Earlier this year, we reviewed RaiderZ, a free-to-play MMORPG published by Perfect World Entertainment and now we’re back that it’s reaching its commercial launch. If you’re wondering how I saw the game back when it was in closed beta, take a look at the first impressions article; but this time we’re not pulling punches when it comes to saying if you’d want to play this game or not.
When I was first invited to the RaiderZ closed-beta I had just played TERA Online and had gotten used to the ability to block and dodge attacks. As it turns out, TERA went the way of the pay-to-play MMO (with an ability to sell subscription time in game) and as a result, I’m no longer playing that—RaiderZ presents a slightly more simplistic game than TERA but it also uses a dodge/block mechanic for combat that does fairly well.
The game is set in a fantasy universe, filled with magic, snarky people, as well as giant monsters to fight at every turn. This element is really what makes this free-to-play game worth getting into and sticking with in the face of pay-to-play titles that are in the same genre.
- Amazing control system with dodge/block, open targeting for fast paced combat;
- Giant monsters to fight and take down with hunting parties working together;
- Characters can learn multiple class-abilities and develop a personal style.
- Combat learning curve can be a little steep;
- Crafting system is a little cheesy that involves buying items from NPCs with crafting components;
- Game feels like it crawls and grinds if you don’t have a raiding party or friends.
When it comes to gameplay, RaiderZ hits all the necessary marks for this newly burgeoning genre of action combat but it still falls short in a few places. All-in-all, the innovation for the open-targeted combat plus dodge-rolls and blocking deserves an extremely high score when it comes to gameplay. Add in giant monsters and you’ve got a game that everyone should be sold on.
Those who read the first impressions may have noticed that I complained that RaiderZ lacked double-tap dodge.
The control set at first is a little unexpected. This game may use the standard RPG controls with WASD and numbers to activate powers, but there is no click interface by default (hit CTRL to bring it up) and as a result, the mouse and keyboard are in full control of character movement. Because of this, combat is extremely active, it’s all about staying away from or in range of the enemy by moving around and using abilities—add in block/dodge mechanics and it’s possible to position myself for staggering blows by moving there with my shield up.
This would be more amazing if reaction-time in the field didn’t feel just slightly sluggish—my only current criticism of this control setup. Otherwise, battles feel like I’m personally there, using my skills to defeat a foe. I can use my shield to block what I know is an oncoming attack, and while the critter that just hit me is recovering, I can hit my bunker-buster attack that wipes half its health off (but takes a few seconds to charge up.)
The game also presents small skill combos that allow me to set up attacks that send enemies winging across the area, giving me some breathing room to heal or let my cooldowns recharge.
The graphics in RaiderZ are fitting for the game and they’re extremely high quality, but they don’t really stand out in the crowd.
The characters for the most part are a bit on the animeish side. The foes have good, well rendered models and their animations effectively presage their attacks—this is really important in the combat system of the game: some attacks are unblockable and you need to know those are coming.
The artists and developers did an excellent job using the engine but the game just cannot shake the cartoon-fantasy-world motif and this feels like it hurts it a little. However, as the plot continues, players may discover that RaiderZ doesn’t take itself that seriously and thus the atmosphere of the graphics could lend a bit to that.
I am giving RaiderZ higher-than-average ranks in graphics because where they really stand out is the giant monsters. As you hammer on them, bits falls off, they stagger, they fall. The bosses have a lot of animation work and tender loving attention put into them by artists, animators, and developers alike and that is what I feel really makes this game as interesting as it is.
The audio for RaiderZ feels a little unremarkable also, but it does hit all the necessary marks. In fact, the one thing that makes the audio worth mentioning is that it can be an important component of fighting monsters—the telltale creak before the massive attack, the screech before the charge, all of these are necessary for being a monster hunter.
The music is suitably epic and when I notice it, I enjoy it. The fact that I don’t turn down/kill the music in RaiderZ tells me that it’s not running my experience in the game and that when it does intrude I don’t mind its presence. Frankly, it also adds to some of the combat with its swelling beats and sometimes bright upbeat chords.
Altogether, the sounds of the game mesh well with what’s on the screen. I was quickly used to what particular attacks sounded like—especially those in my combo set—and perhaps at worst the sound of that awful bird that I ride from place-to-place sometimes. This means that the audio team did a fairly good job of putting together some at least slightly iconic sounds, although perhaps not the ones they wanted…
The narrative style of RaiderZ is really cheezy. In fact, it reminds me of a terrible cartoon with NPCs who gyrate and stomp all over the plot for their own reasons. Most players will find themselves inserted into the storyline via the newbie zone which is essentially a story unto itself about the emergence of “the Crawler.” (A giant monster you’ll have to fight alone.)
As the story progresses, small cut scenes will come into play where characters appear and tell their bit and talk about what’s going on. It’s a good way to present the storyline although its very themepark of the game to do it this way. In many ways, this is a good way to provide plot and lore because it means every player has to go through it and they’ll essentially be on the same page.
Later on, the plot gets split up a bit more into other NPCs as the world opens up. Add in the needs of people in cities and across the countryside and their stories are compelling enough to give players a reason to help them out (moreso than just gold and experience.)
Pricing Model 8/10
From what I can see, RaiderZ is evading the problem of buy-to-win by taking a much more moralized freemium approach already well-known in the industry: the cash shop tends to contain only boosts (for XP and gathering) as well as costume pieces. This is a very good sign for the game in general and I salute any MMO that’s not taking the route of putting most of the powerful items into the shop as to entice players to spend money outright in order to just simply do better at the game.
Aside from the usual costumes, mounts, and general boosts–the cash shop also contains some general quality of life items: items that enable access to the premium teleporter, swifter ressurection, and even some addons for using the in game market swifter. Nothing so far that I see that conveys a serious for-pay advantage to anyone–but a lot of little things that would make a casual gamer with money have a much better time moving up in the ranks of the game.
The costumes are all quite nice right now as well–although I question the necessity of swimsuits, even if there are pirates and an ocean right there. For the most part costumes come as boxes (i.e. sets) and that’s a curious way to do it, in some ways, it might be better to let costumes come as parted-out-bits so that people can mix-and-match whatever hideous fashion they want.
Finally, of course, there’s mounts available. Not many at the moment, but they’re gaudy and noticeable–as we all know, mounts are a good source of income for any game (just check out the Sparke Pony from World of Warcraft) and with the expense on them they can be something of a status item.
RaiderZ stands out as a free-to-play MMORPG!
PWE brought us a very fun addition to the MMO marketplace and it’s worth a try. In fact, chances are if you find friends to play the game with you on a regular basis, you will be going back. Don’t get discouraged by the way that the tutorial opening-sequence works; but instead forge on to explore the world, band together, and take on giant monsters in the virtual world.
Most of the advertising for RaiderZ has given the game a giant stamp of “hunt together or die alone,” and that’s exactly how this game feels. It enforces a sort of social necessity when it comes to staring down some of the larger boss monsters, and their sheer size makes them a magnificent challenge. Much of the rest of the game feels a little perfunctory when it comes to acknowledging this particular mechanic.
This is where I usually write “Good Hunting!” as an outro, but I think with RaiderZ the hunt is implied.