Initial impressions of RIFT

2011-01-29 12:03

I play MMOs sometimes. I’ve been playing City of Heroes lately, and it’s lovely, but I sometimes want Internet Dragons. But, since Activision turned Blizzard evil, World of Warcraft hasn’t really been a viable option for me.

Enter a shiny new source of Internet Dragons, RIFT. I just heard about this yesterday; I’d never heard of it before that. Our friend Lory got into the beta and played it a bit, and reported that it was extremely fun. We talked about it a bit, and I went ahead and tried the beta. Yeah, it’s fun.

RIFT is going to get called a WoW clone. A lot. It has a lot of things that are eerily familiar to WoW players, including in some cases abilities that have similar icons, similar descriptions, and similar effects. It has a similar basic model in some ways. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “clone”. RIFT comes across, to me, as what would happen if a bunch of people who used to work on EQ and WoW got together and tried to take into account all the “if I’d known then what I know now…” issues.

The class and advancement system is fascinating, and basically matches the stuff I used to say I wanted WoW to do. You pick a basic “calling” (mage/cleric/rogue/warrior), and then you pick up to three “souls”. Each soul is roughly like a WoW talent tree, but in addition to the powers you directly spend points on, there’s a set of fixed powers that you get based on how many points you’ve spent in that tree. So, for instance, if you have spent 4 points in the Assassin tree, you get a stealth ability automatically.

What this means is that you can hand-tune the roles you want your character to play to a fairly significant degree; much more so than you could in WoW.

The user interface is, in general, slick and polished, and has clearly learned a lot of lessons from other games which had some or all of these features, but in general, it has improvements and more options, and that works quite well. Combat feels a fair bit like WoW, but with some improvements that will be more familiar to people used to other games; for instance, you can queue up another power to use after the current one completes long in advance, you don’t have to button-mash within a few milliseconds of the completion of the previous power.

Background and story are decent, and in particular, they get credit for some fairly slick exposition mechanics; you can just grab your quests and run, or you can ask more questions about things. I like this. PvP is more-optional; specifically, there’s a checkbox for whether to automatically get flagged when flagged players are affected by your buffs, or whether to just not affect them. I like that.

Everyone always asks whether a game will be a WoW-killer. No, it won’t, just as a matter of numbers. However, if you like WoW, but have sometimes wondered what it would be like to adventure in a fantasy world for five or ten minutes without seeing someone say “lol ur gay noob”, RIFT might be a good thing for you to look into. If you mostly like WoW, but the interface is full of mild irritations, you might find RIFT better. I know it will be my source for Internet Dragons for a while.

Peter Seebach

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