RIFT Impressions

Written by Bryn Williams

April 4, 2011 | 14:28

Tags: #mmo #mmorpg #rift

Companies: #trion-worlds


It’s this character class system and the dynamic rift events that really make RIFT a standout MMORPG experience, although the game's top-notch graphics certainly don't do any harm either. Gone is the cartoony styling of World of Warcraft, and thankfully there are no hideous uncanny valley atrocities such as those found in EverQuest II either.

Instead, the player characters and denizens in RIFT have a very authentic and realistic look and feel. The zones are gorgeous, even when they depict decaying citadels and gloomy forests, bringing a level of detail and vibrancy we’ve only seen before in traditional stand-alone third-person adventure games and RPGs. It’s a stunning way to put your video card through its paces.

And if an MMORPG is to be measured by the success of a bug-free, stable launch, then RIFT wins here too. Aside from a few evenings of server-queuing during the ‘head start’ week, Trion Worlds’ first major release was a technical triumph. Servers were almost lag-free, and rarely went down or suffered from rolling re-starts – situations which are common with such complex game launches.

RIFT Impressions RIFT PC
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Of course, no game is perfect and RIFT is certainly no exception. The story is initially slow and drab, with the standard plot – ‘Kill the evil dragon Regulos and defend the land from planar invaders!’ – narrated through over-long NPC speeches. Unless you’re a hardcore fantasy aficionado, it’s likely that after a few days of gameplay, those quest giver’s tales will soon all roll into one wall of skippable text.

Then there are the quests. If killing rats outside of Qeynos in EverQuest circa 1998 still floats your boat, then RIFT’s slightly lacklustre questing setup will send you into a giddy spin. That’s not to say the quests in RIFT are terrible – they're at least inoffensive – but they feel a little disappointing when other games present the same ideas in a more exciting fashion.

PVE-wise, the ten instanced dungeons represent another missed opportunity too. The vast majority of party-based experiences in these private group instances are relatively humdrum seen-it-all-before encounters. If you know the definition of a ‘tank and spank’ fight, then you’re already well prepared. We also found that the lack of a dungeon queuing system led to frustration, with the age-old whine of ‘DPS LFG PLZ’ often rearing its head.

RIFT Impressions RIFT PC
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In terms of the PVP game, RIFT does an admirable job of scooping up some of the better PVP experiences from other titles and re-skinning them, but there’s little innovation or freshness. The Warfronts, as they're known in RIFT, taste rather Warhammer-esque for the most part, and even feature some of the same ‘kill the dude with the thing’ objectives. PVP makes a great change of pace from the PVE rift-closing quests, but that’s more a strength of the concept than the implementation.

This is a recurring problem for RIFT; that it doesn’t evolve many of the regular MMO features in any real way, but merely presents them with a new coat of paint. It may be unfair to expect RIFT to re-invent the wheel, but at the same time it’s hard to recommend RIFT too strongly when it doesn’t do much that’s genuinely new – no matter how much fun it is to play.

RIFT is not the World of Warcraft killer that many fans may have wanted, but RIFT is a more serious and better-looking game. It doesn’t have much in the way of new ideas, but those it does have are presented well enough to make existing MMO-fans sit up and take notice. Will it hold that same appeal once you’ve hit the top level and are faced with the existential crisis of what to do with the rest of your in-game life? Maybe not, but the journey is fun enough to be worth working towards that destination.
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