Review in Progress: Rift

Something old, something new: Rift is off to a good start, offering up new takes on familiar mechanics.

When you first start up Rift, it's hard to shake the feeling that you've seen this game before. With the art style, the interface, and the basic structure, you see the influence of World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online all over this massively multiplayer online game. (And of course, those games dripped with the influence of earlier games, like Everquest and Asheron's Call.) Its derivative nature was the first thing I noticed about Rift, and when you see screens and gameplay clips, it might be the first thing you notice too. The good news is that Rift is more than just a clone. I've been playing it for a week, and the game has absolutely grown on me. I am still a week or two from delivering a full review, but I wanted to share some thoughts and invite those of you who have entered the world of Telara to share your own as well.

I think it should be said straightaway, however, that in an age when few online role-playing games feel complete upon release, Rift is one of the most slick and refined MMOGs I have ever played during the launch window. I fondly remember the mostly trouble-free launches of Dark Age of Camelot, Earth & Beyond, and Asheron's Call 2, but even then, few games of this ilk feel like they have everything they need from the beginning. Final Fantasy XIV was missing an auction house and quick travel (among many, many other things); Champions Online and Age of Conan had noticeable content gaps; and Star Wars Galaxies lacked vehicles and mounts. Rift has had a few short downtimes for hot fixes, and I have run into login queues here and there, but otherwise, it is a working, attractive, playable game out of the box. All of the basic features you need in an MMOG are here from the get-go, without having to trust in a patch that may or may not come. Of course, patches and fixes will come; they always do in such games. But Rift isn't a shell, meant to have mechanics bolted on at a later date. It's a fully featured MMOG waiting for you to play it.

And if you are already playing it, I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am right now. There's a certain amount of chaos when you begin. Rift throws a lot of lore at you at once, without much of an introduction. The tutorial gets you up to speed well enough: You are an "Ascended," resurrected and sent back in time to fight the forces of the evil Regulos and halt the apocalypse before it occurs. Quest givers throw a lot of backstory at you, but it's all a bit scattered, like being dropped into the middle of the third installment of a fantasy trilogy. The confusion is compounded once you start looting items and earning different currencies, unsure of how to use some object or another or where this or that currency might be usable. But once the game allows you a moment to breathe, you can get up to speed with the intricacies and start enjoying what makes this game uniquely "Rift," and not "just another fantasy game."

Telara is just different enough to make you want to explore it.

Rifts and invasions are key to setting Rift apart. Everywhere you go, portals from other dimensions open into Telara from which nasty demons pour out. These events seem to happen almost anywhere and everywhere. One of the most memorable moments I have ever had in an MMOG was the first time such a rift opened right on top of me. The sky darkened, purple gunk erupted from the ground, and nasties appeared in flashes of blinding light. Nearby players converged on my location, and we defeated these demonspawn, the game automatically inviting everyone to join a raid group. You might think of rifts like Warhammer Online's public quests, except that rather than having to go to the quest location, the quest location comes to you. Marauding creatures parade down streets toward villages, and you might join a throng of other players as they pass, hunting down these monsters to halt the invasion. Rifts lend welcome unpredictability to a genre sorely needing it.

The other aspect of Rift that sets it apart is its class flexibility. You choose a main class to start with, but within it, you equip three souls. Souls are essentially subclasses, and when you level up, you spend skill points in any of the three. This improves skills you have earned and allows you to learn new ones. It also lets you mix and match to make your own class, though some classes are better fits than others. (After all, no one wants to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.) You aren't stuck with the same three souls for the duration, however; instead, you earn more as you complete quests. My current mage is a necromancer/warlock/dominator, which I enjoy not just because it is a pet class, but also because I can do ranged DPS (that is, damage per second). I can also help with crowd control by, for example, turning enemies into squirrels. (This is incredibly helpful in player-versus-player matches.) But in time, I might swap in other souls to see how I fare as a pyromancer or summon the power of wind and rain as a stormcaller.

Of course, these mechanics are wrapped into a by-the-book, quest-focused RPG. But they go a long way toward making Rift feel truly fresh--a big surprise if you judge this book by its admittedly derivative cover. I need to spend more time exploring this world, clearing dungeons, and closing rifts before I can deliver a more definitive word. But I offer a strong preliminary recommendation for now; not just because Rift makes a few nifty changes to an aging formula, but also because it does so in an elegant package that looks great and runs beautifully.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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23 comments
ceesco53
ceesco53

April 6th. No completed review. What happened here? You were doing so good! I really want to hear about the end-game content. Finish it! Pleeeeeze!

