When you think of mounts in an MMO, you usually think of fast travel – a pair of horse pants that get you from one area to another and offers a level of character customization. Riders of Icarus, developed by WeMade and published by Nexon, is looking to change that up completely by making mounts a primary focus. I was invited to try some of the content and I came away quite surprised. Here, mounts provide a new style of combat and a variety of utilities that go above and beyond just a 25% speed buff.
Ticket to Ride
The tour started off by finding some bears out in the field to make them our very first mounts. Creatures in the field that can be turned in to mounts indicate as much in their tooltip, and they require you to sneak up on them using a special skill. Once you successfully jump on your chosen critter’s back, a minigame starts that requires you to push the indicated buttons as the beast tries to buck you off. After a few seconds of panicked bear-riding action, the creature was under my thrall and offered up its own set of skills. Mounts all have a small list of their own unique skills that can include buffs, debuffs and attacks. Additionally, your character also can partake in combat by either using a crossbow or a melee weapon, which provides an entirely new way to engage enemies. Mounts also can equip gear and level up the longer you use them, as my bear gained at least two levels simply by being out in the wild.
Mountable creatures aren’t just limited to standard monsters out in the field. We next moved on to track down an Elite-level bear named Trutan, which could also become a mount. Creatures that have higher rarity levels require a bit more strategy than simply sneaking up and jumping on them. For example, Trutan required us to get on a nearby cliff overhang, engage our sneak skill, and leap down on the bear just as it passed below us. Creatures can come in Elite, Hero and Legendary rarities, each with unique capture requirements and skills.
It’s not all about using creatures as mounts, however. Riders of Icarus gives you a way to make your mounts useful out of combat as well. Mounts can be transformed into Pets that provide buffs and assist in combat. You also can turn a mount into an item buff using the Seal ability, which removes the mount completely from your inventory and makes it an equippable Seal to slot into weapons or armor depending on the mount. What’s more, each mount provides unique stats when turned into a Seal, which provides you with ways to customize your character and improve your gear. Any creature that can be a Mount can become a Pet or a Seal, and multiples are allowed as well, which means you can have one bear Mount, one bear Pet and one bear Seal. The possibilities of the Mounts in this game seem vast and look to provide a great deal of depth and customization.
Off the High Horse
As an MMO, Riders of Icarus provides the usual sort of PvE themepark play with questing, exploring, dungeons and raids. The next leg of my tour involved a dungeon that housed an evil lord that had to be taken down. This dungeon kept us off of our mounts and was your classic group gameplay. Classes in Riders of Icarus come in your standard selection of Priest, Assassin, Wizard, Guardian and Berserker, all of which should be obvious to understand simply by their names alone. Combat in this game can play out in one of two ways, with either a classic tab-target mode and an active mode, which enabled a mouse-controlled aiming style similar to TERA or Blade and Soul.
After our pre-made characters beat up on some trash mobs, we went up the stairs to face the dungeon’s final boss, who offered up a couple of unique mechanics but overall presented little challenge. Most of the fights in the game didn’t prove to be much different than other MMOs, and skill use offered up no surprises. Still, combat felt solid and abilities could be linked together as we took down the mansion’s vampiric lord. It wasn’t exactly mold-shattering, but the controls felt good enough and my rental Berserker played intuitively.
To the Skies
Next on the tour, we took to some new pre-made characters who already had flying mounts to sample aerial combat with. Not unlike ground mounts, aerial combat mounts have a variety of unique skills, along with your character pitching in. Aerial mounting is possible but requires significantly more patience and skill, as I had to leap off of the back of my existing mount to pounce on top of another dragon creature. Several belly flops of failure were my only reward, but the system definitely offered a new style of challenge. The aerial mounts all move and steer in ways that I wasn’t immediately used to, but they felt like they had weight and heft. As before, flying mounts can also be used as Mounts, Pets or Seals, and come in similar rarities as terrestrial creatures.
Our final leg of the tour involved the five of us taking on a Raid boss that was meant for 10. This raid fully involved aerial combat, as our small herd of dragons disengaged some stones that allowed an enormous giant with fists of lightning and wind to walk up from the ocean below and attack. The boss looked absolutely impressive and the aerial combat definitely provided its own unique challenges. Control and aiming were difficult to tie down, but we weren’t likely to win the fight anyway. Still, being punched out of the air by a hulking monster while on the back of a dragon is definitely not something I’m used to seeing in my MMOs. The fight felt like what I’ve otherwise only seen in cutscenes, which gave it an extra sense of grandeur.
Riders of Icarus begins its third closed beta June 2nd through the 7th, with headstart access for Founder’s Pack buyers running from June 29th to July 5th, and an open beta on June 6th. The game will be using a free-to-play model. Developer WeMade has plans for additional content already lined up through July, including new zones and dungeons, additions to PvP combat, new mount systems and even a new class before the end of the year.
Overall, Riders of Icarus has some new tricks that shine above the same-old same-old themepark MMO formula. What sounded like a gimmick on paper quickly became a deeper part of the game. It’s apparent that a lot of thought, and effort is being poured in to these mounts. It will be interesting to see if the formula for mount-centric combat will take hold.Related: MMORPG, Nexon, Preview, Riders of Icarus