Updated Wed, Nov 21, 2012 by gunky
When we hear the words Asian, free-to-play, and MMORPG together in the same sentence, we naturally feel some degree of skepticism. After all, we've been burned before, so these games can bring to mind thoughts of buggy grind-fests riddled with goldseller spam. That's why it's refreshing when a game like RaiderZ comes along and shatters some of those expectations.
Wonko costumes with lots of spikes and stuff: check. Ludicrously-huge swords: check. Hot babes in skimpy clothes doing weird dances and singing K-pop while riding a giant bird: check. Mujahideen squirrel-men: check. Welcome to RaiderZ.
Game developer Perfect World has partnered with Korean developers Maiet Entertainment to bring RaiderZ to the Western world. The concept is fairly simple - an action-based MMORPG tasking the player with following a continuing storyline and battling monsters of both the standard and epic variety along the way. Staying true to form, Perfect World has given us a solid game wrapped in a very affordable package.
Free-to-play is not the dirty word some folks would make it out to be.
Violence is a fact of life in any MMO. Your character's job is to go around killing monsters and bad guys. What will likely be a larger concern for parents is the Eastern sensibility in regards to feminine attire. While the whole "short skirt and long jacket" and "lingerie with metal bits attached" aesthetic appeals to me as a red-blooded male, it may not be for everyone.
RaiderZ is a solid multiplayer action RPG. It has the familiar quest-style system and incremental character and gear advancement, but the combat is more reactive than a lot of current games, similar in style to the system in TERA. Instead of locking onto a target and hammering a bunch of skill buttons, the enemy needs to be kept in the crosshair or in a frontal arc. Blocking and dodging are accomplished with mouse clicks and movement-key-taps, and they become increasingly important as the player gets deeper into the game.
Left-clicking initiates a default attack, and holding the left mouse button can initiate a string of combo attacks, culminating in a powerful "finishing" blow. Sometimes this works out fine, but combat is often very dynamic. Enemies are not content to simply stand there taking a savage beating. They dodge around, use charge attacks which interrupt combos and push their opponents around the battlefield, block with shields or weapon hafts, and generally seek to gain advantage in battle. This can be challenging for players used to fighting dumb AI where the enemy mob's sole tactic seems to be charging into melee combat. It makes even trash fights more exciting and dynamic.
It looks pretty epic, but this is actually a fairly average low-level landscape boss fight.
Boss fights are a core element of what makes RaiderZ the game it is. Every region has at least a couple of big baddies that require a group to take down. Some of these epic monsters are sealed away in instances, but some are roaming around in the open world - these are the ones that are typically farmed for drops, and getting in on those drops may require some begging to join farming groups. On the plus side, if you are only interested in the fight for completing a quest, you can get kill credit by contributing to a fight even if the monster is "tagged" by a different group. On the minus side, if you're looking for drops to craft a full gear set and the drop rate is low, you may end up fighting the same boss seven or eight times with an ever-shifting farming group.
Additionally, some enemies have some surprising combat characteristics. For example, if you hit some monsters hard enough and in the right spot, you break off a piece of them that gives you a combat bonus when you pick it up. For example, you fight some crabs and lobster-men early on. The crabs drop crab meat, which you can pick up for a brief combat buff, and the lobster-men drop spears which have powerful special attacks and can take out the other lobster-men in two hits. Epic enemies are even more amusing - some will pick characters up at random and fling them around like rag dolls, or smash them into the ground like meaty fly-swatters, or even swallow them whole and chew on them for a bit.
The key to winning fights is learning how to fight defensively as well as offensively. Certain character classes do just fine going all-out offense, but squishier characters will have a much easier time of things if they remember to dodge and block once in a while. Characters can block attacks by holding down the right mouse button - this brings up the shield, or holds the main weapon defensively if no shield is equipped. Blocking attacks can have varied results. Shields can completely negate most standard attacks with a satisfying KA-CLANK! sound, or they can mitigate a large portion of the damage. Some attacks cannot be blocked - special attacks from boss mobs, for example, like the kind where one of them grabs you up and swallows you whole. In these cases, it's better to attempt to dodge the attacks, because you can't really block while being chewed on.
"When my batting coach told me, 'Be the ball,' I didn't think this was what he meant..."
All attacks are directional - swing your weapon in one direction and you hit any mob in an arc within that range. Throw a magical bolt in a given direction and it will crash into whatever monster is directly in its path. Monster attacks follow the same rules as PC attacks, and most regular mobs require a bit of setup time for each attack. Many of their attacks are quite easy to dodge just by moving a few steps to the side after each swing. Double-tapping a direction button performs a rolling-dodge move, getting the character out of harm's way faster than just walking.
In a well-executed, one-on-one fight against an on-level normal mob, the character can time his attacks, dodges and blocks just so, and avoid taking any damage. This works just as well with early-game bosses, too. Watch for tell-tale signs, be ready to move fast and you can easily take on powerful enemies without undue risk. Sometimes, though, all it takes is one misstep to throw off the timing and bring everything to a painful crashing halt. Players with high network latency, be warned!
There are four basic character classes:
The classes are basically jumping points rather than hard-wired, inflexible career paths. For starters, any character can use any weapon, but certain classes will make better use of some weapons than others. Clerics, for example, can use all of their skills with maces and staves, but if the character equips a sword, he can no longer use his healing skills. Berserkers trying to outsmart the game by equipping a shield and one-hander for extra defense will find that their big power-attack skills no longer function.
This can be offset, however, by the ability to select skills from other classes during level-up, once certain criteria are reached. Essentially, the player is locked into one class role for the first 10 levels, and can then start branching out into other classes.
