Trending Games | Marvel Heroes | Elder Scrolls Online | Star Wars: The Old Republic | ArcheAge

  Network:  FPSguru RTSguru
Login:  Password:   Remember?  
Show Quick Gamelist Jump to Random Game
Members:2,921,992 Users Online:0
Games:760  Posts:6,314,899

Show Blog

Link to this blogs RSS feed

BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Impressions - a Rift Beta 6 experience

Posted by BadSpock Tuesday February 8 2011 at 11:23AM
Login or Register to rate this blog post!

So I figured I'd do a follow up to my post-beta 5 impressions.

 
I will once again try and remain objective, though of course my own bias is nearly unavoidable. 
This will be another long post, but I will try and format and highlight the key points/scorings for easy skimming.
 
Graphics-
 
I'll say once again I have a very old PC. My newish Nvidia GT 430 really just doesn't have the horse-power to do this game justice. That being said, I ran this phase of beta on the lowest possible settings, the absolute minimums to maintain 30+ fps at a playable rate.
 
I experienced no graphical glitches or anomalies, yet without all the lighting and shadow effects etc. I probably wouldn't have noticed any engine-wise graphical issues anyway.
 
Verdict: Extremely playable if you meet the minimum requirements, but don't expect much.
Score - 8/10 for scalability.
 
Network-
 
Trion used this beta to try and bring their servers down, to see how much load they could really handle. I must say, that I am impressed.
 
Massive invasions did NOT bring the server I was playing on down (Lotham PvP) at least not when I was playing. I would get a slight decrease in FPS with some stuttering during massive events with anywhere from dozens to a hundred players on screen, but I do still strongly feel this was due to the general crappiness of my PC rather then their network code.
 
There were a handful of times during a large invasion when I was near the Defiant capital of Meridian that I would not be able to target a mob - I'd click on it, it'd highlight then un-highlight. I'd have to physically aggro the mob with proximity to get the targeting to "stick" and they'd occasional rubber-band to melee range on me.
 
Verdict: Very solid.
 
Score - 9/10 for playability, massive scale, consistent good performance.
 
Art Style-
 
Won't cover this one too much in depth. You either like it or you don't. It's fairly generic high fantasy with a heavy resemblance to Warhammer Online. Again I will say that their are flashes of brilliance in some of the characters/mobs/architecture or armor/weapon models.
 
Verdict: Like it or don't like it, too subjective really.
 
Score - 7/10 for lack of originality, however a style I personally enjoy due to the simplistic Medieval feel.
 
Story/Lore-
 
I quested enough throughout both the Defiant and Guardian style to get a better feel of the story. Reading through quest text, there is a strong narrative that drives the otherwise mundane quests. The story does flow between points logically and upon completing all the quests in the Defiant starter zone I was rewarded with some sense of completion for the story of the zone.
 
That being said, the story really finishes in the instance for the zone, the Iron Tombs. 
 
In terms of lore, Trion has done an incredible job. Nearly NPC you talk to has an option to click to hear a bit more about them, the area you are in, their story, etc. There are dozens of books and artifacts to collect that each are readable and content tidbits of story and history and lore.
 
Verdict: It may be fairly generic fantasy stuff, religion vs. science etc., but it's very well done and presented in a way that the explorer is rewarded for their efforts.
 
Score - 8/10 for generic yet extremely well done. 
 
Questing (direction, variety, etc.)-
 
Questing in Rift is very typical, standard fair MMO stuff. That being said, it is more along the lines of Wrath of the Lich King / Cataclysm questing from WoW versus Vanilla/Burning Crusade questing. 
There are a lot of quests, and they are mostly the same 4-5 types. Kill, collect, interact, travel. There is a good sense of pacing and flow. You generally go from hub to hub, not staying at a specific hub for too long, instead doing a few quests/chains then moving on to the next hub. I find this to be very good considering the zone feels extremely large, even after you get a mount so there is not too much running around.
 
The quest rewards are also very nice and frequent. That progressive sense of power-growth via items that accompanies character growth via leveling up is balanced well. 
 
*NOTE* major point here you shouldn't miss. I quested levels 1-15 entirely in a two player group with my brother. The additional XP for being in a group counters the XP split for killing mobs extremely well. Also, kills are counted for both players and more importantly, if a mob drops an item you need to collect, BOTH players can loot it off of the same mob. 
 
This is huge. Now, collecting items in the open world still required each player to find and collect their own quantity, but respawn rates were fairly high.
 
