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MMORPG in-depth reviews, design ideas and analysis from a gamer/writer with thirty years experience

Author: Skuldin

Guild Wars 2: A Fair and Balanced Review

Posted by Skuldin Thursday November 29 2012 at 2:00PM
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Fair and Balanced Review of Guild Wars 2

Hellow All; sorry for my absence, but I am back again with another game review. Let's start with my experience with the new Guild Wars 2(r).  

I have six hundred hours played since release and now, with three eightieth level characters (Guardian, Thief, and Ranger). The first two are in full exotics and the ranger is nearly decked out.  I have done fractals to level 4, 3, and 2 on the three 80s and spent at least half of my total hours in WvW with the rest in Orr or Frostgorge Sound.  I have done story mode on all but one dungeon and explorable mode on several.  I have done the live one-time events for Halloween and against the Karka and I am Rank 10 in SPvP. Finally, I am also maxed in leatherworking, weapon-smithing, armor-smithing and jewel crafting. So pretty much I’ve experienced everything the game has to offer ranging from moderate amounts to extreme doses.

I have done these reviews before and used a 1-10 scale with 10 being nearly unattainable levels of awesome and 1 being almost unimaginably horrible. I’m not sure if an arbitrary number system is helpful or if the write-up on each category is better but I’ll do both and let the readers decide. Let’s get to it.

Graphics: 8

Simply put this game is beautiful with lush landscapes, realistic character models, natural looking foliage and great vistas. There isn’t a better presented MMO graphically to date rivaled only distantly by Age of Conan on full settings.  If I had any reason not to give it a nine or ten it is the animals seem to walk a little stiff as they wander around the world. The ranger pets have no personality and there are almost no emotes in the game, but those are fluff pieces sure to be added later.  My biggest knock on graphics was the design decision to outline everything “friendly” in a green outline, “hostile” in a red outline and neutral in a yellow outline.  It is not a setting you could turn off and was very off-putting to myself and almost a deal-breaker for a friend of mine.  The best way to describe it is when you mouse over someone they get outlined in a “force ghost” like glow that really made the character models look 2D.  Bad design decision in my opinion. 

Immersion: 6

Between beta and live I have tried all the races at least into the teens, but I found myself identifying with Norn bravado and the human voices more than the others. The lands are beautiful and varied, but for some reason the towns and outlying villages lacked WoW’s ‘character’ to really suck me into believing they were real. Add to it the “force ghost” character outlines and the Korean-style lingerie outfits on women characters and it quickly lost immersion factor for me. To top it off the heart system was an immersion deal-breaker. I’m not sure if it was the goofy symbols all over the map leading you by the nose for this vista or that heart, but it felt out of sync with the rest of the game. I really had hope the Dynamic Events would truly be dynamic but I figured out very quickly they were timed as you wandered through zones and questions on MAP chat would pop up, “How long till the demon/dragon?” To reinforce this point, my fifteen year old son pre-ordered the game in May with promises of dynamic world events and by level ten he was bored and wanted his money back.  Now I obviously didn’t have the same opinion and gave the game far more time than he did, but he said he felt “lied to” by the developer promises of truly dynamic events.  Perhaps it was young teenage ignorance to believe the hype train, but I do understand his frustration especially as you got into higher levels and saw that Plinx is on a timer, the dragons are on timers and the Temple Gods are also timed.  It’s “better” than totally static but not nearly as good as advertised. 

Game-Play: 8

The game-play is fun, with active rolling and great-looking animations to a lot of the attacks and spells. You find as you unlock each weapon you get new attacks/defensive maneuvers and you have a nice variation of utility skills to choose from by teens-to-mid level. I still highly enjoy the combat and the thief in particular has some fantastic animations. If there is any knock in this area it’s that you unlock all your weapon skills very early and for most of your game-time you repeat the same attacks over and over again without getting to look forward to a shiny new attack at higher level.  In fact by level thirty you’ve already unlocked your elite skills and by the upper mid-levels you’ve unlocked almost everything there is to unlock. That fact combined with the cool downs on your attacks and a hard limit of one heal, three utility and one elite skill you sometimes feel “bored” on your attack combinations or rotations. To be fair you can switch between two weapon sets, but sometimes say on my guardian in WvW when I run hammer and scepter/shield, switching to a scepter isn’t really good for the position I’m in of a melee.

