After a long struggle, Strategy Informer emerges from the Rift to give you its verdict
So, two weeks and many a level later, we're finally ready to give you our definitive verdict on Trion's new MMORPG - RIFT. If you haven't been keeping up with the coverage, RIFT is, at first glance, a fantasy MMO with all the standard trimmings, but it throws in subtle extra elements and experiments with newer gameplay features to craft an experience that is both familar and unique.
A lot of the details of the game can be found in the pre-review we did when we first started, so this is more of a narrative as to how the game plays out - to which I say it plays out very good. One of the key aspects of an MMO, we feel, is pacing. RIFT’s pace is exceptional throughout the first 15 levels or so. The starting areas are well craft and unique, expertly introducing you to the basic elements of the game as well as establishing the world and why you’re in it. What’s especially good here is that each of the two factions - the Guardians and the Defiant, have different justifications for the players presence in the world. The Defiants send you back in time in order to try and stop the cataclysm that’s about to consume them, and the Guardian players are resurrected heroes from an earlier battle against Regulos, who want also want to try and save the world from a future they’ve seen.
You don't have to go seal a Rift, but there are consequences for leaving them...
As you come out of these starting areas and into the main world, you’re quickly ushered from one area to the next, never lingering too long in one place. Couple of quests, some exploring, moving on, rinse and repeat. What few gameplay elements you haven’t had a chance to experience yet, you’re quickly introduce too, and before you know it you’ve carved your way from one side of the map to the other, you’re level 15, and you’re finally approaching the steps of your faction’s central hub. Things get a bit unstable for a level or too as you’re hit with several new types of quests, some which require you to go back on yourself, but there is a very natural A to B flow that’s rather nice to follow.
The soul-system adds a refreshing degree of diversity and customization to combat, although combat itself is nothing special and can even a little try at still. Still, the ability to instantly re-spec and change the entire dynamic of your character at little cost really saves the day here. The only criticism we can level against it could be more guidance as to the individual souls themselves, and how they're used, but MMO veterans shouldn't have any problem trying out different combinations.
It might not be Aion's level of pretty, but it's still good
It’s really the Rifts themselves that does this game justice however. We touched on these in the preview, but it’s not until you get into the world of Telara and experience them for yourselves to realise how well they complement the core MMO gameplay. You could be plodding along on your way to your next quest location, when suddenly the sky rips open and zombies are trying to eat your face. You band together with whoever’s about and you defeat this incursion, getting ample rewards for your effort. But these are more than just a casual thing - with potential Rifts opening up anywhere within a given zone, you could literally just spend a session ‘Rift-hunting’. Sure, the reward in terms of XP is little better than grinding, but since there’s a purpose, it’s not really noticeable.
Things can escalate as well, from Rift’s, there are mob invasions which can set up footholds - even by taking over a quest hub which you’ll need to take back. Full scale invasions, with multiple rifts and dozens of mob groups happen several times a day, which take REAL coordination in order to hold back. Trion’s casual approach to grouping as well comes in to play quite nicely here. Whilst there’s the standard guild mechanic, and of course you can just party up with friends - if you’re billy no-mates like me, but need help sealing a rift, the ‘public grouping’ system allows you to causal band together, share the rewards, and then simply drop out again and be on your way. Think of it like a one-night stand, just with even less talking.
As we’ve mentioned before, there’s a whole host of different things that you can get to grips with here, but we’re not just talking about Quests, RIFTS, or even standard things like PvP and crafting. Collectibles form a surprisingly significant part of the game, and actually provide an incentive to explore all the nooks and crannies that, in other MMO’s are really just there for show. There are countless artefact ‘sets’ that you can find items from lying about Telara, and as you complete sets, you can turn them in for rewards and special currency that allows you to but special items. There is also a separate space for lore books, for those interested in that, and you can find collectable books scattered around Telara.
This happy chappy is the first Dungeon Boss you'll come across
It’s not all perfect though, sadly. There is a slight sense that Trion have tried to do too many things at once. Quests, especially when you get to the 20+ areas, become a bit too generic for our liking, and the excellent pacing which kept us enthralled for the first 15 - 20 levels or so seems to slack a bit. Ancillary areas like crafting and PvP also seem to lack the experimental feel that the rest of the game has, and even the dungeons can seem a bit uninspired sometimes. And for all its pushing, the generic fantasy setting - even with its steampunk twists and elemental turns - may not inspire those who are getting a little tired of high-fantasy.
In all honesty though, this is a surprisingly strong launch for a new fantasy MMO. Guild Wars 2 And The Old Republic better hurry along if they want to deliver that innovation they keep promising us, because it seems RIFT already has the jump on them. There's so much here to get to grips with, and it can only get better as Trion already have plans for what they'll do post release. Whether you’re an MMO veteran looking for your next fix, or if you're a newbie looking to expand tour horizons and jump into the genre for the first time, RIFT is an excellent place to start. Just remember - we're not in Azeroth anymore.
In all honesty though, this is a surprisingly strong launch for a new fantasy MMO. Guild Wars 2 And The Old Republic better hurry along if they want to deliver that innovation they keep promising us, because it seems RIFT already has the jump on them. There’s so much here to get to grips with, and it can only get better as Trion already have plans for what they’ll do post release. Whether you’re an MMO veteran looking for your next fix, or if you’re a newbie looking to expand tour horizons and jump into the genre for the first time, RIFT is an excellent place to start. Just remember - we’re not in Azeroth anymore.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Banding together to resist invasion in the zone events are immensely satisfying.