Day One of Head Start
I’ve said before that Riders of Icarus from Nexon and WeMade is a solid, if standard, MMORPG. I’ve spent some more time with the game since it hit Open Beta Head Start, and I can’t help feeling that I’m starting to really enjoy myself. Read on for our early impressions of the “release build” for Nexon’s latest imported MMO.
It’s often said about a lot of Eastern import MMOs, or even some recent Western releases, that if they’d only come out a few years ago they would have been huge hits. It’s the problem with games that a.) take a long time to make and b.) take a long time to localize. And though that’s true here (Icarus is indeed a bit archaic in many ways) that doesn’t change the fact that Nexon’s latest release is really quite good. But it’s going to be met with a fair bit of skepticism by people tired of games that involve mainly quest hubs, linear progression, and rely too heavily on both design tropes.
Right now in the open beta the level cap is a low 25, with 35 expected to come by end of July, and higher to come later in the summer and fall. This tends to make me consider Riders of Icarus’ Open Beta a true beta, but since there are no more wipes and they’re taking cash, we’re still going to review it as is. It’s entirely possible the higher cap of 35 will be in before I’m ready to make my verdict at least.
In a lot of ways, I can describe Icarus as sort of a TERA + Dragon’s Prophet + Lord of the Rings Online. Nexon’s changes to the combat model to make an action camera workable for melee classes (though not recommended for casters, even by the game) make it feel more modern. And the choice between a traditional tab target and a pseudo action system really works well. There are some kinks, but I’ve gotten the hang of being a tank with the action mode and it’s by far preferred. The collecting of mounts and pets and leveling them all up reminds me a great deal of Dragon’s Prophet, only the actual gameplay is good here. Dragon’s Prophet’s ideas were strong, but its gameplay was horrid. Icarus plays really well, and has a great deal of polish.
As for the LotRO part of my equation? Well, it’s just a vibe the game gives me. There’s something about it that reminds me of Turbine’s Middle-earth, and I can’t put my finger on what that is… except maybe that the world of Icarus is called “Middleas”, I think?
The selling point of Icarus is definitely the whole mount and pet collection system, which Nexon has thankfully pushed up earlier in the game. With my founder’s pack (I bought a $25 one and was provided the Elite one by Nexon later on), I had a slew of mounts in my collection right after logging in. By level 8 or 9, I’d tamed several more on my own and converted more to combat pets. They’ve instituted quests and tutorials to get you to that point of the game sooner, and by the end of the “intro area” you’re flying around the capital city like a bat out of hell. I’m not yet fighting on my mounts, but mounted combat is another key area of the game, included in PVE and PVP, so I can’t wait to see what it’s like. Few games do mounted, or even aerial, combat, so it’s a big part of the fun I expect.
There are dungeons, raids, PVP battlegrounds, and all of that to come. The bread and butter of theme park MMOs, really. There’s also a nice item upgrade system that has me wondering if it’ll become a bit of an RNG-fest later in the game. You extract stones from your used gear to get “upgrade” stones for your desired weapons. This is called tempering, and you can turn an ordinary item to a +5 item fairly easily making its stats far better and making the weapon or armor piece last longer in general. I expect that late game gear will be much harder to upgrade though, and I wonder how or if the process will be monetized. In Black Desert, it’s a grind for materials. I wonder if it’ll be the same in Icarus, or if it will be a “pay to succeed in tempering” sort of thing instead.
I see a lot of negativity in the gaming community, especially towards MMOs, that they don’t innovate enough. I get that sentiment. We should hold studios accountable for not pushing the envelope. I’ve mentioned several times in articles, reviews, and more over the years. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a game that’s comfortable in towing the status quo and doing it well. And if that game does even one or two things different enough to shake things up, it can be enough to garner a following. Riders of Icarus is definitely not going to wow MMO veterans with its innovation. But if you give it a chance, you just might find a good bit of fun to be had.
Our official review and more “in progress” pieces will come over the next several weeks as we forge ahead in the Open Beta. We’ll dive into the monetization, crafting, dungeons, and PVP as we go.
Side note? I’ve seen reports that people who were in the closed beta, but did not buy a founder’s pack can actually log in now and play now. Sure you don’t get the goodies, but you might want to try logging in today. You might get lucky.