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Staff Impressions

William Murphy Posted:
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Now that the game’s released, we’ll be cycling out our weekly Rift column for a new game (one that has the words Secret and World in its title).  But that doesn’t mean we’re done talking about Trion’s newly released game.  There’s sure to be plenty of interviews, previews of content, and of course our official review at the end of the month.  Much like we did with DC Universe Online, we figured the last weekly column would be a great place to let the rest of the staff in on the discussion to share their own opinions on Rift.  So I’ll take the back seat this week as Suzie Ford and Mike Bitton lay down their thoughts on Trion’s flagship title.  Read on, adventurer.

Suzie Ford

I’ll admit it: I’m a longtime MMO player who doesn’t give a monkey’s booty about ‘sandbox’ titles or ground breaking innovation. With precious little time for marathon play sessions, I like games that allow me to quickly jump in, are easy to pick up and understand based on my past gaming experiences. There is no question that Rift succeeds on all those counts. 

Rift’s game play is unquestionably familiar to anyone who has played MMOs in the past. Picking the game up and getting started is a snap and gives players a chance to actually interact with and enjoy the surroundings without having to worry about learning new moves, new combat maneuvers, etc. Combat is pretty standard stuff, nothing groundbreaking but certainly nothing to criticize unless you’re determined to want something different than most MMOs offer. You won’t find dazzling innovation here but, in this case, that’s not a bad thing. The combat effects are terrific with lots of blues and purples to dazzle the eyes.  Lastly, devs have actually made players have to be careful. Enemies not only move in somewhat random paths but some also move much faster than others. You’ll be standing there letting arrows fly when quite suddenly you’re surrounded by a horde of spiders. Why does it ALWAYS have to be spiders?

I found Rift’s graphics to be really nice with lots of detail and color. The best part is that they don’t suck huge resources from your system yet look very good. But there are some things that I feel rather nitpicky about.  For instance, it’s rather annoying to me that my horse’s tail moves in one big lump rather than individual sections moving independent of others as they would when riding at a gallop. It’s the same thing with my character’s clothing and hair. The lack of motion in clothing, hair, etc. should have been included. Really, much older MMOs have it and so should Rift.  That said, though, I’m sort of mystified by people saying the graphics in Rift aren’t up to par. But, then again, I’m more of a story person. Rift’s writers did a great job on the story and for the first time since LOTRO, I’m actually reading the quest dialog. It’s good enough for me to want to read it.

Rifts are an absolute blast. I’ve had more fun jumping into rifts with masses of people to take down a pile of enemies and even occasionally trying to do one alone.  I’m not always successful but still have a great time trying. It’s nice to be able to just join a group when you come upon a rift without having to ask, wait, ask again, get rejected etc. Rifts and invasions come up often and they come up fast. Hands down, this non-party-based party-based combat is the best aspect of Rift in my opinion.

Rift has things that definitely need to be added over time: Player housing or some other money sink immediately come to mind. Now that in-game money is more plentiful (I’m a level 27), there’s simply nothing to spend it on. Sure, crafting is one way but that’s not my thing. I prefer to buy from those who actually like crafting since I categorically do not. Either way, something needs to be added. Cities need to feel more alive too. While there are a lot of people milling around most outposts, there doesn’t seem to be a real purpose to them being there. Mostly they just, well, stand there. There’s no ambient talk or sounds or anyone working. Folks are just loitering.

To sum it up, Rift is a great game for those who like traditional high-fantasy MMOs. It’s patently obvious that Rift isn’t really trying to be earth shatteringly innovative but is trying to be better than what’s already out there by blending together and improving upon the best features of MMO games of the past. The dev team has nearly perfected those features and thrown in a bit of innovation on top just for fun.

Mike Bitton

I’ve had an interesting journey with Rift. Truth be told, when the game was first announced as Heroes of Telara I honestly passed it off as just another fantasy MMO in the oversaturated fantasy genre. Fast forward to 2010 and Trion made it clear they were serious about making a splash in the MMO genre as they really pushed the game and got gamers to give it a closer look. Even as the hype train was rolling out of the station I wasn’t truly convinced until I flew out to Trion Worlds late last summer to check the game out for myself where I was shocked to find out how polished it was in its pre-alpha state.

Since then the game has improved exponentially as it pushed through the beta process and into launch, with Trion being extra attentive to player feedback and quite agile in implementing changes in response to that feedback. Months ago the unique Soul System was quite a bit less impressive than it could have been as it took forever to really sink your teeth into it. Today you can choose from all eight souls from the get go and have many more points to spread across your three souls of choice even early in the game. Most developers would not dare to make such substantial changes to the game design so close to launch, and I was honestly surprised to see Trion make it (among other things) happen.

Rift: Planes of Telara to me is World of Warcraft all over again, and I mean that as a compliment. Blizzard created a solid MMO with the Warcraft universe as its foundation and incorporated many of the innovative features of other MMOs at the time, polished it up, threw their own twist in and let the gaming world be the judge. Rift is very much a culmination, and in some ways an evolution, of the successful features and ideas that have appeared since the launch of WoW. For example, while Warhammer Online didn’t quite hit the mark, the Public Quest system was clearly popular and Rifts are an obvious evolution of that, with the key difference being that in Rift the content comes to you. 

Rift is incredibly polished and hits a lot of the right marks for me: it’s fun, the gameplay is solid, and Trion’s put in enough of their own spice to set the game apart, but ultimately, as Bill put it in his impressions it doesn’t “reinvent the wheel” and I think that’s where a lot of gamers are divided.  I personally don’t have a problem with some of the samey feel, and even Trion hasn’t shied from the fact that Rift is very much a traditional MMO with a few (important) twists, but your mileage may (and will) vary. If your first MMO was World of Warcraft you’ll feel right at home in Rift, and if you’re an MMO vet who’s been yearning for something truly different you might find yourself disappointed with the level of familiarity you’ll experience.  But disappointed or not, Rift is still a solid game that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the bunch.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.