 In addition the game has none of the cool “fluff” magic or abilities like feather fall, water-walking, tracking or other such abilities to really make the character stand out. I think that is a huge negative for long-term replay value when the classes lack the “cool” factor. In addition the spell affects can get a little out of hand, making zerg fights and group events a huge cluster of bloom on your screen. I have a very nice system so frame rates aren’t an issue, but with all the flashy spells going off it is sometimes hard to see a tiny red circle of death at your feet or even a clear animation of what the enemy boss is doing.  Overall still a very fun combat system and makes older titles feel dated.

Crafting: 7

The crafting falls somewhere between World of Warcraft and Skyrim, but not nearly as many unique combinations as the “discovery” phase would lead you to believe.  It’s fun and decently engaging, but overall if you’ve crafted in older titles you’ve crafted in this title, but with even more grind (gold) involved looking for rare materials that may or may not drop depending on your ability to handle boredom. It looked great initially, but by my third character I was using it purely to level, maxing out a skill until I was short on mats and going to another one.

PVP: 7

The SPVP (thinks battlegrounds) is fun, but to me it was a hold-over from Guild Wars One that lacks incentive to keep doing it. Some people like running them over and over for “looks” gear, but I found myself missing the chance to upgrade into a new tier of gear. I never thought I’d say that, but as I played it to level ten and found the vendor just had a few “looks” oriented pieces and I quickly lost interest. Furthermore, Guild Wars 1 had more depth, with interrupt builds and a deeper strategy. Now I’m sure the high ladder players will argue this point and for the most part the meta of this game may be too subtle for my tastes, but given this is a fair review, but still one based one guy’s perceptions, I found the meta to not be worth all the effort that I put into getting good in the WoW arena or even Dark Age of Camelot PvP. Don’t get me wrong a seven is a strong score and it IS fun, just not addicting.

Faction-Vs-Faction (World vs World): 7

Let me be up front about this; I am an old Dark Age of Camelot® junkie. I came to this game for the World vs. World so the score is slanted somewhat compared to an old title’s Realm vs. Realm. A seven is not a bad score, again it’s well above average and I’m a harsh grader (I think I get it from my wife who teaches high school), but it’s not what I expected. Let me start with the good.

The keeps are well designed and obviously harken to DAoC/Warhammer® in their philosophy with some really neat set-ups on several different keep/tower layouts. The veteran points and supply camps allow teams of two to three (ok fine, solo if you’re a guardian like me) make an impact in the battle. Additionally they provide non-walled structures to fight over for people that like the smaller pitched battles.  The combat is fast-paced and fun, but can be frustrating if you get focus-fired without any “dedicated healers” in the game. The keep takes range from extremely action-packed and fun to horrifically boring with people dubbing it PvDoor (Player vs Door) depending on if the defenders are fighting back or non-existent. I spend a lot of my time taking camps and killing dolyaks looking for small pitched battles, but I do help the zerg when it’s needed. Overall it’s a fun experience with jump puzzles and the PvE trappings of discovery, skill points and vistas. With that said, it’s not as good as Dark Age of Camelot®.

First, there is no “reason” to WvW currently. Realm pride is a reason and we are trying to recapture that feeling, but some part of me sees the exact same races/classes across the battlefield on a rotating sever basis and it feels contrived. There is a serious “give up” mentality of “wait for the reset” from a lot of the player-base if they get down early and there is no variety to the zones.  Every side has the same races, the same classes and at the end of the week, other than some meaningless “tier” system which affords no benefits other than bragging rights there is no reason to be there at all. I know you are reading this and saying “For fun! The point is fun!” Yeah I get that and as I said it IS fun, but there is nothing right now that makes me sit at work thinking up strategies to win or earn more realm points (sorry DAOC crept in again) or log in.  I have spent a lot of time out there and at the end of the day, a lot of the time was boring.

