Reinventing the wheel, while a seemingly admirable goal, has never
really worked out well for those attempting it. In much the same way,
the fantasy MMOG that leaves well enough alone and doesn’t try to fix
what isn’t broken is often the one that is the most successful. While
detractors may lampoon Rift
for not doing enough to differentiate itself from other games of the
genre, the simple truth is that there was no need to do so. Rift’s
won’t ultimately ride on what it did to change the face of multiplayer
fantasy gaming but on what it did to foster and support it’s community.
Set against a backdrop of a doomed world desperately fighting to repair
its past and change its destiny, Rift
casts players into the role of an Ascended – a reborn hero
forged from the souls of fallen champions that came before it.
Featuring several dynamic styles of emergent gameplay, a wildly
customizable talent system and a strong foundation in proactive
customer service, Rift
the tried and true formula of the fantasy MMOG in all the right places.
traditional pay to play MMOG that uses a monthly subscription model on
top of the initial client cost and requires an internet connection to
play. Like all MMOGs the standard disclaimer of gameplay elements
changing over time is here to caution players about the ephemeral
nature of these games, and possibly to hint at their addictive
As alluded to in the introduction of this review, there are no
revolutionary new mechanics at play in Rift.
But much like
WoW did before it; Rift
takes existing elements and ideas and finds a way to
present them in a way that feels fresh and innovative. Similar in the
way that jazz musicians incorporate familiar bits of other songs into
their solos, Rift
takes public quests and open world encounters and infuses them with
their own style and phrasing to come up with something unique.
One of the more innovative of these mechanics is the Soul System.
Characters are divided into four archetypes or callings; Cleric, Mage,
Warrior and Rogue. Each calling is further divided into 8 PvE souls and
1 PvP soul – these souls can be combined in sets of threes and allow
players to get creative with their builds. In addition to the multiple
souls, you can have up to four different combinations to fill multiple
roles. One of the better examples of the versatility found in this
system is in the Cleric calling. Clerics can be healers, ranged DPS or
tanks and do all three equally well. Mages have amazing versatility as
well, providing top notch damage, powerful buffs and support and can
even spec out to a healing role. The ability to provide near limitless
builds inside a finite point system is one the best innovations to hit
the genre in years.
There is no shortage of gear in Rift
either, and there are multiple paths available to attain those items.
Players who enjoy dungeon-centric PvE content will find story driven
instances throughout the level ranges to keep them entertained. Heroic
version of these dungeons unlock when you reach level 50, so you can
revisit them to farm out even better rewards. Both regular and heroic
versions of instances are fun and challenging, with some interesting
encounters that demand teamwork and quick reaction times. Although the
game only launched with one raid instance, the second will launch at
the end of March and should help satisfy the rabid playerbase. My only
complaint with raiding thus far is the decision to do away with 10
player versions and focus solely on 20 player iterations. Hopefully 10
player raiding will be revisited at some point.
If organizing an instance run isn’t your forte, you can still get your
group content fix by participating in the rift and invasion events.
These encounters pop up constantly throughout the world and utilize an
auto-grouping mechanic that helps take the hassle out of formation.
Defeating these encounters results in gaining various currencies that
can be turned in for rewards from faction based vendors. The main
currency, planarite, is usable in all tiers, while other currencies
are only good in the zone in which they were earned.
Combat is fast and furious
If PvP is more your speed, you can purchase gear with Favor points that
are earned by competing against your fellow players. In addition to
open world PvP, there are instanced Warfronts available that teams
against each other in various tests of skill and teamwork. Warfronts
utilize a cross-server system so wait times are minimal and the
community is clamoring to see a system like this implemented for PvE
Combat is standard second generation fare, with no limit to the number
of abilities or spells other than hotbar space. Abilities can be queued
up to activate after the current one finishes and there is a global
cooldown mechanic in play. Combat speed is fast paced and keeps you on
your toes. Most callings have at least one soul that uses reactive
spell and ability triggers, so playing around with all of the souls to
tailor a fighting style that fits you is advisable. Leveling
is quick to say the least - with experience gains coming so fast it
feels like it’s on rails. Some may take umbrage with the leveling
speed, but I enjoy the fact that I can try every calling without having
to sink a significant portion of my life into the process.
Crafting window is straight forward and easy to use.
There are numerous professions in Rift,
with players being allowed to pick up three primary tradeskills. These
tradeskills can really enhance the power of a character and having that
third slot allows you to maximize the benefit without losing the
ability to gather resources on your own. There are three gathering
professions; mining, foraging and butchery and six crafting
professions; apothecary, armorsmith, artificer, outfitter, runecrafter
and weaponsmith. The crafting window is very detailed and reminds me in
many ways of the system used in EQ2. One interesting addition in Rift
is that of
planar augmentation; the ability to imbue buffs and enhancements into
crafted items by using drops gained from participating in rift and
Few games have ever hit launch day so fully featured and free of
problems. Even with room for improvement and some bugs that need to be
worked out, Rift
delivers top notch gameplay in spades.
The world of Telara is simultaneously beautiful and frightening. The
team at Trion did an excellent job at crafting a lush world that’s true
beauty is belied by the constant invasions and the decimation at the
hands of the minions of Regulos. Character details and textures are not
as crisp or intricate as say Vanguard
but when you design a game around the central theme of amassing
hundreds of players together to battle a common foe – such detail may
not be prudent. Still characters and armors are far from bland and the
environments that surround you are magnificent.
When I give an MMOG a graphics score, that grade is always tempered by
a personal mantra; if gameplay is compelling enough, graphics don’t
matter. Graphic wunderkinds belong solely in the single player realm.
That being said, Rift
could hold its own as a single player game in the graphics department.
I have played Rift
both my monster desktop system that features beefy ATI graphics cards
in Crossfire configuration, more RAM than a Dodge dealer and a
processor with speeds that rival some early fighter jets and on my
craptop that has trouble running mahjong. While the latter
wasn’t the prettiest of experiences, it still ran smooth and stable and
I was able to tank a dungeon run without being a burden to my group. Rift
marks for being equal parts functional, stable, scalable and beautiful
– which is never an easy task.
One of the few areas of the game that has been plagued with any sort of
troubles has been the sound. These glitches are minor however
and usually manifest as stuttering or catching, and seem to resolve
themselves quickly enough.
The ambient sound and the musical score of the game are both top notch
and lend themselves well to reinforcing the overall feel that nowhere
is safe. Combat music is intense and helps pacing, but doesn’t
overwhelm you or distract you. The voice acting is well done, but takes
a hit for being a bit repetitive.