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RIFT Review

by William Schwartz

Rift is a Massively Multiplayer Online RPG for PC gamers that puts its own spin on the traditional formula that most MMORPG players are accustomed to.  RIFT challenges players to stop an on-going invasion in the world of Telara of creatures from other planes of existence.  As the title of the MMO says, the world is built around these RIFT events.  A rift can open in a moments notice and will call all players available to push back the invasions.  The game features an extensive level of customization, it allows you to create your own unique character classes and variations within them.  RIFT is a blend of what has been good about MMORPG’s in the past and sprinkles in their own spices to make a new and unique world for MMO players to explore.

RIFTs – Setting yourself apart from the field in this day of MMO’s is hard.  People want different, but they also want the comforts of familiarity.  Rift definitely strikes a good balance by incorporating the biggest selling point for the game in its rifts.  These rifts are central to both the story behind the game, and the gameplay itself.  They are definitely what set RIFT apart from other MMO’s.  So what are these Rift’s exactly?  Well they function on a number of different levels but most importantly they don’t come off as a gimmick as much as they do a central stabilizing feature of the game.

Invaders from other planes of existence will enter these Rifts of the gameworld and can instantly appear anywhere.  The land of Telara is constantly under the threat of these invasions, and it’s your job to prevent them.  These Rift’s become an area event for the public of Telara to work together to close.  It can take what was once an ordinary and mundane quest into an adventure that has you joining the other players in that area to defeat a common threat.  Enemies will continue pouring out of the Rift at an increasingly more difficult level until the Rift has been sealed.  It’s executed nicely in RIFT.  You’ll simply enter into an area where you’ll see a rift invasion taking place, and a button will prompt you to join the public grouping.  If you elect to, you’ll automatically be partied with the local group to defeat the threat.  There’s no queue or waiting, it’s a seamless transition that’s a nice change of pace from other MMOs.

Good World Events – This identical concept carries over to the frequent zone wide events where entire cities will become under siege by one of the elemental armies.  Multiple rifts can open in a moments notice and players must organize and push back the threat.  This can apply to large groups of players, and it’s truly remarkable when a large group comes together to hold off an assault.  The reward is not only getting to know new players in the world of Rift, but you’ll get a chance to earn rare gear as well, giving you all the more reason to join these events.

Character Soul Morphing – RIFT takes a unique approach to how you build your character.  The Rogue, Cleric, Warrior, and Mage classes can also function as sub-classes called Souls.  This method of play allows you a bit more freedom in the path you choose with your character, without the early regret of picking one class or the other with fear of being stuck in a specific role.  The end result is that you get a chance to experience other parts of what RIFT has to offer without the grinding out a character for every spec.

Quick Level Cap – As in many MMO’s the real game begins once your character is maxed out.  The world of PvP, exclusive quests, and new bosses, gear, and other goodies are added into the mix once you complete the 50 levels of RIFT. Comparatively speaking it felt like I hit the level cap much more quickly in RIFT than I have in other MMO’s, and maybe it’s because of the social nature of the rifts.  Either way, you get to the good stuff much quicker in RIFT.  For some that like grinding for 100’s of hours, you may not like that the level cap feels like it comes quicker than in other MMO’s, but for me it was great.

One of the better looking MMOs – While other MMO’s are showing their age in the graphics department, RIFT offers an MMO experience that feels current and up to par with other PC games on the market.  Given the size and scope of the game, it’s never going to compare with AAA traditional gaming experiences, but it looks great nonetheless.  The game will take full advantage of a capable gaming PC.  It’s got plenty under the hood to tinker with, which you can spec up or down depending on your PC and what it can handle.  At the game’s max settings it looks fantastic, with great draw distances that really bring the world to life.

Great Support for the game so far – If Trion has proved anything with RIFT, other than that the genre needs to improve upon itself to grow, it’s that they are committed to the players in Telara.  They have continually supported the game with new content and updates.  The most recent,”Waves of Madness”, is an event that has led up to the opening of a new raid instance the “Hammerknell Fortress”.  Stuff like this combined with the social aspect of RIFT definitely make the subscriptions worthwhile seeing as you’re getting great support and new content to boot.

