forum_user's Rift: Planes of Telara (PC) review

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A Great Game, Just Don't Expect a Revolution

(This was originally a forum post I made, but it was suggested that I post it in reviews, so while I don't necessarily consider this up to "review" standards, here it is.)
Rift is very good.  Just don't expect it to be anything revolutionary.  People who don't like World of Warcraft's general gameplay mechanics won't like it.  I guess that should just be said right off the bat.  It's a lot like WoW.  Some people kid themselves about this, but I will not.  Whether that's good or bad is up to the individual.  That said, I quit WoW a very long time ago out of boredom (after I had played a lot of it, although it was nothing compared to how long many others have played it) and I'm really enjoying Rift.  For what it's worth, solo content is not as ridiculously easy as what WoW has become, but on the other hand, people are saying that Rift's current endgame is a lot easier (and naturally there is less content right now).   People who stuck with WoW for all these years might wonder what the sense in leaving all of their WoW buddies for this game is.   It is also very linear at present, but there are only four classes (more on that in a moment) and there are two factions that each have different quests from each other, so it's not really as big a deal as some people make it out to be if the issue is playing alts.  Personally, I don't really mind linearity in a MMO's quest progression and I even welcome it, but that's just me.
The game has some of the best graphics I've seen in a fantasy MMORPG, provided that your computer and, of course, especially your graphics card are relatively new.  They did throw a "low quality rendering" mode in there for people who - I'm just going to come out and say - probably do not regularly play new games on the PC, but in that mode the game looks kind of bad.  I don't think graphics are nearly the most important thing in a game, but they are generally the most immediately noticeable thing, so I figured I might as well get the obvious part out of the way.   Some people gripe about some of the animations, but I think they're just looking for things to gripe about or something, or maybe it's just that I'm using the genre's standards as a baseline rather than games as a whole.
One of my favorite things about the game is the skill system.  There are 4 callings (classes that you choose from, which are permanent), but that is misleading, as each one of them has a myriad of options within that broad archetype.  Each one can equip 3 souls (skill sets) out of 8.  The way this works is that you are given one point every level and an additional point every 3 levels (meaning that you necessarily have points to spend on at least a second soul since you are limited by level to how many you have in one), and you spend these on talents, and the more points you spend on talents for that particular soul, the more skills from that soul you end up with.  The upper tier skills in a soul have a tendency to be cool-things-with-longer-than-usual-cooldowns rather than core abilities.   This means you can make a character that is extremely focused on getting the most benefit out of one skill set, or you can have more of a "toolbox" approach.  For example, you can have a character with a mage calling dedicated almost entirely to the pyromancer soul (straight forward damage, of course, but with some other goodies thrown in), or to the dominator soul (crowd control, messing with enemy spells, etc.), or you can split your points between chloromancer (healing, although most of the healing souls belong to the cleric calling) and necromancer (kind of a jack-of-all-trades soul, includes one of three types of pets, of course) and archon (party buffs / enemy debuffs).  Some soul combinations are probably a bad idea no matter how you slice it, though.  Sticking with the mage calling, the most obvious is that elementalist does not combine well with necromancer since each one has a pet that they are balanced around, but you can only have one pet at a time.  Finally, even if you put zero points into your third soul, you still get a couple of abilities from it, but only some of these are useful without focusing on the soul in question.  (Dominator with its transmogrify (polymorph in WoW-speak) probably has the best zero point ability out of the mage souls.)
You are not committed to your build.  You can visit your trainer at any time and reset everything for a relatively small fee that is based only on your character's level.  You also can buy three additional specs (called roles), and you can swap between them any time you are not in combat.  Yes, that means you can completely change how your character plays even in the middle of an instance, so long as you are not currently in combat.  (This will also remove any buffs you cast on anyone, and other such things.)
Okay, that's the short version of the class system just using the mage as an example.  How about the core gameplay?  Well, like I said, if you never liked WoW, odds are you won't like Rift.  It's pretty standard stuff.  You go to some guys with exclamation marks over their heads.  They give you quests to kill or collect things, usually not too far away.  You turn these in and they either give you some more quests for the area near them or they send you to the next area.  That said, there are overarching story arcs, and many characters show up repeatedly at different quest hubs all the way throughout the game.  There are also some generally more interesting "story" quests (labeled as such in your quest log), but at the end of the day, it's a MMORPG and killing mobs is the name of the game, regardless of what is tacked onto it.  You either like it, used to like it but can't take any more of it, or you never liked it.   The game can be challenging, but never very punishing when you fail.  It's not the hardest game by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not a total pushover either.
Of course, it would be silly not to mention the namesake of the game: rifts.  Rifts are gates to one of six planes:  earth, air, water, fire, life, or death.  They have much to do with the game's story, although sometimes it seems a bit shoehorned in.  (On the other hand, some of the best story content I've seen has been tied to these other planes.)  Mechanically, they are things that seemingly randomly show up in the game world.  Enemies come from them.  Defeating all of the rift enemies where the rift is seals it.   There are different kinds.  Minor rifts are a pushover.  They can be soloed.  Major rifts require a group (or someone overleveled for the area).  Occasionally there are invasions where rifts pop up all across a zone and this starts a zone-wide event that, if finished by players without failing, causes a boss to spawn.  I am told that these events scale with the number of players in the zone, and that certainly seems to be the case.  Rifts and invasions generally reward currency that can be used to buy some pretty spiffy gear, and some other minor items besides.  When other players are around during these things, a big "Join Public Group" button will appear on the top of the screen (provided they did not set their group to invite only), allowing easy formation of raid groups on the fly.
The endgame is dungeons and PvP.  There are also "expert rifts" which apparently cost money or something.  I'm not there yet.  I'm told the endgame dungeons are easy.  They already patched them to be more difficult.   Apparently they are still easy.  I have seen quite a few wipes on (non-endgame) dungeon bosses, personally, but we've always gotten through it eventually.  More content is of course promised to be in the works.
Well, there are lots of little things I left out, but that's the abridged version of the game.
Looking for a revolution?  Look elsewhere.  Looking a game with several expansions worth of content already?  Look elsewhere.   Looking for a game that is going to keep you satisfied for the next ten years of your life?  Maybe you have some issues to work out or something.  Looking for a game that refines what is already out there, and adds some of its own unique touches?  Look no further.

