Rift Review

The world is under constant assault. At any moment, creatures from another plane could tear the very air asunder and pour through to assault you. In addition, you’re locked in a battle with former allies over whose plan to save the world is the best. This is the world of Telara. This is the world of Rift.

Rift is the first game from Trion Worlds, a fairly new developer made up of veterans of other MMO studios such as Sony Online Entertainment and NCSoft. It focuses on the world of Telara, and the planar creatures that are attempting to destroy it.


Rift (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Trion Worlds
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Release Date: March 01, 2011
MSRP: $49.99

First off, we should get one thing straight: Rift is not breaking new ground in the MMO genre. Rather it’s amalgamated a number of ideas that have been used before, and added a fresh twist to a few of them. Chief among these twists is the concept of rifts.

Rifts are basically public quests that a number of players can spontaneously group together and complete. Unlike public quests in other games, Rifts can pop up in random spots, or be spawned as part of a planar invasion. Either way, they’re quick chunks of content that can be devoured in as little as few minutes, or in the case of planar invasions, up to a half-hour or so.

What rifts bring to the game isn’t just the cool challenge of closing them, or the fact that left unchecked they’ll spawn hordes of invasion forces to establish footholds across the zone, it’s the flavor. Thanks to the randomness of the rifts, the world constantly feels like it is really under assault. When a rift opens up players flock to it, band together, and take it down. When invasions occur it’s not unusual to see anywhere from 20 to 100 players riding across a zone together to vanquish the threat.

Each of those players is very unique, thanks to Rift’s class system. Blending familiar with new and different, the base four classes each offer 8 specializations that players can choose to customize their avatars. Want to play a fire mage with an elemental for a pet? You can. Want to be a healing necromancer? You can do that too.

There really aren’t any completely new classes here, but what there are is new ways for people to play those classes. Most MMO players know the holy trinity: Tank, Heals, DPS. In most games, Warriors tank, Clerics heal, and Mages or rogues DPS. Now, those roles are certainly available in Rift. What’s different is that mages can heal (if they want), rogues and clerics can tank, and rogues can heal. Each class is capable of filling multiple roles, and this allows character development to open up like it really hasn’t in any MMO yet.

The first time this came to light I responded to a group looking for one more DPS for an instance, so I volunteered my mage. Upon entering the instance, I realized that was the only member of the party who wasn’t a cleric. The instance run was a success, and I sat back and marveled at the fact that what I’ve always seen in MMOs had just been knocked on its ear.

PvP is similar, although this early in the game’s lifespan it’s somewhat unbalanced. Warfronts function much like the battlegrounds in WoW, allowing you to compete in capture the flag and take and hold matches, as well as the Rift equivalent of a ‘Kill the VIP’ mode. Trion hopes to address the PvP imbalances without affecting PvE by making changes that only affect PvP. Whether they will be successful in this only time will tell. PvP as a whole really isn’t the focus of Rift. There are PvP servers, and there are zones that both factions must quest in, but this is a PvE-focused game.

In a nutshell, this is gameplay in Rift. It’s very easy to jump into, and will feel very familiar if you’ve played any MMOs before. While it doesn’t really invent a ton of new stuff, what is does do is take ideas from other games and make them awesome. There’s a minimum of downtime, the crafting is actually useful (although tedious at times) and the rifts keep things interesting.

Technically, Trion Worlds has built a solid foundation for Rift. Their proprietary engine was built from the ground up for large-scale battles, and it shows. The game runs smoothly even on an older graphics card (nVidia GTX 260), providing playable frame rates even with over one hundred players onscreen. While the graphics aren’t photorealistic in any way, the environments are very nice to look at. Character models have nice details, and some of the cities are almost breathtaking.

Server stability is also very good, after a few hiccups during the week-long Head Start that Trion offered to pre-order customers. Rather than panic and add far too many new servers, Trion showed their savvy side, adding just enough servers to handle the load, and not letting the inevitable long queues dissuade them from their plan. The result? Servers that are mostly well-populated, a necessity in a game with as much dynamic world content as this. Queues are also now virtually non-existent.

Trion has said that they will be releasing regular content updates, and they’re making good on that promise this week with the release of update 1.1 and the River of Souls world invasion and raid. While this doesn’t guarantee future updates, it bodes well for the future of the game that the first major update is landing less than a month after the game launched.

All of this adds up to a MMO that is quite fun to play. Rift is familiar enough to be easily accessible, yet has enough new features to keep things fresh. It’s a solid entry into the MMO market and is likely to be around for a long time. While it may not bring a ton of innovation to the genre, it takes what is there and polishes it to a fine shine. If you’re interested in getting the best parts of the MMO genre in one game, Rift is the game for you.

Pros:

  • Highly polished game content
  • Familiar UI and gameplay elements
  • Dynamic world content keeps things fresh
  • Class system allows for a wide variety of character customization
  • There is a ton of content that doesn’t require you to be in an uber-guild
  • Trion has been very responsive to community concerns thus far

Cons:

  • No real new systems or gameplay innovations
  • High end raiding requires 20-man groups
  • Crafting can be quite tedious

 

Score: 90/100

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