A few months ago at PAX East, my friends and I saw a new MMO across the aisle while waiting in line for “Tribes: Ascend”. The monster models looked pretty good for a game that was in alpha, and the combat seemed interesting enough. We never did play the game at PAX (the 3-hour queue seemed a bit much), but we picked up beta codes and stuffed them into our bags.

Earlier this month, the closed beta finally began and I was eager to test-drive the MMO. I’d played a few other MMOs before, but most hadn’t really held my attention for more than a few months. I had to ask myself “Would ‘RaiderZ’ be any different?” but maybe that was a bit premature. I mean, it was only a closed beta and – with a relatively low level cap – I wouldn’t really know how the endgame would play out.

I downloaded the installer and waited for the chance to have my time consumed by another MMO, if only briefly.

“RaiderZ” is developed by Maiet and published by Perfect World Entertainment, most notable for “Star Trek Online” in the MMO world. “RaiderZ” will be free to play (f2p) when in officially launches and will have some sort of cash shop, but hasn’t discussed the details as of yet.

As graphics go, this “RaiderZ” looks pretty good for a free-to-play MMO. The environments and character models are fairly detailed and nothing looks overly bland or dull. Monster models do repeat as you level up, but there is enough variation to keep it from being too apparent.

In-game screenshot of player character. The graphics are surprisingly good for a free-to-play MMO

The boss monsters, on the other hand, seems to be where designers paid the most attention. Boss monsters, especially in dungeons, feel epic, tough, and varied. Each has its own patterns to learn and take time to whittle down their massive amounts of HP. These battles remind of the boss battles in “Ys” in that there are patterns to learn and attacks to artfully dodge.

The combat mechanics in “RaiderZ” are nothing new, with the exception of one feature: dodge. Each weapon has it’s own basic combo used when clicking or holding down the left mouse button. There are class specific abilities to use in combat that range from healing to direct damage attacks, and a dodge function to help avoid unblockable attacks from enemies. Dodge definitely comes into play more during the boss battles than in normal combat.

Abilities are tied to either EP (Energy Points) or SP (Stamina Points) and most have relatively short timers, meaning most combat will be cycling through the same skills, occasionally using a more powerful attack when the opportunity arises. Knockback and knockdown attacks are key in avoiding damage, as is dodge. Dodge is also tied to SP, meaning classes that primarily use SP need to be mindful of if they can effectively avoid enemy attacks.

Current classes are berserker, sorcerer, cleric, and defender, each with a particular set of weapons and abilities. Perfect World had stated that two more will be included in the open beta later this year, including an archer class. Later in the game, you can add in abilities from other classes, allowing players the ability create their own hybrid class. Right now, the drawback is having to use a weapon tied specifically to that class for it to work.

For example, an obvious choice for a full-on damage per second (dps) class would be mixing a berserker with a sorcerer, but neither have a shared weapon. There is the option to quick swap to a secondary weapon in combat, though it means not attacking for about 2 seconds. Other options may be more viable, but in the scope of the beta and its level 30 cap, creating powerful hybrid classes may not be fully realized until the game launches.

Less attention was paid to the questing side of “RaiderZ”. Quests are downright boring. They consist of the standard “kill so many creatures and collect this many items” that appear in way too many MMOs. There is a story, but I stopped paying attention to why NPCs needed me to complete them. Prove that I thinned the enemy lines or restocked supplies at camp? I couldn’t have cared less. I may be asking for too much from a f2p MMO, but if the game wants to stand out, it needs to find ways to be different. The only good point I can see now is that the majority of experience comes from quests, which means little to no level grinding.

More questing issues appeared later in the beta when players were forced into player versus player (PVP). I have no issues with PVP in MMOs and regularly join PVP servers for the experience. This PVP came out of left field and had absolutely no reason to be there. It would be like taking the PVP out of a game entirely except for one specific zone.

In-game screenshot of the PVP zone

“RaiderZ” has the player choose a faction at around level 20 and then gain favor with the faction to complete a main story quest. You cannot advance any further in the game’s quest line until you complete this. I’m not exactly sure why it was included or why the developers thought that making users participate in PVP was a good idea. The PVP itself is in its own designated area, but levels aren’t normalized in any way, leading to horribly imbalanced fights.

Equipment and item gathering can become a chore as well. New weapons, armor, and some items are only available through crafting. These crafting materials can all be obtained from various gathering points and monsters. In earlier levels, it’s pretty easy to craft new gear, but it becomes apparent that killing certain monsters over and over again is the only way to get better gear. Most of these are boss monsters, have terribly long respawn times, are at the end of dungeons, or have several groups vying to claim the monster.

A recent example is a boss monster that dropped a particular item for some advanced level 22 armor. Only one group of five could claim the drops and it took 5-10 minutes for the monster to respawn. For a five minute battle, each player received one to two rare drops needed to craft gear. For a full set, you need anywhere around 7-10 rare drops along with other various items. Depending on the number of people trying to get these rare drops, it could take a few hours of farming a single monster to pick up new equipment.

There is always the option of skipping the rare armor, but characters are so stat driven that picking up non-rare armor is probably a bad idea unless you’ve out leveled the only gear you have items for.

Perfect World seems to be working with the interests of players in mind and have been gathering ideas and suggestions on top of bugs to improve the player experience. Even with some of the flaws and issues, I enjoyed playing “RaiderZ”. A free MMO that is fun to play is something you should at least try.

The open beta should be available in the near future, so I suggest signing up for the beta from their website if you’re interested.