What this really means is that there is NO disadvantage to questing in a party. In fact, due to the congestion of MOBs in some questing areas, it's actually easier and more efficient to quest in a group because you have less chance of dying when you pull 3-4 mobs by accident, which happens more then you might enjoy and generally kills you unless you can self-heal or tank them all.
 
I have heard at higher levels questing becomes more challenging and pretty much requires you to either group or be able to self-heal or tank multiple mobs. The implications of this combined with what I have experienced?
 
Party play in the open world is back! If you want to solo grind quests to max level, you may have extreme difficulty unless you choose a fairly balanced spec capable of self healing, crowd control, damage reduction etc.
 
This may infuriate and drive off many more WoW-experienced gamers. It may sell to more traditional/party friendly MMO veterans. That being said, Trion gives you FOUR talent specs at a time for a reason - more later on that.
 
In the last few quest chains/quest area in the Defiant zone of Freemarch, I found the mob congestion + difficulty to be too high for my Warrior to solo effectively as a purely DPS spec. I spent too much time drinking to recover after fights, had to be extremel careful about pulling, etc. After switching my souls to a defensive tank build (primarily Reaver - DoT based defensive tank) I was able to survive much easier and take 2-3 or more mobs at a time, but killed individual mobs much slower.
 
Verdict: Very standard MMO questing, but done learning the lessons of other MMOs in terms of flow/pacing. Incredibly well-fit for grouping, with some much needed challenge.
 
Score - 8/10 for bringing nothing new to the table, but doing it as well as the other guys in a "modern" way. Bonus points for group play and increased difficulty!
 
World Design-
 
Both the Defiant and Guardian starting zones feel very large. Where as the Defiant zone is more open, more fields and plains kind of thing, the Guardian is a sacred forest setting. Again, I must point out that the starter experience, the first 7-8 levels in the tutorial area + the little valley on either side of the bridge are VERY linear and small. Almost claustrophobic. 
 
After this point though, the game world really opens up. Sticking to the roads/paths will certainly keep your travels faster and safer, but there is a LOT of terrain to explore off the beaten road. At least, it FEELS like there is a lot.
 
I think part of that is due to the relatively slow movement speed of characters. You don't seem to run as fast as other games like WoW. 
 
I did some questing and exploring in the second tier zone for the Defiant, the Stonefield, and this zone has a bit of a northern-highlands kind of mountainous/Scotland feel to it. This zone also feels extremely huge even with a mount, though in comparison to Freemarch (Defiant first tier zone) it doesn't look as big due to the mountainous terrain that is impassable and must be travelled around, not over. i.e. you can't see as far in a particular direction due to the mountains.
 
The dungeon I went in, the Iron Tombs, feels very much like a traditional crypt/dungeon. Dark, moody, atmospheric. The general layout was easy to understand and follow, and it felt very much in place in the world of Rift. 
 
That being said, like was said in the Art Style section, it's quite the generic tomb. My group didn't finish the instance (more on that later) but overall I'd say it was designed well and of a scale similar to maybe the original Wailing Cavens in WoW - so quite large and sprawling.
 
Verdict: Solid design, massive feel if not massive real-estate, variety and continuity. Still have to see high level zones to judge.
 
Score - 8/10 for a well designed world that feels more open and larger then it really is, reserving some judgment for higher level zones and dungeons.
 
Crafting-
 
I once again went the armorsmith route on my warrior to craft my own armor. It is fairly easy to keep your crafting skills up to pace with your gear needs as you level, i.e. you can make stuff you actually use. Also, I really like how if you are crafting gear simply to use up mats/try and grind out points in your profession, you can de-construct the "trash" crafted items for a chance to regain some of the material costs, thus allowing you to grind up a bit more, faster, to get to unlock more useful recipes.
 
Again, no idea what crafting is like at max level. Not much experience with any crafting outside of the armorsmith route. 
 
Verdict: So much I do not know, but what I have seen is pretty standard with some nice twists/additions.
 
Score - 7/10 for doing nothing "wrong" and some things right, with a fair dose of uncertainty. 
 
Rifts-
 
Nothing new to report. I widely stayed away from Rifts this beta as I was more focused on leveling via questing and PvP to get a more varied and wider viewpoint. I did a LOT of Rifting in Beta 5. 
Just go read my previous blog lol but I'll sum up my feelings for ya.
 
Verdict: Very solid, invasions have extremely high potential, nice deviation/break from questing, certainly adds a lot to the over-all gameplay but revolutionary? Remains to be seen.
 
Score - 8/10 for invasions and for deviation/distraction.
 
