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Returning to RIFT

Christopher Coke Posted:
Columns The Tourist 0

RIFT is a game that deserves your time and free-to-play makes the best opportunity to jump in since launch. You should be playing it. There's no simpler way to say it than that. Trion Worlds has created one of the best, most full-featured MMORPGs on the market. Housing? Check. Dynamic content? Check. The single best class system in any fantasy MMO period? You can create your own class, so yeah, big check. On top of that, Trion made a name for itself on prolific post-release updates. If you've been away for a while, there's a good chance you have a mountain of new content waiting for you. Even if you haven't, the gargantuan areas and hundreds of quests introduced with Storm Legion are now available free of charge. There's something for everybody in RIFT: Free-to-Play and this column is dedicated to sharing it with you.

When RIFT first launched in 2011, it was already impressive. It was as feature-rich as any launch MMO had a right to be. Within its lusciously detailed and variety-filled world, Trion brought forth the potential of dynamic content. Rifts, a mix of public quests and mini-dungeons, and zone invasions ensured that nowhere was safe. Questing through a zone meant stumbling across dimensional tears, whirlpool-like nether storms of fire, death, earth, and water that would spew forth enemies and boss monsters for rewards. Grouping was as easy as we had ever seen it. Whether it was rifts in earnest or conflicts with their invading forces, teaming up with other players was as simple as clicking the “Join Party” button.

That only grew easier with in time. Instant Adventures allowed players to be teleported across the world and jump in and out of quest events with other players. A mentoring system was introduced where you could literally decide your level and adventure alongside their lesser-progressed friends while still gaining experience and loot. Patch 1.10 introduced “Faction as Fiction” which removed all of the barriers associated with being in an opposite faction. Grouping, guilding, and communication were completely open. Patch 2.1 took things a step further and introduced cross-server group invites, allowing friends to connect, adventure, and party up within their battlegroup.

RIFT was accessible. RIFT was progressive. RIFT was iterative. They listened to their players and reacted. When the tides turned towards three-faction PVP, RIFT added Conquest. When players wanted solo and small-group dungeons, Chronicles were introduced. When they asked for housing, they delivered the hands-down best and most customizable system this side of Minecraft. Most importantly, the RIFT team seems to have woven these dispositions into their very DNA. With the launch of free-to-play, they have once again delivered above and beyond what anyone dared expect.

Yet this type of transition is easily botched and many of you are unconvinced. Let's look at what Trion didn't do: they didn't lock any souls; they didn't lock any quests; they didn't gate features; they didn't segment their player-base; they didn't imbalance the game; and they didn't add spend-pressure at every turn. In short, if you have ever played, ever, not a single thing was taken away from you except the charge to experience it. From 1 to 60, the only real content left behind the paywall are the Storm Legion souls. If you'd rather stick with the 36 options currently available, you can and never pay a dime. Moreover, if you've subscribed in the past you probably have a handful of credits (their in-game currency) and some loyalty rewards waiting for you. I logged in with 25 reward items to claim and nearly $20 in free cash. The transition has been pretty damn cool.

Instead of pressuring you to pay, RIFT F2P is predicated on convenience and options. If you die and don't have a soul walk, you can buy one for a few credits. If you are short on platinum and want to get your next mount right away, you can. Subscribers have all the bag slots from the original game but can unlock two extra on the cheap. Role slots are also expanded. The full array of booster potions are on order, so leveling up alts is much speedier than it's ever been – and let me tell you, the beginning leveling experience has been way streamlined since launch. Returning to the game now means Carnage Quests and remote quest completion from the get-go.

As a fan that was concerned about what free-to-play might mean for the game, I couldn't be happier. The whole system adds value and doesn't strip anything away. The only stipulation is with selling items on the AH, which requires 1500 (about $5) in loyalty. This seems related to deterring gold sellers and account thieves more than anything.

Any money spent on the game now or in the past contributes to a loyalty score which rewards you with free items. Most of these are cosmetics, boosters, and dimension pieces. As someone who found the previous veteran rewards lacking, the additional gifts are a nice bonus. Subscribers, now called Patrons, earn a regular tick of loyalty but also receive a handful of other conveniences such as extra dungeon tokens, gold drops, mount speed, experience, and reputation. That pretty much frees them up to spend their credits on the masses of vanity items, mounts, and non-combat pets available in the store. Players in love with customization have a lot to look forward to as amount of costumes, sold in pieces or full sets, is out of this world and can look quite slick.

So where do things get questionable? The shop sells gear. That's a hot button topic for MMO players and I was surprised to see Trion even try it. I'm happy to report that this is mostly an issue for pundits and busybodies. The gear for sale tops out at expert level dungeon quality and everything else is quickly replaced. Buying dungeon gear is only worthwhile if you desperately want to reach experts or entry-level raids. Even then, the community of players running this content remains intact due to the daily quests which reward raid tokens. If it stays this way and Trion avoids selling raid items, there is no cause for concern or outrage.

There are other, smaller issues. Some players are concerned about REX, a credit token purchased for real money and tradeable in-game. It's currently selling for over a thousand platinum on many servers and only costs $10, so there's a question of inflation. Bag slots are on a per-character basis. Other players are concerned about the dungeon and notoriety boosters but each has no effect in high level content. There is also age old concern of development priorities shifting away from gameplay and into the item shop. We don't know about that, but we do know that Trion is capable of stellar game design. Time will tell.

Overall, I've found RIFT: Free-to-Play to be the best value in its field. There is just so much on offer that players un-married to action combat would be crazy not to give it a shot. With talk of the next big patch already beginning and a new event in Silverwood and Freemarch taking place right now, the pace of updates seems poised for a return. Do yourself a favor and try this game. Retry this game. Just play it. You will be happy you did.

Christopher Coke / Chris is an MMO player that loves beating things with other things. RIFT is good about that, even magic things. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight and hear him on the official podcast of MMORPG.com.

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Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight