First Impressions: Rift

I haven’t played an MMO in a long time. I started out with World of Warcraft, which led me to write a three-part feature on gaming addiction. Then I kind of bounced around for a while, trying out various games including DC Universe Online, but I couldn’t really stick to anything free and didn’t have the money to subscribe to something, especially if I wasn’t going to have time to play it during the year. When Raptr offered a reward for Rift, I grabbed it, thinking that this would definitely appeal to me as someone who loves fantasy settings. Through the course of me playing the game, I ended up purchasing two more months of the game and earning a Collector’s Edition upgrade. In other words, I enjoyed the game. Really, I had to wonder why I hadn’t played it before now.

Rift
Systems: PC (Windows)
Developer: Trion Worlds
Publishers: Trion Worlds
Release Date: March 4, 2011 (NA), March 10, 2011 (AU), March 11, 2011 (EU)
MSRP: Free to Play up to level 20, $4.99 standard edition, subscription varies

Rift is set in Telara, which is surrounded by elemental Planes representing Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Life, and Death. Each Plane is personified by a Dragon-like deity. Thanks to Regulos, the Dragon of Extinction, some of these deities came together into a group known as the Blood Storm to invade Telara. The Vigil, gods of Telara, helped to defeat the Blood Storm and Regulos was chained beneath a Ward to protect Telara. However, he has destroyed that Ward recently and is causing Rifts to open to the elemental Planes, helping to release the Dragon deities.

Two factions are attempting to fight off Regulos, the Guardians and the Defiant. These factions don’t like each other very much, unfortunately, which causes additional issues. Each faction has Ascended, warriors who have been resurrected from the dead to fight off Regulos and his allies. You will run into characters from both factions regardless of your own or whether you play Player vs Environment (PvE) or Player vs Player (PvP).

The Guardians follow the Vigil and include the following races: Mathosians (basically, humans), high elves, and dwarves. The Guardian Ascended were resurrected bythe Vigil. The Defiant, on the other hand, prefer to use science and technology rather than religion and include the Eth (basically, humans), the Bahmi (a breed of human also descended from Air Spirits), and the Kelari (dark elves). The Defiant Ascended have been resurrected through technology that has enabled scientists to study the soul structure of the Ascended Guardians. These Ascended are then sent back in time to the beginning of Rift, which will allow them to fight off both the Vigil and Regulos. All races can become one of four classes—Cleric, Mage, Rogue, or Warrior—and have access to skill trees in order to customize their character. Skill trees have roots, base abilities unlocked as you progress through the game; and branches, which are abilities and bonuses players allocate points to.

The game is named Rift because of the areas that get invaded by any of the six elemental planes. These Rifts allow monsters to come into Telara and destroy stuff. This is a rather interesting aspect to the game as it encourages players who might otherwise not interact to band together temporarily to defeat these forces alongside NPCs. It’s important to destroy the monsters as they come in because otherwise, they’ll conquer quite a bit of the map. Players aren’t forced to make groups or to destroy monsters when a Rift is open, but rather, they can join a public group if they’re interested in getting any of the rewards for defending Telara. Enemies will wander around the map and set up wardstones and try to take yours. Basically, it’s like being thrown into a skirmish. I like this sort of impromptu multiplayer option because oftentimes my friends and I aren’t online at the same time, and I’m not actually really into multiplayer—especially since my experience with guilds has been generally negative—though I do like MMOs. This option allows me to spend most of my time doing single-player stuff while occasionally getting involved in multiplayer and meeting new people without having later obligations to anyone. It’s actually made multiplayer enjoyable for me, and the random nature of the Rift attacks keep the gameplay from becoming too stagnant and adds a sense of urgency. I will note, lightheartedly, that it does suck when an NPC you want to talk to dies and you have to wait for him/her to respawn, but I feel like it’s a bit more accurate for them to actually die than for both sides to just keep fighting forever.

My only complaint about the game is that a lot of the quests are same old, same old. I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know how to really innovate this aspect of MMOs, but fetch quests and escort quests need to go die in a fire. Thankfully so far, I’ve only run into one or two escort quests, and those are usually by far the most annoying. Still, I don’t find myself getting too bored with completing the quests because the Rift events are there to break the monotony up.

Players have a lot of options for customization in this game. Those who have an addiction to character creation will enjoy the ability to customize a good portion of their character’s appearance. Additionally, Rift allows characters to have classes with roles you wouldn’t normally expect due to the ability of having up to six soul configurations, which makes multiplayer easier. Clerics have the unique ability to DPS, heal, or tank, which is different from other MMOs; mages can’t melee but can do anything else; rogues can focus on DPS, healing, or tanking; and warriors can DPS or tank. The ability to utilize different roles makes getting groups together for dungeons and the like a lot easier. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is probably one of the best features of Rift along with the public groups fighting. Each calls nine souls—8 PvE and 1 PvP souls—and these souls can be combined by threes. You can also have four different combinations in order to fulfill different roles. You also have the option for three skills, which is similar to other MMOs. Your options for gathering are mining, foraging, and butchery; and your options for crafting are apothecary, armorsmith, artificer, outfitter, runecrafter, and weaponsmith. When you talk to trainers, they’ll tell you which skills go well together. One addition Rift gives us is the ability to add planar augmentations, which are basically boosts you can put into your crafted items. It’s amazing that something so finite—and so stereotypically limiting—has so much potential for diversity. My only complaint about the character customization is that, while Rift doesn’t seem to fall too deeply into the impractical armor problem that so many other games do, they do still fall into that trap.

This game is beautiful; I was impressed with how much effort was put into detail. The settings were expertly crafted, and background music helps to accentuate this. I was able to immerse myself in the game easily, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt like I was actually in the game world, I think Rift has gotten me closer to that than any MMO thus far has. The Rifts themselves are probably the most impressive with their uniquely designed, transient power clearly reflecting different planes. The only thing not heavily detailed are the characters themselves and some of the textures, which are still detailed enough to be worth looking at. In fact, everything is pretty clearly represented. I have a Guardian and a Defiant character, and you wouldn’t believe how different the game looks from each faction’s point of view. The Guardian characters look like they stepped out of a church built in the Middle Ages and took a quick sprint through Middle Earth. The Ascended look like they’ve run out of a dystopian Steampunk novel. I don’t really feel like it’s a matter of light and dark, like the Alliance and Horde feel to me. Rather, I can see the light and dark in both. In reality, both are fighting for the same goal, but they have very different ideas on how to get there based on their own experiences, so it doesn’t really feel like good versus evil.

As far as keyboard configuration and most of the game mechanics go, it feels like a better-honed World of Warcraft. It’s like they took the aspects they liked about games that came before it and threw in some surprises, tweaking it so that it’s at a caliber higher than other MMOs both before and after its time. I’m actually made to care about the overarching storyline and actively want to see both sides of that story. Leveling seems to be faster in this game, which is nice for me because if I want to try out different builds, I don’t want to have to play for twenty-five to thirty hours before the differences start to show.

I’d also like to add that I had an excellent experience with Trion Worlds’ customer service. I was having issues with codes not taking well on their site, and so I called their support line. I have to say that was the fastest, easiest, friendliest call I’ve ever had for gaming-related support. I talked to a Brandon B., who listened to my issue, responded accordingly, and we fixed it within the span of ten minutes. Really, this interaction was exactly what customer support should be, but the fact I feel the need to mention this should hint at my experiences with other gaming-related companies.

My honest recommendation is to download the Lite client and try it out as the game is free up to level 20. As money permits, I’m actually keeping this account active. I haven’t seen an MMO this polished in a while.

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