When Trion Worlds chose to use the slogan“We’re not in Azeroth anymore” to market their new MMO Rift, they knew what they were doing. You don’t throw down for a battle with the world’s most popular MMO unless you have a few tricks up your sleeve. And boy, does Rift know how to do some fancy tricks.
People are calling it “the WoW killer”, and the general consensus around the community is that it's shovelling dirt onto WoW’s grave as we speak. With Cataclysm driving many casual players away from the World of Warcraft franchise, Trion Worlds couldn’t have picked a better time to release this game. I’ve sunk 45 blissful hours into it so far, and now I get to tell you guys what I’ve thought of it.
My first experience with an MMO was almost four years ago now. I’d bought a season of South Park that included a free trial of World of Warcraft. To silence the inner nerd within, I installed it on my laptop, spent about eight hours patching it and then started playing. And I fell in love.
The game was so easily addictive and so easy to get into. Though I had pretty much no idea what I was doing until about a month later, I was having the time of my life. Before my ten days were up I purchased the full game along with Burning Crusade and set off on my journey through Azeroth.
I remained loyal to WoW through the Burning Crusade, though I was too low of a level to enjoy any of the end game content. By the time I was of level, Wrath of the Lich King had come out, and I moved straight onto that.
My level 80 mage and I had some very fond memories over the years. Like the time I got lost in Undercity, my raid on the alliance cities and of course; the devastating realisation that Mankrik’s wife was, in fact, dead. (I’m not joking. The first time I did that quest I honestly thought I’d find her alive, and when she wasn’t I was actually quite sad for poor old Mankrik).
Because I have such fond memories of Azeroth, when I found out that the whole point of Cataclysm was to destroy it, I found myself quite turned off. Sure, I had the odd urge to resubscribe every now and again (who doesn’t?) but the thought of seeing my little world torn to pieces wasn’t appealing. And so I didn’t go back when it came out, I haven’t gone back yet, and I don’t think I ever will. Especially now that I have Rift.
In Rift, you are an Ascended, sent to save the world of Telara from rifts, evil dragon kings, enemy invasions and a plethora of other things. In the opening of the game you are transported to a world in the middle of a war. Everything is hectic, and the very earth is blowing up around you. The future is beyond hope, and thus you are sent into the past to save Telara from the devastating rifts that seek to destroy everything we know.
What I Like
The character creation screen is surprisingly in depth for an MMO. Finally, my characters won’t all look the same! Firstly you are asked to choose a faction; Guardian or Defiant, and then choose a race. Each faction has three different races; the Guardians have High Elves, Dwarves, and Mathosians (the “humans” of the faction) and Defiants have the Eth (the “humans”) the Kelari (the dark elves) and the Bahmi (the huge, funny coloured humans).
Classes in Rift use the ‘soul system’. During character creation you pick whether you’re going to be a Warrior, Rogue, Mage or Cleric, and then in game you get to customise these roles even more. Within each class are eight different ‘souls’. For example, if you decide to pick Rogue as your class, you have the soul options of bard, assassin, ranger, saboteur etc. Being able to choose three different builds means variety. It means having three mages in your party is no longer a bad thing, because chances are they all have very different strengths and weaknesses.
Another plus about the soul system is that each class now has the option to heal themselves. The beauty of this is that if you’re questing alone you no longer need to worry about having your ass kicked. Bards can play tunes to bring their health back up, warriors have the option of being paladins, clerics have pretty much every option under the sun, and even mages have a healing soul they can choose if they so wish.
This game is quite graphics heavy, but if you have a PC that can run it with everything on full, it’s worth it, because the world is gorgeous. I upgraded my graphics card simply so I could see Telara in all its splendour, and I’m not regretting it. However, even before upgrading my card the game ran quite smoothly if I had everything on low. Also, playing with everything on the lowest settings doesn’t make the game look awful either. Sure the details aren’t as crisp, but it’s not like you’re running around in a blurred blob of a world.
I can’t write anything about Rift and not mention the rifts. Rifts are tears in the plane that randomly occur in the world. When you enter one you are given criteria to meet before you can advance to the next stage of the rift. Criteria is simple, and often consists of ‘kill x amount of these creatures’ or ‘defeat this boss’. When you fulfil the criteria for the last stage of the rift it becomes sealed, and you get to reap your rewards. Commonly rifts reward players in planarite, which is traded to vendors for gear or items; however they can also award artefacts and other random goodies.
