MMOs: Impressions of RaiderZ
By Frank Hartnett on August 30th, 2012 (6 comments)
Alright, I'm gonna see if I can make it through this entire article without making a Raider Ball Z reference.
RaiderZ is an MMO developed by MAIET Entertainment and published in North America by Perfect World Entertainment. Going into the closed beta for this game, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The game's tagline is "Hunt together or die alone" and the trailers show off players battling against huge monsters so, really, the game would seem like Monster Hunter turned into an MMO. Unfortunately, that's not quite what RaiderZ is. While there certainly are epic battles with giant monsters to be had, RaiderZ also succumbs to what was once the accepted standard for MMOs and really falls short as a result.
RaiderZ, at its core, is a typical Fantasy MMO that any MMO player would have seen before with some slight differences. The most blatant change from typical MMOs is the combat which has actual hit detection and a dodge/block mechanic. Which means, yes, a character has to be close enough to an enemy to not swing at the air and the player has to actual watch for visual cues for when to time dodges and blocks. The visual cues; however, can be rather inconsistent. Certain enemies will briefly glow red when they are about to use an attack that can only be dodged, but then there will be enemies who won't glow red for an unblockable attack and will instead do some kind of flashy move that usually comes at you so fast you can't dodge it anyway. Other enemies will just have normal attacks that can be blocked or dodged, but fighting these enemies will always devolve down into a pattern once you realize you can only get in a certain number of attacks before the enemy retaliates. Fighting a goblin, for example, pretty much boils down to: attack, attack, block, attack, attack, block until it is dead. You can use certain abilities to interrupt enemy attacks and doing so certainly does make combat progress much faster, but it still requires you to just figure out the enemy's never changing attack pattern and exploit that. There's also the issue of enemies being able to instantly turn around and get a hit in if you happen to be behind them.
I guess this was implemented so players couldn’t exploit the slower enemies, but really, if you have a dodge mechanic in your game, you should expect players to roll around behind enemies just through instinct. Boss monsters in this game are, on the other hand, fairly challenging and can be a chaotic mess...mainly because you can't block the attacks from bosses so you and any other players will be dodge rolling every three seconds to avoid having 1/4th of your hp gone in one hit. The boss fights are very reminiscent of Demon/Dark Souls in both the ridiculous amounts of damage they can deal out and how players are expected to handle them. One interesting thing about the combat; though, is being able to hit an enemy hard enough that a piece of them drops off or they drop their weapon once defeated. If you were fighting an archer, there's a chance his bow will drop on the ground and now have a small period of time where you can use the bow and the abilities given to you while wielding it. There's also the chance a part of the enemy itself will drop like a piece of a staff that can boost magic damage, a piece of a shell that can be used as a club, or even eating the brain of a zombie that fell out to increase your health regeneration.
The World, Questing, and Crafting
The environments in RaiderZ are fairly large and usually very nice to look at and littered with NPCs and enemies aplenty. For player convenience, there are giant chickens to ride around on (which in no way resemble other giant birds from a certain other franchise) and the ability to teleport to Inns or other important locations. The questing really does have to be this game's biggest misstep; though. Most of the epic boss monsters you can fight will be made available to the player through questing, but, in order to get to these battles, players will have to go through the typical, "Go here and kill x number of enemies" or "Kill these enemies and loot x number of y item from them". Worst yet is the fact that this is one of those MMOs where quest givers will have you go back and forth to the same area, only slightly further in, to kill even more enemies and loot items from them. For me, the bosses were just too few and far between to make up for the hours of generic quests. The only real upside to killing so many standard enemies is the fact they drop crafting material aplenty which you can take to various vendors strewn throughout each area to have them make new gear for your character.
Some of these craftable armaments will require a unique material that is obtained through defeating a boss and looting the corpse. Unfortunately, some of the bosses who drop their unique crafting materials will only have them go to one person in your party after a random roll determines who; and that's if you're even lucky enough to get the rare material to drop!. This means a party of 5 players would have to down the same boss a minimum of 5 times and hope the materials drop all 5 times and that the same person won't get it multiple times. That kind of grind fest is really not worth it, in my opinion, simply for the length of the boss fights and how the item you get for all that work usually isn't even worth it. Now you can get decent gear just from gathering material from regular enemies or by mining/gathering materials from the environments, but the best gear is only obtainable if players have the patience to get a group together and try their luck.
Classes and Leveling
Of course, an MMO wouldn't be anywhere without character classes and being able to level up. There are no races to choose from outside of human, but there are 4 classes available to start with: Defender(tank), Cleric(healer), Berserker(damage dealer), and Sorcerer(magic damage dealer). You pick a class to start with and each time your character levels, they get a point to put into their class' skill tree which can unlock new abilities, improve the capabilities of whatever your class specializes in, and help boost a couple of your base stats. Once you have put ten points into your base class' skill tree, you are then able to branch out and put points into whichever skill tree you wish. This is a nice bit of added flexibility and really allows players to customize their playstyle should they devote the time to leveling up. There are no restrictions or penalties for mixing classes either aside from the fact it would take you longer to reach the abilities at the bottom of one particular tree.
Where RaiderZ takes a drunken step forward with its combat and leveling system, it staggers backwards, trips over a rock, and tumbles down a hill in just about every other aspect. In a genre desperately needing innovation, RaiderZ just doesn't bring anything significantly new to the table that other games haven't already done or attempted. The class system and minor conveniences like having 80 inventory slots from the start and not having to grind out levels of a crafting skills are possibly the best parts about the game. The questing; though, is too grindy (the promise of epic boss fights really doing nothing to stave off the inevitable boredom) and the combat could really use some tweaks and changes. Now this was all experienced during a closed beta so the developers very well could make the necessary changes to certain mechanics and have them work much better. If you are someone looking for a new MMO to play and aren't bothered by typical MMO questing, I certainly would recommend you try the game out either by signing up for access to a closed beta period or wait for the game's F2P release sometime this year.
Frank (Seisan) is a blog contributor and chat moderator over at 4Player. He specializes in analyzing the story telling, immersion, and consistency aspects of video games and also enjoys writing Fiction in his spare time. His favorite genres are RPGs, MMOs, and RTS'. Frank also specializes in having a chat name no one can pronounce correctly; nicknamed Seesaw as a result.
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