Well alright, it's now known just as Rift
but the subtitle was originally part of it's official name before launch. So, what's the deal with yet another WoW-clone? And who are Trion Worlds anyway?
Trion Worlds don't initially appear to have much, if anything, to do with a fantasy MMO. Their homepage is all about their MMO shooter/RTS games DEFIANCE
and End of Nations
. They're also an american company, rather than Korean or Chinese, and don't have anything like the reputation of Blizzard. Yet here they are with the closest thing to a World of Warcraft competitor since, well, WoW.
During Beta, a lot of hype was generated by the MMO playing community as well as by it's publishers. It was touted as a Wow-clone that offered something new; the eponymous Rifts and the soul system. It was generally claimed that if you were bored of WoW and looking for a new challenge, you'd like Rift. If you thought WoW was dull and simplistic, you'd like Rift. If fantasy MMOs weren't your bag, well you might
still like Rift.
At release, as with plenty of hyped MMOs, there was a lot of interest and plenty of people I know went over to give it a go. At release, I had zero interest in the game: I don't like the standard fantasy MMO tropes, I can't stand magic pixie settings with dwarves etc and I loathe large chunks of the core WoW mechanics. It took a concerted and co-ordinated effort by various people from various angles, culminating in being bought a copy of the game, for me to even consider it, so reluctantly I signed up and promised I'd give it that first month. All in all, I'm quite glad I did.
Initially I was skeptical. My friends were all Guardian side on Sparkwing so even though the magi-tech obsessed and exotic Defiants appealed to me vastly more than some tedious religious nutjob elves/dwarves/humans, I rolled up a Cleric from the enormous choice of four classes. 3 Races
per faction, you can't mix and match. Thusfar, I wasn't too impressed. Character customisation was limited from my perspective, although I had just come from many many hours lost in the Champions Online creator which is hardly a fair comparison, and with only 4 rather standard classes to choose from (Cleric, Mage, Warrior, Rogue) I honestly thought I wouldn't last the week. However my friends rolled up some new alts to play alongside me through the newbie experience and I signed up to their Guild at the first available opportunity.
My first impressions were along the lines of 'oh god this has all the horrible WoW mechanics I loathe and despise in it, but at least it doesn't look like a dated cartoon, just a dated fantasy MMO'. The graphics aren't much to write home about given it's a 2011 release; they're not bad as such but would be more fitting in a 2008-9 game.
After bombarding my friends with questions (in between sarcastic comments about asking wow players how it's done in WoW and then assuming it'll be the same in Rift) I started to realise that whilst there were only 4 very traditional classes, sorry - Callings
, they all played very differently from one another. Even down to the way their snazzy powerz were managed. Clerics
use mana; no big shock there. Mages additionally build up a combo meter that is used to do certain other things such as recharge mana quickly or give a damage boost. Warriors
build up persisting Attack Points in order to unleash special moves and have a power bar that limits how many funky abilities they can chain. Rogues
accrue Combo points on a per-enemy basis that are spent on finisher moves, having a similar sort of power bar system as the Warrior that limits how many abilities they can chain together. This means management of abilities has to be done differently per class. There are mana potions, for example, but nothing item-based that can quickly fill a Power/Combo meter or award Attack/Combo points. Coming from other games that are simpler or older where all classes have HP and some kind of magic power meter and that's yer lot, it made a nice change.
The much-vaunted Soul
system kicks in about halfway through the newbie area when you've acquired 2 of your basic 3 and you have to start making decisions about where to spend the soul points you get at level up. Souls are just a fancy way of presenting a skill tree system. They even use the tree analogy to explain Root powers and Branch powers. You make choices about where you spend points in your branches, and the root powers are awarded when you reach a certain number of spent points, regardless of branch. The nifty thing here is that once you hit level 13 or so and can quest for the rest of your classes' souls, you can create any combo of any 3 souls to form a Role, and you can buy more Role slots to swap to in a matter of second, thus enabling an entirely new build on the same character without having to level up an alt.
All of this is further sped up by the ability to write in-game macros
to do things like swap equipment instantly, or to fire off whichever ability meets the 'able to fire off' criteria from a selection of abilities your current soul configuration has unlocked. I was slow on the macro uptake, having an innate dislike to anything worded 'macro' in an MMO given how 3rd party macro tools are omnipresent and used ot abuse game mechanics in pretty much every other game. Rift is fairly restrictive on what you can do and ultimately what Rift macros do is reduce the variety of buttons you have to press, rather than reduce the number of actions you have to take, at the cost of not being able to finely hone your twitch responses. Macros can lose you a fight vs a skilled PvPer because you didn't make a manual decision to use ability b over ability a and a was the one that came up first in the macro's list when you pressed the button.
Once I got the hang of Souls I decided that actually, for all it's ripped-off WoW mechanics which I dislike (not being able to select to autoface a fighting target is a pet hate of mine, also excessively harsh falling damage particularly where terrain mapping and terrain textures don't match up), I liked the character system in this game after all. Particularly given the diversity amongst souls which meant you can have 5 Rogues in a group and all of them are wildly different: for example a team buffer/healer support Bard type, an assassin type that pops out from the shadows for a huge alphastrike, a ranger type flurrying arrows as it's direwolf pet mauls the enemy, a saboteur type rigging up traps and explosives etc, all while blending a bit of other flavours in to patch up weaknesses left by the fact that souls are all fairly specialised.
