In the leadup, I was working out my PAX Prime 2012 scheduling with absolutely one solid goal: Neverwinter. As long as I could see more Neverwinter, I would count my PAX experience complete. While I did see Neverwinter, and count it as the best thing I saw at the event, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the experience that other games were able to offer me. One that I had not thought to enjoy quite as much as I did was another Perfect World title called RaiderZ.
At a party on the Thursday night before PAX started, I had a chance to chat up the community managers for Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and RaiderZ. As a Trekkie, I needed no selling on Star Trek Online. As a massive fan of Neverwinter, I was already eager. It was with the RaiderZ community manager that I started getting excited for my Saturday morning appointment. Sit back and let me tell you a tale; a tale of heroes, monsters, and the world they live in.
RaiderZ will be a free-to-play MMO, with beta starting soon (if you’re good boys and girls, maybe we’ll have some beta keys to give away in the future). Entering into a market that is, frankly, nearing oversaturation in the way that the MMO market is does not come without considerable risk. Being free-to-play definitely makes the cost of entry a non-issue for players who can only afford one or two subscriptions at a time, but then that very word becomes the next barrier: time. With the increasing number of free-to-play MMOs out there, and the number of previously paid MMOs going free-to-play, time becomes the new cost of entry; how much time do you have, and how much of it can you dedicate to games?
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So, RaiderZ has to be unique or it has to do what its competition does, but better. Rest assured, RaiderZ succeeds in both.
RaiderZ is an action-based MMO that focuses on hunting monsters, with obvious similarities to, oh, I don’t know…Monster Hunter. As a MMO, there is going to inevitably be a grind for leveling and equipment, but from an early point you will find yourself faced with larger scale monster battles that require grouping and provide you with an epic battle feel. As you defeat monsters, be they large or small, you will begin gathering components that can be used to craft permanent armor and weapons. I say “permanent” because any weapon drops you pick up from an enemy are temporary, timed weapons. Once your timer runs out, the weapon disappears. All permanent upgrades and new items are either purchased or crafted from monster drops (not droppings).
One thing that I found particularly interesting was the dichotomy of classes. There are four base jobs that you can choose during character selection: Defender, Berserker, Cleric, and Sorcerer. For the first ten levels, you earn one skill point per level. Once you hit level 10, all job skills for all job types become available for leveling, creating a highly versatile and variable system of skills and leveling for intense customization. Do you want a tank healer? How about a high DPS ranged fighter? Now, I mentioned class dichotomy. Each job has a specific weapon type: defenders and sorcerers are one-handed weapon jobs, while clerics and berserkers are two-handed weapon jobs. There are skills and abilities that are affected by your weapon type (one vs two handed). Multi-jobbing in similarly equipped jobs lets you get the most use out of your skills and abilities without having to swap them as you swap weapon types.
Beyond that, RaiderZ has a few features that really entertained. Using transformation crystals obtained as quest items or through crafting, you can transform your character into some of the game world’s monsters and creatures (including a pelvic-thrusting dance rabbit that deals very little damage except in dance battles). When activating a feast food item, a crafting table or spit appears (depending on if you selected vegetables, meat, or stew). Your party can grab food from the table/spit/pot and earn various buffs before going into battle. A music system also appears. A guitar can be equipped that allows you to use single notes or play full predetermined riffs. Enemies approaching? Pete Townshend them by smashing your guitar into their midst, causing them to suffer a knockback and simultaneously equipping you with your primary weapon.
There are a lot of really great mechanics in RaiderZ that help it stand out from the crowd of free-to-play MMOs. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on it, and think it will be one MMO that I can gladly devote a portion of my gameplay time to.