Rift – First (and a half) Impressions


The King is dead, long live the King! With only a few days left of my WoW subscription I’ve pretty much abandoned it, I’d created a new Mage on another server to take a break from Argent Dawn for a bit and see if a fresh start would revitalise me. Needless to say with 85 levels ahead of me and a clear understanding of the end game I couldn’t really find the will to go on. I’ve bought every single expansion they’ve released and played them all through and I finish now with a level 85, an 83 and an 82 with two alts in their 40’s and a smattering in the twenties. I think I’ve seen enough of WoW and even with the different character classes that there are everything else is a little stale. I’ve done so much with my Shaman that replicating the achievements on other characters is a chore in and of itself and I don’t really want to do that.

I’ve done a small amount of painting this week, now the lighter nights are coming in I expect to ramp this up and try to finally get some more finished pieces, it would be really nice to have a fully painted game of something at some point. I have some more Dark Eldar to collect to finish my army off but other than that there isn’t a lot of stuff I see coming in the future for me to buy, therefore painting what I do have should be more of a priority.

However, all that is really just a preamble to what you know I’m going to be talking about. The reason the title adds a half to my otherwise first impression of new MMO Rift is because I did get a short amount of time in the beta. I never actually left the starting zone of the Defiants which is where I spent a lot of my time trying out the different callings. I liked what I saw but decided not to take the plunge when the game came out, especially with WoW still being very much on my radar and my personal history of what happens when I have two MMOs running at the same time. I picked up the game on Wednesday for a couple of reasons, one of them obviously being that I really enjoy MMOs and wanted something fresh and new after WoW. Second was that the founder’s subscription discount expired at the end of March, £20 for three months play I find quite attractive and is around £5 cheaper than WoW and you of course get your free month. Third was that the game has been out for a month now and therefore all the hype is dying down, the bandwagon jumpers will be going back to WoW and the server populations should start to stabilise.

For me at least, it seems like the ideal time to make the jump. All the signs so far have pointed to Rift being a real win for the MMO sector, its release was possibly the most polished and bug free ever in the market space, certainly a plus point that isn’t lost on me after seeing a lot of MMOs on Day 1 just fail to deliver any real playable experience. Waiting for a little bit has served me really well here as I’ve been able to watch things develop before taking the plunge.

Last night was the first night I got to properly sit down and have a blast through. I created a character on both side of the Guardian/Defiant divide however, after watching the intro videos for the factions I found that I was identifying more with the story of the Guardians and therefore I have created one character for each of the four callings (Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric) on the Guardian side.

One of the major mechanics that makes Rift stand out from other MMOs is the Soul system that the classes work off. Each Calling has eight Souls associated with it and each of those souls has different abilities that you start off with. As you level up you earn points that can be put into the Souls, kind of like Talent Trees in WoW, the more points you spend in a tree the more abilities you unlock. What makes things stand out is that you can have three Souls active at any one time, combining the abilities of all three Souls to improve your character. Each of these combinations is called a Role and you are allowed yo purchase up to 4 Roles so you can radically alter your play style within your Calling.

You’ll also find that your callings are not in the traditional sense of the typical MMO class system. For instance, the Riftstalker Soul from the Rogue calling is actually a Defensive Soul, meaning that it is set up for Tanking, you have the Bard which is a Support Soul for buffing you and your group. You can have a pet class Soul and be like a traditional Hunter was in WoW and the synergy between the Souls is really impressive. So far on my Rogue I’ve used my points to not only buff my base damage I’ve put points into my other Souls in order to boost the damage of my Finishing Moves as well as improve my chances of hitting.

I really like this system and look forward to seeing what combinations I can come up with, you do tend to see some similar abilities in the various Souls and I cut out the ones that do the least damage compared to others, this does mean that I swap skills in and out of my rotation as they level up.

One of the other stand out features are the Rifts after which the game derives its name. For lack of a better description these are tears that appear randomly around the world. I am currently in Silverwood and have encountered Life, Death and Fire Rifts (each Rift is based on a particular elemental force). These rifts spawn bad guys and as they get left along will spawn bigger and nastier critters until the players group together and seal it. Each of the rifts have different mechanics for the various stages of a rift which keeps things interesting and as soon as you enter a rift you can join a public group so you can see all the other players and work with them.

I spent the latter part of my session last night doing nothing but Rifts and it’s similar to the public quest system implemented in Warhammer Online. You earn loot by contributing to the sealing of a rift but nothing you couldn’t do without if you chose not to take part. You can tell what kind of Rift you are facing before getting there due to the colour palette and graphical effects surrounding it.

I managed to get my Rogue up to level 11 before heading for bed. Unlike my other forays into fantasy based MMOs I have mostly Human characters. Each faction has three race options, one of them on both sides is Human, Mathosian for the Guardians and Eth for the Defiants. Then you have High Elves and Dwarfs to round out the Guardians and Kelari (think dark elves and you’re not far off) and Bahmi (big burly purple dudes) for the Defiants. Everything bar my Cleric is Mathosian with a High Elf finishing things off. I normally plumb for the otherworldly races to aid my escapism in these games but this time around I really like the look of the Human races. Gone are the cartoony and stylised graphics of WoW and now we have a world that is really stunning to look at. Going in afresh means I am exploring things anew for the first time in a while.

True, the core mechanics are very similar to WoW but this just makes it easily accessible to those people looking for something that is familiar but different enough to satisfy them and so far Rift is doing this for me. The Soul system is going to be really interesting to explore as I level and the whole world is easier to get into as it feels more real. I’ve got a busy weekend coming up but I am looking forward to getting some more time to explore Rift and what it holds.

I may have taken my time in choosing whether or not to dive in but now that I have I am very glad I did.

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