KurtDH
KurtDH

You said it would be a "week or two" from delivering a full review. Today marks two weeks. I'm hoping you're finishing up now. *fingers crossed*

Lord_Asmodeus
Lord_Asmodeus

I appreciate both of your responses and love GS very much. Although I do not agree with the general idea of what a "launch" truly is, I take back what I stated before about GS not taking RIFT seriously. Thanks Kevin-V and jmaybury.

SFrogg
SFrogg

I'm eagerly awaiting a review. WoW for me became so casual its now almost boring and I perhaps now is the time for something new. Any idea when the review will be ready? Thanks

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Lord_Asmodeus -- We only review MMOs that are officially released. End of story. The game was released to the general public on digital retail and on retail shelves on March 1. That is when we start the review process for such games. Rift does not get special consideration.

This is not "our" launch classification. It is the official release date of the game as given by the developer and publishers of Rift. If you have problems with the game's street date, that is an issue you need to bring up with the publishers of Rift. We review the final release of MMOs, which take time to play before review. As it is, if you are playing the game, a review serves you no purpose. We will not rush reviews--this time, or anytime.

jmaybury
jmaybury

@Lord_Asmodeus Copied and pasted from official Rift forums: When will RIFT be released? The official launch date for RIFT is March 1st, 2011 in North America, and March 4th, 2011 in Europe.

I'm sorry but we don't review early access or beta builds. The release date is what we go by. That date was highly documented and what we went by. Kevin gets though more content that anyone I know and he does it very fairly and always takes games very seriously.

Guilds that hit level 50 on day 2 of head start had tons of previous Alpha and Beta knowledge to use to their advantage. As well as preformed guilds of similar minded people, that is in no way what an average player was experiencing. If the developers choose to use early access and headstart to smooth out their launch, well that just seem smart to me. Rift has been a very smooth launch, and yes, I waited in shard queues while I made dinner and watched TV. That has happened during every MMO launch I've been a part of.

Lord_Asmodeus
Lord_Asmodeus

Kevin-V: We can use whatever terms to explain launch status but the fact of the matter is that the servers were up and running in LIVE mode on FEB 15; No longer in beta status. The real time to review how servers were managing (queues on popular servers were in the thousands) launch stability and other key roles were on that date, not March 1st. Guilds hit 50 before your "launch" classification and two weeks before your blog. They were testing endgame contact while you were creating your character. Perhaps this is more of an overall argument for MMORPG's in general - but - if a company brings up servers that will not be wiped, I doesn't matter what "date" that put on a sticker in a gamestore. Most people who wanted to play, were already playing and to wait for an official date to test / review / play a game while most already have, is just silly. I do apologize, I just expect my game reviewers to be ahead of the curve, not weeks behind.

JodyR
JodyR moderator

I'm going to have to give this game a shot! :)

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Lord_Asmodeus -- What are you talking about? The game's official full launch/retail release was a week before this blog was posted. It was NOT launched for "a month" before this. Rift was officially, fully launched on March 1.

r4fae1
r4fae1

I have a friend that takes 2 weeks or less to get 85 with his character of world of warcraft. "I have read that within 3-4 weeks of play you can hit the level cap" its not a parameter to review how the ppl ll enjoy this game. The souls r great system, i cant believe someone doing everything and loving every function on a mmorpg, indeed, Rift is a great game and if u try prepare yourself for hours of fun being u a pve player or pvp.

Reisling
Reisling

After my hellish march to 50 in FFXIV ( and my eager departure from the game afterwards ) I am reluctant to pick up another MMO any time soon, although this game looks *very* tempting. I have 3 main concerns after reading a bit about Rift: First, I have read that within 3-4 weeks of play you can hit the level cap. That is a turn off for me immediately as I enjoy the long process of leveling up. This seems to be falling by the wayside since the introduction of the instant gratification that WoW ( and other games ) seem intent on delivering. Secondly, being able to switch these " souls " around so that your toon can do basically anything also seems to pander to the " I want to be able to do everything and I want it now " mantra of younger players. It almost seems to me that if your character can do anything then it loses it's identity. Finally, as Arkanis mentioned below, what to do when you hit level cap. I admit I may be a little jaded from the horrid experience, and in hindsight waste of time, that were my months with FFXIV. This game *does* look tempting and when I was buying Shogun 2 today I admit I looked the package over and felt a bit of temptation to pick it up. I look forward to reading the final review and seeing how the game fairs after the initial group of WoW junkies get their fix of the game then go back. For the moment I am waiting for ToR...

Lord_Asmodeus
Lord_Asmodeus

From someone who has been a GS subscriber for MANY years and never posted... I'd like to point out that I'm slightly disappointed that you have only been reviewing the game for a week (when it has been "launched" for a month). I'm not sure who's decision it was - but it show's that GS did not take this game very seriously. Would GS ever have waited a month to start testing anything WOW related...? Of course not. :( Eagerly awaiting your review.

