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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rift, see you on the other side!

 “We’re not in Azeroth anymore!” 
That’s what an advertisement for Rift says.  It’s a very true statement as well.  The game is a well rounded online game that holds a lot of potential in its future.  Some people have screamed WoW-killer about this game.  I won’t.  Why?  Online games die from the player base or the company, not other games.  Everquest, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot are all a decade old or older and still have a solid community today.   So if Rift isn’t a WoW-killer, then what is it?  It’s a game that’s going to take a good chunk of the player base away from World of Warcraft in my opinion.  The game did what WoW did in the beginning.  It took everything good about online games and made improvements.  What’s so surprising about the game is the bugs.  They are few and far between.  Unlike many other games I’ve beta tested before that would have many bugs, including game breaking bugs; Rift stands as one of the cleanest betas I’ve tested.
Upon starting the game you choose one of two factions.  Either the faithful Guardians who believe and follow their gods; Or play as the techno-magical Defiant who have lost faith in the gods, and turned to technology.  A lot of the lore suggests that though each faction sees the other as evil, this game really doesn’t have an “evil” faction.  Both factions are battling one another while battling for a common goal, save Telara.  Your journey begins literally in the future, where Telara is on the brink of being completely annihilated by the evil Regulos.  As you quest and fight your way through the tutorial, you are eventually thrown back in time to try and stop the events that lead the world to this horrible point.  You are an Ascendant, a warrior sent to save the world.  Makes you wonder if you might need to save any cheerleaders along the way.  (I hope someone got that reference.)
One thing you’ll notice upon entering the game is the User Interface (UI).  It’s fairly straight forward and simple.  The real positive of it is the fact that you can customize it how you like.  Move your action bar somewhere else, bring up more action bars, move the health bars and even more.  There is a lot of freedom with the UI and what you can do with it.  A downside for some however is the fact that currently, there is no add-on support.  Trion has mentioned that in the future they do plan to allow 3rd party programmers to create add-ons but we’ll have to see how much freedom they are given in that aspect.  On the option screen there is one very nifty tool that I believe everyone will enjoy.  After you’ve taken the painstakingly long time to setup your UI to be perfect for you, and just the way you like it, you decide to make an alt and have to do it all over again.  Actually you don’t cause in the options screen you have the choice to import UI, allowing you to take the UI settings from one character to another and saving you a lot of time.
The game play in Rift is quite smooth and easy to get into.  The game starts you with an easy tutorial and anyone who has played an online game recently will find the controls are very similar to what you’re probably used to.  It is easy to launch right into the game without much time invested into learning the controls.  A lot is familiar from the crafting to questing, making this game fairly simple to leap into.  Even people completely new to online games such as these will find it easy to get into the action and start fighting, without the need to worry about how to do it tutorials for a couple hours.
The overall graphics for this game are beautiful.  From the sky to the well done water effects, particle effects and even how the rifts open are great.  Though you pay a price with these beautiful graphics, you will need a good graphics to see it all.  Lower end cards work but you will have to lower the settings to do so.  The creature models are clean and well done, as are the character models.  I would have to say that my only complaint is some of the animations in the game.  At times they seem unnatural or choppy, some movements seem unfinished or perhaps intentional.  Either way, it took a little getting used to but in the end, everything in just gorgeous.
The quests in Rift appear to follow your basic questing system as seen in most MMO’s.  You travel out and kill 10 of one creature, or have to collect 5 animal parts.  Where this may be a little dull to some, it does follow some nice quest lore that should interest the lore junkies.  Almost all of the quests have a purpose to train you in the ways of the game, or teach of the evil that plagues the world of Telara.  Some quests are actually quite fun while others of course, are simple kill, kill, kill.  What I enjoyed most is learning of the threat that exists that you are fighting to defeat.  It made me feel like I was truly fighting for something here and I wanted to push forward even more.  In many other MMO’s I find myself not reading quest text as it gets dull and boring after a while.  The quest and lore team working for Trion has their stuff together as they have made me care about the world I am fighting.
One of the big things Rift is about is, well, rifts!  The world is plagued with other worldly invaders who attack randomly and unexpected by entering the world through rifts.  This is something fresh and new I’ve seen in online games.  These rifts are not a static location for you to go and get some extra loot.  They truly pose a threat to the world if left untouched.  Invasion forces enter through these rifts and begin heading towards towns and cities to destroy them.  The invaders will attempt to establish a foot hold, they will kill your quest NPCs, and they will make it impossible for you to get things done.  This further pushes you to care for the world you are in.  If these go unchecked for too long, they become very deadly.  I had a time when I logged into the game, thinking I was safely in the middle of a town, only to find myself surrounded by enemy invaders who had taken over.  It is up to the players in the game to go and defeat these invaders so that the players still control these areas, and so people can continue questing and leveling.  I really enjoy this part of the game a lot as it is unique.  There is a true threat to the world instead of just an NPC saying, “Rifts are dangerous, mmmkay!”
