RIFT – Good for the Soul
By Neil Kewn (Murxidon) – OnRPG Journalist
It’s hard to imagine, but RIFT has been on the market for almost six months now. It’s been an incredible half year for the MMO and its developers Trion Worlds, catapulting them and their game from obscurity into an overnight success and virtual world juggernaut. It’s well deserved, as RIFT is arguably one of the most polished and complete MMOs ever released. A game that doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, instead opting to polish the cogs and grease the gears of everything that makes a modern day MMO great, before slotting them back in. It achieves something remarkable in the process – Luring tired and bored World of Warcraft players by giving them roughly the same game, just in a different world.
An unfair accusation to make some might say, but there’s no denying the similarities between the biggest MMO in the world and the fastest rising. RIFT came along at just the right time. A lot of players greeted Warcraft’s latest expansion, Cataclysm, with a decidedly “meh” response, and the thought of a brand new MMO encompassing all the things they know and love from Azeroth was an enticing prospect indeed. Fortunately despite all of their similarities, RIFT isn’t a carbon copy of its gargantuan peer. The sparks of originality that are here make this game feel modern and best of all – fresh.
Two factions inhabit the lush, detailed world of Telara: The Guardians and the Defiants. Each faction has its own set of three unique races, which can be moulded and shaped in the game’s strong character creation system. The actual interface is your standard MMO collection of action bars and slots, with a quest tracker on the right side of the screen underneath the map. A series of story driven tutorial introduce RIFTs narrative, in which the Dragon Regulos has brought destruction to the land of Telara in the form of rifts from otherworldly planes.
These rifts form the basis of the game. They are huge tears in the fabric of the physical world and can appear anywhere and at any time, spewing beasts all over the map and disrupting travelling, questing and the day to day activities of both players and non-player characters. The world of Telara dynamically alters depending on how well these rifts are dealt with. Leave one open for too long and they grow, invading local towns and settlements impeding player progress significantly. Quests can’t be completed if the quest giver is mincemeat.
Players are encouraged to group up and take on these invasions, battling their way through the hordes and defeating bosses that appear. A useful Public Group system helps put other willing players together to fend off the attacks. These appear whenever you are in the vicinity of an invasion making for a spontaneous but smooth PvE experience. They are a very fun and exciting addition to the game, making the world feel alive and dangerous.
Questing naturally makes up a large chunk of RIFT, but there’s not a lot of variety when it comes to the daily grind. Run of the mill kill and collect quests are far too common, made more frustrating by how close enemies are grouped together in this game. They aren’t spread out far enough. You will often find yourself outnumbered after pulling too many mobs and this can make travelling a nightmare. Epic Quests help spruce things up by offering story driven chain adventures, similar to those seen in The Lord of the Rings Online, which help flesh out RIFT’s lore.
The class system in RIFT differs than in most games. Picking from one of four “callings” (Warrior, Mage, Cleric and Rogue), players collect Souls which unlock different perks and abilities. Up to three souls can be attuned at any one time with each having their own talent tree. The points you earn from levelling are then spent in any of the three class trees. With this system, there are many more avenues for character development. Souls can be swapped and interspersed to create a very personalized and unique character tailored to your playing style.
This is daunting at first and it does take some time to get used to. Free of the limitations imposed on you by more linear class systems, it is entirely possible to create a poorly equipped character in certain situations. I never did feel completely confident with my class setup, often consulting Guild mates and fan websites to help determine the strongest path for my Cleric. Fortunately the more comfortable I became with RIFT, the more risks I took and tangents I went down to shape a character that suited the way I play. There is a certain joy to mixing and matching Souls.
This freedom gives you many more possibilities in PvP, and there’s a good amount of it in RIFT. Warfronts are battlegrounds that are contested between the Defiants and the Guardians, featuring Capture the Flag variants and battles for control points. PvP servers, or “shards”, are also available for those who enjoy the danger of open-world player-versus-player combat.
Trion have created a very beautiful world in RIFT. The landscape is superbly detailed with sharp, clear textures and great lighting effects. An important part of any technically proficient MMO is in how well it scales towards lower end systems, and Trion have done a good job in this regard although large scale battles or rift closures can dampen performance considerably. Arguably the best parts about RIFT’s graphical prowess are the rifts themselves. They are certainly a sight to behold; huge in size and possessing some superb spell effects, they often change the entire skyline in an area. It almost seems a shame to have to close them.
After hitting the ground running following its near-perfect release, RIFT has achieved a lot in six months, quickly establishing itself as a triple-A MMO that can hang with the best of them. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in polish, beauty and a few cool well-executed ideas. With excellent PvE content, interesting gameplay dynamics and a lush world, RIFT is a game that outclasses the majority of its peers, and one that will probably outlive them.