Rift has long been promoting itself (and has been by others) as a rare gem to compete with the MMORPG powerhouse that is Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. And it could very well be that, if it weren’t bogged down by a forgettable story, repetitive quests and the claustrophobia of linearity.The up-and-comer by Trion Worlds throws players into another generic fantasy world of warriors, mages, magic and demons and into a game that takes the best bits of the big MMORPGs that are around and puts them together to make an immersive experience that suffers from a case of hit-and-miss.
Rift pulls players into the world of Telara where a demon/dragon of some sort is out to destroy the world, setting gamers up to save it as either a ‘Guardian’ or ‘Defiant.’ The two factions have a general, forgettable vibe about them, but the main thing you need to know is that it comes as the main enemy definer for PvP raids. While this may seem like lazy storytelling on my part, my defence is that the story of the game itself is so forgettable that it’s hard to remember these little details.
This isn’t helped by the quests that quickly boil down to ‘kill x amount of y’ or ‘collect x’ – or, if you’re lucky, ‘kill x amount of y and collect z.’ At first you’re pulled into the world of Telara, but then quests boil down to typical level grinding, giant text boxes are backstory get boring and the whole thing loses its charm.
What Rift does offer is a graphical upgrade on the typical MMO, a unique ‘soul tree’ levelling system, a new way of bringing players together in PvE raids called (lo and behold) ‘rifts’ and a sturdy server with a hefty base of players to make it worth getting into.
Rifts are randomly spawning portals that spew forth hordes of enemies that players join up with other players to tackle. Enemies vary in difficulty, type and class depending on what realm of the expansive map you’re in (so depending on whereabouts you are in the main story).
It’s the rifts that set aside the monotony of sub-par quests and immerse you in the social world of Rift, and it executes this beautifully. When a rift opens, a horn blares through the air and a rift tear appears on the map with a level indicating how tough the enemies are. You can almost guarantee other players will be flocking to the same rift (even if it’s a small flock) as yourself and Trion have cleverly made grouping with these players as simple as clicking “Join Public Group” or “Merge Public Group” if you’re already in a public party.
Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a map that suddenly swells with rifts on all sides, with enemies forming ‘invasions’ that spread across the map taking over waypoints, towns and cities across Telara. It’s when the game turns frantic like this that the social element of the MMO comes to life and the real fun is had.
Despite how rifts amp up the game, they also become almost as monotonous as the quests. The PvP element that is thrown in does well to cure this. Players can go up against other players while still taking on non-player enemies, and cross-server support allows users to be matched up with similar players across different servers and groupings to happen almost automatically.
The soul tree levelling system is a big step up from other MMO’s, with more direct tailoring of character perks over the typical stringent focus of ‘magic guy does magic,’ ‘warrior goes in and stabs stuff,’ formula. With interchangeable soul trees that differ from magic-, physical- and distance-based abilities, for instance, players can customise exactly what sort of character they want, and change this around depending on the type of PvP battle or quest they’re running into.
Rifts isn’t exactly revolutionary – in fact, it mimics much from other prominent MMOs. But it chooses the right parts to carbon copy and the right parts to improve on in a way that makes it an easy option to jump into, even if you’re not into the MMORPG scene. It’s still early days for the online young ‘un, but with such a smooth launch, this could be a subscription game that actually sticks around for a while (and that’s saying something).