“We’re not in Azeroth anymore.” With this bold statement, RIFT entered the MMORPG boxing ring this past March to go toe to toe with the current heavyweight champion, World of Warcraft. But is it any match for the game that has dominated the online RPG market since its debut? Is it better than WoW? Should you unsubscribe to WoW and pick up this game ASAP? When will Guild Wars 2 come out? (Answer: NEVER.) All this and more will be answered in this review!
The gist of the story is some demon guy named Regulos is destroying Telara by tearing open elemental rifts that plague the world. As a result, the people of Telara use various means to bring back departed souls as godless killing machines, otherwise known as the Ascended. It is up to You, the Ascended, to undo all the harm Regulos has wrought upon Telara, close some rifts, do sum dungeons, and beat up other players of the opposing faction!
(Or something like that. Who plays games for the story, anyway? C’mon.)
RIFT has two factions: the Guardians and the Defiant. Guardians like religion and Defiants like science – instant conflict! The Guardian faction consists of Mathosians (humans), high elves and dwarfs, while the Defiant side is comprised of Eth (more humans), Kelari, which are night elves on crack, and Bahmi, which resemble hulking purple orc type things. To every race, there are available four classes, or Callings: rogue, warrior, mage and cleric. Within each Calling there are eight different specializations, or what the game refers to as souls, which are meant for different roles, such as healing, tanking or damage dealing. You can combine any three souls that you like, which can make for some interesting class combinations – in theory. I’ll get into that later.
With this in mind, I rolled a Defiant Eth rogue and entered the world on the very last day of it (after they bring me back courtesy of SCIENCE!, of course):
Graphically, this is a very appealing game. With the settings turned all the way up (which is how I’m playing it) it is absolutely gorgeous, and probably has some of the best graphics any MMO has to offer currently. Movement is smooth and seamless, with little to no jacked up glitches in sight. The environment is quite scenic and boasts beautiful vistas and vibrant colors. There are no major tell-tale bugs that I’ve encountered either. In fact, THE only bug I’ve had issues with are my action bars showing every time I log in when I’ve unchecked that option in the interface, as evidenced in one of the screenshots.
It does not take long to collect your three souls; by level six (before you go back in time since they resurrected you right before Regulos destroys the world, 2012 style) you’ve gotten to select them all.
Combat is very similar to WoW, i.e. relatively smooth and not a laggy horrible queued mess. Press the key that corresponds to the move (or click, for you keyboard turners out there), and your character performs it. Simple and straightforward enough.
The user interface affords many customization options, including number of action bars and scaling and positioning of character portraits and raid frames. Of all the MMOs I’ve played – and believe me, I’ve played my fair share in an effort to get away from WoW, which I’ve played for four godless years – it probably has the best UI customization.
Is questing a grindfest? Well sure, it’s an MMO. It is still the standard “Kill x amount of y, collect x amount of z”, so on and so forth. But luckily there are only 50 levels, and they come fairly quickly, and a pretty environment does help ease the pain a bit. And depending on which server you roll on, there are a decent amount of players on at pretty much any given time, and the community is generally helpful to even the stupidest of players, without snarky comments beckoning the poor sap to “l2p”. Another nice perk – no riding skills or level requirements for them. If you have the money, you can get a 60% mount at any level. With the collector’s edition, you’re actually given the 2-headed tortoise abomination my character can be seen riding in these screenshots.
Rifts can spawn in any place in the open world, and depending on location they will represent different elements. They work much like public quests like in Champions Online or Warhammer, where you can join open groups with nearby players and work together to complete the various stages in closing the rift. You get rewards in the form of planerites, which you can use to buy better gear. There are also invasions at certain points in the world, which work the same way. Again, because there are usually good number of players around, it is easy to comprise a group for these events.
Dungeons are dungeons, and aren’t anything too spectacular or of note. Find a group, enter dungeon, clear trash mobs, kill a boss, get some loot. It’s not too challenging with a bit of strategy and observational skills. There are also “expert” dungeons, which work much like heroics in WoW, where you can do all the same dungeons again at level 50 except they are more challenging and reap better rewards. Big downside to it all – there is no dungeon finding system as of yet, which means you must spam the general channels for a group, and that can be time consuming.
This all may have sounded like a mostly positive review so far, but this game does have its cons. The class system, for instance. While it sounds good on paper, in practice it is not so. You honestly cannot throw any combination of souls together willy-nilly and expect to do well.You still need to find the cookie-cutter specs everyone else uses that work. Many souls do not work well together or just plain underpowered in general, or have big weaknesses in certain aspects of the game. For example, while my Riftstalker/Assassin/Bladedancer spec is great for solo play, it doesn’t do very well in group oriented situations like dungeons. Another big complaint is class balance, with certain classes and soul combinations doing too much damage, not enough damage, too much healing, not enough healing, etc.
Instanced PvP, called warfronts in the game, is, quite unfortunately, lacking, with most of the scenarios turning into 15 minute sausagefests in the middle of the map while half the players AFK and the other half run around like morons forgetting that there is actually an objective to the game. Also, due to the class imbalance, they can be quite unfun depending on what you are playing – or if you’re not good at what you’re playing. World PvP is also nothing special. There seem to be no objectives or incentives for it yet, other than the pleasure of ganking other players. And with a lack of arenas, there is no real endgame to PvP at the level cap.
At this point, I’m sure the question many readers are asking at this point is, “Should I quit WoW for RIFT?” I will say this – if you are very sick of WoW and are looking for something different to play, RIFT is your game. Speaking as someone who falls in that demographic, I do enjoy this game immensely, in spite of its flaws. For a new game, it it is decent, and being as we are only one month into its release, I’m sure we can anticipate it improving. However, if all your friends are playing WoW, and you are still investing a decent amount of time into it, you might as well stick with it – at least until RIFT fixes its issues and adds more endgame content. And a dungeon finder, because spamming general is ghetto.