 In addition I have thousands of kills in WvW and just barely over 1200 badges to show for it. So between three eightieth level characters, one of which spent the majority of the time leveling in WvW (thief), I could acquire exactly three pieces of exotic gear. Hour for hour it is not close to on par with the PvE game for acquiring exotics. In fact the badge system needs reworked. In my humble opinion, one kill should be one badge automatically put in your inventory and let the bag drops contain all the other loot. I digress, but for those not playing it, right now the badges show up in bags at your feet when someone dies and ranges from zero to two badges. If you kill three people but the fourth one kills you and you didn’t happen to auto-loot mid-combat, you lose all the bags unless you can get resurrected or run back to the spot before the bags disappear.

A much smaller issue are repairs in PvP, particularly if you come out pre-80th level when funds are tight and you are dying a lot fighting people with upwards of a 70% statistical disparity in questing blues/green gear and they are in exotic gear. That’s a gold sink they built in because the developers said the game didn’t have many. I disagree, but then again I spend a lot of time in WvW and if you hit a good run you can make money in WvW too killing dolyaks, taking camps and joining the zerg on a good night for capturing keeps. If you are stuck in a prolonged pitched battle and die a few times the silvers start to add up. This isn’t a big deal to people that make a lot of gold or play one established eighty, but to the casual player or someone on an ‘alt’ it can be irritating.

Overall it’s fun, but not addicting, missing a ranking system of some sort, decent acquisition of gear for victory achieved, personal achievements and overall fun. There was something to be said about acquiring new “powers” in Dark Age of Camelot via realm ranks and of seeing different invaders with different classes , but I digress again as Guild Wars 2 will never angle that way at this stage in design.

Community: 9

My highest score by far for this game is its community. I have been on four servers and almost universally the players are friendly and helpful people. The chat channels also have a noticeable dearth of trolls. The game lends itself to being helpful and friendly as you do not compete for resources with your fellow realm-mates and that probably has a large hand in it. I have nothing but positives to say about this aspect of the game and I think that should continue.

Character Customization: 7

Lots to choose from at the actual character creation, but by end-game it suffers a very “sameness” of gear that other titles suffer. There is variety but some of it is downright ugly probably to promote the buy to play model of their online store.  Overall a good score but it could be improved.

Fun/Stickiness Factor: 7

I’m still playing, but I’ve already purchased War of the Roses and found myself logging into Battlefield 3 a bit lately.  To be honest, I’ve even looked into Mists of Pandaria peripherally. The game has a very low replay factor with all the storylines merging into one by about mid-levels and “your story” is just like everyone else’s story. Overall SWTOR did a LOT of things wrong, but beat this title hands down in that area. By the time I leveled my third character I was crafting like mad and spent most of my time actively avoiding anything that resembled a heart on the map.  It was painfully boring even on my first character to level in PvE aside from some of the larger events and even those all have a sameness of “wave 1 of mobs, wave 2 of mobs with a bit of variation, kill boss”.  Between that and a ten key limit in-combat on skills leads to a lot of people being bored with the game quicker than you would think upon first glance. The new fractal dungeons are fun, but I have no desire to keep “grinding” them over and over. In fact this game has a lot of grind that it was promised not to have in regards to rare materials. And let me tell you, your eyes will bleed by the 1000th snow troll in Frostgorge Sound looking for ‘Powerful Blood’. Edit: There is a lot to explore in the game with hidden jumping puzzles and hidden chests and creatures to find.  That has been some added adventure time for me, someone who is usually a killer, to explore. 