BloodMist
BloodMist

Nothing mind boggling or interesting to me there.You have to do a HELL of a lot more than that to be a quality alternative to a massively entertaining game like WoW.Then again I'm not the type of person who plays one game so often that I burn myself out on it, and for people who've just played WoW too much, I guess this could be interesting.However LotRO is an absolutely incredible game, that is completely viable as an alternative to WoW, and costs a lot less to get into than this game, so...

Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer moderator

"It's a fully featured MMOG waiting for you to play it. " Nice. I'm glad you're enjoying it, K!

Hellswrath99
Hellswrath99

Looking forward to the full review, Kevin. Always enjoy hearing your take on things.

makmaria
makmaria

Great review =) Im really having fun rifting, this game has everything I ever wanted from an MMO sure it is similar to previous MMO's but then again every MMO has picked up something or another from some other game =P I have been playing since the head start and all I have seen is improvement in this game the best part is that they actually read what to write on the forums and work on it so far the only complain I had was with the swimming in this game but they have obviously worked on it and its gone now =) The class customization is really grand!

jmaybury
jmaybury

@Bozanimal I've been playing with Kevin as he goes and I must say I'm having a great time. I'm one of the few WoW junkies here and I've halted my subscription for a bit to play this and Dragon Age II. I've only ever had my WoW sub down for about 4 months in the last 6/7 years so I do love me my Warcraft. WoW is just part of how I relax at night and I'll probably eventually miss the comfort of that game, but all they changes and constant re-balancing in WoW is starting to get old. I'm really not doing anything new in WoW, even with the new level cap, content and revamped world, I've done it all multiple times and I'm frankly not feeling it the same way I used to. I'd say if you are a fairly regular raider or high end PVPer you'll probably feel more comfortable where you are. But Rift has offered me a nice way to take a step back from WoW and this is the first MMO since that I think I'll play past the initial month. I've tried most and always go back to WoW. This might just be the time and place for me but right now for the first time I'm not 100% sure I'll go back to WoW. And thats hard for me to say, lol. This game isn't without it's faults but it is very solid alternative to WoW. I'd actually say embrace the parts that are the same, because those are the things that have made transitioning to this game so smooth.

Bozanimal
Bozanimal

@Kevin-V This is a great introduction to Rift, and you mention its similarities to WoW at the outset, but the UI is more than just influenced by WoW: It's a borderline carbon copy. So it begs the question: If you're an established WoW player with a guild and a character and all the other time you've investing into that title, what incentive is there to move to Rift given its heavy similarities?

King9999
King9999

@FonikhSoupia: My PC's not as old, but I have a 8800GT that still works well with current games, Rift included. I'm wondering when I'll have to upgrade my PC. I guess it's a nice problem to have, though!

FonikhSoupia
FonikhSoupia

I've been playing Rift for about a week now and I must say tha I am totaly impressed! I haven't had so much fun in an MMO since I stopped playing wow 3 years ago, and have tried Aion, Warhammer and Age of Conan. As said in the review, character progression is very diverse and there are a lot of things to do in the world! What's more interesting is that the game runs smoothly on my 5year old PC, so upgrading it is out of the question, at least for the next 6 months or so! The 8800 GTX still does a great job!

Arkanis_Vayll
Arkanis_Vayll

I was blown away by the beta, and I keep hearing "Slick and refined," "Complete" and "Polished" - mostly from people who haven't hit 50. As someone who did hit 50 during headstart, there's a lot of work that needs to be done here for this to be a competitive MMO, in all phases. Rifts are currently just a layer of farming laid over the existing content, which is very limited once you actually get to 50. The Multi-Class soul system is rift with major balance effecting bugs (Dual Weild Only skills from one Soul working with a Two hander and synergizing with Two-Handed skills of another Soul, as one example). On top of those issues, which are fairly normal in any launch, the game is overwhelmed with hackers and bots, reminiscent of Aion at launch in that sense. Trion, unfortunately, has fallen far behind in their Customer Service queue and it's taking 3+ days to even roll back characters that have been hacked. I went from nearly sold on the game in beta to unsure if I'll play beyond the first month as a Level 50 in live.

bowlingotter
bowlingotter

Nice to hear that there's a fresh variation on the formula. I've been trying to hold out until The Old Republic before letting a time-vampire MMO get a hold of me, but maybe this means that there's another one to consider. Anxiously awaiting the full review.

Ratatoskr321
Ratatoskr321

I've got to admit, I'm still holding out for Guild Wars 2 but I enjoyed reading this article. I haven't played an MMO since Guild Wars: Factions but I may have to give this a try, at least. I'm looking forward to your full review.