Not A Review: Rift - Rift - PC -
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Not A Review: Rift

Trion’s flagship MMORPG is a couple of days past its official launch date. How do the touted class mechanics and dynamic content generation hold up so far? I’ve got more than a few thoughts to share.

For those not already familiar with the game, Rift is a relatively hardcore triple-A fantasy MMORPG. It's huge, expansive, and complex. You'll take a hero from level one to 50, outfitting her with progressively fancier equipment along the way and distributing the points that define her abilities across several skill trees. How you play is up to you -- fully fleshed out PvP, public dynamic content, and instanced dungeons are all there to be explored. The game isn't exactly newbie-unfriendly, but I suspect that Rift will be a lot to take in for anyone without a solid grounding in MMO conventions.

Rift is a modern marvel from an engineering perspective. The game has been more solid than some offline games, to say nothing of the many issues that can plague an MMO launch. The servers have been as stable as you’d expect of a game that had been out for three years, even in the head start (see my diary and videos from my first day with the game here). The one crash I have experienced to date was a clean exit to desktop that didn’t require a restart, and (crucially, for the moment) the server didn’t log me out, so I didn’t have to deal with the queue to get back in.

Those queues -- where you can log in, but your server is full and won’t allow any more players into the game itself -- were brutal for several servers (mine included) through the headstart last week. Since the proper launch on Tuesday and the bevy of new servers that Trion brought online for it, even high-population shards like mine are down to about a half-hour queue during primetime. That’s not ideal, but it’s reasonable for a hyped MMO to have a few servers with short queues during peak times.

Once you’re in, though, the game is brilliant, especially if you’re a player like me, who adored World of Warcraft in its day but have found it to be increasingly stale even with a fresh new expansion. Rift is targeted directly at us, and it makes no bones about it. Everything from default keybindings to the user interface will be familiar and comfortable to any EverQuest-genre vet. But where Rift shares the language that the majority of the MMORPG-playing public speaks, the sentences it constructs and the stories it tells with those familiar nouns and verbs are delightfully fresh.

Innumerable improvements in the margins (a mailbox two steps from the auctioneer? Class trainers in the main marketplace? Thank you!) consistently amaze the jaded MMO veteran in me, but Rift was always going to succeed or fail on two pillars: class mechanics and dynamic content. It’s too early to crown the game and parade it through the streets -- I’m only halfway to the level cap, for gosh sakes -- but so far Trion is knocking both of those ambitious pitches out of the park.

Rift allows players to equip any three of the nine souls -- which function as WoW-like talent trees -- available to their “calling” (warrior, cleric, mage, or rogue). In addition to the traditional roles these fantasy archetypes are associated with, you can create healing mages, tanking clerics, support rogues, and more. More importantly, the massive hybridization that this creates throws the doors wide open for player creativity.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone in my (relatively large) guild has their own build that they think is the best one in the game. It’s getting to the point that talking about soul combinations and talent setups in guild chat is like showing off pictures of your kids around the water cooler. “Oh yeah? Well, mine has two instant-cast knockbacks and a DoT [damage over time] that drains its damage back as health.” The build I’ve personally settled on combines Inquisitor, Druid, and Warden into a nuke-throwing, health-draining, pet-summoning PvP death machine that plays something like an unholy cross between WoW’s Warlock, Druid, and Hunter classes. I love it like I’ve never loved an RPG character before,* but if you ask any Rift player past level 20 or so, you’ll get a similarly glowing testimonial about their build of choice. I know teleporting tanks, healing archers, stealthy bomb-throwers, and everything in between. The system is absolute genius.

I have some concern that it’ll fall into the same theory-crafted build-of-the-month pattern once most people are level-capped and settling in for serious endgame business, but the sheer variety in Rift may even defy whatever analogue to the Elitist Jerks community pops up. For now, class mechanics in Rift are amazing.

* With the possible exception of a halfling fighter/thief I made in Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter who had a 10% chance to take half damage from spells...and a 90% chance to take no damage. The half-hearted fusion of AD&D and Third Edition rules in that game was hilariously broken (and all the more awesome for it).

[Next up: Rift’s rifts]

  • It's nice to see another MMO have talent to stand up to WoW

  • Well done, Adam. You make some good points. I also thought of Rift as a throwback to what WoW once was before.

