There have been quite a few MMOs who have thought themselves to be WoW-breakers and all have fallen by the wayside. I’m thinking of Age of Conan and Aion in particular. While they delivered at the start, the games didn’t appear to have the same longevity and, while they have kept a loyal player base, a lot of people have either lost interest or gone back to games they played previously.
After playing Rift to level 16 on a character, I don’t think this game is ready to steal WoW’s crown, but it is very good, for various reasons, and has the potential to ‘stick’ if enough people play it and decide to keep with it. I think it’s unrealistic to expect any new MMO to throw itself onto the scene fully polished – like with some TV shows, it takes a couple of seasons for things to shine. But this is a good start, and some of the features already in place bode well for the future.
The one thing I particularly like, and which differentiates Rift from many other games of its type, is that from the moment your first character gets out of their starting area you can join in with huge public raids. All you need to do to join them is to be passing through an area where a bad rift has opened up and various unsavoury entities are spilling out of it. There are various kinds, such as life, fire, water. Once you draw close you get the message onscreen to join the raid if you wish to. You don’t have to. But it is fun! I think it’s a great feature that players are involved in exciting stuff from the start, and it’s not just a case of ‘kill this many wolves’ or ‘collect that many fangs’ until you reach a level where the game gets more interesting. That is one of the drawbacks of many MMOs. You can choose to ignore the rifts if you prefer to carry on questing or farming, but everyone who takes part in such raids gets a bag of loot in their inventory. These include items that can be cashed in for blue level pieces of gear and other enhancements, appropriate for your level. There are also daily quests to participate in rift fights, which mean xp and gold when you cash them in. It really is no hassle if you’re on your way to a quest and pass by a rift where people are fighting. Might as well join in for a few minutes and share the spoils.The StoryThe Official blurb:
Rift is set on Telara, a fantasy world which lies alarmingly close to a variety of other planes of existence. In the final days of the Mathosian civil war, the Ward that protected Telara from planar convergence with these other worlds was severely weakened by a disaster known as the Shade. Since that time, rifts between Telara and other planes have been increasingly devastating the land, and old enemies in the form of monsters, held at bay by elemental prisons have begun actively clawing their way out. Telara's greatest enemy, the god Regulos, pounds against the outside of the Ward, seeking re-entry into Telara to finish the job he once started. Meanwhile, Telara's own pantheon of gods has suddenly grown silent, and the world is descending into total chaos.
The people of Telara are now convinced that the end of the world is at hand. In these desperate final days, two major factions have arisen to battle the coming apocalypse: the Guardians and the Defiant. Though each faction wants to save the world, their beliefs and methods differ, and they war upon each other as often as they do other enemies of Telara. Character Creation
Character creation has quite a wide scope. I found that the characters I made looked better in the game than they did while I was creating them. They don’t have quite the extreme amount of customisation that Aion offered, but far more than WoW does. As for the character classes, the choices are huge. There are two factions, Defiant and Guardians, and within each of those you have a choice of four ‘starter’ types: mage, warrior, cleric and rogue. These are known as ‘callings’ and refer to the first choice you make for your character. At first, this appeared limiting until I saw the actual classes available within each calling. Mages include, for example, all manner of magic users; warlocks, necromancers and elementalists, to name but three. The rogue calling encompasses the ranged fighters, with or without pets, the archetypal dagger-wielding, stealthing rogue and also a class that can only be likened to engineering in WoW – the Saboteur who uses bombs, explosives and other such devices. The warrior calling, which I’ve not yet tried, includes different styles of fighter as well as the more familiar tank. Clerics can be healers, or smiters (even melee), or hybrids. There are 8 different classes (or souls as they are called in the game) for each calling, and in the early stages of the game you are allowed to have 3 of them for a character, which allows for a massive amount of customisation as to how your character performs. As you level up you get points to spend in each ‘soul tree’, which unlocks skills. I understand that later on, you are able to have even more classes and can change specs ‘on the fly’ as it were, should you need to swap to a healer, dps or tank role for a specific situation.
Each calling also has pet classes within it. Even the warrior, with the Beast Master class, gets pets to fight alongside them, if that’s your choice.
By the time you finish the starter quests, you will have chosen your three classes, and pointers are given to you as to which other classes combine to best effect with the first one you chose.
It can be argued that this multiplicity of choice really over-complicates the game and might well lead to hideous problems with class balancing later on, but at the moment I’m just finding it fun and interesting to play around with the different choices. The potential to spend your soul points unwisely is of course rather large, when you do have so many branches to follow, but you can always respec later on when you know more about the game.