I have subscribed to just about every single MMO that I could get my hands on. I say that in order to show that I have some perspective when I speak about my experiences as an MMO player. For a long time I have been in what I like to call the MMORPG " Burnount Club ". I am simply tired of the same rehashed questing goals with gear dependence being the motivating factor of the game. Now that I have cleared that up...
At this moment I am enjoying Rift. Fun is a fickle thing and maybe in a month I will have a different opinion but as of now, Fun is the appropriate word. I am of the type of MMOer that find enjoyment from an overabundance of character creation options. That is the main reason that I enjoyed DAoC as much as I did. The soul system gives many options for molding a character to your liking and to be honest, it adds a ton of replay value for us Altoholics. This is not to say that the soul system is perfect or that Rift isn't missing some key things.
The Soul System
The soul system lacks some depth due to class mechanics. If you choose a soul such as Void Knight it adds a unique mechanic called pacts. The problem is that almost every soul uses the same class mechanic it is derived from and does not add a unique mechanic. A majority of the class mechanics lack any sort of depth. Warriors for example have combo points, yes its not exactly like the rogue ones but the similarity between the two makes them feel rather generic. If I was Trion I would start by removing all class based mechanics from the game and insert soul based mechanics, which would lead to far more variation in play between the souls themselves. Some souls already have their own mechanics that make them unique and Trion just needs to take it a step further.
This leads me to some of the soul based mechanics. A soul like the Saboteur feels very unique where a lot of souls feel generic. Yes, Saboteur uses the combo mechanic, which could easily be removed due that a Sabo places up to 5 charges of any type on a target anyway. Sabo naturally have the 5 combo limit so why even include it. There is a lot of charge types that are all viable and varied consisting of: damage and snare, physical damage, earth damage and armor reduc, stun, damage over time, AoE, etc. I haven't even broached the subject of bombs yet. With Sabo, the main source of damage comes in chunks or bursts. While applying them to a target, they do absolutely nothing. When you detonate them is when they have their desired effect. Saboteur feels like a very solid soul grounded with unique mechanics. This leads me to...
The Necromancer soul is simply a let down. Like most developers, Trion went the safe route. As a Necro, you have a pet and your pet feels very generic. To be honest, this is a problem with all pet classes. Guild Wars is the only MMO that I can think of at this moment, that made your pet choices not feel generic. I don't want to be out in the field with 20 other necro having the same skeleton clone walking around. Would it be hard to have it so that once we kill something, we can store that visual representation and use it to give our undead pet its look. This alone would add much more varied look to a stale soul. Visual differences is not the only problem. Even if you skeleton has a different appearance you have very little to no choices in making it perform any different than any other necro on the field of battle. I would even go so far as to say, hey, let Necro's equip their skeleton and let its weapon determine is abilities in combat. This can be said of basically any pet summoning Soul.
Soul synergy is another big issue. With a lot of abilities having obfuscated descriptions this leads to the player having to do lots and lots of testing to see what synergizes well with what. The Saboteur soul is a prime example of a soul that is fun but hard to synergize well with. When you choose Sabo as your primary soul, you go in knowing that you are going to stack charges up to 5 every chance you get and then detonate them. You are not going to be able to toss in swift shots or any other combo generating skill due to the fact that it will simply waste time that could be used to add another charge. This leads Sabo into choosing souls that give passive bonuses to optimize. The only soul synergy I see with Sabo at this moment are rift/nightblade or rift/ranger. One Nightblade gives stealth and passively increases damage while only giving a single useful ability, that in the ability to blink. The other gives you a pet and increases chance to crit while also giving you the ability to blink. Try as I might, I cant find any uses in any of the other rogue souls, for a primary Saboteur. I don't even see much Synergy between the PvP rogue soul with Sabo.
Player vs Player
Player vs Player options are far to limited and this much enjoyable play style is simply not developed. You may participate in the Warfronts from as low as level 10, which gets those that want to PvP into the fray at an early level. The problem being that you cant really gain equipment through PvP until level 25. I just do not understand the concept of saying, crafters you can gain equipment from level 1 and so can you PvEers, but you PvPers tough luck. A players enjoyment is hindered when they can not advance using the method that they choose. In no way does it take from a crafter or PvEers enjoyment of a game if PvPers can gain gear through PvP. So why limit PvPers in this way?
Warfronts seem like an after thought. They are semi-enjoyable but they took the WoW idea of battlegrounds and regressed them back to their previous state when they should have looked at Warhammers. There is no boosting mechanic so if you go into a Warfront at level 10, you are level 10. The brackets are also 10 levels and combining that with abilities scaling at random player levels and you have a train wreck. This leads to people being forced to avoid PvP until they are at least in the mid level range of a bracket. So why open PvP up at all for level 10-14 when its simply going to be frustrating. This leads me to...
I would have thought that we have learned by now that scaling of abilities at random levels is an archaic and absurd method. So if you are fighting a player that has the exact same gear and is 1 level above you, if that level just happens to advance an ability that is your primary source of offense, you are going to get wrecked. Just a single level difference can amount to a huge difference in damage, mitigationg, or healing. There is simply no reason to use this method of ability scaling. There are two other options those being: Abilities scale with level or Abilities scale with Soul level.
I prefer option two. Imagine if abilities scaled with Soul level. Now you have just added more variation with Soul choices. Should a level 30 that has saboteur as an alt soul and has only 5 points invested in the soul do the same amount of damage with detonate as someone who is level 30 with 20 points invested in the soul? I think not. There needs to be more variation between specialists and jack of all trades. What I mean by that is as of now, the only difference is that a specialist will unlock more abilities and passives through specing deeper in a soul but a jack of all trades will have far more variety when it comes to options in combat. With the current ability scaling, if a soul has a very effective ability in the lower tiers, a jack of all trades will have it and be just as good with it as the specialist. This does not seem logical to me and even approaches on game inbalance.
These are just some thoughts by a guy who has been around the block. Take them as you like. At the moment I am enjoying this game. I do have doubts on wether it will hold my attention for very long. Once the glitter fades away from making alts and testing out soul combo's, I just dont think this game has the PvP depth that I desire.