Review by curiousdead
"A good, polished game without major flaws"
Rift is a new fantasy MMO. Despite using the tagline We're not in Azeroth anymore, the game plays in a way that is quite similar to its closest counterpart, World of Warcraft. Rift is not a game whose selling point is its originality. However, despite what some people say about the game, it is no World of Warcraft clone any more than Mortal Kombat was a clone of Street Fighter. Both games share similarities, which is to be expected since they're in the exact same genre, of which WoW was never the sole representative.
Similarities include the interface, which bears some semblance. However, a nice touch is the built-in Layout Editor, which allows you to easily reorganize action bars and other UI items, whereas in other games you typically need an addon. The game features quests that require you to kill a given number of enemies, to find some items, usually from enemies, or other repetitive tasks, for an amount of experience and gold and the occasional magic item.
Graphically, the game adopts a more realistic style, and a character model's face alone probably has more polygons than a whole WoW character model (the older ones, such as Orcs, the newer one being much better). The armors aren't as epic looking, and the realistic style makes it more obvious when a character wears mismatched armor pieces. That said, it is possible to buy dyes to modify your gear's look and personalize it, something WoW players have been asking for some time.
You play as either a Guardian, deeply religious characters who seek to prevent the coming of Regulos by using the power of the Gods, or a Defiant, people who trust technology more than the gods. In both case, you are an Ascended, a character who cannot really die, and who has heroic souls (your classes). This setting explains why exactly characters can seem to shrug off death on a daily basis: you are special, not just a hero, but a chosen.
You can pick one of four basic callings, Warrior, Mage, Cleric or Rogue. Each calling has nine souls: eight for PVE and one strictly for PVP. After about a minute of play or even less, you pick your first soul, and shortly after you pick the next ones.
Once you have your three souls, you'll notice the Soul Trees look a lot like Talent trees in WoW. However, there are two distinctions: first, in WoW, particularly Cataclysm, you have to pour your points into one single tree and place a few in the other trees once you've reached the tree's top. In Rift, you can, and sometimes even are enticed to, divide among you three soul trees. While a lot of end-game specs end up concentrating 51 points in one three, some other specs are possible, and even efficient. A 22/22/22 (you get a total of 66 Soul Points) spec might not be awesome, but how the game is balanced, maybe someone will someday find one that works.
The second difference is that trees have branches and roots: you put point in branches - it's like spending talent points in WoW. However, the more soul points you invest in a single tree, the more roots you unlock. These are your soul's basic abilities, of which there are a lot.
What is interesting is that the game has moved, if only by an inch, from the tank/healer/damage/damage/damage format; some souls can be efficient at support, at crowd control, at off-healing or off-tanking. One mage soul heals (and heals well) by casting damage spells, while one cleric soul heals by dealing melee damage. Incidentally, that same soul can tank efficiently.
Given all the possibilities, balance is a bit off. However, Trion, the developer, so far makes a good job of addressing issues. One month into the game, and there's already a balance patch.
The game is not flawless, however. Quests require sometimes more travel or exploration. While quests that require exploration are awesome, they can get annoying when mobs respawn quickly. The Rifts and Invasions - random occurrences of monsters spawning in an area and which require you to perform tasks to close - are cool, but some find them repetitive (I know I don't, but your mileage may vary), and they can be in the way of your quest objective.
However, most of the flaws of the game are flaws of the genre: endgame content is limited to raiding or PVPing or doing expert dungeons; the endgame may require you to spec in a specific way if you want to be efficient enough (which is mostly a flaw of the community, in fact, because people don't want to accept the fact that this is just a game, and that not everyone wants to play THE uber-spec, even if that means au upgrade of a few points of damage per second). The quests can be very repetitive, although since they require more exploration, they are more involved.
Overall, I think some of the game's flaws, namely the repetitiveness, can be averted by varying your experience: change your spec - there are so many possibilities; close Rifts; when those get boring, do some PVP, which has good rewards, even for PVE; do group dungeons. This game has a lot of options.
In the end, the game is fairly polished, pretty to look at, and offers you a lot of different possibility.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/08/11
Game Release: Rift (US, 03/01/11)
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