Rift – a review in progress
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Don't get too comfortable WoW – there is a new MMORPG on the block...
I feel the need to start with a confession: Before reviewing Rift I’d never so much as tried out an MMO, let alone become fully immersed in one. There were two primary reasons for this, the first being that the idea of monthly fees put me off. The second – and predominant reason – was that I feared that’d I’d become horribly addicted, losing my money, job, friends and life in general. The good news is that following my initial experience with Rift, I’m not a quivering, pale empty shell of a man (no more than usual anyway...) and, I’ve been outside once or twice since starting my time in Telara. So Rift ticks the noob friendly box, but what is it like as a game? Naturally, comparisons have already been made to the long time undisputed champion of the genre, World of Warcraft, which currently has over 12 million subscribers. However, talk on the Rift servers suggests that there are WoW players making the jump across to this new kid on the block; rather appropriate when you consider what the main themes of Rift involve...
In Rift, your ultimate role is to prevent the destruction of the world from monstrous invaders coming through – well – dimensional Rifts. With this being an MMO, not only are there a wide range of different ways to play, and lots of land to explore, but – from what I can tell so far – you’ll lose track of the amount of time you’ve spent playing before getting to the end game.
Before the end is of course the beginning, and like any RPG, Rift starts with character creation, with the first big decision about your game coming straight from the title screen. You must decide which faction to play as, and like most battles in history, the main difference between the two sides is that of religion. The Guardians believe the Rifts – and therefore the end of the world – can be stopped through working towards a Divine plan, while the Defiants aim to stop it from the future through the use of technology and sending ‘Ascendants’ back through time to prevent the catastrophe. As you may expect, the two factions don’t get along and rather than pull together to stop the Rifts as one they’ll happily knock lumps out of each other.
Personally, I chose to play as a Defiant, and made an elf like Kelari mage called Xeilola. The other basic types of class will be familiar to RPG players, with warriors, rogues and clerics all available.
And so I was whisked away to the beginners’ area which introduces the basic concepts of the game, with the ‘Soul’ class system being the most important. These souls allow you to choose to play as multiple class types as the same character, so for example, Xeilola – my mage – uses the Stormcaller, Elementalist and Chloromancer skill trees, thus allowing me to use a mix of offensive, healing and defensive spells using the different elements. As with most MMOs, you assign the various abilities to hot keys that suit your own style of play, thus making it simple to use. After learning all the basics, and completing some simple quests, I left the Defiant starting area and headed into Telara. The bread and butter of Rift, like any other MMO, is the various types of quests on offer from NPCs, providing you with gold, new skills, new equipment and good old fashioned experience points. There are also story quests designed to eventually push you across the huge, world map. Completing quests alone can become quite difficult, which naturally is where the multiplayer aspect of Rift comes in. You can team up with up to four other players which just makes the whole thing a lot more fun. After all, it’s always nice to have someone watching your back.
And that’s exactly what you’ll need at fairly regular intervals thanks to the Rifts that appear at seemingly random, but regular, intervals. The Rifts allow creatures from other dimensional planes to invade Telera and there’s no predicting where they’ll appear next. Large amounts of enemies come through a rift, and it’s not uncommon to see massive groups of players fighting against the incoming hordes. Occasionally I found when there were very large groups in one place the frame rate dropped, but it didn’t happen too often.
The Rifts are not only isolated events, with whole areas of the world capable of being under attack at one time. I often found myself defeating an invasion at one Rift, then immediately dashing to another one to help out. If invasions are not stopped the enemies will get a foothold in the world, which will have to be taken out separately. While this does give players a sense of purpose in the world, it can also be frustrating. I forget the amount of times I was forced to leave a mission half finished, due to a Rift opening up above the area I was questing in. Invasions can also come from the opposing faction – in my case it was Guardians – and work in much the same way, albeit with Player vs. Player elements involved if you choose to allow it. All in all, these Rifts and invasions give the player the feeling that everyone is fighting towards the same goal; whilst simultaneously helping to establish a personal relationship between the game and the user. Of course, there’s also the option of ignoring invasions all together and just legging it to the nearest safe spot. You coward.
Like any MMO, Rift features an assortment of dungeons to loot, skills to learn, auction houses to barter in and places to trade. Unfortunately, there’s already evidence that trading for real money has already taken place, and some players have already learned exploits which will spoil it for others. Whether this will be clamped down upon or not remains to be seen.
Ok, the first thing that has to be said about Rift is it looks a lot better than World of Warcraft. Each player’s character is rather detailed and, from what I’ve seen so far, the world looks great. However, it’s the Rifts that are the best looking thing in the game, especially when it comes to those of the Water element. They look and act like real, breathing living things and, if you get the chance, it’s a joy to watch one go from being formed to being active, before eventually being defeated from a high vantage point.
From what I’ve seen so far, Rift certainly is an impressive addition to the MMO genre, with the invasions adding a dynamic ‘never know what’s going to happen next’ twist to the game. In addition, the game has genuinely proved to be a fun experience for me and yes, it does have that old RPG ‘just one more quest/item/level’ addictive nature that will keep people coming back for more. It certainly has the potential to be a massive rival to World of Warcraft – especially when you consider that Blizzard’s behemoth is now 6 years old. But to answer the basic question, is Rift worth your money? If you’re a fan of MMOs and you’re looking for something new then initial impressions suggest yes, definitely.
This is the end of this Rift review for now; but expect an even more in depth look at it later in the month...
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