Posted by Karkarov

Great opening, this game was billed as being some revolutionary step for MMO's but it is anything but.  Outside of the class system anyone who has reasonable experience with MMO's has already seen everything it has to offer.  Including the rifts which are just glorified Warhammer PQ's.  You can sign me up for thinking the character animations suck too, can't see how anyone can like them.  Go try Age of Conan or FF14 if you want to really see graphics done right in an MMO because both of them visually look superior to Rift save maybe lighting effects.

Posted by CJduke

Nice review this game sounds badass.

Posted by Forum_User
@Karkarov:  Well, I guess FF XIV did one thing right, at least.   (I've never tried it myself.  There's no trial and I'm not about to buy it after all I've read about it.)  Perhaps AoC has better graphics if money is no object, but in any case they seem to be terribly optimized.  I guess I could put it this way:  The settings in Age of Conan at which I get the game running at a good frame rate look considerably worse than settings at which I get the same frame rate in Rift, and I can get both running at a decent frame rate.  (Graphics aside, I also just don't really care for the game, based on my admittedly very short time with it.)
Posted by DragonBloodthirsty

I saw this game on Steam; I wondered if it would fit me.  I'm no fan of WoW, so I'll look elsewhere.  Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by Karkarov
@Forum_User said:
You need a powerful machine to get the most out of both I guess but my tanking spec warrior in Rift moves like he has a pole up his ass.  In AoC I could stab a dude in his foot, shield slam him in the face twice, then would lean forward and push him over with one finger in one fluid attack as a high level tank.  FF14 I won't even go into it, it is easily the best looking mmo I have ever played and I lost count of how many I have played a long time ago.
Posted by Taipans

Spot on review - I am having fun playing it at the moment as its something new and shiny. Plus everything feels pretty good, I only hope Trion can release updates and more content fairly quickly to keep everyone's interest.

Posted by Levio

I want to add that this game has an artifact-collecting minigame thats a ton of fun (for me at least).  Each zone has a ton of these little collectibles that are each part of a set, and completing the set gives small but decent rewards.  Its not that important gameplay-wise but it's REALLY AWESOME to be rewarded for exploration of little hidden areas in an MMO, which is surprisingly rare in the genre.
Also, the achievement system is trimmed down to only achievements that are either core to the game or just fun in general, which I think is better than WoW's semi-bloated achievement set of ~1800.

Posted by NathHaw

I'm enjoying the game so far.  It isn't as good as WoW, but what is as far as MMOs?  Nevertheless, I've kinda wanted a change from WoW for a little while considering I've played it since Feb. '05.  RIFT has taken some notes from WoW, and that's good; it also has taken quite a few inspirations from Warhammer.  It's the first fantasy MMO I've actually kinda liked since WoW.  I play EVE too, but that's a whole different kinda thing.  If anybody is playing WoW, but starting to get bored with it and wants a game that's similar, I'd recommend RIFT.

Posted by makari

Probably the best example of a recent polished MMO that remains at a stable clip to its level cap. Balance issues and a kind-of-badly-tuned endgame aside, you could do worse than buying the box and at least sticking around for the free month, which is more than can be said of some games.

Posted by JustKamToo

I’m having a lot of fun with this Rift. I’m mostly taking on rifts and invasions and finding the whole experience really fun. Even though they had issues early on with exploits on rift contribution they seemed to have worked this out and people are giving their all. 
I’ve found the invasion/rift loot system is great no longer will you worry about ninja looting as you are given loot based on your contribution to the whole fight. 
Hoping the community will improve when the wow tourist leave at the end of the first month or two.

Posted by michaelfossbakk

Nice review. My relationship with WoW is based on the fact of whether my friends are playing or not. If they are not playing, then neither am I (Also, I didn't care for Wrath of the Lich King and college has pulled me away from Cata). Not gonna pick this one up as I am waiting for Guild Wars 2.

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