Classes/Souls-
 
Definitely have a bit more to say about this after Beta 6. Both positive and negative.
On the positive side, the system works well and each build feels different. Having so many choices per class to choose from is amazing, yet also maddening! I spent a lot of gold and time respeccing trying to find a build that was "perfect" for me... however in the end, at least for me, there was no perfect build - they all had their strengths and weaknesses. Which I put down as a positive.
 
On the negative side, balance did seem a little off this time around. In both PvE and PvP it seems that Clerics were just godly with their self-healing and defensive abilities, coupled with solid damage output it made questing and Rifts etc. so much easier. 
 
As a Warrior, I could take one mob down quick very easily, two mobs without dying but I'd generally have to spend some time recovering after. As a Tank/defensive Warrior I'd be able to take 2-3 mobs without having to recover after, but killing was quite a bit slower.
 
However on my cleric... I could take on 4-5 mobs my level or higher and just DoT them up, shield myself, heal myself, burn them down, beat them down... it made the leveling experience 10 times easier, if not necessarily as fast.
 
My brothers Rogue could burn down mobs twice as fast as I could on my Warrior, and thus could take on a few more at a time and just burn them down fast enough to not die as often. So maybe it was just that the Warrior DPS builds were extremely underpowered this round of Beta. We'll see how things are patched out for the next phase.
 
*NOTE* I think we are going to be somewhat pigeon holed into certain soul builds for leveling as a given class. You need, and I mean really need some survivability and/or healing to quest comfortably. I guess that is why Trion gives us four builds at a time, and it's remarkably cheap to purchase your first alternate build.
 
Verdict: Still a great system, so many choices and the ability to store four builds at a time is great, but the balance did feel off this cycle and COULD be indicative of things to come... which worries me.
 
Score - 7/10 for some extreme balance issues within an incredibly good system. 
 
Dungeons-
 
I only played the one dungeon, Iron Tombs, and only twice and didn't get far at all the first time, and only two bosses down the second time. 
 
Why? It was hard. 
 
The first time the Cleric tank (Justicar) just wasn't cutting it. No threat output, no situational awareness, was a nightmare right from the start. I was ranged DPS on my Cleric (Inquisitor/Cabalist.)
The second run, I tried tanking on my Cleric as Justicar. Extremely difficult. Threat generation seemed really bad and even being a few levels higher then the "starting" level of the dungeon and being decently geared, I was just taking stupid amounts of damage the healer could not keep up with.
 
Maybe it was partially the healer, but my general assumption/deduction was that the Cleric is NOT meant to be a main tank, more of a back-up tank/healer combo or off-tank type. This could change at higher levels, but sub-20 I just didn't feel like the class could hack it. I was running low on mana nearly every pull trying to maintain threat.
 
This is coming from someone who has tanked everything in WoW for 6+ years. 
 
There are nice additions here, instead of marking the targets with symbols the group leader can put numbers over the mobs heads - 1,2,3 etc. which made coordination on the fly much easier. Telling people "focus on number one first then move on to two" was simply easier then some skull/x/square kind of order.
 
I think even these low level dungeons (15+ for Iron Tombs) are going to require at least one dedicated main tank (warrior) and main healer (cleric) to have a smooth run unless you grossly out level them.
By dedicated I mean all 3 souls defensive tank souls for the MT, 3 healing souls for the main-healer etc.
That being said, the other three group members can add a LOT to the party's chance of success by off-healing, crowd control, debuffs/buffs etc. Having a rogue who had a Bard third spec was extremely useful for buffing and off-healing.
 
So in that sense, this dungeon really reminded me of a classic WoW dungeon, but a level 50-60 dungeon in the amount of coordination and dedication to one's role that was required. 
 
The boss mechanics I saw were interesting. The first boss was a straight up tank and spank with periods of higher damage output, this made having a Bard off-heal extremely useful. The second boss had two phases, there were actually three mobs you'd first kill one at a time, a healer, a tank/melee dps, and a caster dps. After they all died once they all rezzed and you had to take all three at once.
Extremely challenging for our group. We ended up having the Rogue switch to his full healing Bard spec so we had two healers, and had the other Rogue with Ranger use his pet to off-tank one of them while we burned the rest down.
 
Some may hate this, but I am very intrigued. I guess only having one dungeon per 10 level range (at least during level up) they made the dungeons long, sprawling, "epic," and challenging.
 
Verdict: Newer MMO players may absolutely hate them, but fans of older EQ/vanilla WoW style dungeons have a lot to look forward to. You will need to multi-task and bring more to the table then high dps to be successful.
 
