(Disclosure: Nexon provided a review key so we could get into the head start)
My initial reaction to Riders of Icarus fell into the disturbingly common pit of “oh look, another Korean MMO with a gimmick.” Several closed beta tests later, not to mention giving away literally thousands of keys, and I can safely say that this game definitely blew away my expectations.
Riders of Icarus allows for one of two keyboard setups, with the first geared toward TERA players and the second for fans of the more traditional MMO. Even if you’re sick of the World of Warcraft number roll, I suggest choosing that over the action-oriented system. Suffice to say, it is effective broken at the moment.
As you level up, combat in Riders of Icarus becomes more geared toward putting together combos anyway. Combo moves allow you to string together attacks in a way that is devastating while not forcing you to memorize your hotbar or move items around the screen. In addition, they are forgiving enough that if lag or a slipped finger hits the wrong button, you can generally pick up with another key stroke. Moves in Icarus pack a punch, and I never get tired of the crunch effect that plays when I kick a mob two feet into the air.
Given that this is a free to play game, inevitably the question comes to the cash shop. In 2016, can we finally have a newly released free to play game that doesn’t have a ridiculous cash shop? Absolutely. The cash shop consists of lucky boxes (skins for familiars), convenience items, boosters, and outfits. Cash shop items are bought with Ellum, which can also be obtained in game. The shop isn’t perfect, I’m sure many players will take umbrage with the 100% HP/Mana flasks that are sold.
Icarus also offers premium service, a subscription that can be bought in 30, 90, and 180 day packages. Premium offers daily potion stipends, 20% experience boosts, free use of transit shrines, bonus Ellum, and more.
Riders of Icarus is a blessing, or a curse depending on how you look at it, for collectors. Taming familiars is a major feature of the game, and there are a lot of creatures to collect. Running through each zone, effectively any non-bipedal creature can be tamed and collected. Right now my collection consists of two reindeer, two horses, two birds, a couple wolves, and a kangaroo-esque creature called a “Woodland Joey.”
Taming itself is where the game errs at Pokemon. You’re better off weaking your foe before you attempt to tame them, at which point the game turns into a rodeo mini-game that relies partially on pressing the right buttons when they show up and half on pure dumb luck. Higher level familiars will require more intricate measures of taming, such as collecting certain items or jumping off of a cliff onto them, but there’s nothing quite like seeing players zooming around above on their tamed dragons.
Familiars are a project in themselves, as they gain experience, level up, and geared up for combat. Familiar leveling adds a nice side-progression to the game since your familiar is constantly gaining experience through the simple act of traveling or just sitting around. They can be turned into pets, assisting players in combat, or sacrificed and used to gear up your equipment in the name of higher stats.
One of the largest issues facing Riders of Icarus right now is the fact that this is a Nexon game, and as such you can guarantee that gold farmers are numerous and not just operating unabated, but with help from the developer themselves. It took a guild member explaining why the ignore feature wasn’t blocking gold spam. Ignoring users doesn’t block global or regional chat, just whispers and party invites. In other words, it is completely useless and chat right now has been deserted sans the same five bots spamming their respective websites.
The other big issue is the fact that mobs have very small movement ranges, you’ll recognize this in other games where an NPC will pull back to its accepted area of movement and go back to full health. It doesn’t crop up as much on standard enemies, but fighting bigger boss monsters gets very annoying when you use a range attack and they rush up, hit you, then immediately run back.
Otherwise, Riders of Icarus is shaping up to be an excellent themepark MMO. If you’re the kind of person who hates questing being the main form of leveling, this game isn’t going to appeal much. For everyone else, Icarus is well deserving of its current “mostly positive” rating on Steam.
Right now my focus is on hitting the current level cap, 25 at least until the game goes into full open beta on the 6th.