Let me state something right out of the gate here on this week’s list since it was glazed over last time: these lists are my opinion on the subject and should never be taken as fact. That out of the way, let’s get down to business. Our official review of Rift is coming later this week, but to help lay some ground work I’ve been using our weekly “List” feature to give some examples of both what I think Rift does right and now what I think it could do a little better. There’s a lot to love in Trion’s flagship title, and I’m honestly enjoying my time with it quite a bit. Where Rift does innovate, I find myself enamored with the game. But then there are some areas where it sticks to the tried and true, and as a seasoned veteran of these games, I find it’s these areas where I lose interest. They’re not done poorly, they just don’t hold up to the other more impressive parts of the game.
Two of my complaints against Rift really can go hand in hand but I think they each deserve their own bullets. For a game that does the dynamic invasion content so well, I find it a little disheartening that questing in Rift amounts to basically: go to hub, get a bunch of quests, go to bright yellow circle, kill things, return to hub when objectives are met. It’s a form of directed “grinding” as MMO quests usually are. I get that. And while the writing for the quests is well done, I find that I’m just clicking accept more and more as time goes on. I suppose this is why other companies are toying with the way in which quest objectives and text are presented, and I feel that Rift’s system (while passable) is in need of either better quest objectives, or better presentation and more probably both. Again it works, it does what the game needs it to do, it’s just kind of “blah”.
Stale Solo Play
This could be said of a lot of MMORPGs I suppose. While the trend, and one I’m thankful for, is to give players the ability to solo and progress should they need to, I find Rift immensely more fun when I’m in a group. This problem is a sum of two things for me: the repetitious quest grind and the tried & true combat mechanics. I’ve been playing these games for over a decade now, and by and large the combat has been similar in more titles than not. So when Rift comes along with its beautiful vistas, massive invasion events, and intriguing class-based system I’m a little let down when the action and questing are so mundane when played alone. Often times I only have enough time to hop in and do a quest or two and then log off. Luckily, I can hop into some PvP in that amount of time and still make progress, because the questing itself while relaxing is boring when alone. I guess they argument could be made that Trion made grouping so fun and easy to do that this is why soloing is left behind… but I really think that solo play just shows where the game is weakest.
I’m not a crafter by nature. So maybe I’m not the person best to evaluate Rift in this area. But I do know that I like crafting when it’s more active in nature than simply collecting some ingredients and making tons of useless items to level up a skill. That’s all crafting in Rift amounts to. It’s fine for some folks, I’m sure. And I’m aware that you can make some good and useful items to boot. But it’s just so tedious and useless to me when you find so much gear while playing and get so much more from questing. It seems like crafting was put in just to say there is crafting. But again, I’m not a diehard maker of things so maybe I’m just asking too much.
The downside of the Ascended Soul system? Too many options, too many combinations, equals one very difficult balancing act for PvP content. If there’s one thing competitive players hate, it’s unbalanced classes that lead to FotM builds. Rift will likely be fighting this stigma for years to come. I’m reminded of some of our time spent with the devs at shows and press events when they told us quite plainly that they expected balance to be an ongoing issue with their PvP. As any player of the game can tell you now: that’s about the long and short of it. The PvP matches can still be a lot of fun, and are a great way to supplement your questing grind to the top, but they can just as easily wind up frustrating the crap out of you. We’ll see how the 1.1 patch does, but I really do think this is going to be one of the game’s biggest hurdles in the immediate future.
Just Two Leveling Paths
I personally feel that one of the biggest draws of a theme-park MMO is its replayability. I often find myself bored at the cap because I just don’t usually get into the gear-grind that most games rely on. Instead to enjoy a game while I wait for new content, I often resort to running a new character through the paces. Now I think there’s a lot of reason to play at least one of each archetype in Rift, but my problem lies in the fact that I’ll be trudging through the same quests and zones all the way to level 50 on a second run through the content. Maybe new content and expansions will address this, and I’m lucky that these days getting to the level cap takes me eons so maybe I’ll not run into this problem with Rift. But chances are I’m not the only one who’s not all too excited about playing through the same content several times without even a slightly deviated path unless I want to change factions (which I don’t).