Trion Worlds first game, Rift
is making waves with players who've grown tired of wandering the hills of Azeroth, scouring the Shire and soaring the skies in Aion. The latest subscription-based title to hit the market introduces the world of Telara, a world under-siege by elemental foes where players are the resurrected souls of heroes brought back to offer salvation.
Iteration, not imitation it seems is the sincerest form of flattery in the MMORPG market. While Rift follows the accepted template laid out by the leaders it takes many of the systems introduced among those various games and tweaks them just enough to make them coherent and in some cases better.
The setting of Rift includes the usual epic fantasy conceits – Elves, Dwarves, humans and a few differently colored races fight against unspeakable evil to save the world. The game features mages, knights, priests and rogues as you'd expect but mixes the formula a bit by giving players not 1 class with advanced options, but three distinct skill trees – called souls – which can be configured to allow for more versatile abilities.
Players choose from two factions – the prig-like holy-roller Guardian factions and the techno-magical Defiant. The two factions are in opposition philosophically due to the nature of the players existence. Guardians believe the gods sometimes send back the ascended spirits of heroes to defend the world of Telara while the Defiant eschew all that faith mumbo-jumbo and employ pseudo-scientific means to forcibly resurrect dead heroes.
Aside from the starting background though the two factions play very similarly. Sure, there are variations in the races available to the two factions – Guardians have humans, high elves and dwarves while the Defiant allow humans, Kelari “dark elves” and Bahmi “giants.” Mechanically the races differ a little, but it's mostly an aesthetic choice.
Players potentially choose from eight options in each class (dependent on the faction some choices are limited) – for instance the Warrior includes some diverse choices that cross traditional MMO class roles like the Beast master (a pet class), Riftblade (an elemental swordsman), and the dual wielding Paragon. The choices you make allow you to customize the game to better meet your individual or session play style. Players who prefer pets but also want to do area damage can choose souls that grant these abilities, while those who want to be tanks with some debuff can choose a completely different set of souls.
In execution, the soul selection process does expand your options, and as you level up and spend points to earn passive and active abilities among the three soul trees your character develops new or augments existing abilities. There many of combinations that favor player experimentation. There are many combinations that favor player experimentation. The diverse options mean that alt characters are easily configured and deliver completely different experiences within the same class group
Where the class system falls a little short is in limiting your soul choices to one general area – imagine a game that let you mix and match classes and abilities. This is the promise that Rift sets up but doesn't quite deliver. You can't add a Warrior soul to a mage soul with a dash of rogue thrown in, and it's too bad because that would make an already impressive class implementation even more mind boggling with choice. Thankfully this is mitigated once you exit the starting areas since the game allows players to “save” different soul builds and swap between them when not in combat.
Next to the tweaks to the way the game supports player class builds, Rift is also built around the idea of these dimensional rifts. This factor is more than simple background though, instead it offers an element of dynamism to the traditionally static MMO experience. Rifts are essentially public quests that all players in an area can join and the game awards rewards based on the impact the player made during the “invasion”.
The dynamic part of the Rift gameplay surrounds footholds. Since players must bind together to stop a rift incursion if players fail to seal a rift or are not present to turn the tide, the invaders establish a foothold which will impact the area around the tear and allow the elemental plane to seep through and merge or overwrite the default environment and foes in an area.
Players can log out of a safe city and return later to find that a successful invasion has converted the entire area into an elemental foothold. While minimizing the impact in early zones thanks to a high population, I imagine the advanced zones that have not seen much of the back and forth since the game launched.
This is a feature that reminds me of Planetside quite a bit, though it doesn't seem quite as frustrating as I recall that system being. Fighting invasions lends itself to an entire style of play alongside raiding and instances with some nice tweaks from what we've seen in Warhammer and Planetside – like server-side persistence.
Rift apes a lot of the best features of proceeding MMORPGs and that's just fine with me. Until this point I've had to hop games to get some of the features I enjoy and no one existing game has managed to make the various systems work within it's design – case in point: World of Warcraft's Battleground system or Lord of the Rings Online's Radiance mechanic – by slapping in new systems long after the initial design.
Players who tire of the old standby are not going to find astonishing new innovation in Rift, but what you will find is a well-balanced game, early in its life with a multitude of improved ideas from many other games. The price is right for me to play a game that includes all the coolest parts of every major MMO out there at a single subscription rate. The modern graphics are nice on the eyes as well.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Rift does many things that other MMORPGs introduced over the last few years, but to its credit - it does them well and in many cases better. While it's not innovative, it's a solid, enjoyable game worth player investment and acclaim.