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With so many free-to-play massively-multiplayer online games hitting the market lately, it can be tough to decide which one is worth your precious time. At first glance RaiderZ may seem like your typical Eastern free-to-play MMORPG, complete with huge weapons and countless grind quests. However, at its core, the game offers an innovative monster-hunting experience that has the potential to be compelling, even if it’s fairly rough around the edges.
RaiderZ features four generic styles, or classes: Defender (tank), Sorcerer (magic damage dealer), Berzerker (melee damage dealer), and Cleric (healer). The style you choose will initially determine the types of abilities and weapons open to you. As you progress through the game, you can eventually cherry pick abilities from other styles in order to create any sort of character you want, making for some interesting class combinations.
The first zone, Broken Mast, sets the stage for every zone that follows it, with mini-quest hubs throughout and small groups of quest mobs inhabiting only specific areas. RaiderZ's story, as told by these quests, isn't particularly gripping. However, it does introduce you to the game's treadmill progression, where players receive quests to kill specific monsters that in turn drop crafting items, allowing you (through the help of an NPC) to forge better equipment, so that you can in turn find and kill bigger monsters.
For the right gamer, that progression can be satisfying, but it's surprising that the quests aren't more interesting or inspired here. Instead, the majority of them are tedious grind quests, ones that direct you to kill a certain amount of monsters in an area or collect specific types of loot off their corpses.
RaiderZ’s method of dealing with the questing system's monotony comes in two forms. The first is in its action-based combat, which allows you to actively dodge enemy attacks. It’s best highlighted during elite monster fights and dungeon bosses, where timing your movements and choosing when to attack is crucial to survival. These elite encounters are intense, and it would've been nice to experience that kind of life-and-death danger with every enemy, not just the big guys.
The other area it breaks from the norm is in its unique enemy interactions, which happen from time to time. For instance, if you hit a crab hard enough, a piece of its armor might break off and you can use that bit to buff your own defense. Additionally, some enemies drop their weapons, which you can in turn use against them for increased damage and other special effects. These encounters are great, often humorous, and breathe life into the otherwise lackluster questing model that fills most of the game.
Around level 15 to 20, players are more or less forced to take a break from questing and group up for dungeons. These follow the typical “kill a bunch of generic bad guys to proceed” format, and are capped off by end bosses that are some of the toughest enemies you'll face, often requiring pre-planned strategies for victory. Nothing in any of the game’s three instances drop equipment, only crafting materials, and you generally need to run each of them a few times in order to acquire all the materials to craft a full set of gear.
Constantly upgrading your gear is essential, and you'll need an entirely new set if you want to stay competitive in RaiderZ's player-versus-player. PvP only becomes accessible around level 25, but it's not until the end-game when you've hit the Epic Mt. Eda zone and can begin to craft special defensive PvP gear that you'll experience true competitive play. Additionally, there’s the option to shell out real money in the RaiderZ cash shop for jewels that increase the success rate of enchanting armor to higher levels, giving PvP a pay-to-win feel. Competitive play rewards you with special PvP gear and wolf mounts, but it takes a long time to grind the reputation you need with your faction of choice before you’ll see anything worthwhile.
Once you’ve hit RaiderZ’s max level of 35, which takes about 20-30 hours, you’ll find there isn't much to keep your attention. If you want to continue adventuring at max level, your options mostly involve continuously running epic versions of dungeons to get rare materials that let you make the highest-level weapons and armor. Alternatively, you can go on epic monster quests and fight elite monsters, which also have a rare chance to drop crafting components.
RaiderZ may not be able to go head-to-head against some of the bigger free-to-play MMOs on the market, but it does offer a fairly unique monster-hunter experience and fast-paced action combat that will keep you hooked for hours on end. The early- to mid-game offers a glimmer of promise, but unfortunately you’ll quickly find the quests become as repetitive as the end-game content. Ultimately, we’d like to see more with future updates, but for now RaiderZ feels incomplete and suffers from unrealized potential.