In the past few years every major fantasy MMOG that has
launched has been compared to WoW in some way or another, with some
even being crowned the WoW killer. None have gone as far as style="font-style: italic;">Rift though,
launching TV ads that boldly proclaim: Were not in Azeroth anymore.
With over a million players pre-ordering and the headstart servers
packed to capacity, Rift
may be the first serious challenger to take a bite out of the WoW
playerbase. Can Rift
survive past the first 30 days and maintain steady growth, or will it
lose a war of attrition as players flock back to their old games? Its
probably too early to tell but the answer may lie in some of the things
we have seen in the first five days.
Thus far, Rift
has been one of smoothest running and best performing
games at launch in recent memory. Servers have been incredibly stable,
client-side lag has been negligible and even the most populated of
areas have run smoothly. Individual computer performance can play a
huge role in this of course, but even playing on my older laptop the
game was incredibly smooth, albeit with graphics setting adjusted down
it's only a server queue.
The only major knock on game performance has come from those unable to
get into the game due to some fairly lengthy server queues. Trion has
been swift and measured in regards to this and has introduced several
new servers to help ease the load. There have been a few instances of
server restarts and minor performance-related patches, which can
normally be frustrating. Unlike most games at launch, however, the
folks at Trion Worlds have been spot on in their estimation of downtime
and have usually had the servers back up within 15 minutes.
you play the role of an Ascended, a hero brought back to life to battle
the forces of Regulos, who seeks to destroy Telara, as well as to
battle the otherworldly forces his attacks have unleashed by creating
tears in the fabric of reality. The world is divided into two major
factions, the Guardians and the Defiants. The former is comprised of
the races that trust in the gods of the Vigil and the latter is made up
of those who have shunned their teachings and instead put their faith
in technology. Since all classes and callings are available to both
factions, the choice is a purely aesthetic and lore-related one.
A brief cinematic brings new players up to speed with a
history lesson tailored to the faction of their choosing that helps
usher them into the game world. The process of choosing your first soul
will introduce you to the games quest mechanics and begin a linear
chain that moves you quickly through the first zone and first 15 levels
of the game. All of the major components of style="font-style: italic;">Rift are
introduced fairly early, with the obvious exception of end-game
raiding. The leveling process is a quick one, perfect for todays brand
of MMOG player, but like any other form of repetitive gameplay it can
get monotonous fairly quickly.
Planar invasions are there to help break up that grind, build
up the community, and offer an extra dimension of gameplay. Invasions
can happen anywhere and at any time, even in cities and quest hubs
reinforcing the feeling that nowhere is safe in Telara. Participating
in these events is as simple as showing up; with the auto-grouping
feature there is no need to beg for an invite or worry about getting
proper credit. Each invasion has waves and each wave has various
objectives that are spelled out in a UI frame that opens up when you
are in range of the event. Completing the objectives rewards you with
coin as well as a planar currency and can often times gives you a
chance at rarer rewards.
invasion-spawned treant leviathan was nothing to mess with.
Combat is fast paced and fun, with spells and abilities being
unlocked by spending talent points in the various soul trees. Being in
direct control over which combat abilities you have at your disposal
can make you feel much more invested in your character and encourages
you to spend some effort in creating a well-rounded build. In an era of
cookie cutter specs, armor that looks the same and so many classes
brining the exact same things to the table, it is refreshing to be able
to craft something unique with your character.
Existing somewhere between ultra-realistic and a slightly
caricatured art direction, Rift
does a good job at finding a happy medium and allowing you
to control the level of detail best for your machine. Telara is a
beautiful but frightening place, and the games graphic engine does a
good job at conveying that without forcing you into upgrading your
system or bottlenecking performance.
models may be a touch cartoony, but cleavage is held in check.
I am still of the opinion that putting too much stock in the
graphics of an MMOG is the surest way to miss out on a great
experience. Leave texture scrutiny and polygonal pixel count debates to
the single player games - as long as the graphics dont detract from
the feel of the game world. That being said, the one minor detraction
for me so far has been the character models. While I do like the look
of a couple of the races, they are lackluster overall. However, if
having bland looking characters facilitates smooth gameplay with
hundreds of us on the screen at the same time, then its a tradeoff I
am willing to accept.
The base UI is well appointed and laid out well, with every
element having the ability to be moved and adjusted. While I would like
to see UI modifications come down the pipe at some point ( especially
ones that would modify the mini-map), style="font-style: italic;">Rift has one of
the better out of the box interfaces available.
The music, ambient sounds and voice acting are all top notch
and indicative of a AAA title with high production value. At this early
stage of the game, and even throughout pre-launch testing I have yet to
encounter a glitch or a bug with any audio component of the game.
Perhaps I lack an audiophiles finely honed ear, but everything I have
heard so far has been a nice compliment to my immersion factor.
Free-to-play purists might balk at the $14.99 monthly
subscription, but no one can argue that well supported games with high
quality communities can easily command a monthly fee. style="font-style: italic;">Rift shows every
sign of satisfying both criteria, especially in light of how responsive
Trion has been to player feedback throughout beta.
this life rift) and invasions keep the gameplay dynamic.
Yet, with the game less than a week old and no clear idea of Trions
post-launch plans for the game, it is hard to accurately assess the
value factor. Having box sales of over 1 million by the headstart date
would seem to indicate that the price point was set correctly, and I
personally thought the collectors edition was very well priced. Trion
also offered special subscription rates for early adopters, but the
value there will be highly predicated on the game gaining some long
Working hand in hand with value, lasting appeal will be
largely dependent on the games community. All the major components are
in place: a strong storyline, faction-based conflict, a robust endgame,
and multiple paths for character advancement now it just rests in the
hands of the players to determine how well all these elements work for
them. I am fascinated by the soul system and cant wait to see how the
various and unique builds will work together, and as long as that
aspect of the game doesnt get dumbed down or forced into homogenized
blandness then I cant see any reason not to play style="font-style: italic;">Rift for a long
turns back an invasion at the gates of Sanctum.
While it is impossible to tell the future in today's market, no MMORPG
since LotRO or perhaps WoW has done so much so right so quickly. With all of its ducks
in row, Rift
has the potential to succeed where many other games have failed in
their ability to retain players past the initial 30 days. A smooth
headstart launch, marred only by the tears of those stuck on the
outside looking in, gives a strong indication of big things to come.
For the good of AAA MMORPGs everywhere, lets hope that style="font-style: italic;">Rift continues to
live up to its expectations and doesnt buckle under the weight of its
own lofty goals.
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