Score- 8/10 for high hopes and solid party based game play with a decent challenge. 
 
PvP-
 
I did a fair amount of PvP on both my cleric (17-18) and Warrior (ended up at 20). I'll talk first about world PvP... I didn't see any on Lotham.
 
The zones are divided in such a way that the first two zones for each side (probably till about level 30ish) are completely separate from the other side, yet the 2nd teir zone (19+) on a PvP server auto-flagged you for being a contested zone.
 
I believe the third tier zone (and possibly every zone after) is contested as well as contains content for both sides and thus world PvP is MUCH more frequent (on PvP server or if flagged) and I believe this is where they really start with the open-world PvP objectives to capture/control.
I just don't know. Next phase I'll have to try and get a toon up to that level range and into the third tier zone.
 
In terms of instanced PvP, the Warfronts... if you played Warhammer Online skirmishes, you know what to expect. An Arathi Basin style capture/control points around the map that opens up in the 20-30 range. A "hold the briefcase" that opens up in the 10-19 range...
 
Mechanics felt solid, not at all glitchy and felt very fluid like WoW battlegrounds versus the mess that was WAR PvP. 
 
*NOTE* Balance and strategy though.. really hard to say. I ran a couple of Warfronts with my brother (Cleric) as a pocket-healer for me (Warrior) and I pretty much dominated. Still felt like I was killing pretty slow though.
 
If they enemy has a healer, you've got to focus fire and take them out. They can easily heal through 1-2 players damage output. It's bad. Real bad. Generally you'd have 3-4 players focused on killing a Healer which made the Healer stick to only healing themselves, which left the rest of your team capable of focusing down the other enemy players. If they had multiple healers cross-healing themselves and each other... good luck. No way to beat that.
 
Having a raid leader who marked focused targets (1,2,3 etc.) made thing 10000000x times easier and vastly improved chances of winning the match.
 
One on one, if you are fighting a healer you have to out-last them, which is hard to do. You have to out-last their mana pool, I found it impossible as a Warrior or Cleric (ranged dps) to out-burst their healing potential.
 
In non-healer vs. non-healers 1vs1 fights I found things to be quite balanced. By the upper teens it's easy to have snares/roots in your arsenal as both melee and ranged as well as some counters like fears/dispells.
 
The healing is a major, major problem. It's way too powerful in PvP.
 
That being said, healing felt extremely UNDERpowered in PvE dungeons... as we have seen in WoW over the years, it's an extremely difficult balancing act to get right.
 
Verdict: Ran smoothly and well, didn't see any world PvP but know it is there, balance is quite a mess with healers absolutely dominating this cycle. We'll have to see what changes Trion makes.
 
Score- 5/10 for being playable and fun but it's 100% about team composition and coordination (i.e. healing) right now.
 
Community-
 
It's beta right now, it's free to play and just about anyone who wants a key can get one quite easily. So in my opinion you have to take community with a grain of salt, it will not reflect the community at launch.
 
That being said... this beta phase it was like going back in time to WoW Barrens chat. It was awful. Real, real awful.
 
Generally players you ran into in the world were nice, helpful.. they wouldn't ninja your quest objectives (obviously some @$$holes out there would) and if you pulled too many by accident many times another player would jump in and help you out.
 
I found it completely and 100% necessary this beta to customize my chat settings, to make a new window that only gave me system/server/game world messages as well as party/raid/PMs.
The chat was just.. unbearable.
 
HOPEFULLY when the game is released all the complete and total MORONS who apparently spent their entire play time trolling the chat channels talking about WoW and how much this, that, or the other thing sucked will be no where to be found.
 
But, like on these very forums at MMORPG.com, the idiots usually have the loudest voice and are most plentiful. 
 
Verdict: Please, dear God and baby Jesus, don't let these whiney, self centered, cry-baby trolls even touch a keyboard ever again.. or my ignore list is going to be huge!
 
Score: 2/10 for the "magic" of mostly-open-beta free-loader chat channels.
 
*FINAL VERDICT*
 
Rift is a good game. There are some issues that still need to be worked out before launch. Hopefully players were smart enough to actually provide in game feedback or feedback on the beta forums instead of just bitching on MMORPG.com forums or their own whiney blogs. I did both :)
 
I do have a sneaking suspicion that this game will grow tired and old for those who do not embrace the social experience of the MMO genre via guilds, partying to level, dungeons, Rift groups that actually talk to each other and communicate etc.
 
