Tripping the Rift Fantastic (Gameplay & Story)
There’s plenty of material here on MMORPG.com and on the official Rift site to explain the lore behind Trion’s game, but here’s the basics. The God of Death, Regulos has caused six planes to begin invading Telara and wreck havoc. As a player, you will side with either the Guardians (devout followers of the Gods) or the Defiants (those who rely more on the practical means of technology). Your goal is simple: protect and cleanse Telara of Regulos and the threat of the invading planes. But along the way you’ll also obviously be fighting with the other faction on just how this should be done. There’s way more to it than this simplification, and Rift itself does a great job of delving into the lore with collectible books and oodles of text throughout the game. You just have to be vigilant enough to read it all.
If you’ve played pretty much any of the major MMORPGs released since Everquest established the DIKU MMO, you’ll feel right at home with the controls and UI found in Rift. It’s obvious that Trion was going after the same market as any number of AAA MMOs. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just obvious that this is their goal. Can you blame them, though? Newly founded company. Lots of investment dollars. Very risky and expensive industry to enter into. I can appreciate why Trion decided to build upon what’s already proven to work. Where some developers aim to reinvent, Trion is content to tinker and improve upon established standards. As long as that’s what you want from your next MMO, Rift will please you greatly.
But this comfort in the familiar is where I feel Trion’s game winds up faltering most. The combat is the same combat we’ve all been playing for over a decade now. Highlight target, hit hotkeys, rinse and repeat. The questing is similar. You go from quest hub to quest hub collecting quests (which are interesting should you read them, but many simply won’t), and run to objective areas to kill some things and return. You do this from level one to level fifty. All of this is more dynamic and interesting in groups of course, as is most content in these games. But let’s be honest, many people (myself included) play a lot of times solo due to time constraints or the simple desire to do so. The game feels a bit tired when just roving about questing alone. Of that I am certain.
Luckily, one of Rift’s other innovations tends to liven things up quite a bit on a daily basis. The titular Rifts themselves may often unfold in the same locations, but they don’t do so at the same times, and they don’t always follow the same paths. And when a zone-wide invasion happens, there’s something absolutely awe-inspiring about the way people band together to take out the invaders. Quest hubs are overrun, bands of elite enemies tear across the landscape. It’s all very cool and helps drive some truly massive experiences. There’s nothing quite like a group of a few hundred people running from locale to locale, fighting together (or against one another if PvP is enabled) and triumphing over such an imposing force. It hasn’t been done before Rift, and I can only imagine how the system will grow and improve in the months to come. The standard Rifts can be repetitive, I won’t lie. Unless it’s a full-scale invasion, I usually don’t partake in them anymore. But the invasions are something I personally just can’t say no to. You can garner great rewards from doing them, and they’re really just fun to participate in.
Much Ado About Telara (Content)
There are plenty of instanced dungeons in Rift. Ten small group and one raid-sized at launch (with another just around the corner in the game’s first content patch). I was only able to partake in the Deepstrike Mines, which lies in Stonefield for the Defiant faction. It’s serviceable, fun, and to the point. From what I can gather, most dungeon content only takes about an hour or so to do. That’s pefect for me, and I suspect a lot of other players too. The only thing that would make it better would be a Looking for Group tool, which we’ve been told team is devising. If you’ve played through any group dungeon in just about any fantasy MMO, you’ll feel right at home in Rift. They’re not amazing, drop your jaw encounters, but they drive the narrative, offer great rewards and what’s really nice is that you can get all related quests once you enter a dungeon so you won’t miss out and need to come back if you don’t want to.
There’s really just a metric ton (I swear, I weighed it) of content in Rift. The ten dungeons and raid, hard-modes and all. Three PvP Warfronts (which we’ll cover soon), oodles of collections, lots of crafting professions, hundreds of achievements and of course all of the obtainable loot and reputation rewards which happen pretty organically just through questing and taking part in rifts and invasions. So while I can moan about how boring questing can be, there’s really plenty of ways to advance in the game. It’s perfectly viable to pick your favorite activity and toil away at it until your heart’s content, but you’ll get a lot more for your time if you mix it up in all Rift has to offer. I can’t think of any game that launched with this much content, and with all of it in working condition no less. It’s a feat for any developer, much less a newly founded one. Trion has reset the bar for the level of polish these games should have at launch.
The biggest downside, and probably the only area where one could say Trion spread themselves thin is that there are only two paths to the max level in the game: one for each faction. Of course your second trek through won’t be exactly the same, but you will be doing the same content even if you don’t do it in exactly the same pattern. So while the Ascended Soul system allows for a lot of different builds across the game’s four archetypes, only the heartiest of adventurers will find the drive to level up enough characters to experience them all.