Review by UPRC
"Trion Worlds' first ever game is an immediate winner."
"We're not in Azeroth anymore."
The above line is the incredibly ballsy slogan that Trion Worlds has adopted for their new MMORPG called Rift: Planes of Telara. Trion Worlds is incredibly brave to use a tagline such as that. Rift has just launched and they are already going in for the kill by directly aiming to defeat Blizzard's competition devouring title World of Warcraft. For the uneducated, WoW has destroyed every other MMORPG's chances of becoming the next big thing ever since it came out at the end of 2004. Trion Worlds, however, might be onto something here. WoW is at it's weakest point ever. Despite still going strong, there is a lot of discontent spreading through the ranks of WoW's casual and non-raiding playerbases. The most recent expansion, despite giving the entire game world an attractive overhaul, was actually surprisingly skimpy on 80-85 content for anyone who does not raid and quite a few people have expressed discontent with WoW due to this. Trion Worlds is hoping to lure the unhappy WoW players to Rift, and they may very well do that!
Rift's install only takes a few minutes, and the patching process is a breeze since all of it is managed in Rift's client window. The client also contains a repair tool, so you won't have to go digging through the game's folders to find such a thing. This is all very convenient, and I found the client to be very efficient and far handier than the competition's clients.
Upon starting the game up, you are treated to the opening cinematic. It does not try to be epic and grand by throwing each and every race and class combination in your face, and it doesn't really explain a lot at all as far as story goes. The opening to Rift just shows a Guardian (Rift's supposed Alliance faction) duking it out against two Defiant (Rift's Horde faction), followed by the opening of a Life Rift which unleashes a monster that easily overpowers the two Defiant. The stealthy Guardian gets the upper hand on the monster and manages to slay it, only to see several other rifts opening all throughout the sky. That is the opening in a nut shell, and it does a good job of establishing what the game is about, which is rifts (of course) and the conflict between Guardians and Defiant.
After the cinematic, you get to choose which shard (server) you want to play on. There's PvE, PvP, RP PvE, and RP PvP. I don't think I need to explain what each kind of server is, so I'll just go on to say that there are quite a lot of servers to select from. After choosing your shard, you are taken to the character creation screen.
The first decision you have to make when creating a character is which faction you want to play as. The Guardians are promoted as the good guys while the Defiant are pushed as bad guys. However, I learned from playing that the line between good and evil is a little blurred and neither faction is truly good or evil, just like the Alliance and Horde from World of Warcraft before the previous Wrath of the Lich King expansion (when everything was fine and dandy between the factions). Guardians are your typical religious folk who feel that they are in the right and always try to do what they think is best. Dwarves, High Elves, and Mathosians (Humans) comprise the Guardians faction. The Defiant are a bit darker looking and are pretty big on technological advances and such. Their races are the Bahmi, Eth, and Kelari. Those three names may seem intimidating due to being completely unfamiliar to everyone, but know that all three races are very human-like in appearance. The Eth are basically humans, while the Bahmi and Kelari just have bluish skin hues and a few facial features that differ from the more humanoid Eths.
Which race you choose will determine what your initial racial powers are. For example, Mathosians can increase their speed slightly for several seconds and High Elves can fly though the flight ability is extremely limited.
After choosing your race, you're asked to pick a class. There's cleric, mage, rogue, and warrior. Each should be pretty self-explanatory so I won't really explain them, but I will say that you shouldn't be discouraged by there only being four classes. In a way, there are actually dozens of classes, because each of the four classes has several sub-classes that you can mix and match. For example, some things that clerics can choose are druid, inquisitor, and warden. Warriors can classify themselves as beastmasters, paladins, warlords, and so forth. Each main class has eight of these sub-classes, so there's plenty of variety and I'll talk about that a little more shortly.
After choosing your race and class, you get to customize your appearance. After playing some MMOs such as APB and Champions Online, I felt a little let down with the customization but only because those two games had vast customization options. Rift still beats other MMORPGs such as WoW with ease. Here's a list of things that you can customize in Rift.
There are a few options that are specific to certain races and genders, as well. You can change the size of Elf ears, and male Dwarves have several different beard options. It's not the best customization ever, but it's still pretty decent and, as I said, beats games like WoW pretty easily.
After making your character, you are then whisked away to a tutorial zone. Each faction starts in their own unique zones, with Guardians starting out in the ruins of Mathosia while Defiant characters get to play in a zone that depicts a destroyed Telara in the future. Until you take on your first soul (essentially a sub-class), you have no abilities and are essentially as useful to anyone as a level 1 NPC with poor stats. After the first quest NPC gives you a soul, you get a few skills to play with.
