that things feel more speedy.
The game has only been released for less than 2 weeks, but a number of updates have been given, which have somewhat adjusted the controls, although it's still not markedly better. Hopefully they will continue to tweak the pace and controls of the game to make the flying experience smoother.
Our time with the game has been brief in relation to how long you can actually play the game (basically forever), but from this short hands-on, there are some things to get excited about which included the graphics, the game's massive scale, extra Android features, multi-platform nature, and the initial under a buck purchase price. With that being said, many things, like the keyboard and flying controls, still need to be addressed to put it more on par with its desktop and laptop brethren.
In the end, if you like space battles and MMORPG's, at $.99, this is a great deal. And if you like what you see, then you can always subscribe to play the full game and band together with your fellow Nation members to explore the full Vendetta Universe.