One thing you may notice upon creating your character in the game is that there are only 4 classes.  OH NO, so few.  Actually that’s intended to give you flexibility.  There may only be 4 classes, Warrior, Rogue, Mage and Cleric.  However, they are very diverse through a new system called Souls.  Each class has access to eight souls.  You can choose any combination of 3 souls for your spec and spec how you like.  You can mix and match souls, making different combinations giving you a lot of freedom and diversity.  Another great thing is alternate specs, as you can have four of them.  This further expands your ability to mix and match and be very diverse.  This also makes dungeons and raids more accessible to each person as you can fill certain rolls otherwise not able to be filled in other games due to their limitations.  This allows you freedom and diversity.
Player versus player, the battle between Defiant and Guardian; who will win, who will lose?  The only PvP I was able to take part in were the battleground.  The PvP in the game seems very fast paced and aggressive.  As I entered my first BG, I quickly learned it was a battle for points, which team could hold the flag the longest.  In the one battle ground I did get to fight in was very fun and engaging.  It took team work to win as with any battle.  One person grabs the flag and tries to hold onto it as long as possible.  The longer they hold the flag, the more points your team gets.  You must defend this person, healing him while fighting off enemy forces.  There is a catch though.  The longer one person holds the flag, the more damage they will take, making it easier to kill the flag carrier.  Now this may sound very one sided as the first to grab the flag will win.  This is very wrong.  Many times our team lost the flag, and got it back.  We on many battles and lost just as many.  It is a very enjoyable battle ground to engage in and try to fight in.  Other than battle grounds, there is world pvp.  In some instances, I found world pvp to be very sabotaging.  I played on a pvp server for a bit and found enemy players attack out towns and cities while forces from rifts were attacking.  This made it even more important to defend your towns and cities as now we didn’t have to worry about monsters form rifts, but the other faction destroying our towns.  It was gripping and engaging with a lot of potential if the producers of the game do it right.
Though the beta had many dungeons to take part in, I only had time to journey into one of them.  The Iron Tombs, a Defiant dungeon, full of darkness and mystery.  Three bosses await you inside, ready to kill you and destroy your soul.  Our group journeyed inside to destroy this evil and wipe it clean.  Rifts dungeons seem to follow the basic rule of most instanced dungeons in MMO’s right now.  You have trash monsters to fight, then a boss, then more trash, and another boss until you are done.  What made it different was the challenge.  For the beginner dungeon I felt it put forth a decent challenge.  The bosses tested the different classes in different ways.  The first boss tested mainly the damage dealers and the healers.  The fight is a basic tank and spank, but he has a deadly dot that requires a lot of healing, so you’ll want to kill him fast.  The second boss seems to be a test of the tanks ability to handle multiple creatures at once, while the damage dealers work together to kill them one at a time.  The final boss tests everyone’s ability to pay attention, as he can kill the whole group in a single attack if you don’t do the right thing.  This final boss, though he wasn’t too hard, is the first time I’ve seen an introductory dungeon with a boss capable of killing everyone in a single hit if you didn’t do what needed to be done.  I truly wish I had more time to see the other dungeons in the game, but this review was more important and I wanted to get a fair amount of time in on everything I could.  I can just imagine how rough some of the later dungeons will be.  As well, the end game dungeons will have three versions, the regular version, a heroic version and a second heroic version that I’m going to call an expert mode, making the dungeon extremely difficult and deadly.  This end game setup sounds great and I look forward to release to see how it all plays out.
As I battle my way through dungeons, killed the enemy faction, and sealed rifts, I found myself enjoying my time in the game.  For some time now, I have not played an MMO that was as enjoyable as this one.  The game has a lot of great potential, and as such, the Trion Worlds team is taking advantage of that potential.  One of the best parts of beta was how polished this game was.  It was easily one of the most polished games I’ve ever seen for a beta.  Very few bugs plagued it, and what bugs did were quickly fixed.  This shows a strong intent by the Trion team to bring the best gaming experience to their players as possible.  If they continue down this road, I can see Rift being around for a very long time and becoming very popular.  However, only time will tell.  I truly hope this game can be a huge success as the makers have truly put a lot of effort into it.
PROS –
Rifts, fresh and new, they make you care about your game world because if left untouched, they will destroy it.
Graphics are beautiful and clean.
Quick and easy to get into, game play is smooth.
Dungeons give a good challenge while being fun.
CONS –
Some animations seem choppy and unnatural.
Beautiful graphics means you need a better card, which could limit people from playing this game.
Quests can be dull as they follow your basic quest system in most MMO’s, however the lore is great.

Overall I enjoyed this game a lot, and can’t wait for its release.  As always, I hope you enjoyed this review of Rift:  Planes of Telara.  If this review has done anything, I hope it has been informative to you and helped you make your decision to either pass or buy this game.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read and I’ll see you on our next review. 
Thalack

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