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Unleashing the Rift: A Ten Ton Hammer Review

Updated Mon, Apr 04, 2011 by Medawky

Rift

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 success 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 tweaks the tried and true formula of the fantasy MMOG in all the right places.

Cautions

Rift is a 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 properties.

Gameplay

97ExcellentAs 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.

Rift gear


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.

Rift combat
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 instances.

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.

Rift crafting
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 invasion battles.

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.

Graphics

95Outstanding
Rift character

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 or EverQuest2, 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.

Rift death


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 on 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 garners high marks for being equal parts functional, stable, scalable and beautiful – which is never an easy task.

Sound

90GreatOne 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.

I am looking forward to playing Rift. I haven't played a MMO in almost three years since i moved to the land of the dial up. I miss EQ2 but I hate what it has become I also hat WoW. so to me Rift looks like the best choice out there and it really isnt that hard of a choice to make.

awesome review. thanks , i really wanted to see some info about the game before buying it and u covered a lot of important points (u would appreciate a PVP-oriented review tho, coz that's what i care the most, but i guess i will find out soon enough)

The good: Some of the dungeon mechanics are refreshing. The environment and UI both are pleasing to the eye. The music in some of the zones is excellent. The in game community is both helpful and friendly.

The Bad: The class system is still under development. It should have been handled in alpha. Itemization needs some work. Crafting system still needs some work as the numbers on the green gear are bellow quest rewards and random green item drops. Mats for some of the crafting tiers are sparse and are in zones higher than what your questing in. End game is the standard grind dungeons and BG's for faction to get gear for next tier of faction grind. Gold spammers are a little more prevalent than I would like.

Overall leveling was fun until about level 40. That is where it went stale for me as I did not see too many new quest types or mechanics. New MMO players will like it . Vets that expect something more might not. If you have a interest I recommend the 7 day free trial before you drink the cool aid…

double post*

I won't respond with a boring "Rift is awesome!" tag, though personally I am enjoying it...lol.

However, I can respond as a hard-core, dedicated WoW fan of 5 years, with a husband who has played since 2 months into beta. And with a true understanding that Rift is only entering it's second month as an MMOG...

The scores given by Ten Ton Hammer are reflective of what we are finding in Rift. It does not matter where the UI came from, it does not matter what elements were borrowed from other games...as a standalone statement of the features offered in Rift, it is a good score. The review is not based on a comparison model, it is based on the gameplay as offered on it's own. I understand how easy it is to compare, but that is not a fair basis to use when writing a review, as this is a month old MMOG.

That said, a truthful analysis of any game is "find it, kill it, get rewards". I have not necessarily found leveling to be quick and easy, but neither is it slow and repetitive. If gamers choose to lose part of the experience by not reading the questlines and not wandering around exploring some, that is their own fault, and they have no right to complain if they get into a mind-numbing state of kill, turn in, kill, turn in.

Regarding the same elements used from other games? I loved the fact that I didn't have to learn a whole new wheel, just a few adjustments needed and I was moving along. Though Trion will take flack over it, I feel they did something absolutely brilliant and long overdue-->they actually listened to their audience. And I don't mean the QQ you see in trade channels. I mean thoughtful discussions and logical explanations of "why this doesn't work, why this is frustrating, why this is awesome".

Also brilliant? Their timing. My husband and I run a raiding guild in WoW, which I would classify as semi-hardcore. Which means we're on almost every night, we enjoy raiding and refuse to deal with stupid gameplay, but we also all enjoy just running together and doing silly things too. Our base core has been running together for about 3 yrs, we've all ended up friends on facebook, and several of us now run together in Rift. But back to Rift's timing...very nicely done by Trion. This is what happened to us, and from trade chat, to our entire server. Cataclysm came out-->we all rolled along enjoying the new quests and new zones-->hit level cap and went thru the agony of replacing our hardwon ICC heroic gear with greens-->hit the new dungeons, but discovered the McDungeon finder was even worse than before unless you used it for lower levels-->began only running with guildees after one too many times of queing for 45 min just to have the tank/heals leave after the first boss dropped their item-->ground through dungeons that were significantly harder while trying to relearn nerfed toons-->ground thru heroic dungeons while WoW continued to nerf/buff/change/destroy any toon other than a mage-->began to raid once geared enough for it, but starting discovering that what was listed as raid-ready geared was NOT. And where you used to be able to pug in to learn raids or get a little more gear? Not happening. Because everyone else was running into the same problem. Literally for a month the only one I saw a pug for was Tol Barad, and no one in the guild wanted to waste the time with it after the first time because it only dropped one item for PvE. By this time, we were regulated to farming rep to make up for limited raiding...and thats all we did...for our limited hours in-game, we farmed. Cata was finally burning us out...and about that time, there's an advertisement for Rift, like a beacon of light thru the darkness...

