In a market dominated by World of Warcraft, competitors need to do everything in their power to set themselves apart. Many MMOs have come and gone since Blizzard graced us with the world of Azeroth – some failed miserably while others resorted to the free-to-play market. But as many, including myself, have found out since Cataclysm, World of Warcraft has grown tired and uninspired. There is no better time for an MMO to step up to the plate than now.
“We’re not in Azeroth anymore.” A tagline that boldly tells gamers that Rift has in store for them something they have yet to experience. But has Trion created a game unique enough for the diverse community of MMO players out there? Does it have the legs to stand side by side with the beast itself?
When people first look at Rift, they immediately jump to a conclusion that makes me cringe every time I hear it. “WoW clone.” Let’s stop and think about this for a second. World of Warcraft shaped and defined a genre that is easily one of the highest grossing markets in the industry. There are certain pillars – archetypes, professions, quests, etc – that have become a necessity and without such would be a recipe for disaster.
While I do agree with many that to usurp the beast would require turning these pillars on their head and reshaping the genre entirely, this is not what Trion has aimed for with Rift. Instead, what Trion has created is a game that any MMO player would feel comfortable transitioning to. However, it is hard not to admit that there are quite a few small things that are ripped right of World of Warcraft. I can forgive Trion though as, ultimately, it is the large unique elements of Rift that are important.
One of the most unique elements of Rift is the soul system. Each archetype, or calling as it is called in Rift, be it Warrior, Rogue, Mage, or Cleric, is given access to eight souls. The combination of three out of the eight of these souls is what shapes your chacter’s role. For example, a Mage can utilize their available souls to be either a support class, a dps class, or an off healer. While a Cleric can run the gamut with combinations of their eight souls providing the ability to be melee dps, ranged dps, tank, or healer. The sheer number of combinations is truly impressive. It provides more than enough flexibility given each player can take advantage of their four, soon to be five in patch 1.2, available role slots.
While one can go on for days about the soul system, rest assured it is something that you are slowly eased into when you enter the world of Telara. However, entering this world requires some choices. First, there is a faction choice: Guardian or Defiant. Keep in mind though, this is nowhere near a good and evil label. Instead, without going into too much detail of the lore, Guardians are a more religious type while Defiant are technology dependent. Such attributes take a key role in how each plans to rid Telara of the evil that has overcome them. Next, is a race choice and, unlike World of Warcraft, does not provide unique racials that influence your calling. Finally, as mentioned previously, the choices of callings are Warrior, Rogue, Mage, and Cleric.
Once in the world of Telara, you are placed in an instanced zone from levels one to five. The zone you are in is strictly based on your faction, meaning there are only two starting zones in Rift – a downfall I will touch on later. The quests in this zone start off simple but are extremely enjoyable as the soul system is introduced and the lore shows its potential. Once out of this zone though, you enter the true world of Telara.
And so begins what many in the MMO world call the “grind.” The reason leveling has been given this label is because it is generally made up of questing and instancing over and over until you are at the max level – which is 50 in Rift. However, Rift does a fantastic job of minimizing the mundane and provides a number of opportunities to gain experience. Experience in Rift can be rewarded by participating in quests, PvP, instances, profession quests, or, the selling point of this game, the dynamic content of rifts and invasions.
Rifts and invasions are open-world events that occur based on population in a zone. If there are many players in a given zone, a full blown invasion will occur and a zone-wide quest begins. It is the responsibility of those in the zone to complete the requirements of this zone-wide quest to push back the invasion. Generally, this involves defeating footholds, closing rifts, and, finally, defeating a unique boss.
Should the players in this zone fail or ignore the invading forces, areas that were once quest hubs will now be overrun by enemies. As you can imagine, it can be extremely important to participate in these events. And to be honest, it is hard not to want to participate. This is one of the most enjoyable elements of Rift as it provides a unique, unexpected distraction from those mundane activities previously mentioned. Not to mention, participating in invasions and rifts provides currency called planarite that can be used to obtain gear.
Leveling and questing in Rift is hit or miss. While some are enjoyable, a majority are your typical kill or fetch quests. One of the most frustrating elements of leveling is the way in which Trion utilized its space. You will quickly find that dozens of quests will cover the same small area and as such you will find yourself running back and forth far too many times.
While I can understand why Trion would want to use space efficiently, this becomes extremely annoying in both quest progression as well as traversing through zones. It literally feels like every enemy is on top of you when questing and things can quickly make a turn for the worst if you make a bad pull or accidentally aggro another mob. However, once this frustration sets in, you will find yourself participating in rifts, invasions, and, of course, instances.
Each leveling zone in Rift contains one instance. And thankfully, every one of the ten instances is fun and challenging while still being fair. Boss mechanics require just the right amount of coordination and skill that the experience is far more refreshing than anything Blizzard provided prior to Cataclysm. The dungeons team at Trion has truly put together an impressive package here in terms of challenge and variety.
One of the most disappointing distractions from leveling in Rift is the profession system, which is similar to what you see in World of Warcraft. While at first the professions seem like an important factor in progressing your character and maintaining a healthy amount of wealth, you will come to realize that this system is nothing more than high cost, low reward. There is a lot of work that Trion has to do with the profession system before it is worth your while.
