Anyone played Death Rally? Liked it? Keep reading. Hated it? Hmm, this is quite probably not for you. Vangers is a game of vehicular combat (="you, like, fight in cars and stuff" for the vocabularistically challenged :)), with all components of a game of this genre: resource management, trading, upgrading, and, of course, mindless killing and slaying (which, incidentally, can get you in trouble - which is a neat thing). At the end of the 20th century, the unification of scientific and esoteric knowledge, which has long been separate and antagonistic, occurred. This was achieved by certain human spirits who have achieved transcendental contact with powers resembling that which was referred to as the Infinite Mind. The Infinite Mind has long been foretold and anticipated by some, ones who were always burned, crucified and quartered and denied to exist by others, who were the ones burning, crucifying and quartering the other people. The time was right, and the information gained from the contact could be used successfully in real life, although the theoretical background of it was completely beyond the scientists.
The technology that had the most dramatic impact on human evolution was the permanent tunneling of space, the creation of so-called Passages which enabled the humanity to travel to alien worlds. The lifelong dream of Man to travel to the stars has finally been accomplished. However, in a completely stereotypical way (don't forget, this is just a game ;)) Man immediately decided he was the one with the superior intellectual abilities, therefore, he was the Chosen One to live, the stereotypical Aryan, if you wish. So he started opening Passages to all kinds of worlds - and, one of the properties of the Passage was similar to that of the Infinite Improbability Drive (from another work of art ;)) - it could open up absolutely anywhere, and there was absolutely no way one could predict just WHERE it will open up.
The cosmological model of the galaxy, with the stars, planets and galaxies became unnecessary. The Passages opened ways into zones, the formation of which was completely unrelated to the scientific concept of a metagalaxy. So the 'explorers' went through many worlds, annihilating the native populations, and not even exploring, charting or developing the found worlds - just moving on to the next portal. Inevitably, just rewards were at hand for such violators of Nature's equilibrium.
The Cryspo were entirely unfamiliar. They looked nothing like the crummy humanoid 'aliens' flying UFOs of the mid- to late 20th century. The collective mind of the Cryspo was completely alien to the humans' individual psyches. The finely structured Cryspo culture, if it could be called that, resembled a structure of a crystal, or that of an insect colony. It could also be compared to that of the Borg.
The Cryspo initially overlooked the entrance of strange two-legged units from another world into their domain. They just couldn't care; then the humans made a deadly mistake in their blind wannabe-conquerors' endeavors. They started slaying advance outposts of the Cryspo, not only with little reason to, but with what is commonly known as "extreme prejudice." The consequences of this slaughter were catastrophic.
By the time the humans realized their technological and psychological inferiority to the Cryspo, the Cryspo found the Passages and entered them. They found new worlds; and all of the Terran discoveries were wide open to the Cryspo. Initially, Terrans were ignored as lesser beings, although any intervening ones were immediately exterminated - then, the Cryspo found their way to Earth. After many battles, all of the major cities were abandoned, and the remaining humans were scattered throughout the wastelands of the globe. More, the Passage to Earth was eventually destroyed, which left millions of the Softies, which is how the humans were known by then due to their physical characteristics, stranded on worlds with Cryspos, as well as many other races throughout the universe. Soon, the Cryspo found an interesting use for the humans: their body served incredibly well as a biomass for their larvae. The Softie population was therefore decreasing rapidly. Realizing that, the humans attempted one last strike at the Cryspo, inspired by the Infinite Mind: genetic intrusion. It was incredibly successful, driving the Cryspo back, and eventually threatening their Queen, which resulted in the closure of the passage to their Homeworld, Cry.
However, this genetic intrusion progressed further. The human DNA structure and the Cryspo DNA mutated, resulting in a combined species, in which, two generations later, the DNA strands, under the biomolecular chaos that ensued, resequenced to form a completely different, sinister species: the Bouillon of Spawn. The majority of this species had absolutely no chance of survival, but three subspecies eventually emerged, which were similar in theior metabolism and psychobiological structure. In them, the outside structure prevailed from the Cryspo ancestors, and the inside nervous system came from the humans, both due to the environment the new species found itself in.
A thousand years have past from that which is referred to as the Clash by the locals. The player belongs to the clan of the Vangers - explorers, warriors, traders, pirates in a world that is only starting to wake from the oblivion of a millenium ago. The strange worlds of the Lost Chain emerge as time passes, carrying dangerous challenges and competitors. Eventually it will be discovered that the Clash between the humans and the Cryspo were not conincidental - in fact, the Infinite Mind planned it all along in order to create a new type of warrior - the Vanger...
And now, after a relatively lengthy story, to the actual game. As was mentioned before, it is a game of... where you fight dudes in cars. You trade goods, of which there are not that many (unlike in Privateer, or, more so, Privateer 2). You can also do what are called Tabutasks, which is basically a sealed packet of information which contains a task that you have to perform when you leave the place where you picked it up (since all business is usually performed in the Incubator or the Podish, at least in the world where you start off.) Tabutasks vary in complexity, but they are well worth it - they are usually not overly hard (except for certain ones), and they pay extremely well.
