Friday, July 5, 2019

Everybody Ought to Have a Maid: Riders of Icarus

Free gifts are all very well but no matter how generous the giveaways might be, the time comes when you just have to start playing the game. Okay, I guess you don't have to, but if you don't then why bother taking the freebies in the first place?

You could just stand around in the capital city, showing off your free Legendary Familiar, while the sun reflects dramatically off your free mirror shades but who would want to do that? Not me! I'd much rather stand around in Divinity Shore, where the fishing's good and the scenery's even better.

There's a lot of standing around in Riders of Icarus, or there can be if you want to go that way. It's one of those games where things happen without you. You, the player, that is. You, the character, you're still required. No goofing off for you.

So long as you have a Familiar (mount or pet) summoned, they'll level up even if all you're doing is running through your idle animations (quite good, by the way). Heroic and Legendary Familiars seem to level up somewhat more slowly than regular ones but it's very much worth the wait.

How's my Margarita coming along, Daveen?
Fortunately, RoI doesn't mind being ignored. I leave it running while I blog or browse or play other games and I usually forget it's there. It's doing it right now, as I type. For today's daily login freebie I got my first ever Legendary Familiar and I'm leveling her up. She's Level 9. A dozen more to go until she catches me.

As if determined to parody the very essence of imported F2P MMORPGs, my new companion, Maid Daveen, is indeed an actual maid. Not the "maid" of a hundred traditional folk songs but a servant, complete with classic uniform and whisk broom.

The first time I encountered this bizarre and unsettling trope was in Runes of Magic just after launch, or possibly even in Beta. RoM turned ten earlier this year so that was more than a decade ago. It had a form of housing and the only thing I remember about it was that your home came complete with a French Maid. 

Back then, I found it so peculiar I felt slightly uncomfortable going into my own house. There were more pressing reasons why I stopped playing RoM but having to deal with that NPC every time I went home definitely didn't help.

Ten years later Maid Daveen barely raises my eyebrow. Just about every converted title I've played comes with some kind of service NPC or questgiver in the full French farce rigout. I think having one tank for me might be a first, though.

When it comes to making progress in Riders of Icarus, I really can't afford to be picky about my companions. Leveling up is by no means a cake-walk now.

I hit something of a wall around Level 19. I couldn't find anyone to give me new quests, the few repeatables gave very little XP and grinding mobs was going to take forever. I was stymied by a bottleneck in the main questline and I wasn't going anywhere until I cleared it.

Unfortunately that quest asked me to kill a Vampire in a solo dungeon and he was a great deal too tough for me. I died several times trying him before I learned my lesson. My only option seemed to be leveling up some more to get ahead of his power curve. Catch 22.

And then the daily login gave me Merciless Jeranin. Jerry is a very ugly, very small ogre. He's also Heroic quality and a vicious little thug with a day job as a Level 35 World Boss.

I popped him out and left him to cook while I did other things. I kept popping back in to see how he was coming along but the closer he got to my level, the slower he seemed to go. In the end I lost patience when he was Level 17. Close enough!

Vampires always have the best lighting.

Off we went to Carleon Manor to try our luck. Carleon Manor is fine example of another trope I've encountered many times, playing MMORPGs over the last couple of decades. It's a baroque mansion set in extensive grounds well away from anywhere. Outside are a lot of very nasty creatures, inside a lot of even nastier ones in formal wear.

Almost every game has one of these places. Some have several. Mistmoore Castle, Hilsbury Mansion, Nektropos Castle, Haukke Manor... fill in your own list. There's usually a Vampire Lord at the head of the table. Failing that it'll be a Lich.

Getting dark, aren't you, RoI?
In this case it was a Vampire/Demon hybrid, Count Carleon. When I blasted my way into his home he was deep in a ritual intended to turn his wife into an immortal. It might have been his daughter. I was a bit too pre-occupied to follow the plot.

Understandably, he didn't take kindly to my killing his accolytes and disrupting the spell. A battle ensued. When, with the aid of Jerry, several health potions and some desperate kiting, I got him down, no-one was more surprised than me.

That broke the log-jam. I was able to open several new quest hubs and fill my book. I've spent a couple of sessions happily running around slaughtering bears, big cats, buffalo, cultists and anything else some random NPC wants shot of.

And don't get up again!

Even with the massive event buffs I'm currently enjoying, the levels are hardly flying by. I was 19 when I killed the Count. I'm currently just over half-way through 21. And I've hit another bottleneck.

This time the main quest wants me to tame a Caldera Firebeak. To do that I have to approach it in midair on my own flying mount, quested torch in hand, then leap onto its back and bully it into submission. If I fail I'll a) fall to my death b) have to kill a bunch of mobs for the repeatable quest that gives the flare and c) try again.

Given that it took me about a dozen attempts to tame my current flying mount, the Redfeather Hatchling, when all I had to do was hop onto it as it hovered next to me on a hillside, the prospect of this new challenge does not fill me with either confidence or excitement. More like terror.

Nice hat, Asteria.

Leveling up will help with the actual taming - the phoenix is Level 22 so any numerical advantage I can get will make it easier - but nothing is going to help me with the really hard part - jumping off one bird onto the back of another without missing and landing in a lake of lava. I may have to practice on something safer until I get the hang of it.

In the time it's taken to write this post, maybe an hour and a half, Daveen has levelled up from 9 to 13. I'm going to leave the game running in the background for the rest of the day. With luck she'll be maxed by tomorrow, in time to cheer me on as I fall repeatedly to my flaming death.

Maybe I'll just go fishing instead.

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