Again, though, care must be taken when selecting cross-class skills. With my Cleric, I played most of the early game with a one-handed mace and shield. Around level 12 or 13, I took a skill from one of the melee classes that gave me a powerful charge attack that interrupts enemy attacks. For a while, it felt awesome and invincible. Until I noticed that other Clerics were healing for way more and doing way more damage while using a staff and wearing cloth armor instead of leather like I was using. So I made myself a staff, and my heals were about 50% better... but I lost the use of the awesome charge attack that came from the Defender skill tree, because it required a one-handed weapon and a shield, so the staff didn't cut it.
Speaking of crafting, it's very simple in RaiderZ. You don't need to grind for mats to level up your Sewing skill and then find the right recipe to make yourself some kickass new pants - you go out and get the stuff and take it to the relevant craftsman in town, and he does all the actual crafting work. Each craftsman has a list of recipes he can make for you, and each recipe has an associated "quest." Click on the "get recipe" button in the barter window, and a material-gathering quest is added to your quest journal. Once you have all the stuff you need for the item you want, you get a notification and can then return to town and get the thing made. And it's a good thing the crafting system is simple, because it's essentially the only way to get gear.
Crafted gear comes in four varieties: common, uncommon, rare and legendary. Common stuff has white names and typically requires only basic materials to make; it's really only useful if you haven't upgraded your gear for several levels and don't have the level requirements for the next step up. Uncommon gear has green names and can be enchanted and slotted with non-removeable upgrade gems, and typically requires more materials to make. Rare items have blue names, usually have superior stats to uncommon gear of the same level range, confer set bonuses when multiple pieces are worn, and require materials looted from epic enemies. Building a full set of rare gear can involve "farming" the same epic monster several times. Legendary gear has purple names, and players won't encounter this powerful stuff until late in the game.
The only issue I had with crafting - and it is a fairly minor one, really - is the sheer volume of materials involved. I'm a pack-rat, see, and I never get rid of crafting materials or anything that I might find use under some marginal set of circumstances in the hazy future. But there are so many different crafting mats that my bag got loaded down fairly fast.
High-quality crafted gear is usually bound to the character who makes it, but the materials required to make it are not. This means the (auction house) won't be flooded with over-priced green and blue low- and mid-level gear, but instead, with uncommon boss-drop crafting materials being sold by farmers and campers.
The graphics in RaiderZ aren't exactly groundbreaking, but they are solid and generally well-done, and occasionally quite amusing. This is where you really see the Asian influence in RaiderZ - though the individual elements are familiar, there are little things that make you realize you're not in Kansas anymore.
She's wearing level 15 "chain armor" that appears to be missing a somewhat critical piece. He's wearing an awesome hat, and his chest seems rather more covered.
It starts at the character creation screen. I don't normally play female characters; I'm a dude, so I play dude characters. In RaiderZ, most dude faces look androgynous and almost none of them have manly beards. In Western fantasy settings, epic warrior dudes and wonko beard styles go hand in hand. RaiderZ gives you one dude with a beard, and it's trimmed short.
The other telltale signs that you are playing a game designed in Asia: hair is almost universally straight, never wavy, with zany spikes for the fellas and bangs for the ladies. Also, some of the female faces have those adorable gigantic round eyes that anime fans love so much and the rest of us don't really understand.
The game starts out with pirates... but these pirates are clearly seen through a slightly different lens. Some of the pirates are crazy googly-eyed fish-men, and some carry swords that look like repurposed iron girders with spikes and gems attached, which would be terribly impractical for swashbuckling. And the lady pirates are all of the "sexy pirate" variety, which is something you will need to get used to pretty much right away. Most of the ladies you encounter in the game, PC and NPC alike, look like they are on their way to a sexy costume party.
Practical adventuring attire for the modern cleric.
Most of the armor in the game looks good. Even the low-level stuff isn't pukey-drab and awful like it is in so many other games. Typically, the common stuff looks sort of boring, uncommon stuff looks decent and rare stuff looks the best. The high-level armor is loaded with detail, all filigreed and flourished and polished to a high gleam. Again, though, it's kind of a weird mix - on the one end of the spectrum, you have your elaborate 16th century Western-European-style full-plate and chain armors, and on the other you have some peculiar M. Bison outfits and the, ahem, bodacious Hallowe'en outfits for female characters.
And yes, there are separate outfit slots that allow characters to equip cool cosmetics while still retaining the benefit of less-attractive armor. Some of the Hallowe'en-themed outfit pieces in beta are pretty goofy, but the system adds to the game's personality.
This is another area where you realize you are playing a game originally designed in a place where English is not the native language, and where the culture is a little bit different than what we may be used to.
During the voice-acted cut scenes, the dialogue captions do not match the words being spoken by the characters. It's like watching an English-dubbed kung fu movie with the subtitles on. There are, however, not a whole lot of these big voice-acted scenes. Most NPCs react to your presence with generic responses, and for the few that do have voice-work done, it's the first line or so of quest dialogue and the rest is text.
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with meeee!
Music plays a fairly distinct role in RaiderZ. The normal orchestral background music is nice and atmospheric, but the real winner in this game are the bits of K-pop that burst out here and there. When you purchase your first Moa (RaiderZ's equivalent of a starter mount), you'll notice a weird skill icon on your toolbar. Clicking that icon performs a "WOOHOO!" emote, complete with a Pulp Fiction dance from the seated position, and plays a little K-pop ditty to brighten your ride.
Personally, I'm a "hard rock" guy. If someone designed a game that played a Slayer lick every time I mounted my charger, a Black Flag riff every time I completed a quest and a Melvins dirge or dubstep bass-drop when I encountered a boss fight, I would be a happy camper. The K-pop sound doesn't really do it for me, but I know of a lot of people who absolutely adore the genre, and those fans will be delighted by these little moments. And even a gnarly old headbangin' crank like me can't deny the charm.