Player-made item building in Rift is actually very much worth it to pursue, and each character can learn 3 tradeskill abilities. There are 3 gathering and 6 crafting skills. The items that players can make are better than the vast majority of the items players can loot, particularly at the level an item becomes equippable at (items are level locked as in most MMOs). People go two ways in terms of tradeskill choices: grab all 3 Gathering skills and then either use alts or guildmates for the crafting skills, or else pick 2 crafting skills most relevant for their calling and then the gathering skill that provides the majority of the base resources required. As an example, a Warrior will most likely be using swords/axes/spears and plate armour which are all metals-based: this means Mining as a gathering skill and then Armoursmithing and Weaponsmithing as craftting skills. Of course you'll need bits of things from the other gathering professions but that's a minority and what you get out of building your own is well worth the extra investment of time or money to acquire the missing parts. Given the Role/Soul system means there is rarely a need to make more than one of any class, 3-4 characters is the most you'd get much use out of and that will cover all 9 craft skills with a nice overlap for Gathering too.
Questing makes up the majority of progression through the game in terms of XP, money, exploration and to a lesser extent gear. There's a lot
of quests. I mean a veritable buttload, not including dailies even. It's both a strength and a weakness in my experience: fun the first time around but with alts it gets to be very repetetive and 'oh god here we go again'. At least the quests don't nag you in terms of time constraints, leaving you free to go off and spend a few days hitting random rifts, crafting stuff, going overe here, poking something over there, chasing achivements (did I forget to mention the fact the game as achivements? Well it's not that original nowadays but some of them are plenty fun) and generally exploring and doign your own thing. This, to me, is a huge plus point because I hate feeling forced into a narrow and pressured path.
As with any MMO of this kind, there are instanced dungeons which are available in varying degrees of difficulty, the highest difficulty beign the source of the best Tier 1 & 2 phats in the game (read: epic lootz/purples). Some of them are pretty run of the mill 'kill trash mobs, kill boss, click thingy, rinse repeat' whilst others require better planning and trial and error-based learning what does and doesn't work. I didn't get much of a chance to hit dungeons up because I lagged behind in the levelling curve having come to the game late, so this is one area I'd like to explore more.
The biggest part of the game is, of course, the Rifts. There's a fair bit of background and story to the game and whilst Guardian-side it's pretty cliché and fantasty standard, the Defiants have a bit more originality. The world is called Telara and it's having a spot of bother with Rifts opening up to elemental planes allowing invading forces form these planes through to cause all sorts of trouble. By spot of bother I mean all hell breaking lose more or less constantly and if the Telarans don't get their act together and sort it out, Telara will fall in 20 years time. Play a Defiant and you get to see that fall for yourself. Rifts are open group activities that essentially funciton as mini impromptu raids. The game will create a raid interface and invide any characters (within the same faction) to the interface, allowing teams to merge etc. There's a huge variety of rift types, both in terms of element (fire, death, water, life, air, earth) and in terms of steps required to complete, from just killing everything that moves to performing certain actions, finding certain items and preventing certain things from happening. The better you do, the fast you progress and the more stages of the Rift open up offering more phats. These Rifts can pop up almost anywhere and at no notice. All in all I found these to be enormous fun - from soloing a quiet one out of the way as a challenge to test my skills, to piling into huuuuge elite rifts with tons of other folks and having to adapt to disorganised tactics with random strangers on the fly. The XP aint half bad either.
In addition, there's zone-wide special rift events fairly frequently. Some of them are minor and you can go abotu your own business with a minimum of fuss. Others completely take over a zone and within seconds you can find yourself trapped between a rock and a hard place... These are quite a mixed bag with some of them being exhilarating fun if you find some good people to do them with, and others can leave you stuck unable to do anything at all on your own until a passing raidforce comes by. Mostly I've enjoyed these but there have been occasions where I've said f*ck it and logged to an alt somewhere far faaaaar away.
Personally, I've had a lot of fun within the game. My cleric is an AoE DD-whore rather than a healer most of the time and very solo-capable, but I can keep a small raidforce alive with a switch to a healer role when needed. My warrior wades in with a spear and a battlecat to melee DD the hell out of stuff until a tank is needed, then he gets out the shield and swaps roles and becomes indestructible tank-o-rama. I've even done the switching mid-rift as situations change. I've explored all sorts of weird and crazy places, ran into well-hidden zone puzzles, snuck lowbie alts into high level locations to see what's there, created all manner of bizzare soul combos and play concepts and participated in zone events and rifts way beyond my levels for the sheer hell of it, considering survival the greatest achivement.
On the flip side I have had a bad time with some poor UI mechanics, gold seller spam, stupid quest requirements (killing an elite zone boss that spawns once maybe twice a day at a random time and location within a zone - and usually gets swamped by everyone else with the quest and dies before I can log the right character and get there after finding out about it), the cost of traveling by using portals and the grind to build up points for hundreds of different things such as crafting skills, NPC factions reputation, zone-specific source shards to exchange for powerful items, multiple currency types etc.
For me, the game won't have the longevity that I found in Eve Online and Anarchy Online, but it's been far more fun than any fantasy MMO has any right to be and I don't mind paying £9 a month sub at all, particularly as it doesn't (yet?) have a power items for cash shop which is the bane of my MMOing existance.I'm still on Rift although a bit stuck at the moment. My Guardian mains are still on Sparkwing, which has now been designated a trial account server (stupid idea in my opinion, having only newbies together without higher level characters to go oooh and aaah over and experienced players to answer basic questions). My guild has gone inactive and as yet have not moved to a new server. I'm hoping to persuade them to pick somewhere to go... I have lowbie Defiant alts all over the place but have no particular ties to any server with those and they're all Freemarch-level nooby. So at the moment I am in limbo and not currently playing although my account is open.