Gathering professions – foraging, mining, and butchery – are riddled with problems as foraging and mining are a pain to level with the level range of spawn points being completely unbalanced in zones. At one point you will find a node that is at your level while five feet away there is a node that is way above your level. Because of this, leveling your gathering profession while questing can be almost impossible. And it is because you are unable to do these hand in hand that it will become an extreme nuisance.
Crafting professions – apothecary, armorsmithing, artificing, outfitting, runecrafting, and weaponsmithing – provide the player with the ability to create armor, weapons, potions, or runes which provide enchants. Due to the overwhelming number of players that choose runecrafting and the lack of useful recipes in each profession, the importance of professions at this point in the game is extremely low. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a distraction, your choice of three of these professions can certainly keep you busy.
Should PvE content not be enough for you, there is a good amount of PvP content in Rift. Similar to battlegrounds in World of Warcraft, Rift has a a total of four warfronts where Guardians face off against Defiant. With objectives such as capture the flag and king of the hill, warfronts provide both experience as well as favor – a currency for purchasing gear.
Once level 50, PvP provides both favor as well as prestige. The prestige system is a leveling system that puts players at different tiers which unlocks unique weapons and armor. Fortunately, prestige is best gained through world PvP which helps liven things up within the world of Telara. But, of course, as with most MMOs, there is some grinding involved should you wish to reach the top tier.
So, now that you are level 50, this is where the game starts as most players of MMOs say. It is at this point that one has to ask the question, “Am I casual or hardcore?”. If you intend to play Rift 10-30 hours a week, you will enjoy what Rift has to provide in end-game content. If you intend to play rift 30+ hours a week, you will eventually run out of things to do.
Outside of the dynamic content and PvP, you are now opened up to expert instances, expert raids, raid rifts, and raid dungeons. Expert instances are a two tier system where five of the ten instances are considered tier one and the other five tier two. Generally, you will be ready for tier one content when you hit level 50. It is then a matter of running these instances until you have the required gear for tier two content. From tier one and tier two instances you will obtain the usual loot from bosses but will also obtain plaques which operate as a currency to purchase gear from a vendor – similar to valor points in World of Warcraft.
Each day you will be given the opportunity to complete each instance only once as there is a daily lockout once an instance is complete. Nonetheless, you will rarely find yourself needing to run a large number of instances each day as the best way to accrue plaques is by completing the tier one and tier two daily quests. As such, obtaining gear required for raids is generally not very taxing on one’s time.
Thankfully, as mentioned previously, the dungeon team at Trion has truly outdone themselves as expert instances are extremely challenging and, most importantly, a ton of fun. Random groups may have a tough time but as long as people pay attention, understand mechanics, and are properly geared, encounters are very fair. Unfortunately, there is currently no dungeon finder so finding random groups can become frustrating. Keep in mind though that a dungeon finder will be available in May when patch 1.2 is released.
Outside of expert instances, expert and raid rifts provide alternative open-world content. With four different types of rifts and the ability to spawn these rifts with the required materials, this end-game content provides endless amount of enjoyment whenever desired. The various phases in these rifts are challenging and require proper strategy to complete. They operate as the perfect stepping stone into raid instances.
Currently there are two 20 man raid instances available. When first entering Greenscale’s Blight and River of Souls the experience is very rewarding as progressing through the instance requires a lot of communication and coordination. Unfortunately, this content is lacking the challenge required to keep players coming back for more. River of Souls for example was cleared completely within hours of it opening after the world event.
This world event was the first of many according to Trion as they wish to provide monthly to bi-monthly content in order to provide players with a unique experience to engage in each month. While this sounds enticing, the first world event was a complete failure as the event was underwhelming and didn’t come close to meeting player expectations. Nonetheless, Trion promises that they will learn from their mistakes and provide players with what they are looking for.
This, above all, is what makes Rift so promising. Outside of the fact that Rift provides enough unique elements to keep things refreshing and fun, Trion has done a great job communicating with the community and providing updates and patches that the players have been asking for. It truly feels like the future of Rift is in the community’s hands. Whether that is a good thing is yet to be seen.
Keep in mind though, the possibility of running out of things to do is certainly there. Most would find themselves playing an alt at such a point, but because there is only two starting zones and each calling can fill just about every role, I have found that the desire to do such a thing is much less profound when compared to other MMOs. Ironic that the game’s strongest and most refreshing elements are also its downfall.
Despite some of its shortcomings, Rift is an MMO that has learned from the many mistakes of past MMOs and thus provides a unique and polished experience that will keep players engaged for hundreds of hours. While not perfect, Rift certainly provides quality entertainment for any MMO player out there. Whether it has the legs to stand against the beast itself is yet to be seen, but there is no denying that, at the moment, Rift is the best alternative yet.
Note: This review is based on experiences from levels 1-50 as a Guardian Mage as well as levels 1-20 with the other callings. Total playtime was around 350 hours and every content in the game was experienced.
The lore starts off well but slowly tapers off and becomes forgettable. Graphics are great but the Gamebryo engine that hosts them is terrible at times.
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The dynamic content in rifts and invasions keeps things refreshing throughout leveling as well as during your end-game runs. The soul system provides a unique spin on each calling.
The soundtrack is nothing memorable and the sound effects throughout the game are average for the most part.
While there is no doubt hundreds of hours of content in Rift, there is certainly a question as to whether there is enough to keep people engaged in the long run.
Rift provides a unique, rewarding experience and proves to be a worthy alternative to some of the best MMOs available. However, there is plenty of more work to be done in the areas of end-game, PvP, and professions.