Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Ten Bad Things About Rift

Finally I’ll be able to give you part two of the closest thing you’ll get to a RIFT review from me. Last week you could read ten good things about the game, this time its ten bad things I’ll be writing about. As usual, no particular order will be used, nor do I claim that this list is exhaustive or objective. All you’ll get is a list of ten things I personally don’t like about the game. Read what I liked as well, and then make up your own mind.

Don’t take bigger bites than you can chew

Rift offers a huge amount of customization options through their soul system – four basic classes to choose from which can specialize in up to three of eight areas each. My current character is a melee-centric cleric that can switch into a combination of healing souls for group content. So far, so good. The issue I have with the system is that the different soul trees feel both very niche and very similar at the same time, both due to the fact that the designers had only so many ideas for interesting skills and talents but had to spread them amongst 32 trees. Whereas a warlock in World of Warcraft has a multitude of different play-styles associated with it, a Warlock in RIFT is always pretty much the same. The choices in the talent trees are mostly boring and clear-cut (take more damage for PvE, take more health for PvP, that kind of thing). The purifier is a single-target healer and is pretty much exactly that. Aside from some (meaningless) damage-dealing abilities, almost all the abilities the purities the purifier has deal with keeping a single target alive. Similarly, a Warlock has a variety of damage-over-time effects at her disposal. These differ, but their differences don’t really matter until you get to endgame theorycrafting. Until then, the warlock is all about putting those DoTs on the target and using a single direct damage spell until either the DoTs need to be re-applied or the target is dead.

Sure, you can branch out by putting points in different souls, but that is usually not the optimal way to go at things. It is much more efficient to put a lot of points into a single tree first than to spread them out into different trees. In my opinion, Rift soul trees could be much more interesting if they had limited themselves to, say, five trees for each class instead of eight. That way they also wouldn’t have had to repeat what is essentially the same ability in so many different trees.

Damage can’t be everything

I’ve written about this before, and it still holds true. Rift events are fun as long as you are a damage dealer, but if you do anything else (such as tank, heal, or buff) you will feel screwed on the final results. My cleric is quite a good healer whilst being only a mediocre damage dealer in his alternative soul setup, yet I get much better results in rift events when I deal damage – especially when there a lot of other players around. The amount of damage per time that players can deal is the only metric that isn’t capped and doesn’t get split between multiple players. Healing is capped both by the amount of damage the monsters get to deal and the amount of healers there are. Tanking works similarly and buffing isn’t really rewarded at all. When one of the main selling points of a game is this imbalanced, there’s something wrong with the game for sure.

No mods

I’ve heard other players rejoice at the fact that there are no player-made modifications available for Rift, citing especially the lack of damage meters, boss mods and the infamous gear score is good things. Me, I absolutely hate having to work without the interface improvements I’ve become so used to. Where is my sortable and filter-able all-in-one inventory? Oh right, it doesn’t exist. Instead I always have to try to sort my inventory over and over again. Annoying. I’d also like to have a HUD again and maybe target-aware action buttons. Button real estate is incredibly limited – so much that I don’t even have any damaging abilities hotkeyed in my healing setup. Yet sometimes I do want to access those abilities. This would be easy in World of Warcraft, but the lack of mods makes it impossible in Rift.

Grinds in leveling areas

Another point I’ve written about already. What is the point of grinding out reputation or currency during leveling when the rewards for the grinds quickly get obsolete through further leveling? I have all the reputation factions that tend to get close to reasonable rewards just as I’m leaving the zone to go into a new one in which the basic quest rewards are already better than what I can get from grinding faction reputation or competing in rift events. The effort I’d have to put into those things simply isn’t worth it for the rewards.

Lack of creativity

The field of MMO design is an incredibly derivative one and we should all be used to new MMOs feeling a lot like old ones by now. Especially World of Warcraft is always mentioned when a new game launches and people will claim that the new game is just a copy of WoW. Oftentimes these people forget that WoW itself was just an amalgam of pre-existing game ideas. That said, Rift is still incredibly lacking in innovation. There is very little aside from polish that I could cite as a reason for others to play this MMORPG instead of another (such as WoW). I’d really like to be able to say something along the lines of “Rift is like WoW, but it has super cool feature X which makes it better.” Rift events (*cough*public quests*cough*) and the soul system just aren’t enough of an innovation to make the game stand out.

Crafting

The crafting system of Rift is quite boring, but the same is true for WoW and many other MMOs. Rift has a couple of things that make it even less appealing though. My cleric is an alchemist and has the two gathering professions of butchering and foraging. I chose this combination because I wanted to be self-sufficient and materials from both butchering and foraging are necessary for alchemy. Alas, alchemy produces little of practical value so far while all the gathered items clog my inventory. Both gathering professions provide crafting materials other than those needed for alchemy. I should probably trade those to other players or sell them on the auction house, but I can’t really be bothered. I much prefer a clean system like that in World of Warcraft where one gathering profession supports one crafting profession or a really open one in which you can’t possibly be self-sufficient in crafting and have to trade. The Rift system seems like a whole lot of annoyances for little to no reward.

That said, I haven’t really gotten far into any other professions yet, so maybe I just hit a bad apple with alchemy. Another issue I have with alchemy is that it keeps on using low-level ingredients at higher levels from time to time, essentially forcing me to return to low-level regions for the express purpose of gathering herbs and other ingredients. Then there are the crafting daily quests which require you to craft a certain amount of a specific item and then bring those items to recipients somewhere else. The recipients for the first couple of crafting dailies (which you should really do every day) are in annoying places that can’t be reached by fast travel – again forcing you to visit low-level regions for pretty much no gain aside from the main objective itself.

Limited fast travel

Speaking of fast travel –there is only one portal (comparable to a World of Warcraft flight master) in each of the (huge) zones. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of time on horseback to get to places. Sure, the world feels bigger this way, but running along familiar terrain gets boring pretty quickly. This seems like quite a step back from the usability other games offer.

Game-relevant collector’s edition rewards

If you have bought the collector’s edition you have access to a free mount early on as well as a much larger starting inventory. I’m greatly opposed to the ability to buy in-game advantages with real-world money, especially in a game that is not free-to-play. Charging us a monthly fee and still allowing players to pay more for actual (read: non-cosmetic) in-game advantages is something I simply can’t support.

Class identity

The soul system leads to classes being able to perform well in quite a large amount of roles. A rogue can be a melee or ranged DPS character as well as a support healer and as far as I have heard even a tank. Differences between classes are usually easy to spot in games and you pretty much know what “the hunter” in a World of Warcraft group is going to do (aside from wiping you). A ranged rogue in Rift looks pretty much the same as a melee one or a bard (the support healer). Looking at a group setup really tells you pretty much nothing about how things are going to work out. Maybe this setup will just take some getting used to, but for now group play seems pretty much a wash. This is a problem that occurs directly from the variety that the soul system offers (which I like, in general) so I can’t really tell you what the solution to it is. But different soul setups really need to feel more different, not only to the player but also to other players in the group.

Gold spam already

It feels really odd to me that game companies still launch games with inappropriate anti-spam and anti gold-selling methods in place. It should be clear by now that gold farmers will infest your game and spam your chat rooms if you don’t do something against it and I simply can’t imagine that implementing a proper spam filter on server side or even client side is all that hard. It simply seems as if companies don’t take the threat of gold-selling seriously until they realize how much of an impact it has on their game.

  • The scoring mechanic has always been the achilles heel of public quest systems in any game so far, indeed.

    The “buy ingame advantages” issue is something we will probably not get rid off. Especially with more and more games going F2P or sub + cash shop. The Tartagon mount is IMO rather minor in comparison to other games. In LOTRO you can buy up to +50 points of every stat by now, and if you want to spend the money all wanted virtues to max as well. Sigh. I am afraid no matter how much I oppose it, it won’t get better. See the sparkly ponies, every game got it’s sparkly pony by now, too.

    Lack of creativity: I played Rift a lot during Beta, and lost interest around Beta 4. I felt like I had done this already in many other games before. Another thing is that Rift is not nearly as popular in Germany for some reason – at least that’s my impression. Nobody wanted to play Rift with me, and I did not have the motivation to start all alone either. If a game really sucks me in, it does not matter to me what my buddies do. Rift lacked that factor somehow. I guess I am waiting for Guild Wars 2 and this also influenced me to pass on Rift.

    I am quite happy that there are no mod for Rift. Sure, you are right that they could offer more interface customization. But I am opposed to mods, they often make you watch more the mods and all that than focus on the mobs on the screen.

    Anyways, comparing last week’s PRO and this week’s CON I think you quite enjoy Rift, so have fun playing! :)

  • Regarding the fast travel situation, once you get to the higher level zones there is more than one teleporter per zone. Shimmersand has two, and Iron Pine has three. I just now got to Stillmoor, so I’m not sure how many that zone has ye

  • You say, “Button real estate is incredibly limited – so much that I don’t even have any damaging abilities hotkeyed in my healing setup. Yet sometimes I do want to access those abilities. This would be easy in World of Warcraft, but the lack of mods makes it impossible in Rift.”

    I don’t understand why you’re saying this. The UI allows something like 10 action bars on the screen, so there should be no shortage of onscreen action bar slots for your abilities. I think I’ve got eight visible in my current configuration, room for over 80 ability icons.

    Assigning hotkeys to action bar slots couldn’t be easier. Once you’re in the keybind setup, simply mouse over a slot and hit the key to be assigned.

    No mods required for the functionality you seek.
    Stratagerm´s last blog post ..RIFT Executive Producer Scott Hartsman addresses login validation bug

  • @Killington: That is good to know, thanks :)

    @Stratagerm: The functionality I’m looking for is not simple keybinding but conditionality. In WoW I could have one button do one thing while targeting a friend and another thing targeting a foe.
    I could also map multiple abilities (with multiple hotkeys) to a single visible button or even without a visible button, saving screen real estate.

    The latter, I’ll admit, isn’t particularly necessary anymore with screen sizes these days and the lack of other add-ons to make room for.

