Reviewed: April 7, 2011
Released: March 1, 2011
Over the last month I have been journeying through a fantasy MMORPG world that while familiar in design and ideas is far better than anything that Iíve experienced in years. The world is Telara and the MMO is Trion Worldís epic first release Rift for PC. It is no secret that Rift is the new contender that may actually give World of Warcraft a run for its money and I absolutely agree with that.|
Rift takes the best of every MMORPG on the market over the years and creates something that both veteran players and new players to the world of MMOs can really get into. As a gamer, Iíve had plenty of experience with the online role-playing market. I am a former WoW player and have played titles as far back as Runescape as well as current fare such as Aion, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Star Trek Online and DC Universe Online. Before I get too deep into this review, I'll give you a brief as possible overview of the backstory of Telara, its inhabitants and the ongoing struggle to save the world from a dangerous foe by the name of Regulos the Destroyer who would stop at nothing to rule it. The backstory and its forward progression are too vast to explain here but I'll do my best.
Telara was created by the gods at a nexus point in the elemental plane where sourcestone, the basis of all that is, was most abundant. This created the rich and prosperous planet that became the target of the Blood Storm, cosmic reavers that destroy worlds to consume their sourcestones. These gods of destruction, taking the form of dragons, sought out to destroy Telara by causing disasters and evil creatures upon the land and corrupting wayward mortals. Five dragons in total all had plans and desires for Telaraís riches but Regulos, the strongest, wanted nothing more than to crush the world and take the spoils. This caused a feud for with in the Blood Storm and they went to war dragging the inhabitants into the mix. Uniting together, the different races of Telara imprisoned the dragons and banished Regulos back to the planes.
Despite the unification of Telaraís races to dispatch the threat, the lasting corruption of the dragons ultimately sealed the inevitable chaos that would ensue when a Mathosian seeking power to take over his brothers good fortune. In a desperate measure, he called upon the power of the banished Regulos and with that act weakened a previously erected ward to prevent future invasions. Weakening the ward allowed Regulos to return and seek out his captured minions and killing many Telarans in the process. This also caused mysterious rifts to appear all over Telara. It is up to you as an Ascended, fallen heroes brought back to life, to battle the rifts and stop Regulos and his followers from undoing the world.
To get things rolling players must choose between two factions, the Virgil chosen holy Guardians and the blasphemous Defiant. Both seek to save the world of Telara, though by separate means. The Guardians by faith and conviction to root out all that is corrupt including the Defiant who use forbidden technomagical machinery. Each blames each other for the world current state and it up to you to decide which side to aid.
There are 6 races available to play as half are tied to one faction to the other. Rift contains your basic Dwarves and High Elves as well as the Mathosian and Eth (both human), Bahmi and Kelari races. The Bahmi are originally from the elemental planes that believe in a strong community and are excellent craftsman. They also are imbued with elemental powers that prove useful in combat. Kelari are a race of rebel elves that are spiritual in nature and are passionate about the use of magitech (magical technology) though to dangerous extremes. They are also noticeably different physically and culturally from their high elf cousins. The Mathosian and Eth are really two sides of the same coin. The Mathosian belong to the holy Guardians while the Eth use forbidden sourcestone technology to aid the Defiant. I choose to play as a Mathosian for my initial review run, though I have dabbled in the other faction races.
Players must then choose from one of 4 callings; Warrior, Mage, Rogue and Cleric like most fantasy MMOs. This next part is where Rift excels above all others before it though. Each calling contains 8 different Souls or classes that players can specialize in but thanks to the Ascended Class System you arenít limited to just one soul. The stronger you become by leveling up the more Souls within your chosen calling you can choose. While you can collect all the souls in your calling you can only use 3 of them at a time. For those that take the time to explore as well as getting involved with the PvP aspects of Rift, there are special Souls to collect as well. The ability to have so many options available to you nearly right off the bat is outstanding and will ensure youíll never be bored all the way to the level 50 cap.
For my first character I choose a Rogue as I love sneaking around and ranged attacks. I ended up finding my almost perfect rogue by combining the Marksman, Ranger and Blade Dancer Souls. I had the ability to blend close quarter and two forms of ranged combat together for a fairly effective fighter. To be extra sneaky I would also switch out the Blade Dancer Soul for the Riftstalker one from time to time depending on the situation which is by far one of Riftís most innovative features.