If you have a decent group of people, rifts are a fun way to gather planarite and experience points. However, that being said, rifts can also be incredibly annoying. When they open on top of you and you get ganked, it sucks. When a quest item you need is right in the middle of one, it sucks. When you log in to find your camp overrun by monsters, it sucks. Still, they’re something new in an MMO, and you get used to avoiding them when you need to.
What I Don’t Like
In this game I play a character on both factions; Guardian and Defiant. In the Guardian world I have fought fawns, faeries, treants and humanoids, and loved it. The world is beautiful and green and the accompanying soundtrack is peaceful and relaxing. It’s the kind of world I love to quest in, as even when I’m getting my ass kicked, I can still appreciate how lovely the thing killing me looks.
The Defiants on the other hand, have their stories closely tied to the undead. So you end up fighting skeletons, ghosts, zombies and the like constantly. Just when you think you’ve moved on to a different sort of enemy they drag you straight bag down to a crypt. I’m not a fan of the undead, but even if I was I think I’d be sick of killing them by now anyway. However there are brief periods where they aren’t seen, and this is a welcome change. Plus the Defiants half of the map is still an interesting place to be in, even if it is surrounded by dead people.
Constant server maintenance
Every single night that I have played this game the servers have gone down for “brief updates”. Now I understand that this is a brand new MMO, and the fact that Trion Worlds is going to the effort to fix issues daily is a good thing. However it’s still annoying when you just start an epic story quest and get told that the servers are going down. The longest period of downtime I’ve seen has been 2 hours, whilst the shortest has been 15 minutes. Fortunately this seems to happen late at night, between the hours of 1-3am Aussie time and 5-8am server time, so it could be worse. And everybody seems to love the sound that chimes every time the server makes an announcement. There’s something just so happy about that dinging sound. I can’t explain it, but I really like it.
Every so often Telara will be invaded by someone. Depending on who and where you are, the invading forces differ. Sometimes it’ll be trolls, sometimes it’ll be undead (surprise surprise), sometimes it’ll be fire elementals or even the opposing faction. When invasions occur it is up to everybody to band together and defeat the invaders, lest they overrun the area. Unfortunately, this doesn't always go to plan. Sometimes people just can’t be bothered protecting Telara, instead opting to quest or run instances. Of course, this means the invaders win, and take over everything. Camps get wiped out, NPC’s die and merchants and quest givers disappear completely. Today I spent 15 minutes watching an invading mob kill the person I needed to turn a quest into over and over again. And there was nothing I could do, because five elites versus one little rogue equals death in any circumstances. If everybody had put as much effort intodefeating the invasions as they were avoiding them, they would have been beaten in a jiffy. But I guess you can’t have everything.
The Little Things...
- Currency: 100 silvers make a gold, 100 gold make a platinum, 100 platinim makes you rich.
- When my character runs she breathes heavy. When she’s close to dying I can hear her heartbeat. When it’s raining, her clothes darken to show me that she’s wet. When she’s stunned, she sees double and everything slows down. It’s a nice touch.
- Artefacts are collectible items around the world. Find all the artefacts in a set and get a lucky coin. Get enough lucky coins and trade them in for companions and pets.
- Guilds have quests to complete now, and each successfully completed guild quest raises the guild a level, entitling it to cool perks.
- Communication channels include the regular Area, Guild, Trade etc, but Level channels have also been introduced, which is especially handy when recruiting for instances or asking for help with a quest.
Is it worth it?
I told a friend of mine the other night “If you played WoW and hated it, you’ll play Rift and bear it. If you played WoW and loved it, you’ll enjoy Rift even more. If you’ve never played WoW, I’d suggest waiting for a free trial before spending any money on it.” And that’s how my opinion stands. I never thought anything would replace WoW, but Rift has definitely done that for me. Even without comparing it to something else it is a brilliant game by its own merits. It brings unique gameplay aspects into a creative, living world, providing us with interesting quests and places to see along the way. Rift is definitely marked on my list of successes for 2011