    I do not believe that the Rift macro language allows for such a setup, but I might be wrong. At the time of writing for the above post I (falsely) assumed that no mods meant no macros as well.

  • I have to say that this is a very unfortunate, narrow review.

    Dont take bigger bite- well you do realize that you can gather additional souls and swap between those roles at any time…right? You should explore this before you buy into this statement.

    Damage Cant Be Everything- I dont understand what you are talking about. It appears that ‘results’ refers to something you perceive, because the loot drops are the same no matter what role you are playing in the scenario. Your healing cap value is specific to a single role, but with certain combinations of both skill and souls, you can actually do quite phenomenal amounts of healing.

    No Mods- So what? It’s not like it’s not a possibility in the future. WoW has several years on the world and the first mods showed up after the initial release, when stability had become somewhat of a conclusion. I see Trion doing this as well.

    Grinds in leveling areas- This is a game play choice. You choose not to care about it, but some people fall in love with a zone and decide to be a virtual emissary to it. If you focus on the little things in game, such as the culture, story and etc- then you would enjoy this Role Playing experience. If you are about leveling as fast as possible, getting geared up, and twinkly- then you probably could care less.

    Lack of Creativity- Great point, but it falls down hard when you start to call out lack of innovation. Yes- WoW took from UO, EQ, and a few others of the time, added more, and made the experience enjoyable. What Rift has done is taken this to the next level with the ability to configure and fine tune your character for the way you like to play. PvP is not PVe is not PvRift is not PVR(roleplaying). THAT in itself is an innovation- the ability to essentially write your own story as you play without being cornered into a single mode- as discussed in other reviews that cite people no longer wandering the realm, but sitting around in que’s waiting to dungeon out into an instance.

    Crafting- it sucks- cant agree with you more. Not only is what you make limited, but you can achieve it too quickly. Alchemist is the hardest one in my opinion, and unfortunately, the likely most useful one.

    Fast travel- addressed in another post- most zones have two, some have 3.

    Gold Spam- sorry but one customer pays for a single spam account. If I were to sell 30 gold to 10 people a day, I wouldnt be so upset when I got banned. I just keep moving my connection and it will be difficult to stop. The only way a company can stop this is if they stop allowing game cards and require a credit card. But we know this cant happen, the revenue stream from minors is too important to the companies that publisht these games.

    So thank you for your top 10 Good things, but upon further review of what is not to like, I think you need about 60 days of game time to qualify these opinions better.

    Cheers.

  • Hey Hamster, thanks for your comment. My “reviews” are intended to be very personal and absolutely incomplete. Especially an MMO can hardly be reviewed fully after a beta.

    To your points:

    - Bigger bite: I am (and was) aware of that feature. Still the trees dimply don’t feel very well designed (though things have also improved since I wrote this post.)
    - Damage: I was referring to Rift events with contribution meters. Those have been removed since.
    - Mods: I’m happy they will be introduced, but at the time of this writing they were missing and I personally considered that a negative. Also, I’m pretty sure I already had WoW mods at launch.
    - Grinds: I suppose. Still I don’t think there is a huge number of players who enjoys grinding in a zone they out levelled ages ago. I may be wrong.
    - Lack of creativity: PvP is not PvE or RP in pretty much all other games I know, this is nothing new. There’s the soul system and rift events, everything is a carbon copy (give or take a few details.) This is how MMOs seem to work these days, but it is not a good thing in my eyes.
    - Gold Spam: I’m not so sure about that. There were mods in World of Warcraft that correctly identified and stopped almost all gold spam. It has to be possible to do this server side. Companies are simply not investing enough in research on that front.

    My additional months of playing Rift (albeit sparingly, I’m still not 50) have shed some additional light on the game and many things have changed since this beta review. Still, most of these points still reflect my personal opinion of the game. This doesn’t mean it is bad btw, the 10 bad/good things is my standard “review” format. Even if I love a game I will find 10 things that nag me ;)
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Quote of the Day

  • @Hamster:

    It’s interesting that you think YOU are qualified to tell other people their opinions are not… ‘qualified’
    I tried Rift for about… 3 hours. Then I cancelled my subscription, uninstalled, and clicked the old bronze and navy W icon.
    What I hated about Rift first and foremost is that the races are ugly (and some of the npc creatures just plain genetic impracticalities). Not only is it impossible to have remotely pale skin unless you’re a female elf-thing, the models are all FAT. I’m serious. The human-thing (mastidons?) have a freaking 40 inch waist and yet they run around and jump like lithe, unburdened spirits.
    Also I couldnt get the camera to zoom out. The UI was almost the exact same as the one in WoW, only without the proper scaling so every window was big and covering up a huge chunk of screen, and the plot was completely over the top. I never got to doing rifts but then again having my schedule be controlled by where and when an oversized outdoor raid is occuring does not really suit my play style.
    This opinion doesnt sparkle with the rift fans, does it?

  • @Materia:

    ‘npc creature’ is a redundant adjective but I was specifically referring to the monsterous mounts and creepy looking tentacle demons… and evil trees and all the other ridiculous sh!t that makes you think the game designers are on strong medication.

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