Review by drlucky420

"Rift - Do We Finally Have A Choice Besides WoW?"

As the title suggests, this review is geared towards WoW players, written by a long-time WoW player. Let's face it; World of Warcraft is the standard by which all other MMO games are judged. WoW is the most successful MMO of all time, and continues to dominate the industry after six years. Several competitors have tried to take a crack at this gaming leviathan, but none have succeeded. How does Rift fare?

Rift is an MMO that clearly takes it's influence from two main sources: World of Warcraft, and Warhammer Online. The WoW formula is the most obvious: the same UI, a lot of the same hot keys, similar reward structure (various currencies for PVP, PVE, etc), even some spells and abilities are exactly the same. The game runs on the Warhammer engine (also used for Oblivion and Fallout 3), and takes Warhammer's big MMO innovation, "the public quest". The idea is, a big event happens in the middle of a zone, and anyone can run over and participate. You can join a "public raid" without being invited, or you can participate solo, you will be rewarded regardless.

In Warhammer, these public quests were static, resulting in people doing them once or twice and then never bothering again. In Rift, they are largely random. In any given zone, several of the namesake "Rifts" will open up out of the sky, and start teleporting in waves of monsters. They appear on the map, and can be seen visually from a pretty good distance. It is well-worth your time to participate, even in a lower level rift, since you will be rewarded with currency that is needed at all levels, as well as random items and consumables.

In addition, every hour or so there will be a "major invasion" of a zone, where 10x the normal number of Rifts open and elite enemies attack. These guys don't just stay put, they actively march on towns and take them over. As a result, you are pretty much obligated to join the battle and fight off the monsters. These major events give better rewards than normal rifts, and though they can be an annoyance if you really want to turn in a quest in an overrun town, they really break up the tedium of normal MMO questing on the whole.

Speaking of normal MMO quests, yep, they're all over the place. You could likely level only questing, without ever touching a Rift, though you'd miss out on lots of rewards, experience, and fun. Most quests are the standard "kill enemies, loot an item, or activate some switch" type, though here and there you'll find some cool unique stuff, like one NPC's "feats of strength" challenges, or a quest where you get to turn into a giant troll. Compared to the later WoW stuff, Rift is definitely less-original in quest design, but I haven't been bored yet. In addition to standard fare, you get "epic story" quests which are large, long scale affairs that often require grouping.

I haven't talked about the character classes, which is going to be the main draw for a lot of people. This game delivers the one thing WoW has been taking away from players lately, and that is CUSTOMIZATION. I don't mean the way your character looks, I'm talking about the classes, or "souls" you choose.

There are 4 base classes: Warrior, Rogue, Mage, and Cleric. Once you choose one of those 4, you are locked in. However, it doesn't end there. You are then asked to choose a "soul" from 8 available choices. Warriors, for example, can choose between a "sword and board" tank soul, a duel wield soul, a 2-hand weapon soul, a spellblade soul, and more. Rogues can be healers, Warriors can cast magic. Neat. But it STILL doesn't end there. Within a few levels, you aquire TWO MORE active souls. That's right, you can combine any 3 of your classes souls to make your own character built. A tank warrior with a pet? No problem. A rogue with stealth and ranged weapons? Sure. There are a hell of a lot of combination, and you can change those 3 any time your want. So if you get tired of tanking with a pet, try duel-wielding with magic attacks for a while! Compared to the current state of Warcraft, which is "spec THIS way, get THIS gear, and press THESE buttons in THIS order", Rift comes through a real breath of fresh air.

There are also PVP battlegrounds, the first available at level 10, and instanced dungeons, the first available around level 16. PvP was a pretty simple zergfest at the low levels, where healing dominated everything. The one dungeon I did was quite large and challenging for a first-tier zone, with crowd-control being used and basic "wait until the tank has agro" rules already in play. I understand there are about 10 dungeons total, with "heroic" versions of each as well as a high level raid already available at the end game.

I would highly recommend Rift to any MMO fan, but Warcraft players in particular. If you have been looking for a game with the depth of Warcraft, but offering a new and fresh experience, Rift may be the game for you.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/10/11

Game Release: Rift (US, 03/01/11)

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