[Disclosure: A press account was provided for the contents of this article]
Wemade Entertainment and Nexon’s Riders of Icarus is prepping for its Western release on July 6th. The game is focused on pets, creature capturing and flying mounts. The game boasts targeting and non-targeting combat (but it’s not quite as polished as promised) as well as all new ways to interact and battle enemies using the capture system. Some parts of the game work great, others need a lot of help, and some are very interesting.
The build that press were allowed to play before release was based on closed beta test 3. There are a number of improvements that they have planned for the open beta, and for the updates later in July, but from the small amount of content that I played the forward looking statements had little effect on my experience.
Just to get right into it: Riders of Icarus takes the standard Korean MMORPG model and attempts to turn it on its head by making it more like Pokemon. Conceptually, it works really well.
To avoid any embellishments or wordy garnishing, I’ll just talk about the good, the not-so-good, and the stuff that needs improvement.
I put in a few hours into the game and despite a lot of my time being spent waiting for the game to load or to exit due to disconnections (it was a CBT build by the way), what I was able to play was interesting. The promotional videos did little to properly explain how you play Riders of Icarus but once you get into the game you can create your character from a handful of archetypes, including defenders, priests, wizards, berserkers and assassins.
The character creation goes into a lot more depth than the standard Korean MMORPG. While you can choose from a collection of preset faces and body types, you can also manually select the eyes, nose, mouth, hair and build of your character. If you come across a clone it’s only going to be due to a lack of creativity from the player.
Another highlight is the animal taming and pet system.
You can capture and tame just about every creature in the game that seems as if you can ride it. Basically, if it’s big enough to mount, you can tame it.
Due to the frequent disconnections I didn’t experiment with trying to mount creatures like the ghosts or the fairies, but maybe I’ll get around to it later.
Now the mounting process is a little like Pokemon. You have a taming skill, taming slots and taming points. So long as you have enough taming points, slots and the proper skill, you can tame an animal/creature/monster.
The basic premise is that you activate the skill, sneak up behind the thing you want to tame and then jump on its back. After a short mini-game, if you’re successful you’ll have a new mount in your inventory.
Tamed mounts can also be turned into pets if you acquire a specific scroll. The scroll will enable you to transform one of the mounts in your inventory into a pet that follows alongside you. It’s kind of cool because you can then assign the pet to follow by your side, attack enemies on sight, or guard you in case you aggro a mob.
Pets, however, have a limited amount of stamina, and I suspect this is where Nexon will make most of their money from the cash shop. As you keep a pet out and walking, moving or fighting, the stamina drains. You can either put the pet away and wait for the stamina to recharge, or you can use a stamina potion to instantly recharge it. Most gamers are not going to want to wait for the stamina to recharge, so I can easily see energy potion packs being the most popular on the store.
[Note: As an aside, there was a press note included with the login information where WeMade stated that they didn’t want a pay-to-win game, so they’re limiting the cash shop items to just consumables and cosmetics. We’ll see how well that plays out in the long run.]
Now the interesting thing about pets is that as you level them up and train them, they can acquire skills. Mounts can also acquire skills, enabling players to unleash attacks while riding them, including melee attacks and in some rare cases, projectile attacks. As players get stronger and grow their affinity with the mounts, more skills – both passive and active – will be made available.
Another thing that the game definitely does well is that it gets right into everything early on. Before you hit level 4 you’ll be learning how to tame your first mount. And by the time you reach level 6 you’ll already have your first pet journeying alongside you. They don’t hesitate to throw the good stuff at you early on.
I like this approach because it’s a huge departure from other specialty-themed MMOs where you’re not gaining access to the good stuff until at least 10 to 20 hours in. In the case of Allods Online, it took around four months just to get my first airship. It’s the sort of thing where only the most hardcore of hardcore will stick with the game in order to access the cooler kinds of content.
In this case, you gain access to the pets, the taming, the mounting and capturing within the first two hours of play. That’s a huge divergence from many of the other typical MMOs out there where you’re grinding for hours until you get to the good parts.
One other thing that I also liked about the game is the flying mounts. I was shocked at how well they control and how fluent they are in the air. The flying mechanics and physics are surprisingly good for Riders of Icarus. The added blur effects when gliding gives the game a real sense of speed, and the ability to engage in mid-air combat is a righteous rarity. Given that this is the centerpiece of Riders of Icarus, it’s a good thing that WeMade put some time into making this feature both intuitive and polished.
I also like that you can deck your character and mount/pets out with various types of gear that actually shows up in the game. I know this is a standard feature for most ARPGs and MMORPGs, but it’s nice that it’s still here and looks pretty cool in the game when you get new armor and weapon types. You can add capes, chest pieces, gloves, boots, pants and helmets to a character to give them their own flair.
I had to fight an uphill battle to get the Steam Controller to work for this game. It was a serious pain and hopefully it works a lot better when it goes open beta. Alternatively, most players who would want to play with a controller will likely find it easier to just get JoyPadder and assign the keyboard controls to an Xbox 360, Xbox One or DualShock 4 controller.
