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There are a lot of mice using the “More is better” philosophy in their design, boasting more buttons than a person has fingers. Many of these mice make vague claims of benefits to gamers due to some new design feature. At first glance the Razer Naga appears to another such gimmicky, over-complicated monster. With a whopping 17 buttons the Naga immediately provoked skepticism in me, but it eventually won me over.
The Naga has the standard left, right and scrollwheel, along with Mouse4 and Mouse5 buttons located where the index finger rests. The other 12 buttons are placed on the left side, laid out like a numeric keypad on a cellphone.
Razer calls it a MMORPG optimized mouse, so I tried it first on a MMORPG, “City of Heroes”. The 1-10 buttons on the Naga fired off my character’s powers exactly as if I’d pressed the numbers on my keyboard. The 11 and 12 buttons functioned just like my “-“ and “=” buttons. I had command of all my character’s abilities using only my thumb, and didn’t have to take my left hand off WASD to tap hotkeys. The Naga, as promised, did make the game easier to play in retrospect.
It took an evening of playing before I could do this naturally. A lot like trying to dial a cell phone while fighting a horde of evil robots: Panic-inducing at first, but eventually reflexive. Even though the Naga is intended for MMORPGs, I tried it with some action/rpg hybrids. My chief complaint about playing “Bioshock 2” with a traditional mouse was scrolling my weapons with the scroll wheel, while cycling through my special powers (Called “Plasmids”) with the keyboard. Finding the right plasmid in the heat of battle was frustrating. I mapped several of my favorite powers to the Naga’s keypad and found that this changed the game significantly. I could bounce between defensive plasmids and offensive ones fast enough use new tactics.
I also tried the Naga with “Mass Effect 2”; this game gives the player control over a party of characters, each with their own special powers. Players can pause the game to cue up powers, or hotkey them to the numbers on the keyboard. In this case, the Naga didn’t make me play better (because I could pause the game at any moment to choose powers), but it certainly make the game feel more exciting. Instead pausing every three seconds to click an icon, I could just fire any of my team’s powers instantly.
The Naga is plug-and-play (with optional drivers), Mac compatible, and the keypad can even be used to type numbers into text programs. For non-gaming purposes it functions fine; the extra buttons don’t get in the way. It’s also precise, at the higher range of Razer’s mice in terms of Dpi.
There are some drawbacks to though; the Mouse4 and Mouse5 buttons are hard to reach. They are placed far away from the keypad so they won’t be triggered accidentally, and this means that the user must hit them with the index finger. It’s also pricey, at eighty dollars. However, if you are looking for a fancy mouse to enhance your gameplay skills and enjoyment, the Naga lives up to its promises.