An MMO without a cause….
Gamers have more MMORPG options available to them now than ever before. The free-to-play model has now officially superseeded the subscription option offering lots of choice and few hurdles. Now there are hundreds of different new games all vying for your time first and money later, but how on earth do you choose which one will be your online home?
How exactly we got here is still a story far too long to surmise in the space here, but it has led more ambitious publishers like Gameforge to take more chances when it comes to bringing experiences from the Far East to the West. RaiderZ is the latest admittedly gorgeous import and like many of its ilk, it really struggles to make an identity for itself as we discovered during a recent hands-on during the games on-going Open Beta.
From the off players are met with rather simple options, selecting one of four classes Defender, Berserker, Cleric and Sorcerer. From the labels alone you should be able to gleam what characters specialise in what, with mage-wannabes best suited to Sorceror and warriors a natural fit for the Defender role. Each class has their preference be it two-handed or one handed sword and the same goes for the staff-wielders. There are few customisation options available in the bland character creator, but the options that are here are colourful and allow for least a bit of player expression. Where RaiderZ is a bit different is that as players level, they can actually select skills from across the class spectrum, first choosing a supporting class and then carrying on from there collecting abilities like treat or treaters scoff candy. It seems like a good, versatile system a kin to RIFT’s Soul Tree, although we didn’t have enough to time to fiddle around with different builds.
After creating our seductive Sorceress we were dropped unceremoniously onto the starter island which featured two Pirate clans facing off against one another. Lacking any kind of cutscene to introduce the player into the world is something we actually prefer, but RaiderZ makes little attempt to introduce the world or its surroundings. From studying reams of text from quest logs it appeared two pirate clans were in the midst of war with each other with the more self adjudged ‘good side’ more than happy to introduce us to the challenges of combat, crafting and exploration.
Accessibility-wise everything was explained in a detailed and easy-to-understand fashion with control pop-ups to encourage certain key inputs and quest scenarios which ensured that we had the live targeting, block and strafe gameplay down before we tried to take on the big bosses.
In world design terms the tropical island fell a little flat, feeling more like an area designed to only harbour your murder-spree adventures rather than its own bonafide place. Bears meandered around with other wildlife, occasionally straying near massive boss monsters, but the people themselves usually just stood there waiting on your beck and call. I know what you’re thinking, “This is an MMO, what do you expect?” Well, the answer to that is more. Having pretty surroundings is just one element of interesting world design, we didn’t get any feeling of the place’s fiction or why it was worth exploring. There were temples to venture into and a particularly enjoyable quest where your character channels the abilities of an ancient spirit to take down some wandering Moss Trolls, but for the most part the world seemed sparse and uninteresting. There are cool landmarks, like a beached ship hull turned into B&B and a temple harbouring quick-spawning skeletons, but the didin’t motifs just didn’t gel.
Thankfully the levelling pace is easy to get on with thanks to quests funnelling you down specific paths, instances, and world phases in accordance with your abilities. As we levelled we noticed the beach surrounding the Ship B&B changing, boasting more exotic and higher level enemy designs seemingly just because we completed a few quests and levelled up. The transition was seamless and we only really noticed it when an NPC once again sent us on another ‘Hunt and Loot’ quest. There are so many of these activities that it would be easy to dub RaiderZ a crafting MMO with animals only spewing up loot that would make sense in the real world. Kill a bear you’ll get his pelt, go for a rather gnarly looking boar and you might get some meat and a gem the animal foolishly swallowed prior your violent turn. Certain components items can be used to create new weapons and gear when you take them to the appropriate vendor and when you have all the items you need for a certain recipe, a pop-up will appear in the HUD advising that you handily of that fact. Hardly revolutionary, but still a nice touch.
RaiderZ biggest strength is its boss battles. Around the world there are bosses just meandering around waiting to be taken out. It’s a very similar system to TERA, but the animations here are impressively much more dramatic.
Attacks range from the awe-inspiring to the bizarre, with one giant toad creature we faced jumping hundreds of feet into the air and then slamming down to cause massive damage. The sense of scale these battles create is rare when it comes to MMORPGs, but it’s just a shame the rest of the game comes across as so mundane.The little voice acting that is in the game is bland, and for the most part key story aspects are communicated only by subtitled dialogue, quest text and brief cheap-looking cutscenes. That isn’t a problem at all, but the nature of the story itself is so forgettable that it doesn’t seem anything more padding to bolster out the progression curve.
It’s worth noting that we only levelled our character up to level 8, which equated to around 3 hours game-time, but still we didn’t see anything in RaiderZ which compelled us to return. MMO players have so much choice available to them now and there really isn’t any room for games which aren’t at least offering something new and different.
The opening hours of any MMORPG should be exciting and relevatory, but we found Gameforge’s latest to be dull and routine. More work needs to be done if RaiderZ has any hope of challenging the numerous other free-to-play heavy hitters out there, like Lord of the Rings Online and soon Star Wars: The Old Republic. The bear pit is getting even meaner folks!
RaiderZ is currently in Open Beta. To get onto servers and see if you agree with our grumpy yet fair appraisal check out the game’s official EU website here…
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