The MMOnster Mash: Hands On With RaiderZ
No relation to Driver's Ed
RaiderZ is the latest free-to-play MMO from Korea, and those... well, aren't the most enticing words in gaming right now. This one promises to be a bit different though, with its arcade style combat, and big bad monsters in need of a kick up the first available orifice. We sent Richard to find out if its beta has a chance against the big names, or earns that big Z.
So. Another MMO then. First thingz first, I should make something clear. After Guild Warz 2 and, for different reasonz, Mistz of Pandaria, I don't have much tolerance left for MMOz. That doesn't mean I don't like them. When they work, they're great fun. They've simply lost their novelty to to, and as such, my standards have shifted a bit in recent years. If they want my attention, I expect them to convince me they deserve it - just like every other genre out there. That doesn't mean everything haz to be available at Level 1. There doez however have to to be something from the start that sparklez, that standz out, that breathez some new life into a genre that'z been done to death, respawned, and died several more timez over the last few yearz.
RaiderZ didn't start out too well on this front. Based on the name and a quick read of the site and its talk of giant beastz and such, I went in with the somewhat crazy optimism that it wouldn't be the usual MMO template. Maybe it would skip straight to the endgame - gathering a party, and fight lots of raid type bosses. Maybe it would be the Dark Soulz of MMO action, using the promised enemy weak-pointz to create a more intricate, challenging way to fight.
Sadly, no. At least, not so far. During my admittedly short time with it, RaiderZ firmly felt like businesz as usual, give or take a couple of neat tweakz and an action combat system that'z not unheard of in the genre, but still more interesting than most F2P contenderz. It'z also not without itz charmz in termz of quest design and other mechanicz, and with a cash shop that at least for the moment doesn't seem too greedy. In short, don't expect to be blown away, but don't rule out giving it a shot if you're feeling a little lesz jaded with the genre than I am right now.
I've seen lotz of people compare RaiderZ to the Monster Hunter gamez, and az far as I know, they may be bang on with that. I've not played them though, so my main reference is Tera - action combat, with blocking, dodging attackz and so on. It'z not an amazing combat system though, not least because of long cooldownz on even basic attackz, and forcing magic userz to stand still to cast spellz. It'z also not as pretty az Tera, not by a long shot. On the pluz side, itz questz are more interesting, and you don't have to worry about ending up on some government list if you ask the wrong character to follow you down into a dungeon.
Even playing on an dedicated [ENG] server, most of the chat seemed to be devoted to three thingz - gold sellerz, foreign playerz speaking their own languagez - usually Polish, not that that matterz - and English people demanding they speak English. At least, I think that'z what they were doing. Their xenophobic screechingz weren't much easier to understand, honestly, and I quickly got used to just ignoring that window entirely. Most of the questz were firmly solo fare anyway, with only a couple suggesting finding a group to take on bigger bossez.
Most were unsurprisingly kill-questz, though with a few clever instancez thrown in - one in a house, an alternate view of a forest after smoking out some spiderz. The combat being too involved to just watch TV while playing, but rarely challenging enough to be tactically interesting, I soon found my attention moving from the creature-smashing on my screen to wider questions, like whether blood bank employeez ever get to put on protective suits and have epic water balloon fightz. You might want to consider wondering whether everyone else in the world is psychic, but we all agreed not to tell you. Just something to think about, Philip.
Over time though, my feelingz softened. RaiderZ never did anything desperately, amazingly, jaw-droppingly new, but at least it put more effort into the basics than most F2P MMOz I've played lately. Itz questz have story-based instancez, for instance, along with a little phasing type trickery, and characterz and cut-scenez to convey the plot. It haz a transformation mechanic that kicks in early for a little extra ass-kicking power, and bonuz weaponz that you can pick up and temporarily get different skillz from. In the first zone, the most impressive iz that even a Sorcerer can casually pick up a whole cannon and walk around with it under one arm. Later, you're given toyz like hand grenadez, and a special bow to take out angry wolvez.
