Updated Wed, Apr 20, 2011 by Mem
As a World of Warcraft player I have personally seen many games come and go in my time. I've even felt a few flutters of panic as I've watched as my friends have one by one jumped ship for the newest game on the block, only to have the panic fade as they wandered one by one back again. It's no secret that it's every game creator's waking wet dream to be the one to create a game that has a shot at dethroning World of Warcraft from it's number one spot. So it was also no surprise when Rift made it's appearance. Usually I just shake my head and let nature take its course, never trying the game for myself. I mean, why spend good money on a game that will likely be more useful as a Frisbee in a few months?
Rift is the newest contender on the MMO scene and of course because it is fresh, new, and exciting the name is on nearly every gamer's tongue. Because of its initial popularity players everywhere can't help but wonder if this game is actually something to get excited about. Will Rift finally be the one that will draw (and maintain) enough of a player base to - at the very least - hold its own against the titan force that is World of Warcraft?
As with most newly introduced games, I chose to simply try to ignore Rift, despite the hype. I was confident that Rift - like all the thoroughly hyped MMO releases before it - would fade into the horizon before going to that big game graveyard in the sky. This time though, thanks to a little prodding and an offer from a friend I couldn't refuse (seriously who would say no to a chance at a free trial?) I found myself sucked smack dab into the middle of the craze that currently surrounds the game.
Even so, my infatuation with WoW is still strong, and I can't help but feel more than slightly annoyed when dealing with the long, seemingly endless line of wanna-be games out there. I will admit that as the Rift client downloaded I did feel the slightest tease of delightful anticipation that always comes with the promise of something new and exciting. So I typed in my account information, picked a Shard and began to play.
Oh sure, at first I had a good time as I quested, gained levels, and even participated in the defeat of a few minor rifts. In fact I spent the whole weekend fully immersed in the world of Telara, going so far as to create several characters and eventually looking up talent builds for each. I had such a good time in fact that I considered working the purchase of the game into the next week's budget (only with the explicit consent of my wife of course).
However, after I had logged off the game and was later explaining to a friend what I liked about it I had a startling revelation. A eureka moment if you will. The reason I and many other WoW players can get into Rift is because there is almost nothing unique, new, or overly daring about the game. In fact it almost feels as if you could slap World of Warcraft in front of the name Rift and slam-bam you have yourself another WoW expansion pack.
Rift offers no new class options, sticking with the same old archetypes anyone familiar with MMOs has seen a hundred times before; Cleric, Warrior, Rogue, and Mage /yawn. There is also no creative storyline to make things interesting. I mean, "big bad guy wants to destroy the world..." like we haven't seen that one before. The interface literally reeks of WoW with no new controls and a questing system that may as well have been pulled from the How to Quest in WoW instruction manual. Even the rifts themselves - the things that have given the game its name - are nothing more than revamped versions of outdoor bosses. So much for not being in Azeroth anymore.
The fact of the matter is - at least in this writer's opinion - the deeper you delve into the world of Telara the more you realize that the game is nothing more than a copy of WoW in a new dress. Which is precisely why I feel that so many WoW players have taken a liking to the game (including one of our own WoW writers right here at Ten Ton Hammer). Not because of any real new innovation but because Rift is safe, comfortable, and as close to playing WoW as you can get without actually playing it.
Don't light the torches and break out your pitch forks just yet Rift lovers, I'm certainly no ogre. I'm willing to admit that Rift is an enjoyable game, and does have some cool features, such as much more customizable characters, and thanks to its fledgling status a more personal feel.
However, we can't ignore the fact that Rift has ripped off a large portion of WoW, and doesn't even offer any significant generational leaps forward outside of graphical prowess. As the famous saying goes, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. While it may be true that the WoW we all know and love was heavily influenced by the original EverQuest and other first generation titles, at least Blizzard did make that all important generational leap forward for its first MMO by taking complex social and gameplay mechanics and making them highly accessible to the masses. This simply isn't true of Trion and Rift.
As you can imagine I won't be buying Rift anytime in the near future. It just doesn't have the sparkle that WoW does for me. Not to mention I currently already pay for three WoW subscriptions, I cannot fathom paying for a forth. For those of you finding enjoyment in the world of Telara, I hope your adventures there are filled with enjoyment. However I can't help but think you'll be back because - in playing Rift - you've never really left Azeroth behind regardless of what advertising campaigns would like you to believe.