Review by FFrulz2000

"A lot of its most advertised features are gimmicky, but the core game of Rift is solid."

Over the years, the only kind of video game I ever continued playing was, for the most part, MMORPGs. There's something about the sense of community and dependence upon real players to advance that makes it much more engaging than playing a game offline and by yourself. I've played almost every mainstream MMO and even a few that most probably weren't aware of. I've watched the MMO landscape change and evolve from a time where only the truly dedicated could take a character to max level (EQ), to a time where anyone with a couple and a couple hours a day could be decked out in raid gear (WoW).

Rift came at a time where MMO companies left and right were attempting to levy some success off WoW's millions of subscribers. So far, none have been successful. Why? Because WoW maintains a level of polish, rich lore, functionality, and game design that has so far simply been ahead of the pack. In 2004, it also opened the MMO market to non-MMO gamers by creating a game that was much easier and less time consuming than all that came before it, for better or worse.

Rift, for all intents and purposes, is a direct analogue of WoW. Beyond the atrocious "We're not in Azeroth anymore" marketing campaign, you have a game that lifts almost all its main ideas from the MMO giant. In addition, it takes a few other elements from Warhammer and then adds about 10-20% of true originality on top of that.

Rift has two main innovations, both of which, unfortunately end up feeling a bit gimmicky. You have the soul system; Rift's take on classes. And the actual Rifts themselves.

If you're familiar with WoW, think of the soul system as a "talent tree picker." You choose your starting archetype, whether it be a Warrior, Mage, Rogue, or Cleric, and then over the course of the opening hour of gameplay, you'll choose three distinct talent trees from an initial pool of 8 that will shape your class. The problem is that in order to create a strong character, you need to pick trees that have individual talents that accentuate the strengths of your other trees. What this results in is very familiar feeling classes, despite the guise of playing "3 classes" at once. On the positive side, it does allow for some interesting combinations such as a Rogue capable of tanking. Of course balance is very off at this point in time, but I cannot knock the game for having balance issues when it's brand new. If Trion is at least capable, and they are, these issues will be resolved in time.

The other "original feature" is the Rift system. Across all the open zones in the game, you'll often see the opening of inter-dimensional rifts that will herald the coming of monster invasions. Allow these rifts to go unchecked, and they could potentially overwhelm the quest givers and "safe haven" areas within the zone. So it becomes paramount that you run to them, and with a click of a button that forms on top of the screen, join into a raid party with other players and work together to close the rifts and expel the demons. It sounds very theatrical and fun on paper, and it sure is the first, say, 10 times you do it. But once you've seen all the tricks the rifts have to offer, you'll quickly realize they're extremely repetitive and can be maddening when not enough people are on to keep them in check (which can result in quest givers being tied up amongst other frustrations).

The core gameplay is extremely similar to WoW. You unlock a plethora of abilities from your three talent trees, and that ultimately presents another problem. You'll simply end up with a lot of useless or repetitive abilities, and sorting through them all can be tedious. For example, almost all the rogue souls begin the game with a combo point generator, and a combo point using "finisher." Except almost all of these abilities have the same or similar animation, and do the same or similar damage.

But the system overall works well. Fans of highly involved MMO gameplay (vs the auto attack days ) will be right at home with a clicking frenzy of abilities, working to learn the proper rotations to maximize DPS. Combat is fluid, and when you have a soul combo that doesn't feel like a direct port of another class from another MMO, it can be very exciting and unique.

It should be mentioned (and has been, in many other reviews) that questing in this game is nothing special, but it gets the job done. I'll just note, however, that I couldn't be bothered to actually read any of the quests. Whether it's their presentation that's lacking or the backstory just altogether isn't that interesting, I can't say. But at the very least, questing gets the job done and will help break up the grind for those gamers that don't like the typical MMO grind. In addition, you have the battlegrounds style PvP queues which pits you into PvP maps for games like capture the flag and generally are a pretty fun method of passing time. PvP isn't exactly balanced at this point in time, but like I said Trion will sort that out in due time. In addition, Rift implements dungeons that are actually pretty fun and varied, although the end game unfortunately makes you repeat these dungeons on a "hard mode" of sorts. I'd rather have dungeons unique to level 50, but that's me.

Rift's visuals are a definite high point. The overall level of detail and beauty here are definitely worthy of the next-gen branding. What's even more impressive is the fact that the game tends to run very well a wide range of systems, despite being more graphically intensive than say, WoW. On my mid range laptop, for example, it was fairly easy for me to maintain 25ish FPS while having a solid mix of medium and high settings. Of course, if you have the computer muscle, cranking everything up yields a visual experience that is generally a step above most MMO's out there.

The core of the game is very solid and for those that enjoyed WoW and would like a similar type of game, Rift is a natural. Your point of view will determine how much you like and enjoy Rift. If you read this review and are put off by how much the game borrows from WoW, and / or see the points I'm making about the Rift and Soul system being a bit gimmicky, you may want to hold off and seek more information. However, if you do decide to play the game, you're in for a very polished, stable, and well-executed MMO that will only get better with time. It's only true flaw is a definite lack of originality, and perhaps the veiled methods used to make you think the soul system is more than it really is.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/21/11

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

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