I think Trion is really pushing for a return of the really social aspect of MMO gaming. They are making it completely possible to solo to the top but I don't think it's going to be an enjoyable experience for those who do when compared to a game like WoW where it's easier, faster, and with the use of their Phasing tech tells a better story.
 
For the group play, guild friendly, social/communicative types I think Rift is going to be a wonderful experience for.
 
So in that sense, Rift really is a bit more "old school" and kind of a return to some of the basics, while presenting them in a modern/current way.
 
I should also note that the level of polish and professionalism displayed by Trion both in and out of game is top notch. If anything, having faith in them as a developer gives this game a lot of hope and the potential to live up to its promises, which is something that many of us who were jaded by some of the more recent releases should be happy about.
 
META-SCORE: 7

Out of retirement - in defense of a good game (Rift)

Posted by BadSpock Thursday February 3 2011 at 11:07AM
Login or Register to rate this blog post!

I've brought my very old and formerly in good standing MMORPG.com account out of retirement to offer a defense, no, to offer a viewpoint on the upcoming MMO Rift: Planes of Telara.

To say "defense" would imply that I have somehow been effected by the assault against this game that is present on these forums.

To be honest, the arguments I have read on this site against rift have been primarily narrow minded and juvenile, while the arguments in defense of Rift have (except for the occasional fanboi post) been much more logical and rational.

So my piece to follow will try and highlight the pros and cons, and really analyze and predict what players can expect when logging into the world of Telara on a daily basis, not just what I think nor what I feel about said systems.

I should preface my piece by saying that I have been playing MMORPG's since UO around '99, pre-Trammel. Since then I have played nearly every major title for some period of time, though primarily I spent time in UO, E&B, SWG, and WoW. Brief stints with EQ2, LOTRO, EvE, WAR, TR, and FFXI.

*Warning* This will be a long post - read at your own risk! - you can skip around to the colored sections for summaries if you want to skim.

Graphics:

My computer sucks. It is nearly 5 years old and it's only saving grace is a fairly decent (yet still cheap) Nvidia 430GT graphics card. That being said, I was easily able to maintain very smooth and playable FPS during the Beta 5 event on Medium settings unless I was participating in a very large Rift/Invasion, where I'd generally have to lower my settings to maintain proper performance due to so much more activity on the screen to be rendered.

I also spent some time playing on my brother's fancy new gaming laptop at High and Ultra settings. It's the laptop that was designed to look like a stealth fighter.

Verdict- This game/engine is designed well in that it scales very greatly between sub-par systems such as mine and powerful systems to deliver extremely high quality visuals. The lighting and shadows in particular on Ultra and High settings were extremely impressive for a MMO. I noticed zero texture loading delays/issues even at extreme view distances. 

Anyone with a computer that meets the minimum requirements for Rift will be able to have an enjoyable visual experience. It's no Age of Conan but it runs infinitely better and is universally more scalable. The "Low Quality Renders" option makes the game look 5+ years old, but you could probably run it smoothly on a Word processor laptop with built-in graphics.

9/10 for extreme scalability

Network: 

During the Beta 5 event the server was taken down at least twice for patching and was brought back up within 30 minutes. The very first night, before Trion opened up additional servers and the original offerings were all full or nearly at capacity during prime-time hours, I was randomly disconnected a couple of times - always able to reconnect nearly instantly, but an annoyance none the less.

Once additional servers were brought up and balance was adjusted/distributed across them, this was no longer an issue. 

During certain events such as large Rift and/or invasions, I would routinely be involved in groups of 20 to 100 players occupying the same zone/section of said zone. When I began to notice frame rate slips and stutters, I lowered my graphics settings and things smoothed out wonderfully.

I experienced a mob rubber-banding or my toon rubber-banding only a couple of times, and it was right before a server restart and patch and then never again after.

Verdict - Extremely impressed. Had to be one of, if not the smoothest Beta I have ever been a part of from a network standpoint. The fact I was able to maintain quality FPS during large scale events by lowing my graphic quality proved to me that any/all performance issues where on my hardware's end, not Trion's network.

10/10 for near flawless execution. 

Art Style:

This game looks exactly like Warhammer Online with better player models. I think some of the textures for the Death Rifts were taken directly from the texture files of the Chaos. 

Personally, I think it looks very nice - even if not at all original. 

The armor models are very good though. Even early on in the game, the armor you get via questing, through Rifts, or crafting looks and feels very basic and generic Medieval, but it works. Perhaps I'm just so very tired of the overly-large and shiny models from WoW that I appreciate some simplicity now.

