Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Get On Your Pony And Ride: Riders of Icarus

I already blew most of the post ideas I had for this morning in comments on other people's blogs so here's another "What I'm Playing" report. And since what I'm playing at the moment is, almost exclusively, Riders of Icarus, by the next paragraph I'll probably talking mostly to myself.

When I patched RoI up a few days back, Steam reported I'd spent just over two hours in total playing the game. That was right back at launch in 2016, when I took one character to the dizzy heights of Level Seven, after which I wrote a First Impressions post and called it a day

As of this morning, Steam tells me I've played Riders of Icarus for twenty-one hours. That's three times longer than I've played Occupy White Walls, for example, a game I would consider one of my "regulars". Then again, Steam tells me I've only played Twin Saga for 48 minutes, which would be some going since I have a level 54 character. 

Stats aside, I have been playing Riders of Icarus fairly obsessively these last few days. It's a very much better game than I gave it credit for in my initial report. That's largely because it's a very diferent game than I thought it was. And also because I started a new character, something soon to be covered in a post of its own. Maybe...

Three years ago I came to RoI expecting a predictable Eastern take on the traditional Western MMORPG, something akin to ARGO or Bless or Revalation Online, all of which I enjoyed to some degree but none of which was likely to hold my attention once the novelty wore off. Riders of Icarus mimics some of the familiar structures and tropes of that kind of MMORPG, but only in the most rudimentary fashion.

From the opening cut-scene from the Trickster introduction. No clue what happened.

It does have some kind of central narrative. There are quests and quest hubs. NPCs do have dialog. I don't think I have ever played an MMORPG where any and all of that matters less.

I have literally no recollection of any of the so-called story so far. Ironically, ROI employs, for the most part, well-translated, idiomatic English both in text and voiceover. There are a few peculiarities but by and large it's at the top-end for this kind of thing. Nevertheless, I find myself clicking through with barely a glance just to get the "Kill 3 Bears" update on the tracker. Why I'm killing them or for whom I have not the slightest interest.

I do read any Rabbini dialog. It's funny.
I have to quest because that seems to be the main source of XP. Otherwise I wouldn't bother. Riders of Icarus isn't about narrative or story or questing. It's about exploring and collecting.

The scenery is lovely and varied. Traveling is time-consuming but interesting. Seeing new things is motivation in itself but the real reason I want to explore is to find new creatures to tame. That's what the game's about.

Anything you can ride, you can tame. Usually you can guess just by looking but a quick mouse-over confirms it. I would quibble why you should be able to ride a boar but not a fox that's the same size but it would be picking nits.

The taming mini-game is familiar and fun. I've seen it in other games but rarely as well done. You activate your Taming ability, which slows your movement and makes you crouch a little, then you approach the creature you want to tame, preferably from behind.

When you get very close you hit the Space bar and attempt to jump onto the animal's back. Sometimes you miss, which is most amusing. If you succeed, your goal is to stay on, rodeo-style, until you break the creature's spirit. It often helps if you beat the beast up a bit first. Horse-whispering this is not.

There are two status bars, Success and Failure. Most of what happens next is RNG and luck, modified by the distance between your level and your target's and by the creatures quality rating. Possibly by other things I don't know about, yet.

One of my many Caribous.
You can improve your chances by acquiring various consumables from mob drops or by crafting. Possibly from quests, too - I'm still learning. There also opportunities during the taming process itself to exert your dominance and subdue the beast. Four conditions may randomly appear, which you counter by hitting the appropriate WASD buttons. That gives you some sense of active particiaption and makes it feel more like a game. It's very much like how crafting works in EverQuest II or Vanguard, although much simplified from either of those.

Taming also costs Taming Points. Different creatures use different amounts per attempt. Low level beasts, such as I'm taming, take four points but high-end Boss creatures take up to 60 a pop. You have 100 TP by default, which refills to full every time you level and also once per day. You can , naturally, buy more points/resets with in game currency.

If you succeed, the beast is tamed and yours to keep. You can then ride it as a mount and it will level up, quite fast, while you have it out. Different mounts have different properties, abilities and buffs. Their run speed also varies and some can fly.