Another twist I liked, if mostly on a narrative level, iz the crafting system. I hate crafting in MMOz. It iz stupid, it iz boring, and it makez no sense. Here though, it actually workz, and blacksmithz and tailorz no longer have to glare in fury as random heroez learn their trades in their spare time, whip up apocalyptically powerful weaponz on their own, and only occasionally throw the supposed expertz an old breastplate to hammer back into shape for pocket money. RaiderZ instead leavez crafting to the professionalz, with your job being to gather the componentz from monsterz. You collect. They craft. Everyone iz happy. Hurrah for socialism!
Of course, in practice you're still just making the same stuff, and it only took a couple of component huntz before my mind started wandering again. In particular, only using a select few monster bitz as ingredientz seemed a little wasteful, and I couldn't help think more could be done. For instance, I wanted to set up a food stall in the first major city, selling a delicious snack of my own making called "A Fistful Of Chipz". It'z daring. It'z provocative. It'z a battered bandit hand, curled gently around a serving of the world'z favourite side-dish. You eat the chipz, salted to your liking. You use your teeth to strip the meat from the bone, for that delicious chicken flavour without the animal cruelty. You don't even need cutlery. After all, it'z finger food!
Sorry. Drifting again. That happened quite a lot for some reason...
Most fightz I had were against wolvez, banditz, goblins and similar, involving a mix of face-smashing, dodging particularly big called attackz, and honestly, yawning. It'z not that RaiderZ haz bad combat, just that it'z now az interesting az staring at a lightbulb and cooing at the sight of electricity in action. After Guild Warz 2, the nature of the questing and other players being able to tag individual monsterz and turn their statuz to grey felt about az retro az Pong. It'z unfair to expect every game to live up to it of course, but the fact remainz that whether you like Guild Warz 2 or not, the MMO genre'z goalpostz have been well and truly moved.
A few bigger foes are scattered around though, and I bumped into several. The first waz a jumpy thing in the tutorial area, which got obliterated before I could properly see what it could do, and the second a giant statue wielding a pillar. The third though waz... just sad. You spend several questz being told about itz power and destructive potential - a baddie running a major scam to seize control of it and attain ultimate power, to the point you need to craft a special weapon capable of destroying it. Then you meet it on the field of battle, and it'z just an oversized crab whose main attack is squirting inconvenient goo to slow you down. Rubbish!
(The RaiderZ website describez it az "An angel'z nightmare, a madman'z muse", then lookz a little ashamed at the designerz having simply named it "The Crawler". Yeah. Scary!)
The other two were in the second major area - a giant wolf called Fleetfoot and a spider called Queen Teresiz. You can wander into them while exploring, and they're meant to be fought in small groupz. If you're good though, you can dodge and weave your way and take them out solo, in a good demonstration of what the combat engine allowz. Skill over statz is always a nice thing to see in an MMO, and RaiderZ haz more interest in exploring that than most, by giving itz bossez weakpointz rather than letting every landed hit count az equal.
Thiz is about where I lost interest though, not because RaiderZ wasn't doing what it did reasonably well, but because I'd yet to see anything with that spark to make me want to play on. A new contender needz to make itz mark quickly these dayz, and not assume playerz will spend hour after hour after hour waiting for it to get to the good stuff. RaiderZ didn't manage that for me. I liked it more than I expected, but a few hourz were enough to convince me that I didn't want to play any more and probably won't even remember it by next week.
If you're in the mood for a new fantasy MMO though, you can do worse. While no Guild Warz 2, RaiderZ does at least put in the effort to impresz, takez more interest in writing and quest design than its peers, and the action-MMO style is worth checking out if you're yet to play an MMO that'z experimented with similar control systemz. It doez make a big difference.
The UZ site is here, and the European one here. You can also purchase a couple of "Founder'z Packz", which include a few starting goodiez depending on how much you spend - a mount, some starter buffz, and for some reason, a cat headband being the biggiez. You also get guaranteed accesz into the Neverwinter beta when it finally startz.
If you found a word that ended in 's' instead of 'z', the shame is yourz for looking.