Higher-end models as seen in screenshots and on NPCs in cities look promising - promising to not have gigantic over-sized glowing shoulder pads. Win.

The mounts in this game are quite unique from an art direction standpoint. Undead looking gazelle beast things and twin-fox tailed lions with horns? Yes please. 

I do have to note that the Rifts altering the landscape around them when they open is a fantastic touch.

I also have to note I never played out of the early zones - newbie tutorial, starter area, and 10-20 including capital city and only 10-20 on the Defiant side. 

From what I have seen there are some very interesting and "moody" looking zones at later levels. That being said, I really enjoyed the simplicity of Freemarch. Sandy beaches, limited forests, wide open plains... it was a breathe of fresh air to explore in a zone that felt like it would actually exist in a fantasy environment i.e. it wasn't too over the top.

Verdict - I still need to see more before I can truthfully judge. 

6/10 for lack of originality, yet some very strong points

World Design:

So how did the flow, the pace, the spacing, and the placement "feel?" 

For the newbie tutorial (first 6 or so levels) in addition to the little valley you first begin your adventures in the "real" world in (probably up to level 10 or so) the design felt very, very, and I mean VERY linear and forced.

No room for deviation, not much room for exploration, a very controlled space with hard walls and physical barriers to keep you contained. 

But then you leave that tiny little valley... and a whole world opens up to you. Quite a "night and day" difference. Suddenly you find yourself in an expansive, open environment with many small little hubs, expansive fields, tons of room for exploration, and a real sense of grandeur. 

Freemarch was massive, getting a mount at level 20 will surely help out a lot. I never felt like I was running forever (aka oh God I'm back in the Barrens!) but definitely a hike.

Verdict - I'm interested to see how the other zones, especially mid and high level zones play out.

8/10 for generic and maybe TOO newbie friendly starter areas, impressive and expansive world I can actually feel OK calling a world, and for well designed quest hubs I have no pressure to pay attention to.

Story and questing:

Hard to say to be honest. I didn't read too many quests because I don't want to spoil any story come release. That being said, the general story/lore of the two factions is varied and interesting, the battle between blind faith and blind reliance on technology. 

I did play and read enough on both sides to appreciate how well that dichotomy is played out on either side. One quest via Guardians would say something like "We were trying to get across the bridge to save Bunnies from heretics when the vile Defiants blew it up" and on the Defiant side they'd say "We had to blow up the bridge to prevent the Witch-Hunting fanatics of the Guardians from coming and burning our books."

Very interesting, yet I feel in NO way qualified to comment further on the story.

As for the questing itself, it's pretty standard fair MMO stuff. Go here, kill this, bring me back this, etc.

Quest hubs would offer a couple of quests, maybe a small chain, always near the hub, and then send you to another hub. Very much influenced by the WoW-Cataclysm quest design rather then the Vanilla WoW "run back and forth till you pass out of boredom" questing model.

To be honest though I never felt pressured to quest. There are enough other things to do to help level up and enjoy your play time, unless the quest had a really good reward that was better then something I could craft, I generally skipped many of them.

Verdict- Pretty standard stuff here, but some interesting story/lore. Will have to really wait and see.

7/10 for generic MMO questing, some interesting and well done story elements, but props for not forcing it down our throats if we choose to pass.

Combat:

Now into the real meat and potatoes. 

First off, yes, in Rift you will have to kill things. A lot of things. I imagine it would be quite impossible to avoid killing stuff to advance in this game. No 100% crafters or non-violent options really. 

That being said, the combat feels very much like WoW, but a little slower and more deliberate.

I'd say the pace of combat in Rift is somewhere between the button mashing bunny hopping face roll of WoW and the slower, more tactical EQ2 and/or LOTRO.

I was bored to tears of combat in EQ2 and LOTRO, and can happily say that I think Trion got the pace just right, right in the "sweet spot" between that and the ADD Mountain Dew hyped combat of WoW.

The combat does "feel" very responsive and polished. I remember in WAR there was a noticeable delay between hitting a button and bad things actually happening to your opponent, which drove me absolutely batty. Rift does again feel like WoW in the aspect that it does feel fluid and responsive, which is a good thing.

Resource management seems to play a large role. The Rogue archetype has combo points, which some complain about "stealing from WoW" but honestly it works well even for the ranged Rogue souls.

The Mage types build up Focus I think it's called? Something to be spent on more powerful attacks etc. while the Warriors have a system very similar to the WoW Retribution Paladins. Attacks build up a maximum of three stacks of Attack Points which can then be used for more powerful attacks and buffs/debuffs.

