Riders of Icarus - A Ho Hum Affair
Anyone remember Dragon’s Prophet and their #SuperMetal campaign? Daybreak, then Sony Online Entertainment, even went so far as to hire the drummer from Cinderella, the 80’s glam metal band, not the Disney princess; to compose a theme song for the game. Why did they go to such great marketing lengths? Because it was a less than okay to mediocre MMO that SOE wanted to cash in on for their first publishing deal. It didn’t go very well.
Three years after that #SuperMetal farce we have Nexon attempting to do the same thing for WeMade Entertainment’s Riders of Icarus, albeit with slightly less theatrics. At first glance Riders of Icarus is a perfectly mediocre MMO. When I first logged on I was greeted with texture pop ins on the character creator. This is something I can deal with. Having played Black Desert Online for the better part of three months you get used to this sort of anomaly. I also immediately noticed that there was a floating whale on the login screen that had some type of saddle on it that looked like a house. It also reminded me a bit of Sin from Final Fantasy X. At this point I was intrigued.
Currently there are only five classes available: Berserker, Guardian, Assassin, Priest, Wizard. They are also rated in that order of difficulty from easy to very hard. On a refreshing note the classes are not gender locked. One less thing for people to get incensed about before they even play. At least Nexon wasn’t tone deaf on this issue.
Character creation has a decent number of presets. You aren’t as limited as you are in The Division but it isn’t as robust as BDO either. On an interesting turn of events I couldn’t create my old standby name of Grakulen. Apparently Raku is a bad word somewhere and was prohibited. In japanese it’s a type of pottery. Seriously, what gives Nexon?
After you’ve made your avatar you’ll be able to choose between two different play modes, action or standard. Standard is the typical tab target hotbar combat that we’ve all come to know and love made popular by games such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft. Action mode adds a reticule to the center of your screen and lets you attack with clicks of the mouse; think Tera or Guild Wars 2. The game recommends you use the action mode for melee classes but use the standard combat mode for the Wizard and Priest so you can mouse over people to cast spells. In a perfect world I would suggest you use action combat for melee but turns out that even if you point your reticule at a target there are times when you still have to hit tab to make the switch. This makes no sense. I would look at one thing and click my mouse and my character would then auto run to the creature I had previously targeted. You may want to stick with the standard mode for now or at least be aware that the action mode has some bugs to work through.
Once you enter the world of Icarus you’ll find yourself in prison. Warning: Light spoilers ahead, you’ll learn all this in the first 10 minutes though. Sounds like the plot from an Elder Scroll’s game. Generic intro aside you are quickly rescued and reminded why it is that you are in prison. You then set off on a grand adventure to rescue a princess that was researching an artifact. Along the way you also learn that one of your former colleagues sold himself out for power and joined the enemy.
I will admit the introductory enemies are pretty interesting. They are anthropomorphic rhinoceros. I haven’t seen these guys since Kung Fu Panda yet here they were attacking me in the first minute of Riders of Icarus. In fact it appears that most of the sentient creatures you fight in Riders of Icarus are some type of anthropomorphic mammal. They do make good bad guys.
Apparently there is an issue with players getting stuck in the terrain. During loading screens and approximately every five minutes while playing the game you are greeted with the tip: “Stuck in terrain? Use your recall stone to help.” Beware weird cracks in the ground and corners. This warning ends up being about as jarring as this paragraph. Just jammed in the middle here all out of place.
During the first few hours of gameplay there was nothing about this game that stands out and screams: this is why I’m worth playing. The only system that is slightly unique to MMOs, and ties back to the #SuperMetal leadin, is the familiars system. About 30 minutes into the game you’ll embark on a quest that will teach you how to tame wild animals also known as familiars. Each zone has a certain amount of familiars that you can capture and train. These are tracked in a bestiary. Once you’ve captured all the Poke-familiar you’ll be rewarded with mount armor or a special familiar. This will undoubtedly get completionists and achievement hunters excited for a while but for anyone else it won’t do much to get your blood pumping.
Besides being very mundane in combat and questing the game doesn’t look very good either. The player character models are decent but the rest of the world looks very dated. The environments appear to be low poly with uninspired textures. The monsters also appear to have lower than what you would expect polycount and their fur looks terrible. Maybe I’m spoiled after playing BDO and seeing what a MMO can look like but Riders of Icarus wouldn’t look good even if it was released 5 years ago. The UI is also garish. I read a joke the other day that said, A UI is like a joke. If someone has to explain it to you it isn’t very good. Riders of Icarus has a UI that is intuitive but it needs to be a bit more subtle. It takes up too much playable space.
The rest of the game systems are a bit of a mixed bag too. When you kill a monster you’ll have to loot each and every corpse manually. However, you can collect resources without having to use tools. Thanks for taking a break on our inventory space WeMade. You also don’t have to learn any special traits to have the collectible resources display on your minimap. You just have to turn them on. For some reason they are off by default. Short quest descriptions appear on the right side of your screen. Each one of them had a compass next to them showing you which way to go to reach your goal. This is in addition to the quest areas also displaying on your minimap. There is no excuse for you to get lost in this game. Ever.
If you are looking for an excuse to explore a new world and capture the local fauna Riders of Icarus might be a good time. For any other reason you would probably be better served by picking up a different game or booting up one of your old standbys. Riders of Icarus isn’t a terrible game it’s just mediocre and with all the great games out there I’m not sure why you would want to waste your time with this. If you are committed to giving this game a go though you should load it up soon. For open beta they have a quest at the beginning where the commander gives you a fiery hawk that sits on your shoulder and grants you bonus HP. At least that is cool. (The give away stops on 7/20/2016).