MMObility: Vendetta Online on the iPad is a familiar experience

Vendetta Online iPad screenshot
Vendetta Online has a long history. You can play the game across many platforms and access the same universe as all other players no matter which device you are on. That's right, you can jump on your Android device and kill a few enemies while on a lunch break and then go home to switch to the PC, for example. I looked at the game for Rise and Shiny last year, and we got our hands on it again at this year's GDC Online. It's always been an impressive enough experience for the most part, but the game is definitely aging. It's still not a newbie-friendly title, and the smaller playerbase makes the game seem like a ghost town a lot of the time.

I have been poking around the game for a bit now only to encounter mostly the same experience I found before. That's not a bad thing, but it's not exactly a good thing, either, because if there is one thing I do not like, it's bumping into a rough newbie experience. Sure, there are tutorials and missions to help you get started, but once you make your way into the greater universe, you might find yourself a bit lost, or worse -- bored.

Vendetta Online iPad screenshot
I know, I know... games like Vendetta Online require a long relationship. You need to spend quite a long time with many sandbox titles in order to get to the full experience. I agree. And the journey to the top has to be a fun trip or else I tend to lose my way or find myself distracted by other games. Luckily, Vendetta Online provides a different trial account. When you sign up, you can play for eight real-time hours. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a clever way to allow players to literally spread a trial over a week or so if needed. I worked my way through one trial and even checked out my old account to find some time left on that!

This time, I played on an iPad 2, so my resolution wasn't nearly as high as it would be on a later model. Even then, I didn't find many hiccups in performance and was still impressed by the game's visuals. For a 10-year-old game, one that has embraced the movement of many gamers from desktops to mobile devices, it still looks nice. It's only one of about 15 to 20 high-quality "real" MMOs in the mobile market, so I'm happy it's there, but I wish it had a bit more oomph in the early stages. I just don't see many new players being impressed enough to stick around. After all, this is also a PC-based game, and on that platform, there are many other space sim titles with more visual appeal.

Vendetta Online iPad screenshot
The controls are smooth most of the time but can be a hassle. It's uncomfortable adding to the ship's speed while also firing, tilting, or otherwise driving the ship, and the whole scenario is made worse by the fact that the iPad is not made for holding up for a long time while you're operating it with your thumbs. I prefer the game on a smaller tablet like the seven-inch Nexus 7. The UI can use some tweaks, even though we were shown how it has been improved while we looked at the game at GDC. The gameplay hasn't changed much from what I encountered in my tour last year, which tells me that a lot time was put into either porting the game to different clients or tweaking the existing experience. I've seen a few big battles, and the twitch-based combat is still pretty fun, but the game has sort of stagnated for me.

If you haven't played it before, make sure you take more time to get involved with the community. Make some friends and see some of the cooler content in the game and you'll understand how it's survived the last decade. Just don't expect much of a surprise if you've played before and are simply switching devices.

MMObility Vendetta Online on the iPad is like it is anywhere elseTrade is still fun and a good optional job to supplement combat. It's a bit tedious, as it is in many games, but travelling is more interesting when it's realistic. It takes time to travel, so even if the travel is sluggish or even boring, the realism usually makes up for it.

Expect to spend a lot of time trading in order to raise enough funds to buy a better ship. That's made me wish the game would just sell items in a cash shop instead of charging a monthly fee. Not only are monthly fees seen now as "old guard" and thus part an old genre or set of design criteria, but cash shops allow more choices in gameplay. A player can buy what he wants and the rest of the players are not affected. After all, they can still take the slower road if they like. I take the slower road in many games that allow players to buy power or shortcuts, but I want to be able to cut some corners when I choose to.

Vendetta Online on the iPad is like Vendetta Online on any other device, but it also has the unfortunate problem of being mostly uncomfortable on the iPad. It's still a relatively cool MMO for any device, but its age is showing, and its familiar sci-fi designs have always been an issue. I would love a cross-platform space MMO to offer real, truly beautiful experiences as space would likely be... especially in the future. Unfortunately, most sci-fi designers are still convinced that gamers want to be playing a drab future with UIs that look like UIs have looked for decades. Ironically, I spent time playing Vendetta Online while on the original iPad, a device that shows just how much UI design and interfacing with a device can become almost art. And yet here we are, without anything like giant spacecraft to conquer space with. Imagine what real UIs will look like in the future, then contrast that to how silly sci-fi MMO designs are.

You can download the game for free from the official website and play it across any device. Try the tutorial and remember that you get eight hours for free. After that you must pay the monthly sub fee, something that might feel like a heck of a deal when you are able to log in from anywhere. But if you are used to playing it on a different platform, you won't find much that is new.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

This article was originally published on Massively.