After getting your first soul, you're prompted to go outside where you receive your first real quest that will feel very familiar to many WoW players. Kill X number of Y mobs. It's pretty simple and I found that Rift was prompting me to kill less mobs for quests than WoW does. The following quests were all standard fare, such as disabling certain structures, collecting quest items from defeated mobs, and so forth.
It isn't long after getting your second soul that the game finally throws a little variety into the quests such as being asked to mount a horse and return it to an NPC while another quest giver at the same location will want you to decimate undead forces using catapults littered throughout an expansive battlefield. It adds a little more variety to the quests, but it still does not make the overall questing experience incredibly enjoyable.
At the end of the tutorial zone, you get to team up with other players to form a raid group to take down, quite literally, a king. I'm not sure of the lore behind the guy, but he was a minion of the game's central bad guy, Regulos the Destructor. For the curious, Regulos is a nasty dragon who basically just wants to muck everything up.
Rifts were promoted as one of the game's main selling points, which should be obvious considering the fact that the game is called Rift. Anyway, rifts are NOT scripted events and can happen anywhere and at any moment. When a rift opens, several mobs will spill out into the world and, if they are not dealt with swiftly, they'll take over the surrounding terrain and even try to invade nearby settlements. Whenever a rift opens (you'll know because they show up on the zone map), every single player nearby stops what they are doing and converges on the rift. It's really cool to see everyone take part in closing the rifts. There's a lot of teamwork and rift closers really do help each other out tremendously. Every single player who is low on health will likely receive generous heals from other players who are also under attack. There are several waves of mobs to defeat before a final big boss appears out of the rift. When you defeat the boss mob, the rift closes and you receive a generous amount of money as well as planarite.
Planarite is sort of like Rift's special currency. It can be used to purchase gear, items, and various upgrades from planar goods vendors. While a bit of farming is required to purchase some of the items that these vendors offer, it never feels at all tedious like grinds can in other MMORPGs. Due to the cooperative nature of rifts, it truly is hard not to enjoy them.
Trade skills are pretty much what you'd expect to see in an MMORPG that wishes to beat World of Warcraft. Butchering, foraging, and a few item crafting trades are a few of what you should expect to see. Crafting items is very simple and, though I hate to bring up World of Warcraft again, Rift's trade skills work in the exact same way. Gather a few materials from resource nodes (such as ore or plants) and make whatever items are available to you based on the designs/recipes you have learned.
Invasions are another random event similar to rifts, only they are not confined to single areas on the map. Invasions are mobile forces that are usually made up of mobs that spew from rifts or tough NPCs from the opposing faction. Defeating invasions will also grant you planarite and other goodies while large scale invasions, which are actually huge zone-wide events, will grant players with a huge wealth of rewards. If a zone-wide invasion occurs, which you will be made aware of by a notice on your screen, it is definitely best to take part in it no matter what your level is.
The world of Telara is very nice looking, and player characters have a decent amount of variety. Rift has had a very stable launch and the game is already very polished. In time, I can definitely see Rift being a fantastic MMORPG, but a few things need to be refined, such as the Guardians' tutorial zone which was a little dull. The graphics really are fantastic for an MMORPG, and I can't stress that enough. Zones such as Silverwood are a real treat to check out as the trees overhead cast realistic shadows on the ground. There are also many different looking areas in Rift's zones. In Silverwood you will find meadows, deep forests, marshlands, beaches, and even hedge mazes. There's a sort of variety here that other MMORPGs have never managed to include in their initial releases.
The game's soundtrack can be a little hit or miss. I find the music in the tutorial zones to be absolutely dreadful, but after getting into the main game itself and exploring the world of Telara, I found the music to be surprisingly pleasant. It's not as catchy or memorable as tunes in other MMORPGs, but it gets the job done and sounds more than adequate. I can't say the same for the game's voice acting however. A few races have good voice actors (the High Elves being the most notable example), but some scripted story sequences are voiced so badly that it is almost cringeworthy.
In conclusion, Rift is good. It probably isn't a WoW killer just yet, but the future is definitely bright. With enough support from players, this game can definitely become an MMORPG that could, in theory, tangle with WoW. For the sake of having something fresh on the market, I hope that Rift succeeds. The ingame rifts that open, which are completely random and spontaneous, bring something very cool to the game and I love how everyone teams up to take down the rifts before they become big threats.
If you're looking for a new MMORPG to play or are feeling bored with the one you're playing now, Rift may very well be worth checking out.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/01/11, Updated 04/04/11
Game Release: Rift (Collector's Edition) (US, 03/01/11)
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