All communication with you is done by the Councilor. You can ask him questions about the environment, and he can tell you stories of the past. Unfortunately, the help you get as related to the common-day vocabulary is ENTIRELY useless... unless there is a hidden message I have been unable to decipher so far. For example, if you ask him, 'What is a raffa?' [Which you need to know to complete one of the tabutasks], he will answer something along the following lines: 'It is something you, young Vanger, will very often come across in your travels! There are many of them, and they are everywhere.' Unfortunately, it doesn't quite end up helping you, since there are more things than just the raffas that you encounter throughout your voyages that exist in numbers. By the way... if anyone knows what a 'raffa' is, please, feel free to email me and tell me ;).
The graphics in the game are quite good. It doesn't use 3D acceleration, which sometimes results in slight freezes in especially complex terrain shots, but in general it's quite fast and smoots. It uses a proprietary voxel (Volume piXEL) technology, which allows for more accurate terrain levelling, and for that extra boost of fun when your car went in a ditch because your driving sucks (okay, okay, because your, uh, gamepad broke) and you're trying to drive up the jagged wall and keep falling off. Miscellaneous effects add to the atmosphere, like the water tint that changes when waves splash on the shore; quicksand where you leave tire marks; and other little bits and pieces that make it an overall graphically nice game. There is a distinct daytime ('Plump-up') and nighttime ('Gulp-down') in the game, which is actually quite nicely done. I'd love to have some headlights though... maybe none exist in a post-genetic-mutation world. However, I do believe it may have profited from 3D acceleration, so a few points off for that.
The sound is quite nice, where it exists. For example, the engine sound was barely audible, if at all; I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but in theory, a car game should have some kind of a background engine sound to it. The critters' chirping adds a great deal to a wildlife atmosphere; the weapon sounds are a bit lacking, I would say.
Gameplay is extremely fun. I absolutely have to warn potential Vangers, that you MUST be patient - if you give up too soon, you WILL miss the fun. The learning curve is quite steep in the game, and it is definitely not for a casual gameplayer. However, once you have a little idea of what is going on, the game becomes fun. You drive a vehicle called a Mechos, but that's where the similarity with the Mechs that you are familiar ends. It has nothing to do with huge 'bots stomping the ground, looking evil and squishing innocent spiders. It is, in fact, a modified car, which doesn't look scary at all (unless you get a dual- or a quad-gun configuration on it, in which case everyone runs from you) which barely scratches the sand and squashes innocent spiders. Which are, incidentally, called 'beebs' - one less vocabulary word for you to know if you'll be playing it :).
This rating depends a lot on your tolerance. If you are a patient person and don't mind LEARNING a game before you can play - then the rating's right. If you're a mind-warped lunatic who bought a laptop and lives in a trailer park because you think you'll move, I STILL stand by my rating, since it ain't my problem - but you may want to pick up the trainer for the game on our Trainers page. Or rather, don't play this - this is not for the brainless, go play Quake instead ;).
The protocol support in the game is not particularly varied - it only supports TCP/IP, however, what's neat is you can actually specify WHICH port the game server should run on. I suppose it is not particularly a lifesaving option, but it's not bad to have. In multiplayer, the same resource-management technique persists, although your starting cash is nicer - you start off with $100,000 - which is enough to get you a very cool truck (albeit with no weapons, so don't spend it all on a car ;)).
The game setup is intuitive enough, and setup of the vital system functions is a breeze. The interface is a bit crappy, somewhat feeling like a bad Shockwave implementation, but it gets you around. Nothing much to talk about in this section.
This game is very unique in the way it implements the ... car combat genre. There were numerous games before that had either this view perspective (Death Rally), the idea (Death Track anyone?), or just a general blastfest (Interstate '76). However, this game combines all of the above in a great and innovative way - and makes it fun, too... well, once you're done figuring out how things work in it.
A few final words about this one. A thing that is quite intriguing about the developer (Buka / K-D Lab): they are from Russia. It is not surprising when an existing, known developer spews out a great game (Origin, Activision, Bullfrog, etc.); it is not surprising when an existing, good developer spews out complete insane garbage (Sim* [i.e. anything past SimCity 2000, such as Copter, Golf, Streets of, etc]), but it IS surprising, in a good and warm way, when a company that not many people heard of brings a great game to the market (Imperium Galactica, or right here, Vangers ;)). I absolutely admit that many reviewers will completely diss this game, given that it's not your average Mortal Kombat game... but I will stand by my review, as I liked it a lot.
Vangers in brief:
Highs: Innovative design, great (albeit somewhat far-fetched) storyline, very varied choice of cars and things to kill people with, neat idea that 'killing won't get you too far' [still have to test it out ;)]
Lows: absolutely (read: ABSOLUTELY) useless Councilor (i.e., no help - you're on your own); no engine sounds, dumb idea of recharging energy weapons (you have to FIND a recharging station instead of just recharging it for money at some easily findable place), idiotic compass (which sort of works, but...);
In general: Great game, absolutely grows on you. Definitely worth the gaming dollar [unless some *cough* clever marketing manager went out and slapped a $79.98 tag on it, a la Star Fleet Academy :)]