I mean, who wouldn't want to talk to this guy?
Tamed creatures can also be turned into Pets, which fight alongside you, a process which I admit don't yet understand. Out of game information on ROI is patchy and mostly dates back to 2016, which does not bode well for its long-term future, although the game seems fairly busy to me.

I can't figure out exactly how many tameable creatures there are altogether without logging in, opening the Bestiary and counting them. I can't do that right now because the game is currently down for the update that removes the Cherry Blossom event and replaces it with the Otherworldly Collection, in which a "Cato" comes to "collect and look at the familiars in this world you call Midellas". Well, he may call it that - I had no idea.

Anyway, more on that event when I get to try it out. I have several posts already in my head for Riders of Icarus and all the time in the world to write them, so be warned. There was a brief moment yesterday, when I thought I might, once again, be done with the game, but I got over it. Sorry.

My moment of doubt came when I tried to tame a boar, succeeded, and got the message "Your Familiar Storage is full". Up to that point I had been gleefully anticipating several weeks roaming what I now know to be Midellas, catching and taming them all, not to infringe anyone's trademark.

Sadly, games developers have to make money to stay in business and when you predicate your game on taming and collecting creatures and then give it away "free", you have to defray your costs and even make a profit somehow. Selling mount slots is an obvious money-maker.

You get your first eleven slots free but after that you have to pay. Acording to the Wiki you can buy up to 90 slots. As I mentioned, I can't ascertain the exact number of tameable mounts but I'm fairly sure it's more than that. Still, 90 is a lot. To buy them all would cost 2777 Elluns, the cash shop currency. I'd tell you what that comes to in dollars or pounds but unfortunately it's not as straightforward as that. It never is in Eastern imports, is it?

A Panther. Much more like it!
Elluns can be obtained in game at a fairly reasonable pace: I already have about 36 Elluns from Achievements, Dailies and Log-in Rewards. You'd expect to be able to buy them directly for cash, which I would be doing today if I could, but you can't. Instead you have to buy NX, the universal Nexon currency and then use that to buy Ellons, or packs of stuff that also include Ellons. 

The route to doing this is both obscure and confusing and involves some quite ludicrous conversion rates, since NX seems to be sold in extraordinarly high demoninations for relatively low real money cost, making dealing with it something like the dark days of the Italian Lira, when shopkeepers used to give change in boiled sweets and single cigarettes..

I will get to grips with it in due course. I haven't spent much money on games for a while and I feel minded to drop a little cash on this one. In the meantime, however, there is a solution to the sudden cessation of my taming addiction: seals.

No, not rideable seals, sadly, although that would be awesome. Sealing is something you can do to your mounts to convert them into mods that clip onto your gear. It basically takes a stat from the mount and adds it to your weapon or armor and crucially it also removes the mount from your storage, freeing up the slot.

I have to kill Trutan for a quest. So far I'm 0 for 4. I also tried to tame him. You can guess how that went.

Since many of the mounts are variations on a theme - I already have three Caribou that look and play almost identically - it's no sacrifice to catch them and seal them. To get the best value you should level them before sealing, as the power of the seal increases when you do that, so it's all set to be a game in itself.

And that's the thing. Riders of Icarus is very much a game. It's an MMORPG, set in a world that's beautiful and intriguing, and it has a plethora or RPG systems, but at core it's find-and-collect. For once, and it's unusual for me, I seem to have grokked that simple fact, which is quite likely true for a number of MMORPGs I've played before and haven't really understood.

The big difference here is that I like the game part quite a lot. Finding and taming creatures you can ride, level up, turn into fighting pets or convert into mods for your gear makes for interesting and addictive gameplay, or at least it might. I'm willing to give it a try, at least.

Prepare for more on the wonderful world of... oh, what did they call it again? Midellas! That's it.


  1. I read it all. Bring on more Riders of Icarus posts, says I!

    I'm concerned that the world is called Midellas though. Why isn't the game called Riders of Midellas, in that case!?

    1. Glad someone's interested! The Midellas thing threw me, too. There is probably some lore thing for "Icarus" but damned if I know what it is. If I find out I'll be sure to mention it.


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