Overall: 7.5 Guild Wars 2® is a title that delivered on some of its manifesto, but in my humble opinion, not  enough to warrant the praise it initially received. I bought the title mainly because I wanted to support someone trying something outside the “trinity” and the “gear-based” system, and again they succeeded to an extent, but without healers and proper crowd control the game feels watered down to the average player that isn’t in love with the combo fields meta-game. Most of my guild of friends (in our thirties) are bored and slowly drifting away from the title, while some die-hards of other games quit MMOs altogether instead of playing with us. They had followed us to Rift, SWTOR and Warhammer, but they did not make this journey and a few months later I am starting to see what they saw.  It is a fun, but shallow title that leaves you unsatisfied when you look down at your plate and realize there isn’t anything more to eat.

MMORPG.com Reviews Biased and Flawed?

Posted by Skuldin Thursday April 21 2011 at 9:53AM
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What goes into a rating? Is five average or something just not used?  I took some heat from Rift fanbois on this site for my objective 6.2 overall rating for the game.  Five or technically (on a 1-10) 5.5 is average meaning "what you would expect" from the genre. To me it would not be shameful to give a 5.5 if something functioned per the norm.

If something was above average it starts into the 6, 7, or even 8 category.  A 9 would be innovative and pulled off almost flawlessly.  A 10 should not be possible.  That's saying it's truly perfect and could not be improved upon.

Yet here we sit with MMORPG.COM rating Rift 8.7.  I mean that's saying it was innovative, and nearly flawless.  Does anyone truly think this is accurate?  I played the game to end-game and I can tell you it was not nearly flawless.  Or does the rating system just really mean nothing because no one will ever give a 5.5 (average implementation) for something?

I saw a forum post today about "Longevity" as a new rating.  I think what the poster should have said instead is "End-Game" should be a new rating.  It would serve two purposes.  First, it would be a less subjective rating than "Longevity" and second it would force the reviewer to actually play or query actual players about the end-game before tossing out a score.

As it stands we get "first impression" ratings and as we saw in Age of Conan and Tortage ...first impressions can be horribly misleading.

 

MMOs Move from Country Club to the Masses

Posted by Skuldin Monday April 11 2011 at 1:14PM
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Community

The word conjures a certain image of people living near one another, helping one another and in general interacting together. In the MMO world it is usually defined loosely as interactions per server and mainly on the primary chat channels of the game and on their forums. 

The discussion invariably leads to its degredation from the old games to the newer generation of games. Was community better and if so why? 

The simple answer is yes, it was better then.

The best analogy I can equate it to is the difference between being a part of an exclusive country club and how its members treat one another compared to a public golf course; or the difference between a '7.00 a drink' night club and one that sells 2.00 drafts. 

As the MMO genre moved from niche to mainstream they swept up with it people who had never heard of RPGs. When you advertise yourself as all-inclusive you gather up the riff raff.

The game formats have also lent themselves to rudeness and abuse.

The reasons are varied but some primary reasons are as follows:

  • Ease of Leveling: As games have gone from hard, slow grinds where item loss and xp loss upon death were the norm, to a quick jaunt from the graveyard and a bit of gold loss, the loss of consequences has generated the equivalent of a poker player that plays on house money. A person in the newer genre of MMO can be a total asshat on the chat channels, grief, be a bad group-mate and in a few short weeks reroll from that character to another. Worse yet, in the case of World of Warcraft, pay for a name change and assume a whole new identity without even enduring the tedium of the level grind.
  • With nothing to lose you don't worry much about your in-game actions and thus your attitude toward the game and people within changes. There is no character attachment.

 

Solo Game-Play: When you don't need a group to level you also don't develop the in-game relationships with the people in the game you used to. Most quests are easier and quicker alone than with another person tagging along, particularly collection quests.

Want it Now and Easy Crowd: Those same impatient players that flooded World of Warcraft have now spread into other games and want everything easy and now.  They want to portal everywhere, they want "dungeon finders, they want insta-queues.  Patience is gone, traveling the world for the sake of it lost and along with it is character identity.  You don't ever have to have been a Role-player to have character attachment. Spending many hours on one character instead of having five 'alts' tended to do that.

