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March 15, 2012
RiotZone Review

By Jason Van Horn

There are a lot of browser-based MMOs out there with different premises, but RiotZone is the only one I've ever played that's centered on the world of mercenaries for hire. You'll train your mercenaries to be the most savage squad of killers imaginable and then send them out on a variety of missions and PVP battles in order to show everyone that your group is the roughest and toughest bunch around. The premise of the game is solid, but the execution leaves a little to be desired.

When first starting out, players will have one squad of two soldiers at their command and with one member representing you as your main character; two additional squads will eventually be unlocked after reaching level five and then level 20. The game features three different mercenary types: Sniper, Storm Trooper and Gunner. Each mercenary type has their own strengths and weaknesses, which are outlined through a variety of stats such as health, armor, marksmanship, range, firing speed, chance of critical hit, etc. If broken down into their simplest description, Snipers have the longest firing range, but reduced health and low firing speed; Storm Troopers are slow to move around, but they pack heavy fire power; and Gunners are your all-around characters who can move around the fastest, have an average firing speed, and can take a moderate amount of damage.

Your personal character is a jack-of-all-trades as they're not pre-set to be one of the three classes, as you can give them whatever weapon you wish to instantly switch them into that character class, though they'll start the game out as a Gunner by default. As you gain levels, you'll also be able to distribute points into five different categories in order to make your mercenary a super-soldier. The five stats are Precision (how precise you are with your weapon), Skill (shoot faster), Speed (how difficult it is to hit you), Stamina (how much health you have), and Success (the chances of you hitting an enemy and dodging their attacks). Besides spending skill points whenever you level-up, you can also purchase stat points using in-game gold, though the price continues to increase every time you use this feature.

Another way you'll outfit your character and make them stronger is through their equipment, as you can not only give them a weapon to use, but also equip four different pieces of armor matching up to various pieces on the body. You can always buy new weapons and armor if you so choose, but you can also use money and other currency tokens in order to tune your gear, raising their usefulness and stat values, though much like the ability to buy stat points each time you tune a piece of gear the more expensive it becomes to do so. You start out by only having to pay with peso, but once the rarity of your gear starts increasing you'll not only have to pay with peso but Stars, which are obtained by completing assignments and mass battles.

RiotZone even features a crafting aspect, which is accomplished through your group's personal camp, where you can have four different structures up and running. There's the Workshop (produces resources needed to upgrade camp structures), Laboratory (produce different crates of supplies), Prison (produce peso), and Shooting Range (produce different ten minute buffs for your squads to use in battle). One thing I really like about RiotZone's crafting/resource system is that at the max you only have four different resources needed in order to upgrade a structure, but the only thing it takes to get results from a structure is time; a ten-minute buff only takes ten minutes of constructing time to be ready for use and there aren't any costs associated with it.

All of these features are just getting you to the main component of the game - the fighting. Players can choose to take-on specific missions with designated rewards or either try to complete a random mission (difficult random versions open up later). You would think that RiotZone's battles would be tactical in nature, but they're really nothing more than small movies you watch as all the action is really happening behind-the-scenes with invisible dice rolls and the screen merely reflects that information. The only influence you have on a battle when it's actually happening is being able to select a few in-game usable items like using a medical kit to heal, a special item like an airstrike, or lobbing a grenade at an opponent; these aren't free and must be earned or created, so you have to preserve them for when you really need them.

Another problem I have is that any designated mission is completely trial-and-error as there is no primary or secondary information given to you in order to help you understand if this is a mission you could properly succeed at or not. A lot of games will show you units or numbers in order to give you an idea and help prepare, but RiotZone gives you a brief "story" idea behind the mission - ultimately each mission is just killing people and nothing more - and then telling you what you'll receive in terms of rewards such as money, items, and experience. Plus, once you get into a mission, there's no way to know when it's about done since the game will only throw so many mercenaries onto the screen at once. So you might kill four mercenaries and be down to your last one and with barely any health and think you've won, but then two more will pop onto the screen and kill you in a heartbeat. As I said, it's completely trial-and-error, which is doubling annoying since each battle action costs energy.

Energy is how you complete actions in the game such as taking on a mission or engaging in PVP. If you're playing for free you only have a pool of five energy at once, so you can't recklessly use it on a mission that might end up in failure, because once a point of energy is spent it takes 15-minutes to get that point back; besides being able to buy and tweak some things, you're basically left with nothing to do once your points are up and you're left waiting. You can buy VIP status with real money to increase your energy pool and how quick it replenishes, but for those free players you're just out of luck. Besides being used to buy VIP status, real money can also be used to buy weapons, armor, and various currencies you need for different actions.

Besides the single-player missions, there are several different PVP actions players can engage in. You can fight in 1vs1, 3vs3 and Free-For-All missions primarily, but there are also larger-scale battles that happen at select times during the day that you can register for, you can perform a Raider Attack on known or random players in order to try and get some items from them, and you can place your squad on patrol for select amounts of time to earn money while you're away and not playing. The battles play like they do when taking part in a single-player mission, but it is more rewarding to know you're actually taking down someone who is actively involved and playing right at that moment. The problem is that it's frequently hard to have the computer match you up with anybody to battle as the waits can be quite long in my experience and that time seems to go up when you try for the battles featuring more than one opponent.

Browser-based games are often rather limiting when it comes to the technical aspects, but RiotZone is remarkably solid. The menus are clean and easy to read, I love the art style used for the characters and maps you battle on, plus the animation is smooth and solid as weapons fire and mercenaries move into place. The sound work is equally impressive, as I love the varied weapons firing off.
RiotZone is a fun game, but I find it rather limiting in the things you can do. Why can't players have more direct control over their squads in a battle? Why can't missions give you an accurate number as to how many people you're going to have to fight? Why can't you tune the equipment of your other mercenaries? There are a number of problems that detract from the overall experience, but in the end if you can get around those limitations and make them work for you, RiotZone is a pretty good browser-based game to occupy your time.

Rating: 3 out of 5



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