Breaking into the world of MMOs is definitely a daunting task. These days, you are inevitably going to be compared to Blizzard’s monster, and for good reason. That game is truly a trendsetter. Rift is the first MMO from Trion, and it pulls no punches in its effort to compete with ‘The World’. The ad campaign even takes a stab at it. What we end up with here is a truly complex MMO that is highly polished and addresses many of the concerns people have with the aforementioned giant. MMO newcomers will be overwhelmed, but veterans will find plenty to love about Trion’s first effort.
The first thing you want to take away from Rift is that this is a polished experience. It is hard to fathom a massively online game receiving those words just after launch, but it is apparent that the developers tested this game to no ends. Everything works, everything is streamlined and the game just feels done. Sure, tweaks will be made and things will change, but out of the box you will be hard pressed to find much to fault about Rift’s design in general.
With that said, Rift is not going to set the world on fire as far as originality goes. It is evident that this game has taken ideas from the best in the genre and simply cloned or perfected them. The core experience will be familiar. Grab quests from NPCs, go and collect or kill the required number of things, then drop it off for rewards and XP. At first, you may be wondering why you traded from your previous BFF of MMOs to play this decidedly similar experience, but if you dig deep enough, you will discover the uniqueness the team at Trion has delivered.
Rift hits the ground running with a fast-paced tutorial that tosses you into the action quickly. It is here you will also get a quick synopsis of the overarching storyline that starts strong, but slowly fades out the more you play. At the outset, you choose a faction and, thus, a starting area. Each side is ultimately working towards the same goal of defeating the enemies that are slowly invading from the Plane of Death. After you get your initial setup going, regardless of which faction you choose, you meet up in the middle with a monstrous encounter that drives the story forward. I love the idea of creating a fantasy narrative to go along with the questing, but it feels that the story slowly dies over time and becomes less and less prominent within the experience.
Rift’s main hook is its namesake. As you play the game, from time to time large cracks in the world will open up spilling seemingly endless hoards of baddies at you. This is where the community aspect comes into play fairly well. All nearby players will join in the fight, taking down wave after wave until the inevitable boss fight ensues. This is really the heart of the game and, when the sky darkens and the world opens up, it truly is an exciting experience. The cool part is this is entirely random and not limited to just one opening. The game can throw multiple invasions at you at once and it is up to you to defeat the hoards of darkness.
Character class is similar to just about every other game of this type. You have the Mage, Warrior, Cleric and Rogue, all with special abilities and skill trees. The game also deals out souls that are unique to each class. There are 36 total and each class has access to 9 of them. Putting points into these souls is key to creating the best character. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most confusing and daunting tasks in the game. It is entirely possible to create a useless character if you don’t pay attention to where you divide up your points.
Amazingly, this can also allow you to play several roles within the game. For instance, if you focus mostly on DPS, you can pour some souls into other areas so you can mesh into groups that might need support in another area. Like I said, it can be overwhelming at first, even for experienced MMO players, but its flexibility allows for some truly awesome creations, as far as classes go.
As with most MMOs, professions are also a large part of the experience. Rift allows you to have up to three professions at once and they include the traditional diversions such as crafting. Collecting and creating items is definitely an acquired taste, but also a quick way to make money. Selling your rare creations in the auction house could easily be a game in and of itself. You can lose hours just collecting various objects in order to create that certain item that everyone wants and sell it for a mint. It’s just another way to keep player occupied between closing rifts, questing and the occasional dungeon romp.
Like any good MMO, there is also the aspect of PVP. Rift brings the traditional modes that unlock at various levels and are actually quite fun. The game is also easy on the eyes. The lush worlds are full of interesting landmarks and sights. The characters are animated with beauty and when a rift tears the world open, the game really shines. The sound effects are equally impressive, with subtle details such as environmental effects and character sounds. The music is fantastic when you get a chance to hear it. The game is such an impressive package overall that it is hard not to appreciate the work that Trion put into it.
Rift is a great addition to the genre that proves you don’t need to change the core concept to be incredibly addictive. Of all the MMOs that have been released since the domination began, this is the one I feel will steal the most users away. Trion has crafted a fantastic world and, amazingly, it feels complete right out of the box. The future is bright for the team and we look forward to seeing how they evolve the experience. If you are a fan of MMOs and are looking for a new adventure, Rift may just be your home away from home.
Review copy provided by publisher.