RaiderZ wasn't on the top of my "Must See" list when I went to PAX East a couple weeks ago. I knew a few things about it, but I was really excited to see other games like Neverwinter, Smite, and DDO. But while I was at the Perfect World meeting room talking about Neverwinter, RaiderZ's producer Mark Hill came over and told me a bit about their upcoming monster hunter MMO. It sounded fairly intriguing, so I decided to give it a shot.
Players familiar with the original Monster Hunter game that RaiderZ takes heavy inspiration from will immediately be familiar with the core gameplay hook. From a third-person perspective on your cutesy champion, you go out into the wilderness, hunt down and destroy monsters, and then equip yourself with unique one-time-use items ripped from their corpses. If you're really lucky, you'll score some unique armor and weapons that won't be available anywhere else in game other than the corpse of that crab you just shattered.
Sounds great, but it raised a red flag in my mind. I asked Hill if there will be any mechanic in place to lessen the incentive to spawn-camp those monsters with unique items—there won't. Hill said that they think that the variety of monsters, and their spawn rate, should keep players from getting frustrated. A post-traumatic flashback to my EQ days tells me otherwise. I’m not eager to go back to waiting in line for my turn at a boss, just to have someone come along and grief me by tagging it first. Others may enjoy that super-competitive design mechanic, but I don’t.
After that, Hill told me a bit about the class choices that players make as they level up. That's right: it's not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it choice. Players will choose one of four archetypal jobs (tank, melee DPS, ranged DPS or healer) when they create their characters, but they'll be able to advance their character in any of the roles. For the first few levels, players will fill our the skill tree they chose at character creation. As they continue to level up, the other jobs' skill trees will open, and they'll be able to put points in those too.
Depending on the choices you make, you may find yourself with a spell-slinging warrior, or a sword-wielding mage. The theory behind this design is that players will be able to create "mage-y archers," and tanks that can heal. Of course, min-maxers and theorycrafters will inevtiably calculate the one “best” way to make your character, but I'm hopeful that the flexibility in character advancement sticks.
The gameplay looks great. The action-based combat is fluid, well-animated, and fun to watch--not wholely unlike TERA's free-targeting combat system. There's definitely no Tab-targeting here. The little archer twists and turns around the beachfront, aiming at the different monsters clutttering the sands and firing away. Forcing players to move their characters around, targeting monsters by aiming at them instead of with the tab button, is a mainstay of the action-MMO genre, and it looks to be in full force here.
The world itself was full of vibrant colors and the players and props have a great sense of weight to them. The characters realistically lurched around with huge maces and gigantic swords. The combination of great art direction (if the style is to your tastes) and interesting monsters has promise—the world felt lived in, and I didn't want to mess with who was livin' in it! The mage was a particulary fun, firing off his spells before he had to dive to one side to avoid the hammer of the troll that descended upon him. The hammer crashed into the ground right as the mage landed on his feet and let loose another barrage of fireballs at its scaly hide.
Perfect World seems to be aiming for the hardcore crowd with RaiderZ's mechanics, and, from my first impressions, I think it has a chance at success. As Hill said, this is a "very loot-heavy, very drop-heavy game," and we all know hardcore players love to amass loot. Just because I’m too "carebear" to appreciate it doesn’t mean that other’s won’t fall for it’s mix of lootz, monsters and style though. If you're itchin' for some MMO monster huntin', you can sign up for the beta right now.