I will admit my knowledge of those three Archetypes is limited, as the game/souls/archetypes really don't "open up" till after level 10 or so, just like the world design. The only character I leveled up higher then that was a Cleric.

Clerics use mana and resource management doesn't seem to be an issue at all UNLESS you are healing, then mana becomes a balancing act or Regen vs. healing Throughput. As a DPS caster/melee DPS/tank the Cleric had very little need to manage their mana. Depending on what Soul you chose, like the Cabalist you've have other types of resource management.

Cabalist could channel a DoT spell that built up stacks (up to 3) you could then detonate for either massive single target damage or an AoE field of DoT damage. It really reminded me of a cross between a WoW Shadow Priest and Warlock, mixed in with a healthy dose of Shockadin/Discipline priest.

However, there are some gripes and/or concerns. 

I found tab targeting to be a little off. I think generally when I'd tab-target I'd want it to cycle between enemies in my line of site directly in front of my character, but instead it seemed to do it's targeting cycle in an arc in front of my character, which often times left me to only be able to use the mouse and click on a specific mob to target it - which during fast paced Rifts or Invasions was a problem. 

By level 10 or so you generally have a fair number of abilities already from your 3 chosen souls, and some are duplicates or simply not as powerful as their counterpart unless talented. I guess this is not a bad thing per say, but it does feel wasted unlocking cloned abilities you will never likely use in combat.

Verdict - A lot of potential, some kinks to work out, a good feel, yet nothing really new (which I don't think is really a bad thing i.e. it's comfortable.)

7/10 for doing things primarily right and good.

Leveling/Class/Skill/Soul system:

The one topic people have generally across the board been very favorable towards, and I am no different.

I love the Soul system in Rifts. 

Each soul has a type, they can be either Offensive, Support, Healing, or Defensive. 

I believe the Warrior archetype has primarily Offensive and Defensive souls, the Mage type has Offensive, Support, and Healing souls, the Rogue type Offensive, Defensive, and a Support soul, while the Cleric has Offensive, Healing, and Defensive. 

There are the very "obvious" builds, the all out DPS choosing 3 offensive souls, the all out healer two healing + a defensive, the main Tank primarily Defensive etc.

The game even gives you recommendations as to which souls pair well together, and it is tempting to listen to their recommendations...

But go off the beaten path, create your own Soul combinations, and prepare for the most joyous of joys!

Want to be a stealthy assassin who also uses explosives and can tank? Go ahead. How about a melee heavy DPS Cleric who can summon companions and heal? Sure. 

It all comes down to how you spend your points in a tree.

Splitting your points somewhat evenly across your three Souls makes for a very well balanced build I've found to be unmatched for solo play, questing, and minor/group based invasions.

Specializing in a specific soul as a primary and use the other two as support seems highly favorable for group play via dungeons or the larger, raid level Rift and Invasion events.

It is a versatile, extremely customizable and well done system. In terms of balance, it's really hard to say at level sub-20, but no matter what combination of Souls I chose I felt very effective and powerful. 

Balance is going to be the hard part. With this many options, some are going to be overpowered and some underpowered. Be prepared for a WoW like constant balancing act of buffs/nerfs via patches. I honestly don't know what MMO is really all too different, but it will not be perfect.

Also I'd highly expect players to be rail-roaded into min/max specs for a given role for high level group and raid content. Honestly, that's to be expected.

But the GREAT thing is you get 4 builds you can save and switch between freely and you can unlock and use all 8 souls for a given Archetype to make your builds. So with one character, you can literally play the equivalent of multiple classes and multiple roles from other MMOs. 

So you may have a solo-friendly "balanced" build for questing, some light Rift hopping and PvP, a role-tailored build for dungeons, raiding, and major Rift/invasion play, a full on PvP build, and still have another slot to play a completely different role.

Verdict- Extremely impressive and well done/thought out - well it be balanced? Probably never. But with 4 soul builds to save and 8 souls available on a single character, the possibilities and pros outweigh the cons significantly. 

9/10 for truly innovative and unique design, yet a handicap for constant balance issues.

Rifts:

Another of the heavy hitters. The game is named after them and they are certainly a major selling point for the game.

There is a lot of information on Rifts out there, so instead of describing I'll try and instead give my viewpoints and feelings on my experiences with Rifts.

Your basic Rift forming and playing through is fairly straight forward and basic. Very similar to WAR's public quests, including the great Public Grouping features. Though the number of Rifts that spawn are dependent on the player population in a zone, and the difficulty of a Rift is suppose to scale with the number of players participating, I found that they do not scale up enough.

