Rift - First Impressions
As some of you may know, I'm a pretty big MMORPG gamer. What's an MMORPG? An MMORPG is a massive multiplayer online role playing game. Think World of Warcraft and you'll understand. Basically any game where you have a bunch of people simultaneously playing and "living" in a world performing actions that both shape it and build upon it, be it economy, dungeons, socially, etc. It's a fascinating thing to experience a living breathing MMO and one thing I have really come to enjoy over the year is playing MMO's early in their life. Since the new computer I had built came last Friday and the early start preorder for Rift began the previous day, I figured this would be the perfect game to test out the new rig while also testing out a new world. Read on to see how I fared in Rift.
You wouldn't be far off to say that Rift is similar to World of Warcraft. But, in the same vein, you wouldn't be far off if you said it was nothing like it. That's just the nature of MMO's. Sure, they share a lot in common, but you often have to look at the defining features and how they differentiate themselves from the pack to really get a feel for what is being offered. So, let's get the similarities to other games out of the way first. Rift is an MMO where lots of people play simulatenously, questing, chatting, killing monsters for loot and experience to get to higher levels. Their's mounts, a mail system, an auction house, the whole nine yards. Everything you'd expect to be present in a next gen MMO is there. This is pretty standard stuff nowadays though (unless of course you're FFXIV...ouch.)
The story of Rift is actually pretty decent from the get go. You create a character from one of two sides, the Guardians or the Defiants. I picked Guardian so I can't speak to the Defiant storyline, but in a nutshell the Guardian storyline involved you partaking in a war, dying, and then being brought back to life by the gods as their chosen warrior. In the training missions you'll fight the war to it's conclusion and then be transported 20 years into the future where you are awoken by the gods to once again bring peace to the land. It's a near concept, but it sounds more epic that it really is. Although, I did find myself anticipating story quests to find out what was going on. It's pretty solid overall, but nothing amazing yet. Then again, I'm still early in the game.
Like all MMO's, you're going to need to create a class to get started. This is one of the ways in which Rift shines apart from the other MMO's like it. When creating your character, you have to pick one of four classes - a warrior, a mage, a rogue, or a cleric. This is a final choice and it dictates how your character will progress, so make sure you choose wisely. After this, you enter the game and are immediately told to pick a sort of sub class. For instance, I picked a warrior for my character and then in game I chose to be a Beastmaster warrior. A beastmaster has an animal companion who fights at his side and they work off each others strengths in battle. I believe there are 8 total you could choose from up front for your first class. After a couple quests, you are given the choice to unlock another sub class. This is where you are introduced to how the class sytem works in Rift. In Rift, you choose 3 subclasses and then mix and match the skills you want between the three to make up whatever type of character you want. Honestly, in my opinion, this is brilliant. In other games, you are given a predefined character that you can grow with some options, but not many to how they will turn out. In Rift, the options are multiplied by 3. This really allows the player to create a unique class that is suited to their unique playstyles. You can also unlock additional sub-classes and then mix and match which ones you use on the fly. It really creates a truly dynamic experience that I think will allow for some amazing player builds.
Just like in other MMO's, you are going to level your character by doing quests and dungeons all the while picking up loot and grinding to the higher levels. That's pretty standard fare for MMO's nowadays. What Rift brings new to this genre, is it's namesake, rifts. Rifts are world events (meaning they happen out in the open, not in instanced dungeons) that pop up out of nowhere. The sky opens up and demons or elementals come pouring out wreaking havoc across the land. You need to team up with other people in the immediate vicinity (or call friends in to help) and fight back to the invaders and close the rift. What happens if you don't? Well, the world changes. The enemies will take over your towns, kill quest givers (meaning you can't turn stuff in), and make life all the more difficult until you quell their forces. So far, this has been a resounding success. When you hear the war drums pounding and the rift logos lighting up on the world map, people flock to the location to participate in the battle. Rewards are given based on participation and everyone seems to work together well (at least in the early going ons). I have seen some events that went completely awry and towns were taken over and players had to strategize to take them back. That was truly epic.
While I covered the bigger things in the game I experienced, there are also some smaller things that really stuck out. Like other popular MMO's out there, Rift has an achievement system. If that's your thing, it's here. There are also collection items that you can find in the world that allow you to pick up and learn more about the history of the zone, races, and wars going on in the Rift universe. Crafting professions are pretty solid although I have to admit, I haven't done as much with them as I had hoped. You don't need to buy equipment to do them though and you can have three at any given time.
So, the big question - will Rift be around a year from now or is it another MMO that will fall victim to the behemoth of WoW. I can't answer that. My guess is that yes it will still be around but it really comes down to the player base. There's enough here to keep players invested and playing for a while, that's for sure. With the game officially releasing yesterday, the servers were full to the brim so it looks like Trion are keeping busy making things enjoyable for everyone on release. I heard of no release day issues and everyone seemed to be handling things well. So, if you are an early adopter to MMO's, you should come right in and enjoy the newest next gen MMO on the market that really is a great game. If you are a little hesitant, then wait a little and see where it goes. With more and more people logging hours into the game, you'll get a feel for how people warm up to the game and if it has a long shelf life. So far though, the game has been pretty good at keeping my attention.