Riders of Icarus launched its open beta this past week, and the CryEngine powered massively multiplayer online game has become pretty popular on Steam. Set in a fantasy world, the free-to-play game allows players to explore both on land and in the air, as the name would suggest. This emphasis on mounts and taming is ingrained in the game’s DNA, and there are a plethora of wild beasts to tame within Icarus. However, as the open beta has shown, the game still has some kinks to work out.
Visually, Riders of Icarus is one of the more beautiful MMOs on the market, rivaling games such as Archeage, Guild Wars 2 and even The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. This is due to Riders of Icarus utilizing CryEngine, possibly the most beautiful and realistic game renderer on the market to date. This gives the world a believable sheen, as everything within Icarus is so beautifully detailed. However, there is a lot of pop-in, especially in cutscenes, where whole buildings will simply appear out of nowhere, but these are the things that an open beta seeks to address. Pop-in aside, Riders of Icarus is breathtaking in some scenes to behold, such as walking into the large city of Hakain’s Crossing for the first time. Or better yet, soaring into the city.
The mount system is really one of Icarus’ selling points. Many animals in the world are tamable, and the challenge to catch them all is as addicting as a game of Pokemon Go. To tame a beast, you need to have taming points available. These points seem to regenerate over time, and each beast has a certain number of points you need in order to catch them. Once you’ve activated your taming skill, you sneak up onto the beast and mount it, creating a scene out of an old rodeo movie. As you attempt to tame the beast, they try and throw you off. “WASD” prompts on the screen have you “calm” or “coerce” the beast into submission. If you’re lucky, in mere moments you’ve added a new beast to your collection of mounts. Some of the coolest moments in Riders of Icarus so far for me have been failing at taming a beast and eventually succeeding. This was my experience with a Woodland Joey in the Bakkarr Forest. It took me three tries, but I eventually added the Kangaroo-esque beast to my familiar collection and then proceeded to hop around to the next questing hub.
One of the more unique – and successful – additions in Riders of Icarus is the choice of control scheme. This is a MMO, so a lot of the game’s mechanics depend on your ability to cycle and combo skills in battle. However, some classes, such as Berserker or Assassin fare better with a more “active” combat control scheme. The game allows you to choose between action and standard controls. The main difference here is how the camera is operated. In the standard control scheme, you control the game much like all other old-style MMOs, holding down right-click on the mouse to turn the camera. This leaves your mouse free then to interact with the hotbars on your screen. Action mode in Riders of Icarus makes the game feel and control like many other third-person games with your mouse freely controlling your camera. You’ll have two skills mapped to your mouse buttons, and the rest on the toolbar. For some of the classes this works, but my Wizard felt somewhat hamstrung by this control scheme, so I found myself switching back to the standard scheme.
Riders of Icarus is a free-to-play title, so obviously there are some micro-transactions in the game. However, none of them have felt really all that compelling. You can buy a few chests to randomly win some skins for your mounts, or you can buy some costumes for your character, but nothing felt really worth spending real money on. The currency is also obtainable in-game by doing achievements and daily quests, so if you’re patient enough, there really is no need to spend real money. The only item I can see myself wanting to get are more slots for mounts. The game gives you about 10 mount slots to start with, but if you’re going to collect them, you’ll need more. Each time you buy a slot with Ellun, the in-game cash shop currency in Riders of Icarus, the cost for the next goes up incrementally. I could see Nexon earning a lot of money from this alone if many of the playerbase aren’t patient enough to unlock the currency in-game. And really, that’s not a bad thing considering this is a massive game powered by a premier game engine.
So should you try out Riders of Icarus? So far, I would say to give it a shot. It’s on Steam or through the game’s website and you literally have nothing to lose by trying Icarus. In my 10 hours or so of gameplay, while there have been some bugs and graphical hitches, there hasn’t been anything to really turn me off from the experience. As of now, no “official” game launch has been announced, so Riders of Icarus will likely be in this beta phase for a while. However, Riders of Icarus is shaping up to be one of the better game experiences in a current free-to-play title. Mounting a giant bird and soaring over the Hakanas Highlands has proven to be a great experience, one that I hope to repeat for quite a while.
[Images via Riders of Icarus]