Serious MMO players, especially those who play World of Warcraft, know the glory of taking down a huge boss in a raid. As the name suggests, Raid Leader takes this concept and applies it to top-down real-time gameplay. It’s an intriguing concept, but the execution is downright frustrating at times.
Raid Leader is based around fighting through a series of 15 boss encounters with a team of three: a tank, a healer, and a ranged DPS (damage per second). You control each character by drawing paths on the ground for them to move along. If you guide a character into another party member or boss, they’ll heal or attack their target. Each character has a crucial role to play so if you lose one, chances are you won’t complete the encounter.
Now say, “Ah.”
In addition to normal attacks and heals, characters have three special abilities that can be unlocked and upgraded with coins obtained either through gameplay or in-app purchase. You can only bring two of these into battle with you per character, although it’s pretty clear-cut which two abilities enhance the character’s specific role best. For example, the ranged DPS has two damage-based abilities and one that prevents her from taking damage; but as the boss should always be focused on the tank, the third option is practically useless. It’s unfortunate that this is the only form of customization in the game.
The real trick to Raid Leader is working around each boss’s set of mechanics. For example, one boss requires you to move a gargantuan earth elemental into a column of lava in order to damage him, while another spawns worms that you must tap to destroy before they reach your characters. Some bosses are repeated over the game’s 15 levels, although the harder versions include enough new mechanics that this isn’t a big drawback.
Raid Leader’s major failings take shape when you look at its difficulty curve. The first set of bosses are so easy that, at best, you’ll only need to move out of the way to avoid a hard-hitting attack. However, once you get past this point the difficulty spikes to an extremely frustrating level. In order to beat enrage timers or just keep your characters alive in general, you end up needing to grind coins for ability upgrades. This means replaying past bosses and tackling the two arena-based survival modes, one of which contains the aforementioned worms and the other skeleton warriors.
Next week on Finding Yeti…
Even once you’ve done this, Raid Leader is still frustrating due to the lack of a threat system. Bosses will opt to attack the closest enemy at any given time, making it difficult to have your tank character move the boss around the screen. Due to the limited range of your healer and ranged DPS, you always need to tank the boss fairly close to them, which can be annoying.
The game’s controls don’t help with this issue. Due to the large size of the bosses, it can be difficult to move around them as the game has a difficult time differentiating between a move command and an attack/heal command. Many times we had to move away from the boss and then come at it from a different angle. By the time we did this, the boss was already wailing on another character.
As it stands, Raid Leader is a tough sell. It doesn’t offer a ton of content and what is there can be extremely frustrating to trudge through. There are some redeeming qualities to be found beneath Raid Leader’s flaws, but too often the bad outweighs the good.