Ah, the world of Vindictus. Home to a giant, rampaging spider that decided destroying a tower was the best way to express heart-wrenching terror while a mini-army of mercenaries do their best to form ranks and let rookies like me flex our virtual muscles. But, what of the non-thrashing objects in Vindictus? The objects that help to ease players into exploring the world with what Marie-Laure Ryan calls the “principle of minimal departure”?
The opening landscape of Vindictus is bleak, not like the lush lands of Final Fantasy XIV or the varied lands of World of Warcraft. Its stone towers stick out against the stark skies and mostly empty lands, and the wooden buildings that populate the village do not speak of wealth or lavish tastes. Certain elements remind players that they are in a fantasy world, like the cat sitting on a barrel and acting as a portal to the Avatar shop, but the rest builds a world long since gone or forever out of reach where life was harsh enough for warriors to rise and interesting enough to keep their skills honed. What fascinated me most were the boats, littered with barrels and fruit (?). Items can be picked up, but only used as projectiles, which is very different from virtual worlds where objects in the world may also be added to the inventory (mostly a nod to the scattered fruits). The moment of shipping off is celebrated by the player’s avatar with a pose and suspiciously cinematic camera work, but the boat has no crew with which to launch and no Captain’s wheel, though they do sport sails. The boats are motionless objects, promising traditional transportation, but the sense of motion is born as the screen fades to black and players are instantly teleported to their destinations.
The game is not trying to convince players that the world is a rabbit hole within which they can plummet into highly realistic adventures, but there are just enough of the normal, everyday objects (though I can’t remember the last time I came upon a ship that looked quite like this) to give players a sense that the world is familiar. Even if we do not have never explored landscapes dotted with stone towers and wide open fields with sheep grazing, we have seen at least some version of this landscape in films and paintings.