Ever since Trion Worlds began revealing  gameplay details for style="font-style: italic;">Rift: Planes of Telara
at GDC earlier this spring, the game has had a permanent place on my
radar. However, to a certain degree it’s also been difficult
to capture the essence of exactly what it is about the game that
brought it to a loud roar commanding my attention from its former
“pretty graphics, but…” status. So when
I learned that we’d be getting a chance to check the game out
at E3 2010, I made sure to fight tooth and nail to get that puppy added
to my list of appointments.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t much of a fight, but I’m
sure that had things escalated any more there might have at least been
a fierce rock-paper-scissors battle or possibly be even an style="font-style: italic;">Over the Top
inspired arm wrestling match. Mind you neither of those methods
actually work over conference calls, but that’s entirely
beside the point. The only thing that matters is that I won one of the
handful of appointments that I was prepared to kick some booty over.

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But what is it about style="font-style: italic;">Rift
that screams “hello, you want to install me on your PC and
enjoy me for years to come” without ever seeing the game in
action? And more importantly, did getting the chance to do so live up
to my lofty expectations? Read on and find out all of the
spine-tingling details.

Faction Fraction

One of the more interesting things I picked up on about style="font-style: italic;">Rift
is that there are a number of up-front elements that instantly brought style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest II,
or at least a much earlier version of that game, to mind. Most of this
was just surface level however. The first of these things is that
players will begin their style="font-style: italic;">Rift
experience by choosing between one of two factions. While the decision
isn’t quite so cut-n-dry as selecting between the blatantly
good or evil side of things, the two factions are also  not
all that dissimilar to the original Freeport or Qeynos decision players
were faced with in launch version style="font-style: italic;">EQ2. 
Only in Rift,
things are a tad bit more complex in terms of what separates these two

First off you have oodles of otherworldly armies creeping across the
land, which has driven the people of Telara into a state of civil war.
On the one side, you have the Guardians who somewhat fulfill the role
of the “white hats” as they’d prefer to
restore the faith of a world that once was, while the Defiants sing the
classic Bowie anthem “Rebel Rebel” with pride, as
they’d prefer to be true to their namesake.

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So all things consider this is a fairly hefty decision for players to
make right from the outset, though it’s also not anything off
the wall crazy or new compared to the jumping-in point we’ve
seen in other MMOGs over the years.

That said, for our demo and hands-on time at E3 we stuck to the
Defiants, which is naturally the better of the two options either way.
Not that there’s anything wrong with playing white hats, but
I prefer my hats to at least be a little bit gray.

Ghost of Classes Past

At first glance you may thing that style="font-style: italic;">Rift’s
class system isn’t all too terribly complex, but lurking just
beneath the surface is an interesting twist on classic archetypes and
how they advance. While you are indeed selecting from one of four main
archetypes – warrior, mage, rogue or cleric – even
the concept behind each of these main class types is somewhat unique.

Rather than simply being a main school of combat that you’re
opting to study and advance, classes in style="font-style: italic;">Rift
are instead the souls of ancient champions that players will tap into
in order to harness and progress their specific powers. Eventually,
players will be able to have a total of three of these souls linked to
their characters. You’ll begin with a choice between
different playstyles within the base
archetype – for example
you may decide to play an Inquisitor which is a more melee oriented
cleric, or if you prefer the more tried and true healing route you
could opt to become a Purifier to start out instead.

This selection opens up a branching tree that’s somewhat
similar to talent trees, with a good mix of both things that will
augment current skills and the ability to unlock entirely new skills.
Each of these trees can also progress in more than one direction, with
the “core” slots being most directly linked to the
essence of what that particular soul choice is all about.

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You’ll eventually unlock a second soul at level 15, and a
third at level 30. While these will also need to be associated with
your original archetype choice, the list for each class type is fairly
extensive and will offer a boat load of flexibility in terms of how you
shape your character over time. So say you start out as an Inquisitor,
you’re free to toss in some Purifier later on if
you’d like to add some healing back into the mix. Keep in
mind that the system in style="font-style: italic;">Rift
is certainly unique to that game, but as a point of reference think
about taking the three talent trees for each class in style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
only instead of those being locked in you can instead choose which
three trees you want to progress from a much longer list.

From what we were told, players will indeed have the ability to respec
which will most likely be done through a trainer rather than on the
fly. So not only can you build up some unique combinations within each
archetype, you will also be able to change things up should you decide
your current combo isn’t all you expected it might be.

the Rift

The concept of adding in more dynamic content to MMOGs has gained a
fair amount of footing with the most recent wave of AAA MMOG
announcements, and as was previously mentioned the various rifts that
can open up throughout Telara have a large enough impact on gameplay to
justify the title placement. This time around we got to see both life
and death rifts in action, and I have to say that the death rifts did
add some incredibly cool environmental effects.

One thing in particular that stood out for me was the way that roaming
mobs which would wander into the area of the rift can be altered in
certain ways. For example it was said that their skills would be
altered beyond just the surface level changes to physical
characteristics of the mob.

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Combat Impressions

The current combat and movement controls will feel perfectly natural
for anyone who has been around the MMOG block once or twice. 
During the hands-on portion of my time with the game I didn’t
really get to experience enough combat within the radius of an area
affected by one of the various life or death rifts to be able to gauge
some of the differences specific to combat, but I did scamper around my
current zone a fair amount to see what the premade Warrior character
played against different mob types.

Overall, I enjoyed the combat though it is indeed going to be your more
standard MMOG fare, but that isn’t necessarily something that
I would consider to be a negative. In fact, I’ve grown
increasingly more skeptical of titles that attempt to push combat too
far into the direction of feeling like a gimmick, and besides, as a
core gameplay element it’s kind of nice to be able to step
into a new game experience and feel a certain sense of comfort with
control schemes considering the fact that 99% of the rest of the game
will feel entirely chaotic until you’ve figured out the lay
of the land.

So would I say that after seeing it in action and spending some time
scampering around in style="font-style: italic;">Rift
that it still ranks highly in my personal list of “games to
watch, and watch closely”? I would certainly say so, which is
exactly what  I intend to do and encourage you to do the same.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our RIFT Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.