Like anything in life, when you don't have to work for something you don't appreciate it nearly as much as if you did. My thinking is a game can be challenging and fun and still difficult enough to bring back some attachment to the character for his/her achievements and the friends you gathered along the way. The community would improve by neccessity.

A shift in direction back toward earning your way to the top would be a refreshing one. 

Player Vs. Player Combat Then, Now, Next

Posted by Skuldin Tuesday April 5 2011 at 11:50PM
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Player Vs. Player Combat Then, Now, Next

 

Past: Player vs. Player (PvP) combat has been ingrained in me from the dawn of MMORPGs. I started with completely lawless and harsh games where you could drop items such as Ultima Online and Asheron's Call and progressed into more civilized Realm Vs Realm (RvR) affairs with the crown jewel being Dark Age of Camelot and their frontier system.

Present: Somewhere along the way, developers or more likely investors found that PvP/RvR wasn't as easy to balance or profitable as making a game based around gear grinds and PvE content so the PvP has slowly eroded or devolved into staged instances (battlegrounds/warfronts/arenas) and duels.

Why? Well for one it's easier to "balance" PvE content because even if your class/spec is doing a bit less damage (DPS) or healing (HPS) you don't suffer from it in a 25 man raid as much as you do when pitted against the class that does more damage toe to toe. A lot of these games weren't really designed with PvP in mind. They may say they are and I'm not saying they don't try to "make" it work, but at the end of the day it becomes painfully obvious when you play them as much as I have that they never intended nor do they in the future intend to make PvP really matter outside the nice neat little instanced fights they have created.

That developer direction has left the older generation of PvP players feeling jaded and missing the good ole days. Battlegrounds and arenas are completely instanced and static and do nothing to further the game world. In fact, most of the major titles now allow cross realm queues (WoW and Rift) and even further detract from the open world PvP rivalries and fun with almost invincible guards around towns and the introduction of "neutral" cities where each side cannot attack one another.

There is never a "point" to open world PvP which further encourages "gray gankers" and "griefers" because there is nothing to really do in PvP besides wait for another Battleground/arena queue or go out and cause pointless trouble. This drives people even further from wanting to do PvP because it's almost always being ganked while fighting monsters.

The solution: The next generation of games needs to write their game and code with PvP in mind from the outset instead of making it an afterthought as it was in World of Warcraft, EQ2, and Rift. They have nothing in place to police "gray ganking" or conversely ways to deal with outlaws, bounties or the ways those systems could be exploited. Age of Conan put in a half-hearted attempt but it still had many easy to solve flaws.