In the heavily populated starter zones of the Beta, the minor Rifts would come and go far too quickly.  You'd barely have time to switch targets and cast a few spells/get a few hits in before the mobs would die. Randomly joining up in a public group to complete a Rift, blaze through it quickly, and then leave the group to continue questing etc. was a bit disappointing.

I can very easily see this becoming a rep/gear grind rather quickly rather then a fundamental game system.

That being said, Major Rifts and invasions are a whole different story. Playing with a small to medium sized group/raid and hopping from Rift to Rift was a lot of fun. Major Rift invasion could easily wipe a raid and were a very intuitive blend of chaos and coordination. Combined with boss encounters, the territorial control mechanics of defending outposts and cities while also going on the offensive to shut down Footholds was a very unique and Dynamic game play element unlike any I've experienced in a MMO. 

Also, when fortunate enough to be part of a small group tackling a major Rift was quite challenging, requiring the fundamental basics of group dynamics and party play. As you level up the Rifts would start popping out Elite mobs and provide a real challenge and epic sense of danger and completion when finally able to overcome the enemies and close the Rift. Many phases of the Rift being on timers really gave a sense of urgency and importance to these major events.

Verdict - Scaling needs to be ramped up a notch or two to lengthen the encounter and really present a level of danger requiring coordination and cooperation vs. whack-a-mole zerging. Invasions and major Rift events are priceless and extremely well done. 

9/10 for some tweaking/balancing to be done on top of an incredibly fun and interesting mechanic that really does bring something new to the MMO genre. 

Crafting:

Not much to say here. It's good, it's fairly standard, combined with adding desired stats onto items and dying of armors, better then WoW but no where near as complete a crafting system as other MMO titles. 

I did really enjoy that all crafting professions I tried allowed you to deconstruct items you find/loot/make in order to get some material resources back. I also noticed in the capital daily quests for resources that unlocked new recipes. 

Verdict - Not quite sure how deep the rabbit hole goes, but on the surface both functional and useful, yet not a major game element as I've seen it.

7/10 for uncertainty as to what high-level brings.

PvP:

I never PvP'd during Beta 5, but plan on making it a primary focus during Beta 6. 

That being said, I think many of the open-world dynamics of objective control, invasions, etc. coupled with the potential for open-world PvP and especially on PvP servers could allow for a LOT of great potential for Rift to be free from the grinding based instanced PvP that ruined WAR and ruined WoW. 

Verdict - We'll wait and see. Again balance could be a problem.

6/10 for hope.

Community:

Chat channels were terrible, so many WoW references and griping, much like your typical fourm... however I did find players to be generally helpful with questions, and there will be a LOT of debate and discussion over the details and finer points of the Soul system, which always leads to stronger community. 

Verdict - your mileage will vary, but in general Trion is trying to make it easy to socialize and play well with others. Let's hope it works.

7/10 for Barrens chat, generally helpful and fostering a good discussion mixed with many social opportunities.

Dungeons/Raids:

No idea. Never did any. I'm not sure anyone has done raids yet, but plenty of videos up on dungeons. Look to be fairly standard role based party structure, however reports of difficulty seem to be closer to Vanilla WoW/BC standards versus Wrath standards, i.e. likely not face roll and providing some challenge.

Verdict - I have high hopes, and I believe my high hopes are justified. 

7/10 for hope and very positive feedback.

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

If you have read this long I applaud you.

I think Rift does a lot of things right. It's familiar, it's comfortable, and it's pretty standardized. Many would say this makes in a WoW clone or EQ clone etc., but I am rather of the opinion that it is smart game design to take what works, refine it, add your own flavorings, bake to perfection, and enjoy without guilt. 

If you dislike WoW or EQ etc. and are more of a EvE/Darkfall etc. fan, this game probably isn't for you.

That being said, the Soul system is amazing and fresh, and the Rifts and Invasion are unique and interesting in with a few tweaks here and there could really be a major evolutionary step forward for the genre. 

The level of polish and professionalism I have experienced playing Rift and researching Trion, listening to their development diaries etc. tells me that these guys and gals really do know what they are doing. 

It may not be the game for you, but over all it is a very well done game and I'd strongly recommend it to any fan of the genre. 

There are still two Beta events left (I think only two) so we'll see if my opinion changes after spending a lot more time with this baby, but all signs point to that I will continue to solidify my opinion as I play that this is a good game, plain and simple.

Thanks for reading.