Saturday, July 6, 2019

Try To Hang On: Riders of Icarus

Well, that was unexpected!

Yesterday I was expressing some concern over the prospect of leaping from one phoenix to another while flying over a lake of bubbling lava. This morning, when I logged in to Riders of Icarus to pick up my free gift for the day, I passed the required thirty minutes sorting my bags and tempering my weapons and armor. It's called avoidance behavior.

I say "weapons and armor" but that doesn't give the whole picture. As a Trickster my character doesn't really use either in the conventional sense. She waves a wand with a star on the end in one hand and carries a teddy bear in the other. Her armor consists of a party dress and a lot of accesories. I've been playing her for a while now and I don't really think about it most of the time but it's hard to ignore when upgrading.

It took six or seven temperings just to get the new dress up to the level of the one she was already wearing. When it hit +10 I started getting more failures than successes so I stopped.

An odd problem, if you can call it that, is that the "Hero's" gear the game gives you every five or ten levels is almost always significantly better than anything you get from quests. The downside is that it can't be upgraded at all.

In theory the quest gear should be better, provided you can be bothered to upgrade it. Some of it comes in sets with bonuses but the cost and effort of tempering a whole set to exceed the Hero items is prohibitive. As in most MMORPGs, it seems fairly pointless to spend time, money and effort on upgrading while you're levelling, unless you're having difficulty with the content.

Which I was. Unfortunately, upgrading wasn't going to do anything to solve my problem, lack of skill. Or confidence. Or both.

When I was done tempering I very nearly logged out to play Secondhand Lands instead. I was on the verge of leaving when something snapped. Sod it! Might as well at least give it a go, see how tough it really is.

So I did. And when I succeeded on the first attempt no-one was more surprised than I was. Well, they couldn't have been because no-one else was there. But I was very surprised.

It wasn't entirely plain sailing. It took me a while to work out how to get taming running while mounted (you have to switch it on before you summon the mount) and I spent a while trying to work out how to use the flare (no need, it just has to be in your inventory).

I flew around a bit looking for a phoenix to jump. I spotted one whose pathing took it very close to a ledge. It stopped there and hovered for a few seconds. Things were looking promising. I watched the pattern for another loop then I positioned myself and waited.

The phoenix came around, hovered, then aggroed on me, which kept it in place. I edged forward until the "SPACE" message appeared. I hit the space bar and leapt into... erm, space... and landed square on the bird's back!

A short tussle ensued. To my delight the phoenix put up no more than a feeble struggle and then it was mine! I flew around for a minute, took some screenshots, let my heartbeat return to normal, then cruised back for the hand-in.

My reward?

You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding...
FFS! This is the Main questline. If you don't do these quests you can't get any more. What kind of sadist follows one bottleneck quest to tame a flying mount with another to tame a harder one??!!

Oh, well. Not like I had a choice. Off I went on my new Caldera Phoenix in search of a Fire Dragon.

Finding him took a while. He turned out to be in an instance. There were markers on my map but they were unclear. I went into the instance then came out, unsure. I checked the wiki. Yep, that's where he lives alright. Back in we went.

The instance is a long, curving tunnel with lava for a floor. The game helpfully advises you to press Space while flying to glide at speed. Every twenty yards or so there's a hefty fire elemental throwing boulders that can knock you off your mount. Think learning to ride a bike for the first time while someone lobs bricks at your head.

There was a good deal of swearing, most of it at considerable volume. The first time I got turned around somehow and ended up back where I started. On the second attempt I got all the way to the dragon then realised I'd neglected to switch on taming.

Oh, no you don't, Mister!

To do that I needed to land but I couldn't see anywhere. I managed to find a small pinnacle of rock and perched on that. I dismounted and found myself being knocked about by rocks thrown by elementals.

The rocks stopped me using the Taming skill. They also stopped me remounting. There was nowhere to go other than into the lava. I had no choice but to jump and die or die where I was, so I jumped... and didn't die.

The lava was old school. It burned but didn't instakill. I ran about on top of it yelping and falling over (more boulders) until I managed to find a flat surface. I climbed out and in the second between impacts I got back on my mount. Then I flew to every elemental in throwing range, including one that seemed to be able to throw around corners, and killed the fricking lot of them!

