Games Revived from the Grave: RaiderZ
Dumb Name but Is the Game Actually Viable in New Hands?
The historical record of MMORPGs is littered with closed projects — some of which cease development before even leaving alpha. Having played literally over 1,000 of MMORPGs, it’s usually obvious why a game wasn’t successful even without any backstory. Otherland was likely unsuccessful because of it’s combat system where creatures would occasionally not register any hits or even aggro even with direct melee strikes and overly linear (and easy to break) progression-locked questing. ASTA was likely unsuccessful because it failed to provide anything significant to the classic World of Warcraft formula during a time where people had plenty of options for that style of game.
RaiderZ, an open world MMORPG with action combat, is a bit of a peculiar case. It was released as free-to-play during the time when TERA was still subscription-based and quite popular. It provided action combat during a time when tab/target combat was viewed as out-of-date. The graphics, while not overly impressive, were optimized well enough where even many lower end machines could run the game with respectable framerates even with max shadows on. Boss fights were fairly unique. The game lacked a unique aesthetic, taking a generic fantasy MMORPG approach to world design, but the zones made great use of elevation differences, verticality, and seemed to be purposefully designed. Some people claim Perfect World Entertainment and their cash shop ruined the game. Others claim the grindy feel and slow movement across the world ruined the game. RaiderZ released in North America and Europe on November 20th, 2012 and officially closed on August 7th, 2015 — a less than three year run that went largely unnoticed except for the small community for whom this game was “their game”. Perfect World claimed the shutdown was released to the developers (MAIET) going bankrupt and lacking sufficient resources for bugfixes and fixing server-related issues.
How to Play
Masangsoft is currently working on an updated, revamped version of RaiderZ for relaunch. This has been discussed since 2017, so it is unclear when the exact release date will be. For people who have an ethical or other type of objection with private servers (for as much as I love the private server community for keeping many games from being actually dead, there’s a lot of corruption that occurs in pockets of it as well), you will have to continue waiting. You can follow it’s progress on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/raiderzonline/
For those who just want to play, there are numerous private servers. The quality range is significant, with many being non-English. The only private server that I can attest to being of sufficient quality (I only checked out 2) to warrant a recommend is RaiderZ Revolution: https://revolutionraiderz.com/. That’s where I captured the footage from. It uses a lottery system to give out free zen for the cash shop and has frequent updates.
Graphics & Sound + Story, Plot & World
The voice acting.. oh the voice acting. It’s definitely not good, and the game would have likely been better off without it. Almost every line of voice acting feels like it was done by someone on the development staff in a single take, lacking any of the qualities you’d expect from a professional voice actor. These voice actors make epic struggles sound like the equivalent of an awkward conversation in a retail store checkout line, where you feel obligated to make small talk yet it is obvious that neither party in the interaction really wants to be a part of it. At least the sound effects are serviceable, but the game makes heavy use of stock sound effects. I’m pretty sure a troll made a sound from Doom upon it’s death.
The graphics are aged but actually quite beautiful for being able to run on a potato computer in the early-2010s. The draw distance is moderately good, so you actually feel like many of the zones are more open than they actually are. In one instance, I swam across a river and saw a bridge in what I thought was the skybox. A few minutes later, I found the access point to that bridge and crossed the river. I was even able to jump off the bridge into the water, and the damage taken jumping into a pool of water was actually different than that of falling on jagged rocks or a grassy plain.
The areas appear to be intentionally designed, not just a random assortment of mobs and graphical assets tossed a strew to create an environment. The enemy mobs have interesting design and not many of them feel out of place graphically. It’s a shame that a world this well-designed suffers from some quite atrocious quest design. However, that atrocious quest design is redeemed because the battles within are actually a lot of fun.
Character Builds, Gameplay & Fun Factor
RaiderZ released with four classes (Defender, Berserker, Sorcerer, Cleric), added two more later on (Assassin, Archer), and has one never released class that I was unable to test (Summoner). Defender is basically a tank, Berserker is a melee DPS, Sorcerer is a magic DPS / AoE, Cleric is a life mage, assassin is a speed-focused melee rogue, and the archer is well, an archer — a ranged DPS.
The classes themselves are not entirely interesting, but are sufficient for the game. What is interesting is skills are not tied to a class. Want to be a defender who can also heal (from cleric tree skills) and occasionally use sorcery? You can. Each class has a skill tree and the basic skills are required for many of the later skills, so you can’t get all of the skills. However, if you are creative, you can create a quite unique build. Personally, I went with a defender with a few cleric skills for healing and ranged damage. Skills are tied to specific weapons, so if you don’t want to have extra weapons to equip, you’ll want to make sure you pick a weapon shared amongst the classes you are choosing skills from. One-handed mace worked for me.
Weapon and armor progression is based on learning recipes and crafting new items as a result of creature drops. It is often necessary to decide whether or not to keep older gear to save materials and time for a later upgrade or to upgrade at every possible opportunity. You can also add the recipe with the number of each item in inventory and required to the quest tracker — quite a nice touch! I’m able to customize my quest tracker in such a way as to mirror what my actual oddball adventures in game are and not just have a list of random tasks that I’d rather not do.
The world is mostly open, as are the dungeons. Each region acts as a sort of super-hub, containing many smaller hubs of quest givers. Some of the quests are for dungeons which require traveling through a portal to enter while others occur on the open map. Want to do a dungeon recommending 5 players on your own? Not a problem. Want to take on a large open world boss by yourself? Not a problem. Well.. not a problem to start the task. As you progress in level, the difficulty of content scales significantly. The path to level 20 is quite an easy one but once you get to the mid-20s, it is highly recommended that you plan your character build appropriately and keep geared up.
Musical instruments, enchanting, and faction systems are also available in game. PvP content is optional and of an opt-in variety. In my first impressions overview of this game, I didn’t get much of a chance to explore these aspects of the game but from what I have experienced, they seem to be quite fun and well-implemented.
I came into RaiderZ expecting TERA-lite and discovered a game that was actually quite a bit of fun. With better writing and a bit more polish, this could actually be a top tier game. As is and as it stands on the RaiderZ Revolution server (which is fairly close to end-of-retail), RaiderZ is a fun game to either waste a few hours or to stick around in the world and get established. Definitely check it out if you love action combat and MMORPG worlds. Skip if quality of writing and story content is your focus.
I wish the best of success for Masangsoft in the relaunch!
FINAL VERDICT: RECOMMEND