‘Tis a good time to be an MMO gamer. Not only is the genre moving towards a digestible free-to-play model, MMOs are becoming more accessible and easier to get into than ever before. Some of the thanking credits could be lent to peripheral manufacturers that are making a gamer’s job less taskful with hardware that makes managing in-game commands a breeze.
Razer Orbweaver is the newest in the line of such peripheral add-ons, which aims to deliver a customizable structure for fine tuned performance in games. Solidly built, the mechanical speedpad comes with 20 keys, in addition to an 8-directional digital joystick and two additional buttons that gives your left thumb more work to do.
Like other Razer products, the Orbweaver is offered with Synapse 2.0 for customization and cloud storage of profiles and settings. Out of the box, the Orbweaver is mapped like the common cluster of keys on your keyboard (` to number 4, TAB through R, Capslock through F, Shift through C), which is nice. However, that’s not what the Orbweaver is meant to be used for and quick key customization will be the order of the day.
Synapse allows a near infinite number of profiles to be created with 8 set of keymaps per profile – which is definitely an overkill even for the most demanding of games. Each key can do a number of things: it could be assigned a keyboard key, launch a program, and more importantly run macros which is essential for any MMO/online gamer. Recording macros is as easy as ever, with options to run it once or multiple times.
The Orbweaver comes with a hand and palm rest attached, which can be adjusted slightly for optimal use. I had concerns that the speedpad would start to become uncomfortable after a short while as it makes you stretch out for keys than one would normally on a keyboard. Fortunately, the concerns were unfounded – the Orbweaver rested snugly under my command and the rubberized rests held the comfort level for extended periods of play. The Cherry MX mechanical keys make it even better, with its satisfying clicking noise and low pressure zone to register hits (50g of force for the technical).
Orbweaver did take some time to get used to. One of the reasons for it is that the keys are laid out on a flat grid rather than asymmetrically like a keyboard causing a lot of confusion and clumsy maneuvers at first. Within the first hour though, everything starts to fall into place and your fingers automatically adjust to it.
For the purpose of the review, I dedicated playing two games with the Orbweaver: DoTA 2 and Crysis 3 (sorry, not much of a WoW player!):.
Crysis 3: For the game, I wanted to see if I could free-up from the WASD and use the joystick instead, giving my fingers more space to get occupied for other tasks. Aaand nope. Couple of problems – the joystick is digital meaning it has to be clicked which makes moving your character awkward. The other thing is that naturally, you want to click ‘up’ on the joystick to move forward, however Razer has designed the stick from the perspective of where the thumb would land, meaning that its ‘right’ is ‘up’ and ‘up’ is ‘left’, etc. The directions set are basically turned anti-cockwise. Granted that the joystick’s purpose is not character movement but then I would just use the keyboard instead as it is a lot more comfortable than Orbweaver for FPS games, and has a few more extra buttons like ‘G’ for grenade or ‘B’ for visor in Crysis 3 which are not present on the speedpad.
DoTA 2: This is where the Orbweaver was truly useful. My biggest peeve with DoTA 2, like other MOBA games, is the camera which can be either controlled by the mouse or the arrow keys. While the mouse is usually the way to go, it’s clumsy when you want to move the camera and target an enemy at once. Using the arrow keys, you introduce a lag between pressing the action keys as you have to move your hand. With the Orbweaver, the 8-directional joystick is king, making camera movements a breeze. Unlike in a shooter, pressing the digital joystick for moving isn’t too awkward as it doesn’t require that level of precision.
It also made some of the basic maneuvers easier, like selecting items from your inventory, by allowing to map keys around in a cluster. Not to mention that you get two additional buttons for the left thumb, which combined with a decent gaming mouse, should make it a powerhouse.
Photoshop: Image editing is a huge part of my daily work as a journalist. Making all the fancy pictures requires me to adjust colors, resize images, or merge them for spotlight pictures. If you are familiar with Photoshop, you know that you can easily go around it without even moving your mouse, however that’s a lot of key combinations to remember. Orbweaver helps in that aspect where you can assign 20+ commands on the grid, and execute them – excuse my use of meme –like a boss.
Here’s the thing: I like the Orbweaver, but would I buy it? Erm, no. At $129.99, it’s insanely demanding on your wallet, when for much less you can buy a very decent keyboard with a dozen or so macro keys. Not to mention Razer’s own cheaper alternative, the Nostromo speedpad at $69.99. The Orbweaver is mechanical and has 4 additional keys than the Nostromo, but if it’s worth the extra dollars is upto you to decide.
In stand-alone, the Orbweaver is a fantastic product and quite essential for online gaming enthusiasts. It just makes the job so much easier and quicker, and easily gives an edge over the players who cannot weave the power of the Orb. Okay, that was terrible.