Rift Review (PC) Dec ’11

There is a nagging sense of deja vu whenever I play any massively multiplayer online game. Quests begin to feel the same after a while, and I begin to wonder why it is that NPC’s can’t possibly handle some of these tasks themselves. And this feeling remains from MMO to MMO, which often gives a sense of ‘if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all’. Trion’s Rift initially seems to be no exception, but that does not make it any less of an enjoyable game to play.

Like most MMO’s Rift tasks players with running about performing quests and chores for lazy NPC’s, to gain both currency to use on in-game items, and experience to make your character stronger. But where Rift differentiates itself, is that as you explore the world you will inevitably come across a giant inter-dimensional portal. The landscape itself twists and changes, causing great columns of stone to appear, or wild and savage looking plants to spring forth spontaneously, and enemies spew forth in waves to wreak havoc on Telara. In order to close these rifts players must band together in impromptu groups, or even raids, and fight there way through several waves of enemies in order to defeat a larger boss, which will seal the rift and reward participants with useful items and currency – these can be spent on powerful items and upgrades.

Make no mistake; Telara is a world under constant attack. While you may seal one rift in an area, chances are there are several more opening, and it is fun to stick with your group for a while and run around closing rift after rift. Closing rifts with speed is more that just a way to earn experience and loot, however, as rifts left open for too long will begin to spawn enemies intent on attacking nearby villages and quest hubs, killing the inhabitants and setting up their own base of operations. This, adds a further push to players to ensure that rifts are closed as soon as possible, since it can be quite annoying to return to a town having completed a series of quests only to discover it inhabited by a group of fiery imps.

The rifts and invasions are the key element to the game, with the action coming to you, rather than forcing you to go to it. By allowing players to group up easily to tackle rifts and invasions, there is a great feeling of teamwork that even the most solitary players should enjoy. You’ll often come upon already formed groups battling against foes, and with the simple press of a button you are able to join in to reap the rewards. At the end you can either decide to go your own way, or perhaps head off to close another rift, or take care of a pesky group quest. Every now and again a zone wide invasion will cause a huge number of rifts to spawn, creating a mad dash to close them, and defend your faction’s settlements. Completing a series of objectives zone wide, such as closing a certain number of rifts or collecting items dropped from the invaders, will prompt the appearance of a powerful final enemy that must be vanquished. These final battles are often enormous, with dozens of players converging to prevent the advance of the boss, with spells, arrows and swords flying constantly.

Unfortunately, aside from the constant looming threat of rifts appearing at any moment, Rift is mostly a stock-standard MMO. Quests typically involve killing or collecting things for NPC’s in return for items or money, and more importantly, the experience, which will ultimately boost you closer to Rift’s cap of level 50. For the most part, these quests are fairly unexciting. There are a few quests that are particularly enjoyable, or amusing, but sadly these are few and far between. Most quests simply do their best to impress upon you that the end of the world is coming, and that you can help forestall it by killing X amount of an enemy or gathering some items to help defend a town. Sadly, for all the doom saying from the NPC’s, Rift has trouble at times drawing players into the lore. Quests end up feeling more like ways to get items, currency and experience, instead of pulling the players further into the lore. And for some, this may seem like a good thing, but there is a sense that the broken world of Telara could be that little bit more appealing if the lore was given a little bit more time to flower.

Rift’s other key difference lays in its character development. When you create your character you initially pick your faction –  either the pious Guardians or the technologically savvy Defiant. Each faction is made up of three races, and once you have chosen your race, the final choice is that of your calling: mage, rogue, cleric or warrior. Initially your choice ends here, however shortly into the tutorial you begin to receive ‘Souls’ which are essentially sub-classes. Each calling has nine of these to choose from, and enables you to pick up to three to use at once. You are not limited to your initial three choices either; acquiring new souls is as simple as speaking to a trainer and paying a small fee. Soul trees can be mixed and matched to suit your ideal play style. Rift enables you to save up to four builds at once and switch easily between them, allowing you to have several different builds for use in different situations.

This flexibility enables Rift’s different callings to perform in areas that players may not expect at first. Mages are not usually seen as effective healers, nor are Rogues usually considered to be good Tanks. However, with some clever soul combinations a Mage using the Chloromancer soul can do some excellent healing. Likewise a Rogue using the Riftstalker soul can Tank on par with the more traditional Warrior builds.

Like most other MMO’s Rift also features dungeons and PVP battles. The PVP battles, called warfronts, feature well known competitive match types such as Capture the Flag, but with a slightly unusual twist. In one of the first accessible Warfronts, the Black Garden, teams fight to retrieve an artifact, and hold it for as long as possible to earn points. However, in addition to this, controlling the maps center awards more points to the team, while the artifact slowly drains health away from the player holding it, which adds two more elements to consider. Does your team hold the center of the map where they will be more vulnerable? Or retreat to another area, where you might be able to better heal the player with the artifact, but you will receive fewer points?

Another thing players will likely spend a lot of time doing is crafting. Rift enables you to take up to three professions in order to create armor, weapons and other useful bits and pieces by gathering different components that spawn throughout the games various zones. Despite the usefulness of being able to make your own gear, crafting is not particularly interesting. Once you have the items you need, it’s simply a matter of finding the loom, forge or other piece of equipment you need, selecting what it is you want to make, and how much of it, and waiting. If you have created an item you don’t want, you can always take it to the auction house to sell it to someone else who might like it, in return for some platinum or gold, which are Rift’s main forms of currency. There are others, though, planarite, which you get from sealing rifts, or defeating invaders can be used to buy yourself some better-than-average equipment, or there are artisans marks which are awarded for completing crafting quests.

Once you’ve created your build, you may want to delve into one of Rift’s dungeons, and the rewards of powerful equipment and experience are certainly worth it. While it may take a while to find a group, depending on whether your build specializes in support, dealing damage, tanking or healing. Once your group has formed, and you arrive in the dungeon, your group begins to battle its way through hordes of foes as you make your way towards dungeons boss. Different bosses require different approaches and tactics to defeat, which become more complicated as you begin to tackle higher-level dungeons.

If you don’t feel like crafting, questing, closing rifts, or venturing into a warfront or dungeon, there is the option to simply wander about Telara, and take in the sights. In fact, Rift rewards you for doing it by sprinkling hidden artifacts all over the world, which are shown by tiny specks of light, sometimes hidden in the corner of a building, or nearby some rubble that might obscure it from a distance. These artifacts are organised into sets, which can be turned in for cosmetic rewards, such as vanity pets, and other things like that. The largest problem with collecting these items, aside from finding them, is that Rift’s monsters are packed far too tightly together to allow players to avoid having to fight their way through a large group. Monster’s are not only packed so tightly together that it is impossible to pull one away without drawing one or two friends, but they respawn quickly too, meaning that at times, even if you do manage to finish off the large group you upset by accident, by the time you are done killing them, they have begun to reappear.

While Rift is certainly fairly similar to other MMO’s, it manages to change things up just enough to remain interesting, without straying too far into unfamiliar territory. Rifts provide for an excellent distraction from them tedium of gathering items to craft, or questing, and the soul-system allows for a fairly high degree of flexibility with character development.

At its heart Rift has many of the same features, both the positive and the negative, that make up a fantasy MMO. which combines with the changes to allow for a combination of the familiar with the new, which may appeal to those looking for something a little bit different, but anyone looking for something completely new will be left feeling disappointed.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

About the Author

I'm a student who, like many, spends more time studying games than my coursework. Games are a bit like food. You need to try as many different types as you can, otherwise you might miss out on something that you didn't even know that you liked.