    Hopefully, this game will stand strong throughout the rest of the year or longer.
  • Whats funny is I did flip to the last page missing the previous 15k words. Thanks for knowing me haha

  • Looks like WoW is finally getting some competition after all these years. Looks like I'll have to check this out when I have the chance.

  • I tried out the beta and I had a lot of fun with the few hours that I played. I really want to pick this game up and play it, but I just don't want the monthly fee.

  • Rift is alright. I have to say though, after WoW im finished with hotkey MMOs stuff like DC universe needs to come out more often (or instead of) stuff like Rift.

  • Good read, convinced me. Downloading it as we speak.

  • It sounds interesting, once I actually purchase a decent computer I might buy this.

  • Which Shard are you guys gonna play on?

  • Good read, I hope Trion continues to work diligently to finally provide a competitor to the WoW behemoth.

    I have to disagree, however, on the mods comment. What MMOs out there let you completely modify the way you interact with the client OTHER THAN than World of Warcraft? I can't think of any off the top of my head.

    I spent 5.5 years playing WoW and, frankly, I felt add-ons were the worst aspect of the game. Mods exist for everything, including making easy-mode macros for PVP so you don't even really have to try and the obligatory PVE raiding mods which remove surprise and skill almost completely by flooding the screen with warnings anywhere from 10 seconds to minutes before scripted events happen.

    Add-ons in World of Warcraft were the first, and biggest, imbalance in the game. If you wanted to PVP but didn't have serious mods, you were already at a disadvantage. If you wanted to PVE but wouldn't roll with CTRaid (back in the day), Omen, Recount, and DeadlyBossMods (or BigWigs) *AT MINIMUM*, no raiding guild, not even the wannabe hardcore guys, would take you.

    While I enjoyed the game, I hated the reliance on add-ons in WoW. Is it wrong to believe we should all be given the same data at the same time, including the same interface, so the core playing field, the client, is even? I don't think so.
  • It feels good to have some of my own pros and cons about this game backed up like this, to know other people share my own excitements and questions and concerns about Rift. I really enjoyed this article.

  • i have been playing since open beta up until an hour ago when i logged off and i have to say, it is by far my favorite MMO of all time. even the olf SWG or vanilla WoW can't compete.

  • Good not-review Adam, you talked me into coming off my MMO hiatus to give this game a shot.  The class system sounds really intriguing and it sounds like it has some of the qualities of WAR and WoW that I liked. Looking forward to spending my spring break indoors lol.

  • Great article.  I'm still on the fence about this though.  Conan and Warhammer really left me scarred.  I'd have definitely been sold by this "not a review," otherwise, though.  I guess I'll just have to tough it out for a while, and see how it stands up to the test of time.

  • This might keep me busy until Guild Wars 2 comes out.

    I'll wait until the full coverage.

  • This article will make me give the game an actual chance. Thanks. My friends can stop bugging me now.

  • Great Article and I pretty much agree with everything you said. I do not know how they are going to keep the lower level area populated as the dynamic content really does make the leveling.

    Not much is known about the higher level rifts at this point, but from what I've heard around the rumor mill is that there will be truly "raid level" type rift content that groups will be able to open.

    5 mans have a progressive tier system. IF memory server I think there are 3 tiers that get progressively harder with progressively better loot.there is one 20 man raid. As far As I know 1 boss has been killed so far and from the talk from the guild that downed it is that "we won't be clearing this in a few weeks, there is no way".

    So I'm fairly optimistic about endgame. There seems to be a lot of choices for small and larger group play.

  • i'm a pally/champion/voidknight which i think is a fast, strong, shielded, self healing, magic absorber. in other words... IT'S A MAGE KILLER BABY

  • It won't let me get past page 3 then i reloaded the article and wont let me past page one!

  • Ive loved WoW since it came out but after wrath and Cata its gotten stale. It feels like its being dumb down and making it more easier for a more casual audience, now thats fine Blizz just wants more players and money but just cause people b*tch and moan about difficulty with new dungeons blizz has nerfd things quite a bit. People wants to just AoE everthing instead of planning and working together, least the majoraty do now a days. Rift seems to be a promising MMO so cant wait to try it out for a bit.
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