  • First, you have a gradually building penalty for attacking gray (very low level) opponents.
  • Second, you have a system in place to where if the gray opponent is grouped with a higher level opponent they count as the level of the highest person in the party to prevent high level players causing 'bounty points' to stack up on the enemy by having a gray running in and attacking.
  • Third, if a gray con character is in particular high-level or pvp zones they are considered "fair game" or if the "gray con" character heals friends getting attacked, attacks a higher level player or in anyway interferes with the high level player they are fair game. These safeguards should prevent reverse griefing and using lowbies as fodder.
  • The "bounty points" would build up faster the bigger level difference there is between you and the people you are killing with obviously no points built up on people within a few levels of you.
  • When you reach the threshold of bounty points you may have a bounty put on your head and the people getting griefed may put your name on a bounty board to hire out higher level people to deal with you. If you are killed one of your "bound" items will fall from your body to be looted (These items may drop from your bank to avoid "stashing items" while you gank. In addition town guards etc will hunt you down and arrest you if you are caught in town (much like Oblivion) throwing you in jail and forcing you to fork over a stiff fine to be released (having no money on you will not help, it will have to come from somewhere otherwise you lose items to the game vendor to compensate).
  • Third, and most important, the open world PvP needs a point. You need to be able to sack towns, capture relics and hold points of interest that are worth fighting over at all levels of the game.
  • There needs to be loyalty bonuses for staying on the same realm for 'x' number of time to avoid people realm hopping from the losing side and to encourage people to stick it out.
  • Crafting needs to further the cause of the realm as a whole instead of a totally selfish set of skills that it has become. Most gamers I know try to max a character of each profession just to become self-sufficient and not rely on other people. Crafters such as engineers need to be able to repair buildings, build/repair siege and they can operate the siege at a distinct advantage over say your typical person, or they can let an NPC run their siege using an aggro table or a pre-set attack you set it to do before going off to fight.
  • All crafters should have skills that aid the war effort even if that person is inclined toward PvE. Quit excluding PvE people from helping in PvP and quit making gear that is PvP exlusive. Give people game-mechanic driven reasons to work together and participate in both parts of the game and you will have a winner on your hands. I personally despise running dungeons knowing the gear I collect is for the most part worthless in PvP. Talk about immersion losing, oh yes this Breastplate of the God-Slayer can help against the icy breath of a demon lord but not against a gnome rogue. Really awful design.
  • If a developer took a look at these ideas and wrote code in the game from its inception to handle this they will have fixed the majority of complaints about open-world PvP.
  • Battlegrounds would be more of an e-game worth almost nothing to participate in, but still fun side jaunts when you aren't in the mood or don't have the time for a full-scale battle. Quit making grinding so obvious. Hide it in powers (AAs in EQ or Realm Abilities in DAOC) instead of gear so a person would be more powerful naked than your beginning character. Gear is fine as a way to progress but quit making it the only way.
  • Hide people's levels and hitpoints again in PvP and create a skill you develop as you pvp called perception that gives a chance upon an encounter to gauge your opponent's level and hitpoints. Make the mystery part of the fun. Maybe everyone in the open world con's 'yellow' in certain zones to hide their level and relative power making people start to look for other ways to gauge power (gear, skills etc).

I could go on for days in ways to improve the genre's pvp experience and add some flare and mystery to a game as well as giving it staying power. It just takes the right developer to convince the right investors that a game that really embraces PvP AND Pve instead of one or the other can succeed.

Having meaningful battlegrounds in a game with open world PvP is a recipe for disaster, ask Warhammer.

Rift Review

Posted by Skuldin Monday April 4 2011 at 6:56PM
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Rift MMO Review

 
MMO Examiner is taking a look at the newest MMO on the market Rift: Planes of Telara. We will review some key elements for this MMO including graphics, immersion, races and classes, game play, crafting, PvP, character customization, fun factor, and an overall average of the scores between one and ten (ten being the best).
 
Character Creation Options:
Rating: 6
Like most modern MMORPG games, you are given two faction choices from the outset: Defiant and Guardian. The storyline is that the world was destroyed in a cataclysm and the survivors were the technology driven Defiant and the gods worshiping Guardians. Each faction has three races, both sides have a "human" race given different names, and an elven race. The Defiants get a half-ogre/elemental looking race (Bahmi) where the Guardians get dwarves as the only true difference. The racial abilities are very bland having been stripped to meaningless out of combat fluff just out of beta. The racial choices really only come down to the skin (appearance). I was underwhelmed with only three races per side and then further disappointed with the race abilities being neutered into the ground. While it wasn't game-breaking for me, it certainly was a negative. The models can be customized with a fair amount of choices between eye color, markings, facial features and to my delight height. There is also in-game armor dye that can be made from the apothecary profession or a dye merchant. The character model customization and armor dye moved this rating from a 4 to a 6 given the poor number or racial choices, standard faction number and pointless racial abilities at launch.
 
 
Game Play:
Rating: 7
The game runs well on an average rig like mine, I consistently have a ping under 100 and with graphics on average settings I run about 35 FPS. Those owning a better gaming rig can certainly have far better performance than I could pull off and the game looks good for an MMO. The combat animations were a negative to me and quite bland, in player-vs-player combat I found it very difficult to discern exactly what was happening to my character at a given time. The buff/debuff UI was also poor and did not aid in this. I moved quite a few of my buff and debuff timers to the center of my screen and it still did not help figure out abilities by just watching the poor animations. On a positive note, the game was noticeably without many glaring bugs and the movement was decently smooth although not to World of Warcraft's level. Overall this area was a plus rating only marred by a lack of noticeable buffs/debuffs and animations for specific abilities. The graphics were a major improvement in my book over World of Warcraft and they managed to keep the movement from being too stiff. I will mention the smooth launch here as well and I hope this sets the bar for how a MMO should launch.