Serious similarities to other MMOs – RIFT definitely broke the mold with their style of gameplay and the inclusion of the rifts to the game.  But there are some serious similarities to other MMO’s.  Namely World of Warcraft.  If you’ve played WoW, you’ll feel strangely at home in RIFT.  Much of the game feels eerily similar to Blizzards popular MMO.  You can’t expect Trion to completely re-invent the wheel when millions have shown their love for what Blizzard has done.  The most notable ways that the game feels similar are in it’s combat mechanics mostly, some of the crafting basics, but the general feel of the game has World of Warcraft written all over it.

The quests are pretty lackluster and can get boring – They call it a grind for a reason.  In RIFT, the solo questing can be quite mundane.  There is little to no innovation in much of the various quests strewn throughout Telara.  There are a lot of them, and it’s understandable that many of them will feel somewhat generic, but there weren’t any aside from the rift and world events that really stood out on their own.  Some will take you to great looking new locales, but only to complete the now standard go here and kill x goblins, or go there and grab x items.  Would love to see an MMO give these quests more details, but that would be a huge order to fill considering the amount of them in the game.

Platinum Spam is unavoidable – One of the great things about starting an MMO is the adventure into a new world, meeting new people, and forming new friendships.  Most of this interaction takes place through the conversation dialog box.  Unfortunately for Trion, they have been invaded by spammers.  You can play you way into the 30’s without having ever seen dialog from another player if only for all the SPAM getting in the way.  Play RIFT and your dialog box will constantly be reminding you that you can purchase platinum from you friends at xyz.com.  You can always opt to use the combat dialog box, which I did for the majority of my time with the game, but it’s not something that I was accustomed to doing.  Trion definitely needs to get a handle on the SPAM in their game.

The Rift Trick is fun at first – The rifts of the game walk a tight rope of being gimmicky, rewarding, and fun.  You’ll certainly never forget the first time it comes together well for either a world event or a public rift event.  After you’ve participated in these events a few times the effect begins to wear off.  The cool factor definitely wanes, and you find yourself completing them only for the rare loot that can be had for completing them.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but since they are the central focus of the game that separates RIFT from other MMO’s you’d think there would be either more variation or challenge associated with the events.

In the case of world events, there’s a balance that never quite gets struck in the game.  Either these events are extremely easy or impossible, and it usually boils down to how many players are participating.  The sense of battle is non-existent when there are an abundance of players fighting the fight.  And with too little support it’s not even a challenge for the computer to overrun you.

Generic at times – One thing that continually resonated with me throughout my time with RIFT was that the game just felt generic.  Having played World of Warcraft in the past, I was very familiar with the way that Blizzard’s game works.  Being that a large part of RIFT is a derivative of this type of experience, the overall product can feel somewhat generic in RIFT.  The fantasy world that Trion has created is great, but it felt like it needed more character to forge its own path.

The combat felt very standard, with little eye candy or ear candy to set it apart from other MMO’s in any meaningful ways.  Repetition in combat for MMO’s is to be expected, but when you lump in the generic and sometimes awkward animations the combat can feel this way as well.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, I’m glad I got the chance to play RIFT.  The core mechanics of the single player experience felt generic at times, delving into the multiplayer features of the game showed promise, but weren’t something that I was clamoring to get back to after time away from the game.  The goal of these games which rely on monthly fees is to engage the player in ways that make them want to return month in and month out to engage with the community, see the changes of the world, and fight the good fight, RIFT does these things well.  The game offers plenty to come back for in its exciting new content updates. They’ve created a world that has much more dynamic and alive feeling than any MMO has done in the past.  The constant onslaught of the Rift events give the game a dynamic that keeps it constantly evolving.  Depending on your level of commitment, RIFT can be a great experience on so many different levels.

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RIFT

  • Available On: PC
  • Published By: Trion Worlds
  • Developed By: Trion Worlds
  • Genre: MMO RPG
  • US Release Date: March 1, 2011
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "The core mechanics of the single player experience felt generic at times, delving into the multiplayer features of the game showed promise, but weren't something that I was clamoring to get back to after time away from the game."
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