Saturday, 14 May 2011

Rift In-depth Review

Rift may seem like an ordinary MMORPG with much of its core gameplay being very similar to World of Warcraft however there's a layer of complexity behind many important aspects of the game providing a steep learning curve. This may dishearten a few newcomers, however behind the complexities is a deep, engrossing world. It's an extremely refined new MMO, with great server stability and very little lag.

The hostile world of Telara
You are immediately thrown into the chaotic world of Telara; the introductory areas show great conflict with many explosions and portray a struggle defending the hordes of enemies from the Plane of Death. Regardless of the faction you choose (Guardians or Defiants), the starting area leads to a climatic encounter with Regulos, a dragon that ultimately transports you through time. It's a fast-paced and exciting opening, but the emphasis on the story soon after rapidly dissipates. But as the story-telling lessens, the complexities increase. You will be in possession with three "souls" before you even leave the starting zone. Souls are fundamentally your class talent trees. As you level you can put points into these soul trees, unlocking more rewarding skills found deeper in a tree.

The game offers four character archetypes: Mage, Rouge, Warrior or Cleric. Your class determines which of the 9 (out of 36) souls you will possess. The beautiful thing about souls is that there is a huge variety of talent options resulting in a versatile gameplay experience. All classes can heal, do melee damage, range damage and (with the exception of the Warrior) can heal. Probably the exception to this rule is the Mage, who tends to specialise in only one school of magic as skills from other souls do not combine well with each other. This results in a much less diverse experience with the mage, however it does make it easier.

The task of figuring out which souls combine well is probably the most daunting one in Rift. It's confusing for even experienced players and the lack of restrictions in the talent trees can make it so that you create a character who doesn't excel in anything particular. But the freedom also allows for creative builds and some powerful ones are bound to surface. Souls truly define your character and your playing experience, more so than any other game I've played before. The flexibility of this system allows one class to play many roles.

The Mage

The PvP system is a lot of fun in Rift. There are four warfronts that you can unlock at different levels, and while they all conform to the types we have seen in other MMOs- capture the flag, capture bases etc-  the maps are unique and well designed for strategic gameplay for all classes.

As well as PvP, the game also possesses a questing system and dungeons (with many raids at the level cap). It's a system that is similar to World of Warcraft Cataclysm, with a handful of hubs slowly moving your character across the zone. It's slightly sluggish, and the quests themselves are nothing special; most of them are just kill/collect. Eventually this does feel repetitive and boring...

Now, for the unique part of the game: rifts. This is what makes the game fresh and revitalising even when monotonously questing for hours. Rifts are gigantic holes in the fabric of the world which allow creatures from other dimensions to enter Telara, our world. If left open long enough, the monsters will destroy your questing hub so it's a good idea to prioritise closing the rift. Most rifts will attract a multitude of players, so grouping is possible. The group system is well designed and is minimal fuss; the system automatically detects players next to you when there is a rift nearby and asks whether you want to join their group. Even two groups can merge together with this simple mechanic- it saves a lot of time. Rifts are spontaneous and are well rewarding making them a fun experience for all players. Sometimes a world-wide rift (invasion) occurs causing havoc across the entire zone. Invasions offer greater rewards, and will encourage more player involvement. The feeling is truly epic and makes the world feel ever so dynamic and changing, unlike many other games where the world remains static. Rifts are one of the game's strengths though sometimes it feels like a weakness as well; it's off-putting at times when you don't want to encounter an obstacle while questing or when there are limited players online.
Some rifts are a true spectacle

Telara is a world which must be explored. Although Rift may not bring many innovative ideas to the table, it is polished in almost every aspect and this results in a satisfying experience. The lush environment and the detail of the world are breath-taking and outweigh the negatives of the game. Trion's support for this game has been excellent and their service in fixing bugs, and providing regular patches have been great. There's a steep learning curve but once it has been overcome you will find Rift to be an extremely immersive experience.

Overall this game deserves 8.5/10

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