Well now, I think this is a good game to get started on. It’s new, I’m new. Ish. Hush, I am! Anyways, what is to follow is my first-ish impressions of the game in a three-part series on Rift as the newest MMO I’ve been toying with, in classic style. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I’m having a lot of fun with the game right now, so we’ll have to see how it holds up in the long run. *NOTE* My highest level character is 24, and the level cap is 50. What I’m going to say is only what I know from playing the starting zone and the zone after a million times over different characters, not an analysis on high level play. We’ll see about that if Rift holds me long enough to get there

  • Like I said, we’re starting with the good. Let’s go way back to the start of the game with character creation. Rift hit every major sweet spot I had with a very large array of creation options. Hair styles are all nice, while the ability to mold your face is something I haven’t seen in an MMO in… well, ever I think. It’s been awhile since I toyed with anything but World of Warcraft, but I don’t remember having all the options I had in Rift. Eye color, hair color, body size, you name it. Almost felt like playing Phantasy Star Universe again, and I was in character creation for hours with that game. All in all, the creation options in Rift are solid, and will easily let you build up the character you’d like to play.
  • Next up, story lines. I’ve played the basic starting zone of both factions (Defiants and Guardians) and love the overall theme of both. Each carries a distinct flavor that is indicative to the Faction at hand, while being basic enough to let new players get a grip and ease into the game. The Guardian zone in particular is drenched in snippets of lore, found in books scattered across the zone that always drew me in. The Defiants had less overall, but they’re extra bits of lore were more focused on the world of Telara and what went wrong. And when you play on the Defiant side, it went very wrong. Starting zones take about an hour to do, but you can easily blitz through them once you know what to do (and can resist the devious pull of the collectibles), and will get you out into the main world quick enough.
  • Getting on to one of the more unique aspects of Rift, the soul system. This is something I am personally torn on, but since I’m saving all the bad for another post, let’s focus on the good. First thing is the sheer amount of customization to each individual character. There are eight souls to take on, and only three fit in a tree, so pick which ones you like. Want to play a damage-over-time stacking monster? Go for it. Direct damage with a side of healing? Totally possible. Now, I am very well aware that picking whichever souls you like isn’t the most optimal way to play the game, but you know what? Forget that. Play for fun. Rift gives you a second talent tree as early as level 9 for barely any cost, and by level 13 you can acquire all the souls you missed out on. Keep a second tree around for playing with what you have! Both my Rogue and Warrior are currently set up the way they are because I took advantage of the second spec and played around with the souls, going for what was the most fun and effective combination. Let yourself go and toy with it, I guarantee you’ll be cursing Trion for not letting you have more souls. That’s a good thing. Figuring out which is the most fun, and keeping an off-soul tree, is part of the joy of Rift.
  • Player vs. Player and Dungeoning I’ll keep together since most new players will want to try both out early. First thing about PvP, and I love Trion for this, is how they handle low level players. My ‘fondest’ memories of player versus player content in World of Warcraft is either watching higher level players berate the lower levels for either joining, or roaming about back-stabbing anyone with the poor misfortune to be under a certain hit point threshold. It wasn’t very fun for the lower level players, to be sure. Rift handles this by giving a buff to all players who aren’t at the higher level range, giving them increased stats. Outside of tanks, lower level players can achieve some of the highest hit-point pools in the warfront, making them valuable as flag holders or point defenders. More hit points means they live longer while holding the flag, and I’ll get to that in a minute, or holding out while defending until back up can arrive. Speaking of the flag, the Black Garden has become one of my favorite PvP areas of any game for a simple reason. Instead of capture-the-flag or territories, Black Garden is an oddball styled game where holding the ball grants points, and the winner is whichever faction makes it to 500. Oh, and the ball kills you. Once you grab the ball, it becomes an inevitability that you will die, as the ball does increasing damage every few seconds, until eventually it will simply one-shot the carrier. This keeps the whole team involved, always fighting to hold on to the ball instead of just passing it off to a tank and letting them stand there with healers making it nigh-immortal. Dungeons are just as fun with the vast abilities granted by the soul system. I’ve seen and been a Rogue tank, and seen just about everything under the sun fill in the various roles. Mage healer? Doable. Cleric tank? Easy. Not all roles are available, you won’t see a Mage tank or a Rogue Healer, but the degree of availability for the roles is staggering. 3 of the 4 classes can tank. 2 can heal. Every one can damage effectively and with their own styles of play. Literally every dungeon will bring in a new combination of classes and play styles, giving each one a nice little bit of flare to break up the dread of running them again once you log on to an alternate character. Or was that just me? *cough*
  • Finally, the greatest of the features in the game, the titular Rift mechanic. Rifts come in various flavors like Water, Air, Death, etc. and each will often have unique goals within their types. I’ve seen Death Rifts that are basic Zerg-rushes, just kill everything that moves. But there are also rifts that require positioning or area control, and those are just the Death Rifts found in the basic zone. Each zone also has unique Rifts, making a hint for each a joy as the player is never sure just what exactly will pop out of the Rift next. Rifts also use a contribution mechanic, so even if you walked up and started working on the rift without being in the party or raid that formed to deal with it, you will still receive the rewards from closing the rift as long as you did your part. Playing with a friend, we often break from questing just to tear open rifts and see what pops out, often fighting to close them once people gather. And believe me when I say they will. And open Rift draws players in like lambs to the… er… you get the idea. Every now and again a zone-wide event will start, forcing open rifts around the zone that must be sealed, spawning in a rare boss that gives players the chance to contribute and feel like they are accomplishing something, regardless of level. Oh, and some really nice loot if they get enough collectibles from the Rifts.

Through and through, I am massively enjoying Rift. What I listed off here is just the major things with the game that I enjoy. There are dozens of smaller things, like the ability to enter warfronts while in combat or the amount of easily accessible titles, that all add up to a great game. If you were thinking about looking into Rift, I whole-heartedly encourage you to give it a shot. The game has a free trial, available here.

And to show I’m not just an endless stream of hype, the next part in this series will be all my dislikes of the game. If you’ve read my little essays on Bioshock 2, you should have an idea of what kind of treatment the game is in for.