With the barrage ended and time to think, I landed on the pinnacle again, dismounted, switched Taming on, remounted and flew towards the dragon. Vulkanus had been ignoring me up to this point. Probably couldn't attack for laughing.

Now let's get out of this hellhole.

I got close to him and he aggroed but I invaded his personal space and leapt onto his back. He put up no more fight than the phoenix. In a matter of seconds he was mine!

I have to say that these two quests made for one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in an MMORPG for quite a while. I found the difference between the imagined and actual challenge to be just about perfectly pitched. I persisitently believed I was going to fail and yet I succeeded at the first attempt. It exactly hit that sweet spot, where the player feels as though they've done something amazing even though they know that really it's something that's been carefully curated to ensure their success.

Or maybe I was just really, really lucky. I'm still not sure. Either way, it's done and it's left me liking the game more than ever.

On to the next challenge!


  1. I quite possibly missed this in an earlier post -- if so, let me know and I'll go back to find it -- but how are you finding the F2P model of Icarus?

    This story has got me interested enough to go take a poke around methinks, but already subbing to FFXIV so would rather not take on another sub-mandatory game right now. xD

    1. I'm not having any issues with F2P yet but I find it's very rarely a problem at low or mid levels in this kind of game. If the developers know what they're doing they reel you in gently through the low and mid levels until you're securely hooked. The bite comes when you get close to whatever passes fro the endgame and since I almost never get that far I very rarely feel it at all.

      As far as Riders of Icarus goes, it's very generous at the levels I'm playing. You get a decent amount of the cash shop currency from Achievements, dailies and especially from the login rewards. I've been able to add all the inventory space, bank storage and Familiar slots I've needed. I bought a 16 slot bag yesterday, the most expensive thing I've bought so far. It cost me 50 Elluns. The same day I got 20 Elluns as a login reward and a few more from an achievement. I'm receiving more than I spend right now.

      The big expense, I think, would be the item you need to extract Seals from Familiars. Those almost only come from the Cash Shop and if you get into upgrading your gear seriously I think you would need plenty of them. It's not necessary while levelling though, or I haven't found it to be yet.

      One thing I would say is that RoI seems to have one of the better subscription/membership deals I've seen in that what you get is actually pretty useful. I have a free 7-day Premium Membership right now from the current event and I am going to miss it when it goes.

      As I said to Pete in an earlier comment thread, when he was talking about playing, I wouldn't want to big RoI up too much. If you don't already like this kind of Eastern conversion, RoI is definitely not going to change your mind, more like confirm what you already know you don't like. If you do like them, though, I think this is one of the better ones I've tried.

    2. Thanks for the rundown. The eastern-imports are an interesting mix, the only one I've really stuck to for any lengthy duration was Black Desert Online -- and that was due to my main guild giving it a fair whack for a while.

      Can't beat 'free' for giving something a try though I guess, so I'm giving this a download. The real problem will come in the opportunity-cost of time spent checking it out vs. anything else I could be using my gaming time for I think!

  2. I loved RoI but eventually fizzled out on the endgame.. still think about it from time to time, dread to think how many freebies may be awaiting me...!! Still.. something that I noticed from your post - you should be able to trigger Taming right from the back of your mount. You'll get an animation where you kind of stand up crouched on its back - then you can leap to the target mount-to-be. It's a bit of a knack but not too hard to get the hang of. Lots of opportunities to practice! :) Also if falling you can poof a flying mount into existence to catch you - highly recommend a hotkey or two for such emergencies. A lot of taming etc happens high up/away from land. (Also good for switching mounts midflight). Gliding is lovely :D

    1. Ah! Thanks for the tips. I thought the quest text suggested I should be able to start taming in flight but I couldn't figure out how to do it. I'll have to practice.

      As I was saying to Naithin above, I find the problem with most of the imported MMOs comes with the endgame, which tends to be even grindier than Western versions and requires real money if you want to avoid making it your life. Not generally an issue for me, since I rarely get as far the endgame in most MMOs, no matter what their origin.


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