Enter The Dragon: Hands-On With Riders Of Icarus

Dragons are cool. Much like dinosaurs there’s a tickle of childlike glee at the prospect of seeing these fire breathing, winged beasts up close in a videogame, and Riders of Icarus plays off this fantasy in a big way, to try and tempt you into its free to play MMORPG world. The ability to tame dragons and ride them into combat features very heavily in the game’s artwork and trailers, and with good reason.

However, you don’t simply pop into the game as a level 1 character and get handed a dragon after completing your first quest, you have to work your way up to it, and so the game features all sorts of animals for you to encounter. You build a whole menagerie of real and mythical beasts, as you explore the world and try to capture and tame everything in sight. They’re more than just a fancy steed for you to ride and show off, but trusty companions that you take into battle.

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Before I was handed the reigns of a dragon, I had to head out into the wild to capture one of the many bears that roam some lightly wooded hills. Capturing this relatively low level creature was pretty straightforward, as I entered a crouched stance that let me get closer and leap upon its back, before riding it and engaging in a small key prompting minigame to calm it down. Of course, the bigger the beast and the higher its level, the trickier this process will be, and you’ll often have to weaken them through combat.

Then there are the elite, hero and legendary creatures, such as Trutan the bear. These all have a more unique look to show their higher status and better abilities, but can require you to perform certain feats and try to capture them in unique ways. Trutan, for example, can only be captured if you’re able to leap from a rocky outcrop and onto his back, and you’ll have to figure this out from a few clues about him. Other rare and powerful creatures might only feature within a certain quest, and you and your party will have to work together to bring it under control for one of you.

That in and of itself will give you reason to replay dungeons, but so too will the growth and use of these creatures. They level up based on how much time you use them for, as opposed to through combat, but you can also turn them from being a mount into being a pet, a smaller version of the animal that acts like a support character that you can order around. There’s reason, in other words, to want to have at least two of each animal.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the process of ‘sealing’, though. This takes a creature and lets you infuse them into your weapons and armour, providing you with better stats, depending on how high a level they were when you sealed them. It’s an irreversible process, and I just don’t know how I’d feel about losing a creature that I’d spent hours riding around with and fighting alongside in that fashion. That you can simply head out and capture another version of that animal might help to keep that emotional distance, but it still feels ever so slightly callous, even if it’s a clever way of keeping a value and worth to encountering the same animals multiple times.

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But really, the game’s going to hang on the ability to capture and fly dragons and other airborne creatures based on myth and some more original designs. Though they’re cool, with some very intimidating designs for the dragons, the actual act of flying around takes a while to get used to, to put it mildly, and combat is similarly tricky, as you have to try and fight in 3D space.

Riders of Icarus is very much built on the foundations of a traditional MMORPG. The screen is lined with a myriad of menus and items to click on, and there are the peculiarities of the MMO control scheme, which traditionally has you right click in order to angle the camera. While there is an option for a slightly more action oriented control set up, it’s a long way away from the kinds of fluidity that you might expect if you’re more invested in console gaming. That makes it feel awkward just trying to get into place above another flying creature, time your jump and land on their back, or simply engage in combat.

The controls could be improved, but there’s no denying that there’s a bold ambition to how flying creatures are being used in the game. Certainly, you’ll have traditional questing and dungeons on foot, but one of the first set piece ten player raids has you fighting the titanic Attaius from the back of your flying creature of choice.

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You’re trying to avoid incoming attacks as best you can, but there’s a need to get close to Attaius, and well in range of his swinging arms which push you around with the gusts of wind they create, or simply swat you out of the sky if they manage to connect. However, he also summons other winged beasts that can and will attack you from other angles. Even for ten high level characters with complimentary classes and roles, riding some of the most powerful flying steeds in the game, it’s going to be a very challenging encounter.

A lot of MMORPGs have rideable creatures, but the real hook that WeMade and Nexon are hoping will draw people in is being able to ride them into combat. Riders of Icarus really takes this to the next level, with hundreds of these beasts and the ability to ride them into combat. That’s the real hook they are hoping will draw people in as the game goes into open beta in early July, and while I feel there’s room for improvement in some areas, there’s a lot of reasons to keep playing and taming more and more animals.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

5 Comments

  1. Sounds promising. Platform?

    • It’s PC only at the moment and will likely stay that way I assume.

      • Thanks, fella. Much appreciated. Might check it out, in that case. :)

  2. Could be fun, but I bet it will end up Pay2Win and you can buy the better dragons etc to beat other players.

  3. just tell me it’s better than Lair.

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