PVE and Immersion:
Rating: 5

Rift took no steps forward in the genre in questing, game immersion or depth of character development. If I had never heard of Rift you could have easily convinced me this game was put out in 2003. The quests are the collect foozle tails, kill ten foozles, delivery and escort quests typical for the genre. The other problem was the sheer number of pointless quests was overwhelming and each quest gave only a tiny fraction of a level. They felt more like tasks or a job and they were not engaging in the least. I'm not sure on three characters ranging from 24th to 46th level that I ever read a full quest. The pacing in the game was very mediocre as well. I never felt like I "needed" to do anything, everything was more like a suggestion in regards to quests and Rifts. It's like the developers at Trion were scared they might offend one of their players by putting a sense of urgency on something. An old saying that pertains well to MMOs is, "A friend to everyone is a true friend to no one." Trion was so scared of offending anyone that they ended up with an offense to everyone that doesn't enjoy mindless quest grinding. As an MMO veteran I can get through it, but it felt more like work than fun. The dungeons were fun, but again with the five person group and use of the trinity (tank/heal/3dps) did not break any new ground in this area either. It all felt contrived and the story did not flow well.

  • Rifts: Joining public Rifts in the starting zones is fun and get you excited when the horn blows to sound the call to battle. By the time my character was in his mid-thirties they had lost their luster and became more of a "grind" or sadly a way to break up the monotony of the quest/task grind than any truly engaging experience. The invasions were better, but again they still didn't offer any new mechanics. By the time you had done one rift you could pretty much do them all. The addition of a bonus stage took even more away from the immersion, it took some all important Rift and added a Mario Brothers feel to it. I know it's a game but this game is supposed to have a different feel than Mario Brothers, I highly disliked the "bonus stage" implementation.
  • Character Development: There isn't any. You pick up three souls (specs) by the time you leave the starting zone and you may gather five more by picking them up one at a time and completing rifts in the first "real-world" zone (Silverwood for Guardians). For 2500 Favor (earned in PvP) you may buy your 9th soul. The bonus to the souls was that you could mix and match and try to make hybrid builds. The negative is that you never had a true identity for your character. One minute he's a song-spinning healing bard and the next he's a dual-wielding tank or assassin. If you don't care about immersion great, but for those that do, prepare to never identify with your character at all. There are no "out of combat skills" in the game at all such as climbing, swimming or diplomacy. Standard for the typical cardboard MMO, but still leading one to only bash skulls and never have to think or develop the character much. Another game that has no RP in MMORPG missing housing, an ability to have "appearance gear" like LOTRO (where you can wear one set of gear for appearance and a second set for stats) or any type of character choices. You are on rails the whole way through.
  • Story: Bland and unimaginative, it's like watching the formulaic romantic comedy only applied to MMOs.
  • End-Game: If you are a veteran of World of Warcraft; you will know this game's end-game including "tier gear" and "expert dungeons". If you are not I'll give a quick synopsis. The same dungeons you ran from level one through fifty are now rehashed only more difficult and keyed for level fifty characters. You run these many times over for plaques and/or gear to be ready for raids. The first set of gear you acquire are called tier one sets and have epic stats and then you do raids and collect better loot for the next set of raids ad nauseum.
Crafting and Economy:
Rating: 7

