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Rift Review

publisher: Trion Worlds
developer: Trion Worlds
genre: MMORPG

ESRB rating: T

release date: Mar 01, 11
» All About Rift on ActionTrip

The sky is being rent in two. As I watch, the terrain behind and around this latest tear between the planes, is warped and twisted as other worldly forces power open a door way into my reality. With a crack of thunder, the gate is stabilized and forces from beyond make their way into this world, attacking man and beast, friend and foe alike, never once pausing to consider if those they hew down are civilian or part of the armies marshaled to repel them. This time it's forces from the plane of Death that is encroaching. Yesterday it was the plane of Fire. Before that it was one of the eight planar invaders who are trying to tear my world apart. I am an Ascended, created specifically to save Telara from the evil that tears its way into this reality so it can destroy everything. In the end, it really does not matter where they come from. All that does matter is that they keep coming. My hastily formed team is focused on dispatching these invaders and sealing this rift from another place. As the battle rages, I heal my allies; warriors, wizards and rogues, each one unique in their own way, as wave after wave of increasingly stronger and stronger enemies appear around us. Our group is being pushed back. I hear a strangled cry as one of our warriors falls to the ground. I am running out of mana but I am trying desperately to keep those who are still with us on their feet. With a howl of wind and another crack of thunder, the battlefield is bathed by columns of light as yet more foes appear, stronger and more vicious than the last. I am not sure how much longer we can hold them back.

Such is a typical scene in Rift from Trion Worlds, the latest offering in an already crowded Massively Multiplayer Online environment. As a brand new player, Rift is not a title that most jaded gamers would have counted on for giving the reigning MMO king, World of Warcraft, a run for its money (and its subscribers). However, I have been playing Rift since its launch date a few weeks ago and have found a surprisingly solid, deeply engaging and wildly entertaining MMO. At the outset I need to make a couple of things clear. First, I have played quite a few MMOs over the past 12 years. Some I have not played beyond the first 30 days subscription included with the purchase. Others (including WoW) I played for several years until growing tired of the game and feeling like I had experienced everything they had to offer. This does NOT mean I am a certified hard core player, logging multiple hours online every night of the week, when it comes to MMO's. Rather it is meant to explain I have played enough of them to know what I like and to identify rather quickly if I will be subscribing when the first thirty days are up.

Second, there is going to be a lot of comparison of Rift to WoW. This is a not by accident. One can only assume that Trion Worlds is a company that is smart enough to not try change for change's sake alone or try to fix something that isn't broke, and know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery along with any other clich' you can think of that tries to point out that Rift and WoW play a lot alike. And frankly, who can blame them for trying to emulate a product that has been the best in its genre for almost 8 years now? Both games have two sides that are striving for the same goal that forces them into the conflict with each other. Both games are fantasy based, featuring warriors, wizards, rogues and clerics classes. Each game allows the players to customize their characters to their players liking (more on this in a minute). Both games have guilds, crafting, banks, auction houses, player mounts, player achievements, the ability to accrue rest when logging out in large cities to allow for quicker experience point accumulation, quest givers that move players along to new, visually unique areas with creatures to fight, instanced dungeons to explore and contested zones where both sides can clash while trying to gain experience and finish quests. PvP battle grounds are available for the players that are looking to challenge each other and earn points that can be redeemed for better gear and bragging rights.

There are in fact, so many similarities between Rift and WoW it is probably easier to point out the things that set Rift apart. The first thing players will notice is the vast difference of graphical style. Rift opts for a much higher detail, 'realistic' style that can push high end PCs to their breaking point if ultra high settings are used. Interestingly enough, turning down the graphic settings results in an environment that is not as realistic and kind of reminded me of WoW when I first start playing years ago. Rift also features a number of ways to customize your play screen in the default game that were only available via mods in WoW until much later following its release. These include the ability to customize the layout of your screen, Quest logging and tracking, item comparison the ability to modify your screen layout from the setup screen. You can also create macros to automate strings of repeated commands. While these customizations are not as deep as the mods currently available from the WoW community, these tools available at the launch of a game does certainly make a big difference in helping you create the kind of interface that works for you. I am looking forward to see if the mod community is going to run with the customizations for Rift as they did with WoW.

