Mending the RIFT – Giving a 2 Year Old MMORPG a Second Chance
We gave it a shot. We played RIFT in various stages of beta and were pretty impressed, although not impressed enough to join the flocks of MMO players who subscribed at launch. We retired our Telaran cloaks, hung up our swords and didn’t even buy the release game.
Recently, inspired by others who had done the same, we set out to see if RIFT had more to offer today and boy were we impressed!
Trion released RIFT in March of 2011 with the customary fanfare and exaggerated hype that most MMORPGs are released with these days. Including lots of flashy marketing materials and industry publications hyping it up as “…ultra innovative…”, complete with claims that it was a “WOW-killer” – pretty standard for any MMO released in the last 5-6 years. Unfortunately with that much build up it’s difficult for a newly minted game to live up to the hype machine that preceded its launch.
Several of the editors here at Epica Games played during various rounds of beta, and like many others we were equal parts impressed and perplexed by the game’s innovative, but sometimes awkward features.
Over 2 years later we decided to take another look at RIFT, and boy are we impressed. Gone are any remnants of the more awkward elements and the rough edges all seem to have been smoothed over – the whole game has been polished to a fine finish.
While innovative on a number of fronts, questing in RIFT is much like it has been since the first MMOs came on the scene. NPCs stand huddled together in hubs throughout the various zones with clear quest-giver icons floating above their heads.
The quests fit into the story of the area that you’re in, but remain basically kill & collect, rinse & repeat – kill 5 boars, 5 wolves, 5 undead knights – collect 5 tusks, 5 hides, 5 broken swords…yawn. The monotony of these staple XP grind quests is broken up by special puzzle quests, and randomized public quests that pop up in open nearby areas called Rifts.
From these inter-dimensional tears pour creatures from other planes of existence. Wicked, evil chaotic beings bent on the utter destruction of Telaran spew into the area establishing a foothold.
If players do not defeat the creatures in a timely manner they begin to expand their foothold and take over the area bit by bit disrupting NPCs, passive creatures and players alike. Players in the area can instantly group together to defeat the rift creatures and close the rift receiving great XP and rewards, or ignore the rifts at their own peril.
Generally speaking the combat in RIFT is pretty on par for an MMORPG. There is a skill bar with icons for the various spells your character has learned. Once a target is selected the player spams various spells to reduce the target’s health down to zero.
There does seem to be more instant cast & channel-while-moving spells, giving the game a bit more of a lively feel than the normal stand still and cast fare. The abilities feel powerful and relevant to the class/build you’re playing which really adds to the game’s playability.
One of RIFT’s most innovative features is the Soul system. Like WoW’s old talent tree, RIFT allows players to select a path of alternate advancement with-in the class they’ve selected. Unique to RIFT is the fact that while players can apply points with-in 3 different Souls (or talents) they can choose those 3 Souls from 8 options.
This empowers players to craft a character with ultra unique power sets suited to their particular play style. On top of that players can save and slip from one set of Souls into another set of Souls instantly at any time. This means that your healer can instantly become a powerful DPS fire mage, then switch to a toxic necromancer complete with undead minions and then back again between fights.
This makes it a breeze to solo quest as a DPS warrior and the be tank-ready when you and your friends decide to take on a dungeon. Hands down this is one of my favorite features.
As an Extremely visual person, my character’s looks are about as important to me as the game’s mechanics. So it was an especially welcome surprise to discover the wardrobe system in RIFT which allows players to equip the best items in one window, yet set the visual appearance of each armor item in a separate panel. No more choosing between improved stats and matching armor.
By mixing, matching and dying various armor pieces you pick up along the way or complete armor sets you can purchase from the in-game store (more on that later) you can create a completely unique and embraceable character.
This won’t be a big selling point to every player, but for players like me to whom visuals are a key element, this is a major perk.
Another of the game’s great features is a fully customizable user interface complete with a slew of available add ons from sites like Curse gaming and Rift UI. Players can move and resize every aspect of the games interface, and add a number of features through add ons to display everything from currency to FPS.
As I stated earlier I’m pretty visual, so the ability to resize and reposition the various UI elements is another major mark in RIFTs favor.
I was able to customize my UI to display exactly how I want it, putting emphasis on the vital features and minimizing attention on less valuable real estate. I’ll do a feature on my layout & add ons at some point to share what I’ve learned in more detail.
In June of last year (2013) RIFT introduced it’s free-to-play model opening the game to a wider audience. Players who chose to subscribe got additional features and perks, while anyone can download and play the entire game for free.
Perhaps the biggest concerns with F2P games is the availability of fresh content, however so far the Trion team has been steadily releasing new content and even has plans for a second expansion in the near future.
One concern many players have with games that include microtransaction and real money purchasable items is pay-to-win – the idea that players with more money are able to purchase powerful gear & items.
The RIFT store does allow players to purchase Gems, and exchange those Gems for a large number of in-game items including some armor and weapon sets. But most of the items are specialty mounts, pets and other visual items.
The items players can purchase certainly make the level grind a bit easier (including extra bags, and experience boosters) but nothing that really breaks the game’s mechanics or gives players with a little money a steeply unfair advantage over strictly free players.
Personally I have invested a bit in my stable of characters, mostly in purchasing wardrobe sets and specialty mounts.
Cross shard play
In order to make sure there’s always someone to run a dungeon with Trion managed to implement a cross server integration system so players for all shards are queued up to group in dungeons, raids, PVP and instant adventure (more on IA later).
With thousands of active players across 7 servers there’s always someone to group with and you rarely have to wait very long for a party to take on a dungeon.
LFG & Instant Adventure
Players never have to go it alone in RIFT. Trion has included a looking for group system for players interested in crawling instanced dungeons, and another system for players who don’t like to quest solo.
The LFG system allows players to select a random or specific dungeon or raid, and their preferred role (healer, tank, DPS, support). The system will find other players looking for the same things, in the appropriate classes/roles and will put the group together and teleport all the players to the dungeon entrance.
Questing players can join Instant Adventure and immediately be joined by other players in the same general region for a fast paced run of quests through the zone. Areas are highlighted on the map, and quests are added to the log. upon completion of a task/quest another is identified and marked on the map/quest log. No running back to a quest giver, for rewards those come up automatically and you’re off on the next adventure.
This is another of my favorite features as it solves a bit of the monotony of the typical solo quest grind and gives the game a fast paced and active feel.
Is RIFT worth another look? Absolutely!
While we had our reservations returning to the game we left over 2 years ago, we’ve been thoroughly impressed with it’s features, content and general polish. If you’ve never played RIFT, or you played it a while ago and moved on to something else – I encourage you to give it another shot and see if the improvements and fresh content are enough to pull you back to Telara.