In most MMOs, no matter the theme, you are always limited to the starting class defining options and abilities with very little wiggle room. While Rift is loosely similar in design, you can always keep you characters fresh and enjoyable by completely changing out one or all three of your attuned souls. Face it weíve all gotten bored with our characters before no matter the game and often rerolled characters to try something different. Rift almost entirely eliminates the need to start over from scratch, scrapping hundreds of hours of hard earned levels and work, save for trying a new calling. For those trying to decide on what classes to combine, the game features recommended souls to join together, but experimenting to find out what suits your play style is really the only way to go.
As you gain levels you earn Soul Points to allocate in your chosen soul and itís Soul Tree. Each Tree is made up 51 Soul Levels across two parts, the Branches that contain your toggled abilities and traits, and the Roots that give you new abilities as you hit certain soul branch levels. The fun doesnít stop there as you can purchase roles from your respected trainer and create different roles that you switch to and from depending on the situation. You however canít change these in combat so itís best to plan ahead. This also goes for any buff or summoned creatures you might have at you disposal. If you die its important to activate these powers before heading back into battle.
Speaking of dying, itís a good idea to not do it a lot. Every time you die your soulís vitality is lowered by 10 and walking all the way back to your body is a pain as well. If your vitality hits zero your soul becomes a Damaged Soul and you suffer a penalty that reduces all stats by half. Only after the time expires or you pay to renew your vitality will you be at top shape again.
While Iíve brought up Riftís major innovation, it doesnít do it any good if the title isnít playable. That definitely isnít the case here. Rift functions like many of the genre defining releases before it with some much needed improvements. Featuring a crisp and clean interface very similar to some of my favorite MMOs, Riftís layout is very easy to interact with. Donít quite like the feel. Change it up by moving every aspect of the interface around until it suits you style. Character movement can be done via the more common WASD and arrow clusters or using a click-to-move interface. I prefer the WASD as it allows you to navigate the world with finer control and to climb up almost anywhere in the playable world of Telara. This is helpful if youíre going for one of Riftís many integrated achievements.
As many people have seen, there is no shortage of things to do in Rift. The moment I stepped back into the current world of Telara, I quickly found that there was a lot that Rift had to offer. This became very obvious when I felt like I would never move on from the flowery forests of Silverwood. Sometimes there is so much on your plate that it is hard to keep track of. Thankfully you can enable the titles ability to track your progress wither or not it is actively shown on the screen. This is a major help when you are completing a lot of quests in a given area to attempt to avoid backtracking as much as possible. A good part of my first week I was soloing quests which became quite tedious but I soon got in the groove of joining parties and raids.
Joining parties and their larger raids out in the world of Telara has never been easier as Rift has simplified this greatly. While you can manually create these via invites the old fashioned way, which can be a tremendous pain, the folks at Trion made my life and the rest of the gaming world easier with a simple click of a button. While interactions is hit or miss sometimes with other players, Rift has a sense of amazing community action when it comes to the rifts and invasions that plaque the lands.
Periodically rifts from one or more to the six planes will appear all over Telara and it is up to you and your fellow Ascended to repel them. It is possible to close a rift on your own but its best to do it with other players. After you complete usually no more than 5 rounds you will successfully close that rift, and reap the rewards in the form of items. Every once in a while, one plane will start to push through to Telara on a massive scale and it will take everyoneís combined efforts to send them packing. This is where raids come in. After completing certain objectives during the invasion a giant monster of the corresponding rift will march across the land. It will take a full raid (6-20 players) or more to take one of these creatures down. This also goes for end game dungeons and Player vs. Player Warfronts where it always best to go in with numbers on your side.
There are plenty of items such as armor and weapons to earn or buy within the world of Telara but that's only the half of it. Players also have the ability to craft their own item or sell them for profit in the auction houses. Players can choose from 9 different professions that range from you basic gathering abilities like mining and butchery to the more advanced crafting ones like Armorsmithing and Runecrafting. While there are plenty of professions to choose from, you can only become proficient in 3 of them. I went for the Butchery and Outfitting professions as it benefited my chosen calling. One of the things I like about crafting in Rift is that with most of the professions you can salvage some of the items you create allowing you to reuse the materials for other crafted items.
Iíve talked quite a lot about the interior working of Rift, but how does it look. Well, in a few wordsÖ absolutely stunning. From the opening intro to the detailed character creation options to the game world itself, Rift is one of the most polished MMO titles in years. It has taken several titles in this genre years to accomplish this level of detail from a day one launch. The depth of the character creation interface is one of favorites in the MMO genre, and I could easily spend a half hour or better tweaking my characters design.