  • Crafting: World of Warcraft set the standard for this game's crafting, and like many parts of this Frankenstein monster of a game, Rift did nothing to advance upon it. Three collection professions and six creation professions are your options. Of course most of the professions that "create" something are major money/time sinks in the game meant to eat up hours collecting flowers, nodes or butchering animals to create into items. Apothecary can make dyes and they split up the weapon and armor smiths, but it is fairly standard fare for the genre. I found the "gray" daily quests to be an annoyance and the rare drop distillates in apothecary to be particularly burdensome. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't nearly as engaging as say Vanguard or as smooth as World of Warcraft. I've seen worse and I've seen better.
  • Economy: It's early into the game but so far the economy was decent, but I found the amount of deposit you had to put down for trade goods and "green" items to be a bit high. Artifacts (items you collect in the game to make sets) on the other hand, only cost a single silver to put on the auction house and they would sell from 10g to as much as 3 plat for a blue that I sold. A collectible item found throughout the world was by far my most steady source of income.
  • While I'm here, the auction house was average, a step below World of Warcraft. Simple auction house features such as setting an amount of items per stack and then how many stacks was not available. If for instance you had twenty of one particular item that you wanted to sell into stacks of five, you had to have room in your inventory and shift-click creating a stack of five. Instead of it then asking if you wanted to sell four stacks of five it would only allow you to sell one stack at a time thus you had to shift-click and use a slider bar four separate times to create your four stacks of five. It turned what in World of Warcraft was a five minute auction house visit into a twenty minute ordeal. I had to literally plan part of my night into whether or not I was going to put items on the auction house or not.
Player-Vs-Player:
Rating: 6


  • Warfronts: Staged and instanced fights exactly like World of Warcraft's battlegrounds. They are fun until you see how much you have to grind them for the PvP gear and prestige ranks. They offer nothing new inventive or dynamic. They do not further the story or game in anyway and typically involve kids yelling at each other while people "fight in the middle".
  • Open World PvP: If you play on a PVP server and are in contested zones you may engage in fairly pointless PvP combat much like World of Warcraft (I'm seeing a theme here). People have begged for some zones to fight over with a greater point but up through 1.1 there are no signs of this changing. I am a PvP player at heart, but mindlessly running around "ganking" people loses its luster without a greater point to the fighting. Also for those old Dark Age of Camelot and to a lesser extent Warhammer fans, sorry no keeps to battle over and no relics.
  • Combat: Early on warriors were doing too much damage, mages too little and saboteurs (rogue soul) too much burst with two buttons. Most of this has been corrected and the PvP in the game has great potential to be fun, if they can give it to a point beyond the mindless Favor grind. The ability to change specs on the fly while non-immersive, was a nice way to balance the paper-rock-scissors that other games suffer from.
  • Valor Stat: Those familiar with World of Warcraft will recognize this stat as resilience and it was a game-breaker for me. The inability to collect gear in a dungeon and PvP to be used in PvP was a serious negative from my standpoint. The complete separation from PvP and PvE players was a major drawback in my opinion in World of Warcraft and now Rift because there are a large number of people that like to do both. The trouble starts when I have to choose one or the other because the gear that can be used to slay a demon lord is inexplicably useless against a player in PvP. A huge negative right there.
Overall Average: 6.2
A six feels like a harsh score given how smooth the launch was. The customization of the souls and overall feel of the game was also nice, but the game felt (no pun intended) soulless. It was seriously missing a stickiness that kept me wanting more. Rift took a gamble making a WoW clone when many people already have WoW-fatigue and for me that along with the Valor stat was the game-breaker. The end-game was another 'grind expert dungeons to do raids' set-up that has really plagued the genre for years. There are better ways to handle this but Rift took no chances with their investors and stayed tried and true much like they did the rest of the game. If you were a World of Warcraft veteran and loved it, but want new skins, a different way to handle class trees, and the occasional Rift to battle this is the perfect game. If you are looking for a game with more "point" to its PvE/PvP experience, immersion or "next-generation" technology Rift is not the game for you.

 

 

 

I will be posting further MMO thoughts and analysis at my primary blog below:

http://www.mmoexaminer.blogspot.com/

 

Cheers!

Ryan

Vonrictus/Skuldin

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