Rift did steal alot of things from other games. The difference is, they incorporated them into one game, where all the wheels actually work. And for those of us that are old D&D gamers, Rift gave us the customization that was sorely missing in WoW. And I don't have to have a $5000 system to enjoy it. I PvP'd in WoW maybe once a month..in Rift, I hit warfronts regularly, to break up questing, or check out the map for where the closest rift may be. In Rift, I have viable OPTIONS. I have a company that responds immediately to problems in game...not within days, but within hours.

To me, Trion is treating this game and gearing it more toward adult players...and if they are smart, they will continue to do so. All of us adult players don't switch back and forth constantly trying to get a new fix, we stick with you, we pay ahead on subscriptions, and we don't cancel them for the latest and greatest thing that comes out. We don't need instant gratification, we don't mind working toward a goal, and we're willing to take more than 2 hours in a night to do it, as long as it's actually do-able. Most people on our server are college-age and up, and stupid crap in trade is shut down quickly. And when people group up for a dungeon, they stick it out...and get it done...and make some new friends in game.

I can adjust my roles to fit MY playstyle, and ignore the cookie-cutters. I can REALLY learn this toon, and not be forced to level a whole other toon just for a different spec. Which means when I start another toon, I actually get to enjoy it, and learn it, and not be just chasing level cap for whatever I want to do with it.

In short, Rift's only true crime is being the game that WoW SHOULD be by now. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so...subscriptions are climbing entering the 2nd month, instead of declining as is the norm for a new game.

As a life long guitarist this is just so wrong:

"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".

Have you ever written, composed, or played any type of Jazz music Med? This game is the farthest thing from anything remotely structured as Jazz. It's more like a crappy punk band that can't get out of the key of A.

Outrageous scoring. Rift is the most linear on-rails MMO I've played to date, and I've played a lot of them. You barely touch upon one of the most important factors in MMOG's, questing, relegating it to a scant mention at the foot of what is practically a two page advert. Rift takes so much from other games and hardly even gives them a Trion twist, such as the click by numbers WoW inspired crafting/gathering. So many UI pieces are clearly inspired by WoW, there's even a fatigue bar. There's no synergy between souls, the abilities have been ripped from other MMO's so blatently it's painful and there are even Hessingwary Big Game Hunter achievements.

I understand Rift's whole tilt was not to reinvent the wheel, but you ought to at least put trimmings on it. Rift plays like a tribute to World of Warcraft. Yes, WoW plundered other MMO's but no other MMO sports as many features from one game as Rift does.

How you can score the gameplay at 97/100 when the questing is just so mind numbingly poor, I cannot fathom. I'm so bothered by this review I am unsubscribing as a Premium Member and deleting my bookmark to TTH. If you cannot be honest, or you feel obliged to knock out a review that just lavishes praise because you and Trion worked out a deal for beta keys, then you do not deserve my business.

By the way, it's spelled "Conclusion". Or "Shill Mode", if you prefer.

spirited, you are an ass. Plain and simple. You're calling this "outrageous scoring". Guess what? THAT'S YOUR OPINION! You're kicking and screaming about how TTH "cannot be fair". Please. Just because you don't agree with their review doesn't mean they're scoring outrageously. If you really were a premium member, I'm glad you're not anymore--TTH's fan base shouldn't be composed of morons.

This is like saying that all the bands of today should just pack up their bags and quit because they sound too similar to those they grew up listening to. It's like saying that all the cars in this country are trash because they all have the same crap - body, seats, I mean... dear gods... the windshields are all the same!!!

Seriously, Rift pulls a lot of cool things from a lot of different games, and not just WoW. Which by the way, took more from the games of the time than anyone else ever had before as well. I see more Vanguard, LotRO, and EverQuest in Rift than WoW (by far). And making the argument that the UI is too similar... that's because it works well.

In any case, it all boils down to fun. Do I enjoy the game? Yes. Score seems fine to me because I like to play. And the idea that someone here is in cahoots with Trion just because they gave a good score to a game is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

I wish I was on the dole to Trion, we can't even get a mention as a community site on their forums - so I assure you there is no collusion. If you read the cons, you would notice the questing is the top knock on the game. However as you mentioned, the game is on rails and most of it takes place post level-cap. Questing does tell the story of the world, but most people don't read quest text and I'm not sure you can do anything to make most gamers care about the "quality" of the quest system in any modern MMOG. I suppose it's a difference of opinion in what makes a game fun - to me quests are just a means to an ends and not the defining factor in what makes a good game.

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