capsule review

Vendetta Online

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Being the pilot of a cargo freighter in deep space is tough. Sure, you get to travel to new worlds and meet interesting people. But you also run the risk of being gunned down by pirates, getting trapped in an ion storm, and worse. It’s all part of a day’s work in Vendetta Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) by Guild Software.

Unlike the majority of MMORPGs, such as EverQuest (which has you running around and killing rats to earn your street cred), Vendetta Online turns you into the pilot of a lowly cargo freighter with limited firepower, limited storage capacity, and slow engines. Each time you dock at a station, you can check the mission computer for worthwhile contracts. You choose the missions you want to take: you can ferry needed parts and supplies to distant systems and sell them on the open market, or you can accept special missions that reward you with a bit of extra money. The greater the risk, the greater the reward—industrial espionage and reconnaissance pay well, but there’s always danger lurking beyond the next asteroid.

As you make money, you can upgrade to more-powerful vessels—which will be useful whether you choose to become a merchant captain, moving big goods between systems, or an interstellar pirate, preying on the weak and unsuspecting.

Despite the game’s complex interface, I didn’t have too much trouble picking up the basics of moving around and controlling my ship. I recommend that new players run through the game’s tutorial missions, which teach the fundamental rules of movement, combat, and trading. Once you’re done, it’s largely up to you to explore the systems and make money for yourself.

Thousands of play-ers can interact simultaneously in Vendetta Online—however, as I write this, it rarely has more than a few hundred users at a time. Low turnout won’t interfere with your game, though, since there are plenty of computer-controlled ships flying around. Also, you can pick up new missions whenever you want. But don’t take too long to complete your missions. As other players shift cargo between stations, the mission rosters and the value of the cargo will change. You may find yourself stuck with a useless haul if you’re not careful. (I recommend unloading cargo between plays if you can, since you’ll notice these changes most dramatically if you go a few days between outings.)

The game’s 3-D graphics aren’t cutting-edge, but they do the trick for a shared, collaborative, online world set in outer space. And although sound effects are fairly simple, the soundtrack is varied enough to keep things interesting.

Vendetta Online requires a monthly fee, which helps offset maintenance and development costs. Plans start at $10 per month (price breaks for long-term subscriptions are available). You can download the game for free; the download version includes an eight-hour trial period. The boxed copy costs $30; it includes Mac, Windows, and Linux versions, and it comes with a printed manual and one free month’s worth of play.

The game requires a 1GHz processor or better and 348MB of RAM. As I reviewed Vendetta Online, the game was still having trouble quitting on Macs with certain Nvidia graphics cards, and Guild Software was working on the problem. The game automatically downloads new patches when you connect.

The Bottom Line If you prefer pulp sci-fi novels to The Lord of the Rings, Vendetta Online is the MMORPG you’ve been waiting for. And unlike many Windows-first MMORPGs, this one puts Mac, Linux, and Windows players on a level playing field.

Haul cargo or blast pilots in Vendetta Online, an online role-playing game set in outer space.
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