We’re awash in a sea of MMOs, and at first glance, Riders of Icarus doesn’t appear to do much to differentiate itself. Its combat mechanics, group content, and free-to-play economy seem to be pulled straight from any number of other Korean MMORPGs. Riders’ unique hook is its Pokemon-like system of monster capture, which adds some a fresh “gotta catch ‘em all” gimmick to an otherwise traditional MMO experience.
First Impressions Preview
Riders of Icarus
Master of Monsters, Tamer of Beasts, LFG.
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The folks at Nexon walked us through the game’s basic features, and while the brief, hour-long demo certainly wasn’t enough time to see everything Riders has to offer, the menagerie of monsters you can marshall, mount, and maintain might just be an entertaining enough hook to make MMO fans take notice.
Our demo started off by showing us a bit of the character creation process. There were five available classes: Beserker, Guardian, Assassin, Priest, and Wizard, which fall about as you’d expect along the tank, DPS, and support spectrums. While the customization options fall short of the new standard set forth by games like Black Desert Online, they’re still fully featured and allow for a wide range of visual options.
From there, we hopped into an existing Guardian character at level 20 for a look at some of the in-game functions. Grouping up for the demo, we were led out into the wilderness and challenged to tame a wild bear, a process which is initiated by simply switching into taming stance on hopping on the back of your quarry. After a brief sequence best described as a QTE, I had a new ursine mount. We were led up a cliffside to trap rarer game, and after a few embarrassingly failed attempts I captured a more powerful bear called a Trutan.
Once we’d captured the beasts, we were able to use inventory items to transform them from mounts into summonable pets. Both mounts and pets will level up alongside your character. But your captured creatures have another use, as well. Mounts and pets can be “sealed” into upgrade items that will improve your armor and equipment. Gear will have between 1 and 3 slots for upgrades, and once my new Trutan was infused into my armor I received a bonus to physical attack and defense attributes.
After getting a feel for monster taming, we were whisked away to a dilapidated mansion for a taste of combat. For the most part, it’s a standard system of auto-attacks and activated abilities, though certain skills can be linked together into combos for greater damage and increased effects. These skills made short work of a boss in the form of a very anime-inspired vampire.
We then switched to higher-level characters for a look at more advanced monster-taming. Taking to the skies on basilisk-like flying mounts, we engaged in aerial mounted combat. You have the option of ranged and melee combat even in the air, and you can switch between them at will. Taming flying creatures is a far braver matter of leaping on them from mid-air and wrangling them in the skies, which proved to be pretty satisfying.
We took our new mounts into battle against a boss intended for much larger groups and held our ground–or sky, as it were–as best we were able. The Poseidon-like giant rose from the ocean and swatted at us like flies while we focused attacks on his lightning-tossing arm. We just barely managed to make a dent with our attacks before being soundly defeated.
OS: Windows 7 (SP1) or later
Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.3GHz or higher / AMD FX-6200 @3.3GHz or higher
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce GTX 460 (1GB) or better / Radeon HD 6870 (1GB) or better
The game will get an open beta starting July 6, with purchasers of the Founder’s Pack getting early access on June 29. The final release date has not yet been announced, but given that the game’s been available in the Korean market for years, it’s likely just a matter of some localization polish and marketing time.
Riders of Icarus isn’t fundamentally different from most MMOs, but largely seems to be a competent take on the genre. The monster taming mechanic is the central draw here, and our brief look at it showed a lot of promise. The higher level creatures we rode had unique looks and lots of personality, and gliding through the air in search of new dragons to tame was a satisfying process.
The game looks pretty, as well. While it’s certainly not a technical showpiece, the bright, colorful environments featuring fantastic monsters had a fairy-tale charm. More mundane environments like the forest and mansion were far less impressive, but the high-level content had lots of creative, attractive elements.
While Riders won’t revolutionize the genre, it does have a unique gimmick and solid world design. The monster taming system ties into other mechanics throughout the game and should provide a good hook for would-be beastmasters when the open beta becomes available next month.
Most Anticipated Feature: Leaping from mountaintops onto the backs of dragons and bending them to our wills. The skies shall darken when our fleet of wyrmlings take to the sky! Mwahaha, and all that!