Aug 17, 2012

RaiderZ closed beta impressions (and a few points between)

I found Raptr somewhere, and joined it. It tracks gaming and achievements across all gaming platforms, shows how well you're doing vs. friends, and various other fun stuff. It also apparently just started a Rewards section, where you can earn game rewards by getting certain levels/achievements in other games. (For example, I can get the PC version of Zuma free because I've gotten enough achievements on the XBLA version.)

I'd heard mention of RaiderZ elsewhere, but a free RaiderZ closed beta key was one of the rewards for having played enough RPG games on Raptr. So, I decided to redeem it and give RaiderZ a try.

The game started with two small gripes. One is that the launcher window runs an IE frame within it. If you don't run IE as your default browser, espec if you haven't run it at all, there's errors with updates because IE is trying to run the "Welcome to Internet Explorer!" dialogs. (Fortunately, I didn't hit this error, but it just seems like it's executed in a bad way.) Second gripe is that your data (or at least password) is not validated after you click login, but after you choose your server. I'm not keen on data stored twice or a second click before finding out my password is incorrect.

Anyway, there are a lot of comparisons to TERA. I didn't play it, so I can't make comparisons there, but I can say I got a major feeling of WoW except with an active battle system. That's not quite perfect, but gives a good reference, I suppose.

Talent trees determine your class ("style"). You pick a style (defender, berserker, cleric, or sorceror) to start with, and the first ten levels are in that style. After that point, you gain mastery in that style and the ability to spend talents in other style's trees. Start as a sorceror and level up enough to spend a few points in a warrior class to unlock the ability to wear chainmail as a sorceror, if you want. The styles seem somewhat varied, but also limited; the sorceror talents focus on fire and ice, and a few abilities based on using both together; cleric seems to focus half on healing and half on damage; and some style talents disable another style's abilities in what seems like a PvP-centric focus.

The main quest line is spiced up by a number of areas that phase based on where you are in the storyline. There's a handful of cutscenes for some major events as well. Side quests are common fare- fetch X items, or go tell something to person Y across town. The conversation dialog even changes to a scroll when dealing with direct quest instructions and in the journal, just like WoW. (This is a shame- I like the other conversation dialogs with a black background and green highlights for important topics.)

Combat is a lot more interactive- you don't just run up to a monster and hit until it's dead. You can block via right-click or dodge in directions by holdhing shift when hitting a movement key. Common monsters generally have a standard attack, which you can block, and a stronger attack, which you can't. The attacks are usually telegraphed, allowing you to roll/dodge out of the way of the stronger attacks, but that doesn't mean you never get caught mid-cast or dodging too late. Different types of enemies have different strategies- wolves will try to circle around to your back, often making them hard to target for long-cast, high-damage spells; hit them enough and they'll howl, leaving them open to an extra attack or two. Archers try to keep their distance, so if you go in close for melee, you won't get many hits before they run away and fire another arrow. Boss fights usually add a lot more hit points and an extra ability or two; for a sorceror, these fights have mostly been "run in a circle and fire spells"- but there's only been two I've been involved in thus far.

There's a basic crafting system that follows level progression. For example, common cloth armor might require cloth and magic sand from low-level enemies. Gain a few levels and you start fighting monsters that drop an uncommon item you also need to make the uncommon armor set that's a few levels higher. Kill the boss in the area and you get four copies of the rare item that's the final component of the rare set that's at the top of the area's level range. There are two features about this system that I particularly like- you can take the recipe(s) for any item(s) you want, which will track each item's components in the quest log, and if you look at a component of the recipe in your journal, the tooltip will suggest where to look for to harvest the component. (This usually isn't necessary- you can probably guess spider webs for the level 10 armor you want will come from the spiders you fight around level 10- but it does help once in a while.)

My only real gripe with the game thus far is the community. There was a wave of "This is just like TERA" and similar whining, but that's dwindled a good bit. A number of players spam duel challenges on anyone that passes by, or spam noisy/annoying socials, or repeatedly click the right-mouse button to block (complete with noise) with no way to block these users. Several people have also forgotten the concept of "beta"- someone found a bug on Saturday morning and wondered why the developers weren't there to fix it immediately; also, when an announcement said the game would be up for 10 hours and then down for the rest of the day (rather than up 24/7 or 24/6 and a day of maintenance), the game was suddenly complete trash and doomed to failure.

Overall, I like it, and hope others will check it out, either through more free closed beta keys (still available on Raptr) or when it heads to open beta in the near future. Find me as Artrimas on Fleetfoot.

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