Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

10 Good Things About RIFT

The final Rift beta has come and gone and I finally feel somewhat equipped to write one of my 10 good things / 10 bad things pseudo-reviews on it. Today, I’ll be all positive and talk about things I like in Rift. Next time, I won’t be so nice. As usual, these posts are highly subjective and will require your own personal interpretation before allowing judgment about whether you will like the game or not. Also as usual, there is no particular order to these.

Polish, polish, polish

Might as well get this one out of the way first: As I’ve posted before, Rift is an incredibly polished game and has been so pretty much all throughout beta. Things simply work most of the time and look good while doing so. Unless something goes utterly and horribly wrong, Rift promises to have the most flawless start of all MMOs I have been able to experience so far. There’s hardly anything that jumps out at me as being unfinished or even looks as if it has been rushed. This is a style of game developer work ethic that I can really get behind. Deliver a finished product and then spend your time after launch adding new content instead of spending the first six months simply fixing what should have been in the game in the first place.

A variety of specs

Players in Rift get to pick one of four RPG-standard base classes (Warrior, Cleric, Mage, Rogue) and for each of those classes get to pick three of eight so-called souls, which roughly resemble talent trees as you might know from World of Warcraft. The character I mainly played in the beta was a Mage for example who specialized in the Warlock soul and dabbled in Archon and Chloromancer magic. The Archon is a support-focused soul that helped me amplify the damage-dealing potential of my Warlock soul, while being a Chloromancer gave me access to a little healing magic. I considered swapping the latter for a Dominator soul to instead be able to crowd control.

Not only are there already quite a few possible combinations of the four and the eight, you also get to put talent points into souls, determining both which abilities you have access to and how strong they are. If you really want all the spells from the Warlock tree, you need to put  all your talent points into it.1 It is probably more useful in many cases to just put enough points into a tree to get the most relevant abilities and their enhancements and then spend the rest elsewhere.

No matter how you spend your points, there is a huge variety of different possible specs out there and at least currently the best ones haven’t been figured out yet. Not only does that mean that you get to work with a huge degree of customization, but you will also have quite different groups each time you go into a dungeon.

Not too much hand-holding

I've got a giant gun and a pet hellhound. What does that say about me?

Admittedly, Rift is far from being a sandbox game, but it has a few elements that diverge from the handholding, theme park style of gameplay we see in modern MMOs. For one, the developers are not afraid to allow monster invasions to take over whole towns and prevent anyone from questing in that area until they are dealt with. This makes it almost impossible to ignore the whole rift part of the game. Players who don’t participate in fighting invasions and closing rifts will have a hard time leveling.

The world feels alive-ish

The rift events make the world feel a whole lot more dynamic than it actually is. You have your normal theme park MMO shell with static quest givers who want you to collect ten bear asses for them (and then throw them onto a pile with all the other bear parts millions of other players have collected before you.) But then you have all those invasions roaming the map and rifts popping up in various (often uncomfortable) positions, demanding to be dealt with. There are always some rifts and invasions around, but there will periodically be events in which countless rifts open up at once and the NPC civilization of the zone gets under heavy fire.

Up-to-date

The game has a lot of technology that’s rather new to the world of MMOs. Many suitors of the WoW throne have failed in part because they copied WoW as it was when development on their game started. Rift, on the other hand, has many things that are rather new to World of Warcraft as well – such as dual spec and certain items (tokens, mounts) that don’t take any room in bags.  It doesn’t seem to have phasing or a dungeon finder, but otherwise most of the comfy modern-day MMO innovations are there.

Instances

Most of the instances I’ve played in Rift so far have been rather on par with what WoW has to offer (which isn’t bad at all), with the latest one I’ve visited being a bit different. It actually had a couple of puzzles / challenges that were a nice distraction from the usual trash-boss-trash grind we find in other games. The dungeon reminded me a bit of DDO in that way. That dungeon was also rather hard, which I find refreshing.

Different setting

I couldn't type "exterminate" and not post a picture of a Dalek now, could I? (image: primetime.unrealitytv.co.uk)

I quite enjoy the tension of technology and magic in the world of the game. The whole thing is less steampunky than what World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online offer us, yet it doesn’t feel odd at all to have holograms and swords in the same game.  I’ll admit that I know little of the story, having read pretty much nothing in the game. I hear it is actually quite good if you care to delve into it, but I probably won’t. All I need to know is that the guardian faction is awfully righteous and needs to be exterminated.

A decent magic compass

I don’t like leveling very much, especially not questing. I therefore appreciate anything that takes away the annoying parts of questing such as reading quest text and following complicated instructions. Most quests in Rift, even those that are more than pure collection or kill quests, can be completed simply by going where your map marker tells you to go and looking for things with a quest description around there. It is hardly ever necessary to open the quest log (which is good because the log really doesn’t tell you much) or to pay too much attention to what you are doing while questing. I like watching my shows on the side or listening to an audio book while I level up and Rifts questing is perfect for that.

Fun for achievers

Rift events are achiever-heaven so to speak. Not only do you get to pit your own performance against that of other players for rewards, rift groups also get better rewards if they close rifts fast enough to get into bonus stages. And some of those bonus-stage bosses pack quite the raid-wiping punch. The constant availability of rifts allows players to pit their power against that of others (while still working together well enough to actually reach the objective) while not forcing players to be all competitive all the time.

Rare finds

I’ve already mentioned that I don’t like the implementation of artifacts in the game, but I do like the idea of seeing the glitter of a rare item up in some mountain and then seeking a way to get to it to maybe be the first one ever to find a particular artifact (or at least to feel as if you are.) I also like finding rare monsters that either drop better loot than their normal brethren or maybe even a quest item that can be turned in for some lore (if you care about that) and experience. Events like these make the game world less dull and predictable, which is always a good thing.

And that’s ten good things already. Join me again next time when I tell you why Rift is the worst game ever to be made. Or something.

1You do get a talent point that can only be spend in a different tree every three levels though.