There are many MMORPGs out there, and every one of them has something peculiar about it. Players prefer one over another because they like a particular mechanic, or the setting or maybe because it's what all their friends play. There’s one thing, though, that all MMORPG players enjoy despite their title of choice, and that thing is collecting mounts. Players, especially in late game, love to collect the best ride in order to boast with their peers. Considering the love players have for fictional rideable dragons, Nexon decided to take that one mechanic and put it at the center of Riders of Icarus, their latest MMORPG currently in Open Beta.
Regarding its gameplay, Riders of Icarus is a pretty classic theme park MMORPG with a twist. The on foot combat is pretty similar to what you get with other titles of the genre. What differentiates this title from its competitors is the introduction of mounted combat mechanics, including flying mounted combat.
Let’s start from the beginning. When the player creates its first avatar, he can pick a class among Berserk, Priest, Assassin, Wizard and Guardian. As it can be guessed, Guardian is the tank, Berserker and Assassin are the close range damage dealers, Priest is the healer and Wizard are the ranged DPS. Notably absent is a Hunter/Ranger archetype or, more, in general, a ranged physical DPS. Probably in a game where everyone can tame animals (more on that later) Nexon figured that a Ranger type class loses a good part of its appeal.
The character creation is as detailed as they come. You get to choose among a good number of presets for every single detail of your character, and then you get to tweak the result with sliders that will allow you to adjust everything from height to facial features. The only thing you don’t have a choice of is the race of your character. Human is the only playable race in Riders of Icarus.
The game starts in a prison cell. The player learns that he was escorting the princess of Hakanas when the convoy was attacked, and the princess kidnapped. The reason why in the kingdom of Hakanas the soldiers entrusted with the protection of a princess are only level 1 is a question for another day.
The prison break is where the tutorial happens. Here the game will teach you the basics of the gameplay. You can choose between a classic MMORPG camera mode or a more action oriented one that are closer to how Wildstar or Guild Wars 2 do it.
At the starting levels, the combat system is a bit simplistic. It’s just a matter of tab selecting the next enemy and unleashing your fury on them. As soon as the character unlocks more skills, though, things become a bit more interesting. The player is presented with abilities that combo into each other or other that have different effects depending on how long you charge them or even skills that become more powerful under particular circumstances.
There’s also a degree of focus on the mobility component in the combat mechanics. All classes have some blink or dash they can activate with a quick double tap of the movement key that will help to dodge attacks and closing gaps. In addition to that, casting spells or abilities do not require your hero to stand still, but you can do it without stopping moving (with a slight movement speed penalty in most cases). Being on the move also improves your chance to dodge incoming attacks so the combat may result really dynamic, especially when playing solo.
Given the interesting skill system, it’s a shame that the game doesn’t offer any branching progression. You will unlock new skills by leveling up, and that’s pretty much it. There are no skill tree or any way to customize your style of play aside from coming up with a preferred skill rotation. Your wizard will always have the same skills than the wizard next door.
The primary focus of the game, as mentioned earlier, is around mounts. You will be able to tame wild animals to make them your trusty rides or pets, and you will also be able to fight while riding them. This includes flying mounts as well.
The game makes you acquainted with the joys of pegasus riding already in the tutorial. You don’t get your first flying mount right away, but you’ll be able to ride and tame one before too long. You will be able, instead, to tame your first ground mount shortly after the tutorial. While riding your first unicorn is the moment you realize that this mount-focused gameplay thing may have some potential.
Taming a beast is a simple process but a tricky one. The minigame itself is a simple quick time event where your success rate also depends on the level difference between you and the desired mount. While you try to domesticate that wild moose, though, nothing is stopping you from aggroing the other mobs nearby. So you better prepare your terrain. Also, more desirable mounts with more advanced skills (yes, mounts have a skill bar as well), may need some additional requirements. To tame Cold-Tusk, you need to defeat its miniboss rider first while to tame Taslan the Devourer you first need to drop a particular tome from cultists. Luckily, the game has a bestiary with information about every tameable mob, including clues on what you need to convince them to join you.
Riders of Icarus introduces you to flying mounts and mounted combat fairly early in the game as well. After following the breadcrumb quests to the game’s main city, you get your first flying mount. This goal is historically set in end game content in most MMORPGs. In Riders of Icarus, you’ll be shooting arrows and fireballs from the back of giant sparrow by level 15. It’s one of the few times where an MMORPG manages to make you feel badass despite still being a low-level scrub.
As mentioned before, Riders of Icarus is still in Open Beta, and it shows. The game has a lot of rough spots. Some skills lack an animation or a sound when activated, from time to time a line of dialogue gets cut in the middle, and the performance is less than ideal (particularly the game doesn’t get along with AMD cards). Developers are addressing these issues with their patches and are also adding new content to the game. Riders of Icarus makes use of the CryEngine with pretty good results despite some framerate issues here and there and quite a lot of popping. Its soundtrack, as well, is quite remarkable and does an excellent job of creating the atmosphere for what happens on screen.
Riders of Icarus monetizes using microtransactions. Luckily, these are not of the annoying kind. There is an in-game shop where you can purchase cosmetic items like costumes or familiar skins. Exp boost and other convenience items are also purchasable but nothing that directly impacts gameplay, which is always great news.
Riders of Icarus is clearly aimed to conquer the hearts of MMORPG veterans that spent hours upon hours camping to catch that damn Time-Lost Proto-Drake. It does a good job at that but still needs some polish to show its true potential.
Riders of Icarus was previewed on PC with an Elite Rider’s Founder Pack code that was provided by the developers.