The character models are immensely polished and look realistically life-like, especially the Eth and Mathosian races on the titles maximum settings. The environments do take a bit of a hit of you lower the settings or donít have a powerful enough rig to handle its full potential. However donít fret; most current computers should be able to handle Rift. The architectural detail in the major cities of Sanctum and Meridian are awe inspiring in their design. I also like the detail on the mounts in Rift especially the armored Valmera, which is so far the coolest ride Iíve seen.
There are several locales to visit on your trip through Telara and each is a piece of work in its own. Players, like me, who choose the Guardians, will start out in the forests of Silverwood which is lush with life, both good and bad, while the Defiant start out in Freemarsh which looks and feels very heavily of an excavation site. This would stand to reason as the Defiantís opening video shows that they were pretty much left helpless against the Blood Stormís attacks by the Guardianís hand. Gloamwood greatly contracts the lushness of Silverwood and reminds me of something straight out of dark fantasy novel.
One of my favorite locations however is Iron Pine Peak, a land in perpetual winter, caused by the entombed Crucia, Dragon of Air. This place sits above Gloamwood and can be seen for miles in most directions. Iím also a big fan of the level design and graphics in the Realm of the Fae instance. You end up on this frozen stretch of mountain with near zero visibility as you fight your way up it to your final goal. Itís quite possible my favorite instance in Rift so far and one I look forward to doing all the time with others.
But perhaps the true gem of Rift falls within its namesake. Since Telara is an ever dynamically changing world, you never can tell what or will happen across its lands as you aid to stop Regulos and his minions. As mentioned before there are 6 different planes that flair up from time to time in Telara. Each has its own distinct bunch of creatures and the rifts themselves can vary from the flowery faetouched land of a life rift to the cracked bedrock and volcanic eruptions of a fire rift. The death rift, Regulosís own blight is one of my favorites as I find it cool to go up against werewolves and evil spirits. No place is completely safe in Telara and that alone is one of the finer features of Rift.
Along with the superb graphics, Rift features awesome audio. The atmospheric background music really sets the mood for each of different zones and well as during combat. The contrast between the mystic and calm air of Silverwood and the dark foreboding murky fog of Gloamwood was somewhat unnerving the first time but the effect is well placed. I also like the quality of the sound effects. Every twang of my bow or clang of my daggers sounds really crisp for my speaker or headset setup. The music that plays when youíre inside Sanctum is touchingly melodic. Rift doesnít have any voice chat built in but there are outside means such as Vent.
There is more to Rift than just parties and raids or even soloing as well. Players who wish to have a real challenge can engage in one of four Warfronts, the foundation of the Player vs. Player portion of Rift. Each of the four Warfronts: Black Garden, The Codex, Whitefall Steppes, Port Scion feature a different set of objectives. Black Garden is the first PvP experience that players will get to try with a minimum level requirement of Level 10.
PvP is locked until you reach this level with your character. Iíve only had the opportunity to experience the first two Warfronts to date, though fastly on my way to the third, and I found each to be quite engaging so far. To aid in your fight on the Warfronts there are special PvP souls from each calling that when added to your Soul Attunements will give you an edge. The only catch is that you must earn favor to be able to get them and to do this you must be active in PvP instances. The higher you are in faction rank the more soul points you will earn to allocate.
Black Garden is a basic game of keep away as one faction vies to keep the Fang of Regulos out of the hands of the other. The only catch is that the Fang will corrupt its holder and weaken him or her making for an easier target. The faction able to accumulate 500 points via deaths or holding the fang wins. Codex however is a territories based instance that requires each faction to hold key points including The Codex for points. The biggest point of contention in the story also acts as the staging grounds to the mother of all WarfrontsÖPort Scion. Reserved for the elite Ascended (level 50s), players of either faction vie for the control of this former keystone of the Mathosian Empire. Not only does each faction have to take on each other but also the forces of the undead of the Endless Court.
Over the last month, Iíve put this title to the test and honestly couldnít find much that I didnít really like about Rift. One of the only things that sort of bugged me was the somewhat random spawn rate of some of the enemies especially the minibosses, often spelling my doom fairly quickly. Though no matter the class, Iím sure there isnít a player on Rift who hasnít experienced this. Rift isnít perfect but its innovative Soul class system and the best features of the genre in one place it shows that with a little hard work there is still room to grow in the MMO biz. With so much content to do Iíll be sticking around Telara for a while to come. Rift is a true polished gem shining upon the MMO scene and I donít see that light dimming anytime soon. This is truly a must buy for any MMO fans.