MMOs are a tough sell in today’s crowded market, but Riders of Icarus’ central gimmick might just be enough to set it apart from the sea of competition. It’s World of Warcraft meets Pokemon, as the vast majority of creatures you meet wandering the world can be captured and trained as loyal pets and familiars.
You’ll naturally take on quests, level up, gather crafting components, and improve your gear in ways that are standard for the genre, but the gotta catch ‘em all compulsion of creature collecting is a unique hook that gives Riders of Icarus its own identity. I got a chance to play a bit of the game ahead of its beta release, and I’m here to tell you everything I know.
The basics of Riders don’t feel fundamentally different from most MMOs. You have a hotbar of abilities with cooldowns you’ll have to manage, and you’ll use those abilities to defeat monsters and complete quests which will help you to level up. A combo system lets you chain together certain attacks for either more damage or an extra chance of causing status effects.
Monster training is where Riders gets its own identity. All classes are able to get into a sneaky taming mode, which will allow you to sneak up on tameable creatures and hop on their backs to start the taming process. A combination of minigame skill and some chance will determine if you’re able to capture the creature, but in the early parts of the game, there’s little consequence for failure. Just hit taming mode again and get right back up on that horse. (Or wolf. Or bear. Or giant spider thing.)
Newly captured monsters will initially be available to you as mounts, and will level up as they’re summoned and ridden. Each creature has a stamina bar that gradually drains as they’re summoned, refilling when they’re out of action, which means that you’ll have to swap through the available monsters to keep them in the field and leveling up. You can capture a stable of beasts and switch between them at will, but you have a limited number of slots to store them in.
Beasts start in mount form, but special items will let you make other uses for them. You can turn them into pets that will fight alongside you, or turn them into seal items that improve the capabilities of your weapons and armor.
In addition to basic monsters, there are named creatures that often have specific requirements to fulfill before they can be tamed. A certain spider monster required that I defeat a sorcerer and collect a special spellbook before I could tame it, and naturally it proved to be a more powerful companion than the standard creatures.
The class selection is fairly small, but your MMO archetypes are all covered. The Beserker is your front-line melee damage dealer, building up rage through their attacks to unleash chain abilities on nearby enemies. The Guardian is naturally able to soak up lots of damage, deflecting enemy strikes and launching powerful follow-ups of their own.
Assassins specialize in evasive maneuvers and swift attacks from unknown locations, able to knock enemies into the air and build big combo attacks. Priests can channel holy magic to aid allies and damage enemies, and can even control the the minds of certain evil creatures. The Wizard, finally, can control the elements, raining down fire, wind, and water in their most destructive form