Also, the start-up load times can be kind of crazy long. The good part is that once into the game I never once encountered a loading screen, which is actually really impressive for a CryEngine game. Even the instances don’t stop to load, you just enter into a new zone and start hacking and slashing away. However, the initial load time can be a bit of a nuisance only because when getting disconnected during the press build of the game it required having to go through the super long loading again. Hopefully that gets ironed out during open beta.
There’s only one thing that I actually thought was bad about Riders of Icarus was the on-foot combat. Now seeing as how the game centers so much of itself around the combat, I was expecting true non-targeting combat.
In recent years the only MMO that really captured my attention was RaiderZ. The game basically played out like a typical third-person, hack-and-slash title as opposed to an MMO. It was true non-targeting. You had to rely on manual blocking, counter-attacking, dodging and parrying. It was also one of the few games where grinding on even the most menial of enemies was pure joy.
Riders of Icarus is not like RaiderZ.
The game boasts two different modes of combat, both tab-targeting and non-targeting. However, when you get into the actual game you’ll find that the non-targeting action mode is actually just a faux over-the-shoulder mode that operates identical to tab-targeting with the exception that the mouse reticule directly controls the player-character’s aim.
At first I thought it was going to be like Vindictus or TERA, and I immediately tried circling enemies while attacking them only to find that the attacks would stop or cut-off midway through while encircling the foes. The problem is that Riders of Icarus is not actually a non-targeting MMO.
What the game does instead is tab-targets enemies based on where you point the reticule; only, it’s not always accurate. I found myself aiming at an enemy and constantly tapping the attack buttons but nothing would happen – I would then realize that the character was targeting another enemy off-screen. This would result in me having to tap the ‘Tab’ key to target the nearest NPC mob. When facing off against multiple enemies, any MMO vet can instantly see how this kind of not-actually-non-targeting combat can become cumbersome, confusing and easily get you killed.
The worst part about it is that attacks can only be initiated when an enemy is targeted and when they are within range. Now most of you who have played non-targeting MMOs know that true non-targeting means that you don’t have to target a mob to initiate an attack or use a skill. However, Riders of Icarus relies on the old-school MMO method of target-based combat even when it says it’s in action mode for supposed non-targeting combat.
Now you can work around this, and if you use Joypadder you can easily assign the ‘Tab’ key to a button to make for convenient targeting. It’s still a bummer that this game doesn’t have true non-targeting combat, because if it did that would make one of the more badass MMOs on the market.
I will say that I can understand why they have the kind of target-based combat system that they do, because when battling on mounts they tried to keep streamlined with aiming and directing attacks at specific opponents. In a way, it’s designed mostly to ensure that casual MMO players aren’t overwhelmed with the difficulty of a true non-targeting game. It’s a shame for hardcore players looking for more reflex-based combat.
On the upside, it is still possible to manually dodge enemy attacks by simply running out of the way. It’s also possible to outrun and strafe to avoid being hit by some projectiles, so there are some light perks to this faux non-targeting combat system.
You will need to grind a lot. It’s a typical Korean MMO design methodology when it comes to mobs, quests and leveling. It all happens rather quickly, though, and within the span of hours you’ll be at level 10 in no time. If you don’t mind picking up mushrooms, collecting berries and grinding on wild boars, you’ll fit right in with Riders of Icarus. Now personally, I don’t mind quest/mob grinding so long as the combat is fun. As I mentioned, I had a blast playing RaiderZ, even killing low level mobs. That game’s combat system ranks as one of the best not just in MMOs but in third-person action games in general. I actually preferred it over Dark Souls and Lords of the Fallen.
However, if you don’t like grinding, if you don’t like menial side-quests and if you don’t like tab-targeting combat, you will not have the best of times in Riders of Icarus. That’s just the way the dice fall.
Now, I never encountered any other players during my limited session time in Riders of Icarus, but I could easily see this becoming a fairly fun game for people looking for something with a bit more kick to it than the typical MMO. Raiding parties on flying mounts is going to be a pretty cool sight to behold, especially during live-streams and in Let’s Play sessions.
The pet system is robust, and being able to focus on capturing and training pets – especially as something of a profession where players train up and trade pets as currency – could easily become a huge meta-game for Riders of Icarus. Going around and trying to capture a bunch of different mounts is also a nice feature, especially with the ability to add saddles, claws for combat and other accessories to deck out your mount. The cash shop for this game is going to be quite popular with people buying a bunch of stuff to customize and personalize their mounts.
There will be various dungeons and raid instances available for both single-player runs and group runs. There will be specialty mounts scattered throughout the game, along with rare items to scavenge and uncover. There are a couple of zones that will be featured in the open beta of the game that players will be able to journey though. According to the press notes WeMade has plans on adding more zones further into open beta.
From what I’ve played Riders of Icarus has potential. I wasn’t playing amongst a bunch of other people so I have no idea how well this game will handle under the duress of thousands of players, but if they can iron out the initial load times, and perhaps iterate on the combat system so it’ll eventually become true non-targeting then the sky is the limit for the potential of Riders of Icarus.
You can learn more about the game by visiting the official website.