After about 20 hours with the Riders of Icarus beta, I can tell you that it’s not a game that will convert modern MMO skeptics. It won’t revolutionize the genre or the format. But it will let you ride dragons, and that’s not nothing.
Open Beta Preview Video
Riders of Icarus
The Korean critter-collecting MMO is finally available in the west.
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In all seriousness, Riders is a totally competent MMO with some fun extra mechanics on the side. I haven’t seen what the late-game content looks like, since the beta currently caps at level 25, so I can’t speak to the game’s lasting appeal or how badly the free-to-play mechanics will affect the late-game grind. I can say that I want to play more, which is a sentiment I’ve not had toward an MMO in a very long time.
You already know the basics. You’ll pick a class, fight through a tutorial dungeon, and get dropped into a wide open world. You’ll get to a new zone, pick up all the quests there, complete them, then level up, fiddle with your gear, and move on to the next area. We’ll get back to some of the specifics of the basic gameplay, but first we’ll need to talk about Rider’s central hook.
You’ll capture monsters in the world and use them as mounts and pets. I think I’ve referenced Pokemon in every single article I’ve written about the game, but it’s a solid shorthand for the compulsive urge Riders creates. I do indeed feel that I’ve got to catch them all. We’ll be putting together a more in-depth article on the game’s most notable mounts later this week, but they range from mundane to magical, and minor to majestic. There are boars, wolves, and horses along with spiders, dragons, and phoenixes.
To tame a creature, you approach it in the wild, get into your taming stance, then hop on its back and show your best rodeo moves. The minigame occasionally requires you to hit a direction on your WASD controls, but the success or failure of your taming attempt is mostly up to chance. The main concern is clearing out the local area so that your quarry doesn’t end up in the midst of dangerous enemies while it’s trying to buck you off.
Each attempt at taming requires taming points. You start with 100 points, and these are restored at each level. Minor creatures typically cost 4 points, while more unique enemies early on have been up to 15. Those unique monsters have additional requirements, as well. There’s a bear that requires you to leap on its back from a cliffside in order to tame it. Other creatures require you to complete certain quests or find specific items.
Once you’ve mastered your mount, you’ll be able to ride it around, slaying hapless woodland creatures from atop a mighty steed. Mounted combat takes two forms based on the weapon you’re currently wielding, and you can switch between ranged crossbow attacks and melee lance strikes on the fly. Each combat style has its own set of abilities, meaning that you’re going to be laying out two separate hotbars for mounted battle. Creatures often have unique abilities that will buff your combat stats, as well.
Special items will also let you transform your mount into different forms. You have the option of “sealing” creatures, which essentially turns them into augments that you can use to better your gear. They can also be turned into pets. Pets will fight by your side and, like mounts, have some special abilities that you can pop to give you an edge in combat. Both mounts and pets level up simply by being summoned, but they can’t exceed your own level, giving you a reason to continually swap in new creatures. They also both have a limited amount of energy that decreases over time, recovering when they’re not in use, so they can’t stay out indefinitely.
Basic combat is, true to the genre, all about managing cooldowns and ability activations. Skills combo into each other, so battle is all about finding a string of abilities that flow well into each other. We’ll have an article shortly delving into the details of the five classes, but they all fill the standard MMO roles well and feel unique to one another.
OS: Windows Vista (SP2) or later
Processor: Intel Core i3-2120K @ 3.3GHz or higher / AMD A8-5500 @3.3GHz or higher
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce GTX 260 (1GB) or better / Radeon HD 7670 (1GB) or better
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
Those who purchased a Founders Pack have had access to the game since June 29, but as of July 6 the beta will go open to everyone. Updates will gradually introduce more content to the game, but we don’t know exactly when the beta will end and the game will officially be released. The first update, which will increase the level cap to 35, is due out later in July.
The question that remains to be answered is how Riders’ late-game content holds up and how reasonable its microtransactions are. With the low level cap currently in place for the beta, it’s tough to get a sense of how either of those things will shake out. It doesn’t seem that you’ll be able to purchase anything beyond cosmetic and convenience options, but it’s easy to see how the lack of some of those convenience items could be frustrating.
Your inventory space is pretty limited, but it’s simple to just purchase more bags with Ellun, the premium currency. You’ve also got a limited number of slots to store pets and mounts, and while that’s not an issue early on, as the game’s central mechanic, the idea of paying for more familiar slots feels questionable.
But those are questions that won’t be answered for some time. The early parts of Riders of Icarus are an entertaining blend of solid MMO fundamentals and compelling creature-taming mechanics. If the idea of “WoW meets Pokemon” sounds at all compelling, the beta is open and will currently give you a solid twenty hours of entertainment.
Most Anticipated Feature: Most of all, I want to see what the game’s biggest and baddest beasts look like. Flying through the world, perched atop the game’s most fearsome dragon… That’s the good life.