Characters creation starts out with one of three races, depending on which faction you selected, and then choose a base class, Warrior, Rogue, Mage or Cleric. From there you get to customize the look of your character in a manner that you would expect from any MMO today. You are offered detailed customization control over the character's body, hair styles and other distinguishing features. Once the cosmetic makeover is complete you take control of your newly created character in a newbie zone that gives you background on the faction you chose and their motives. This starting zone also serves as a tutorial for how to play the game and interact with the environment. It appears that one of Trion Worlds' main goals was to ease the player into the Rift world, exposing them to and teaching them one new gaming concept to the next without overwhelming them.

To make that point, you are introduced to one of the largest difference between WoW and Rift as you begin customizing your character class. Regardless of which faction you go with, Defiant or Guardian, you play the role of an Ascended: A hero that has been created specifically to combat the evil force that is trying to conquer Telara. As an Ascended, you channel the souls of fallen heroes into your character to build and play it the way you think is best. You choose the first of three 'souls' from a list of 8 sub classes that are classified as either offensive or defensive. While that may sound over whelming, Trion takes some of the complexity out of the situation by offering concise yet detailed explanations of each soul. If that is not enough, they also offer suggestions to what other two souls complement your current selection. You can either take the combination suggestions or mix things up and try a creation all of your own. By the time you move through the starting zone, you have picked out all 3 of your souls and you begin assigning skill points you are granted each time you level.

To take the customization even further, you can choose to spread your skill points any way you wish; even if that means focusing on only one. Finally, to further mix things up, you can have up to 4 roles of 3 separate soul combinations. With a press of the button you can switch things up and have your character fulfill radically different roles. You can have cleric that is a pure healer, or an offensive power house or a mix between the two. This feature seems to be targeted specifically at WoW players who sometimes find that their current spec does not quit fit the bill for the task at hand and have to find a trainer to redo their build. This also allows the players to solo on a class that typically plays a supporting role.

That is not to say that this ability keeps everyone in their own little world, refusing to group. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to the Rifts that pop up all over the zones without warning, players join public raids with a push of the button when they get with range of one of these instances. Making it easy to join a public raid is made even more temping once the player learns that the more they contribute, the greater their reward. Rewards can come in the form of loot drops like potions, unique armor and weapons, planar items to augment your stats, experience points and special currency that can be redeemed for more powerful weapons and gear. Sometimes a full on assault is waged by the invaders that translates to a multiple step quest, typically closing multiple Rifts and defeating a specific number of invaders within a set period of time and culminating with the defeat of an epic boss is taken out, the rewards and experience are doled out to each player. Each player is free to bail at any step along the way but the longer you stay in and the more you contribute, larger your reward. It's a simple system that offers players the choice to play the way they wish.

For all the things Rift has gotten right at launch, there are of course a few issues. First, even though the game has an epic story with lore, NPCs who are key players in the plot and a good deal of story quests to move thing along, it so far is not compelling enough to me to really care about it. I mean, I took the quests, fulfilled the requirements but I never felt the need to actually read the majority of the plot points. Which is a bit sad as it's clear that Trion Worlds has put a great deal of background into the world. However for me, and I am sure a majority of other players out there, it doesn't really matter. While this may not matter much to the common player while they are questing, it does make me wonder about how (or if) this will affect the longevity of the game.

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9.0   Excellent

Great graphics, solid launch with a surprisingly complete list of features that MMO players expect to see in a game, interesting Soul and Role system allows players to tailor their character to their play style, and public raids actually work;

End game content may not be enough to keep the long term, hard core player happy, small list of items that has have yet to be fully implemented, WoW players may not find the brand new experience they are looking for.


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