Exploring Rift - Part 2
3/5/2011 7:36:00 AM
Release day has come and gone, and now that the general public and those who didn't pre-order can flood the game I fully expected trouble. RIFT had issues with just the headstart groups after all, but surprisingly in the days since the game opened its doors RIFT has avoided a lot of the pitfalls of a new game launch. The servers have been stable, the developer has mostly met demand and the game world is full of people just diving into the new systems and environments near the opening section.
RIFT isn't a perfect MMO and I had a long debate with some close friends the other day about just how different it is from WoW or any of the myriad other fantasy games and with the limited time many of us have to play the question I found myself defending was - "Yeah but is it just more of the same?"
Well, RIFT is a lot of "the same" honestly. It holds fairly fast to the concepts that have made all the big fantasy games successful. It has Elves and Dwarves and Mages and Thieves.. the fantasy RPG model is right out there and if you're surprised by that, well you haven't been paying attention.
Each one of these games, as it struggles to build and keep an audience of finicky gamers, most of whom spend too much time telling themselves what a game is not versus what it might actually be, has to bring some innovation or improvement to the formula if it hopes to stay at the table against the cultural ubiquity that is Warcraft.
RIFT's claim to innovation is the dynamic world. IT isn't the first game to offer a changing setting, actually Sony Online did it a long time ago with Planetside, but RIFT's dynamic world so far has a sense of desperation built in. Not on the behalf of the developers, but on the fictional setting itself.
The world changes when a planar RIFT opens in an area. These rifts are aligned to a number of elemental places and usually dump certain types of creatures out. Undead come from the death plane, flaming beasts from the Fire plane and so forth. Typically the roving players in the game will notice a rift opening, bind together and stop the incursion. When this works, everything is good. Players get some public quest action, super groups are formed and the tide is turned back.
What is more interesting to me is when a planar hole opens and no one is there to stop it. I've only seen two or three of these situations so far. The rift appears, begins dumping out denizens and suddenly there is a foothold situation. If the foothold is in an area too long the plane begins to establish "permanency" and it becomes much more difficult to remove it. Enough footholds exist in an area and the balance of power can shift to the elemental invaders.
In theory the developers claim that you could log out of a zone at the end of your playing time and have everything be stable and nice for the inhabitants of Telara ( the game's setting). Log in 8 hours later and you'll find yourself in a fallen zone, firmly controlled by the elementals - in a desperate battle to remove the planar enemies or in a bid to fight your way out to freedom.
This concept seems intriguing to me. It's a step closer to addressing the complaint off game worlds that are maleable based on player choice, but so far I've not seen it actually happen. The servers are full of players right now. Most invasions are quickly turned back in the starting and mid-progression zones. I wonder in this case if popularity might not spoil the whole thing.
To compensate, and in my case frustrate, for the huge influx of players, Trion Worlds seems to have tweaked the spawn rates of enemies to an amazingly short level. In starting zones it's not uncommon to defeat a foe, loot the corpse only to have the enemy respawn back on top oof you and start the fight over. While this ensures there are enemies about and kill-n-loot quests go quickly it's amazingly frustrating.
I'm continuing to play RIFT and only just beginning to scratch the surface of this game. In the next Exploring RIFT segment I'll talk about some of the class options and discuss the difference I've found between RIFT's 3 soul setup and other traditional MMO class systems.