Yesterday afternoon, inspired by an incredibly busy twitter feed and plenty of word-of-mouth, I pre-ordered Rift, the new MMO by Trion Worlds, so that I could jump into the Beta 4 this weekend. I’ve been watching it with idle curiosity for a while now, and I wasn’t really looking for a new MMO since I’ve been playing both WoW and LotRO, but it sounded like the dynamic rift-play might be an interesting diversion.
And Rift definitely delivers that.
I’m not going to proclaim it as the heir to the WoW throne, but it IS a good little MMO from what I’ve seen so far. Trion should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished. Just a few notes on Rift:
Graphics: If you mixed Warhammer Online and Aion, you’d probably about have it. It’s a very pretty game, the colors are rich (but not overly bright, a la WoW) and the art is high fantasy with a bit of futuristic flair. It does seem to have an overall darker feel, there’s an element of danger and desperation that you don’t really get in WoW or most other fantasy MMOs on the market. It doesn’t look like anti-aliasing is in the game yet, it’s still a bit jagged for my tastes.
Character models look very good. Yes, you can actually make a pretty female Dwarf, and that makes me very happy. I originally intended on rolling a Kelari, which is the elf race on the Defiant side, but I was completely won over by the Eth and the Bahmi on that side instead… both of which can look beautiful and/or badass. On the Guardian side, I particularly like the Dwarves and, of all things, the Humans (which I rarely ever like in MMOs) so it looks like I’ll be joining the No Elves Club in Rift. The hair and other customization options are a bit unusual in that they seem very influenced by an futuristic or cyberpunk aesthetic… some of the options are fairly edgy. But the game itself is a mix of high fantasy and technology, so it works within the world that Trion has created.
Classes: You have the standard Warrior, Mage, Rogue, and Cleric classes, with a twist: Within each class, you can choose several sub-classes (called souls), each with varying abilities and functions, and mix and match them to your heart’s content. You could be an all-out DPS Elementalist/Pyromancy/Stormcaller mage, or a support mage with Domination (crowd-control)/Archon (support)/Chloromancy (healing) build. You could be a traditional melee DPS rogue, or you can mix in being a bard with support buffs. Or you could even be a ranged/melee rogue, using a ranged weapon to build up combo points and then using finishing moves in melee. You could choose to max out your points in one soul and be a specialist, or you could spread them out over multiple souls and be a hybrid.
Choices are always good. Rift has plenty of choices.
Combat: It’s swift and responsive, with a short global cooldown and no perceived lag in the timing of skillcasts. It plays very much like WoW in that respect, it feels tight and natural. Character animations are very good, they’re fun and slightly over-the-top in a way that makes it interesting to watch. If you like lots of shiny spells and special effects, Rift has them. I particularly like the Assassin stealth effect; your character becomes completely transparent with a dark purple shadowy glow.
Crafting: It’s too early to tell. Right now I have three gathering professions, mining, foraging (herbs & wood), and butchering (skins). I haven’t seen much about the production professions that go along with those, so it’s too soon to review them.
Gameplay: First, there is a decent tutorial instance. There are only two tutorials, one for Guardians and one for Defiant. I camet out of it at level 5, but it had still taken me about an hour & a half, although I think it could be done much faster the second time around. You are most definitely on rails during the tutorial, picking up 2-3 quests at a time, doing hem, reading the little pop-ups that show you what is going on. It’s a good tutorial, if a little boring; great for MMO newbies, but probably not needed for MMO veterans.
After the tutorial instance, the world really opens up. You zone into yet another quest hub, but when I did it, there were several rifts close-by so I ran directly to the rifts and started playing. If you played Warhammer Online and remember their public quests, these are very similar, but there seem to be a lot more rifts than there ever were WAR public quests. Plus the locations of the rifts and the types of mobs will vary throughout the game. A new rift could pop up anywhere, so it would be advisable to only log-out in towns/safe areas… otherwise you would risk spawning into a rift.
I accepted the quests, but then I went running after rifts. It seems like it will be very possible to play the game off-the-rails by exploration, participating in rifts, and questing when you’re in an area close to the quests. More gameplay will be necessary to confirm this, but if it’s true, I think it’ll be a nice break from most other MMOs on the market. My only concern is exactly how MUCH content is there. Right now the cap in beta is level 27, supposedly it will be 50 at launch. I think most of us remember Age of Conan, which was fantastic from 1-20, but didn’t continue that quality of content after level 20, and so I remain a bit cautious.
Polish: Everything is working and there are very few bugs (I saw just a few minor things with chat settings functionality, which I reported). They were having some issues with one of the rift events when I was logged in, but the GMs were communicating with players in-game and assured us that they would be getting that fixed. The UI looks great and has tons of customization options right off the bat. Everything feels very smooth and seamless, and there hasn’t been very much lag in my experience. In my opinion, the game could release today (assuming they had the level 27-50 content ready to go) and it would be in far better shape than many MMOs currently on the market.
I also have to say this about Trion: so far their customer service has been excellent. I pre-ordered the game yesterday afternoon and as of 6pm or so, still hadn’t received a beta key or the automatic upgrade on my account. I sent them a message through their customer service site and within 20 minutes got a response back with a beta key. I’m very impressed by the response time and the level of service considering that I usually end up waiting for 2-3 days or more in other games.
Overall, I’m very happy with my decision to pre-order Rift, and I’ll be looking forward to future betas and the release. It’s not exactly next-gen, but it is different enough from other games on the market to be a successful and lasting game.