When developer Trion launched Rift in March of 2011, many pegged it as yet another “WoW-killer”, a new IP that would undoubtedly dethrone World of Warcraft from its position as the undisputed king of MMOs. Like every other game with those expectations, Rift saw initial success but then began losing subscriptions as people reached the end of the game and grew bored. To further accentuate the damage, many people claimed that Rift was a shameless clone of World of Warcraft with a similar combat system, setting, UI, and just about everything else. In the coming months, however, those that stayed loyal to the game saw some of the most impressive content updates in the industry, gaining Rift a reputation as a constantly evolving and improving game with a devoted community. As more and more MMOs made the transition to free-to-play, Rift remained one of the few subscription-based MMOs. With the recent announcement of the inevitable switch to free-to-play, we thought it was a good time to talk about the game a bit and let you know if it’s worth your time.
Rift takes place in the world of Telara, a medieval-fantasy world that suffers periodic incursions from different elemental planes of reality and their respective dragons. When the dragon aspect of death, Regulos, begins to make considerable strides towards the destruction of Telara, the gods begin resurrecting the souls of fallen heroes to fight on their behalf. Called Guardians, these heroes serve as the gods’ army and use their devine powers to fight Regulos’ undead hordes and the armies of the other dragon aspects. Unfortunately, the Guardians eventually fail and on the eve of armageddon, a group that defies the gods in favor of technology called the Defiant learn to create their own ascended heroes. Just before Regulos destroys the last of them, the Defiant send their ascended back through time to a period where they would be able to prevent the grim future from ocurring. Thus sets the stage for not only the conflict against the dragons, but an additional war between the devout Guardians and the industrious Defiant.
Rift does very little that’s new in terms of actual gameplay. You create your class and use your number keys to cast different abilities, eventually falling into a routine of button presses to maximize your dps or healing output. If this type of gameplay caused you to fall asleep in other MMOs, you will probably be unimpressed by Rift. Where Rift shines, however, is level of customization. Rather than giving you a large number of classes with a few different builds possible, Rift goes in the other direction with only 4 classes but a large number of different paths with which to level each one. These paths, called talent trees by those familiar with MMOs, can be mix and matched to the players liking. The talent tree system here falls into the same pitfall as it does in other games; there’s usually a few “best” layouts for each class to choose from if they really want to be competitive, but luckily the sheer number of talent trees and the fact that each character can have multiple “builds” at once to choose from keeps things from getting too redundant for the player. My mage, for example, has 4 different builds with different playstyles for each. If I get bored with one, I can switch to the other to mix things up. Rift also excels in terms of new content updates, a vital part of the long-term success of any MMO. Trion has consistently released large patches that add new zones, dungeons, raids, and events to keep players entertained at a pace that few can keep up with. Since the game’s launch Trion has added a LFG tool and automatic queue, more pvp battlegrounds, a unique feature called “Instant Adventures” which groups you with other players for quick missions. One of the biggest improvements is the addition of Dimensions, which are player-created instances that allow the creator to use items and decorations they find or buy in the world to create their own miniature wor lds. Most are used as player housing, but some players have designed unique mini-games for other players to enjoy, like mazes and puzzle-platformers.Things have slowed down a bit since the release of the Storm Legion expansion last year, but there is still an incredible amount of activities to keep any MMO fan entertained.
The environments of Rift were excellent when they were released and spell effects still look impressive with particle effects and bloom, but other than these two examples Rift’s graphics fall a bit flat. The character models, while decent looking in pictures, suffer from stiff animations and combat styles that simply aren’t very exciting. I have a hard time playing any kind of melee character in Rift because few races actually look like they’re fighting when they swing their weapons. Some races like the elves have cool casting animations which is why I tend to stick with mages and clerics. On that note, however, is the sad fact that the character models are limited despite there being 6 races and 2 genders for each one. Both the Guardians and Defiants each have their own versions of humans and elves, but both look almost exactly the same with only slight differences in skin tone to tell them apart. The dwarves for the Guardians and the Bahmi of the Defiant are thankfully a bit more unique. It’s not quite as bad as Star Wars: The Old Republic’s decision to have a ton of races that all look and move exactly the same with armor on, but it’s still comes off as a bit lazy when developers decide to copy/paste their character models and claim that there are more races than there really are. Thankfully, there are still avenues with which players can make their characters look unique through cosmetic items, pets, mounts, and a wardrobe feature that lets players show one armor set on their character despite using the stats from another. While this isn’t a unique feature any more, Rift was one of the earlier adopters of the system and they deserve credit for it.
The one word that can be used to describe Rift’s sound is a resounding “meh”. Sound effects are what one would expect; fireballs crackle, swords cling and clash, and enemies do brief yells or growls when they spot you. There are a few instances of voice acting but they tend to range from passable to cringe-worthy. Thankfully, they are the exception rather than the norm as a majority of dialogue is presented in text. As for music, I wouldn’t say that the soundtrack is bad but it certainly isn’t good either. It’s mostly forgettable, though I do sometimes catch myself humming the Defiant theme which plays any time you enter their capital of Meridian. Rift’s sound quality is exactly what it needs to be to not be offensive but nothing more.
When Rift came out it really didn’t have much going for it. In all honesty it was the epitome of the “wow-clone”. However, it has since grown into an MMO with its own unique niche and dedicated fan base. With the upcoming switch to Free-to-Play, we’ll be able to see if Rift still has some staying power in the future of the MMO market. If you’re looking for the prettiest MMO you may want to look elsewhere, but if all you want is game that gives you a wide variety of things to do, you won’t find many better deals than Rift.