Video Game Review: RIFT – MMO

By Michael Vass | March 5, 2011

The latest entry to the growing field of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMO’s) is RIFT. It is the 2nd MMO to be released for 2011 (do NOT buy DCUO), and it is a great example of what you can get when software developers do more than just go after the money (as is evidently what DC Comics urged). But the question that most gamers will ask is how does it stack up against World of Warcraft (WoW), the reigning king of MMO’s.

The answer to that question is a bit harder than you might imagine. Rather than compare the 2 computer video games, let’s just discuss RIFT on its own. We will note that much of our opinion of the game is based on several Beta’s, and thus the actual gameplay might differ somewhat.

(yes I know the video is not great, but it gives an idea of gameplay at level 1 – 3)

Starting off there is the concept of RIFT. Like many MMO’s the time world exists in a quasi-medieval time. There are knight-like heros, Robin Hood-esque bandits, and monsters a plenty. It’s not original, but there is a twist on the normal fantasy genre. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Like Lord of the Rings, there is a massive bad guy off in the distance that never is actually in the game (or at least the first 30 levels). He’s evil and you are here to take him and his minions out. Sadly, the first try at this was a failure of epic porportions. The entire world (Telara) failed. But there is still a chance. Depending on the side you join, you are either resurrected or thrown back in time to correct the errors in your own timeline, and defeat Regulos (the ultimate bad guy).

The concept is a bit different because of this new take on the idea. It also opens up several of the keys to what will make up your character. It also provides a bit of a subliminal reason to keep playing – you are playing to save the world, which you screwed up doing the first time.

The fact that you failed the first time leads to 2 things. The first is that the 2 sides in the game (Guardians and Defiants) hate each other. They would kill each other as quickly as they would every other creature in the gameworld. The second is that instead of following just 1 class skill tree you get 3, because your character has 3 souls – combined from others that died fighting Regulos.

Thus your character can combine the abilities of 3 out of 8 seperate class paths. You are still restricted to the 4 main archtypes of MMO’s and fantasy (Magic User, Fighter, Thief, and Cleric), but you get to have 3 specializations within each archtype. The way you can combine these sub-classes really lets you build a character that is more unique and tuned to your individual style of play.

In the character creation you get a choice of 3 races, which differ between the 2 sides (Guardians and Defiants). Like usual they all have inital bonuses that add a bit to the character but have no real effect long-term. But the customization of the characters is on par with most of the top MMO’s out now, and detailed enough to give every character a unique look.

Back to the sub-classes. You get your first soul (sub-class) immediately, with the second roughly by the time you reach 3rd level. The 3rd comes around 6th level, but a small bit of power leveling can reduce those levels by 1 or 2 levels. The initial areas you play through are immersive, dropping you directly into the war that is the center of the storyline.

The storyline is where the twist is. Telara happens to be at the crux of multiple planes of the multiverse. Due to far past events, each plane of existence known is bleeding into Telara. Each is controled by a dragon that wants Telara for their own. They are all sending invading forces from their Planes into Telara via the titular rifts, that look like the bottom of a vortex when forming. Both sides of the game are fighting these invaders, the primary influence of Regulos, and the other side constantly.

A bit more about the twist. At almost any time, anywhere in the game (less frequent, and more fixed at lower levels) a rift may appear. The invading forces can, and do, overrun npc’s and sections of the landscape – turning almost any town, camp, safe zone into a place you may not want to be.

Also, all the invaders HATE each other. They will fight each other just as quickly as they will fight the npc’s and players. So there is a lot that can be happening at any given time.

Lastly, if enough rifts of any 1 plane (Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Life and Death – none friendly) appear in a zone, a full scale zone-wide invasion will occur. This often increases the number of rifts by 5x the norm, and provides raids in which EVERYONE in the zone will gather to defeat the invaders and the bosses that REQUIRE a huge group to even think about killing.

If all that sounds chaotic, at times it is. But it is equally fun. And Rifts are a great source for lots of drops. Based on the damage done to each wave of invaders (normally there are 5 waves of invaders that need to be cleared to close any indiividual rift) and their levels, the quality of drops available can vary from average to purple (rare).

Let’s stop and talk about the look of RIFT. It looks great. the graphics are crisp and detailed. The colors, even in a single zone, can be quite lush or stark as the area suggests it should. The transition from flat grasslands to hills and valleys to barren mesa’s, and then outright desert wastelands makes sense.

The game looks good, and the framerate is quite good even when there are several hundred players attacking a mega-invasion boss. Honestly the only times that there was a problem for me was in zone-wide invasions with the final boss.

The sound track is equally appropriate if a tad quiet at times. The background music can drone in some areas, but generally is quite enough that you ignore it. More importantly, the warning trumpets of an invasion (minor or zone-wide) are loud enough to alert you to check your map for problems in the area.

The gameplay, as has been discussed to this point is quality. The quests often link up directly with the overall theme of the Regulos invasion and your purpose for existing. The individual quests often branch into several different directions, introducing new areas as often as making the current zone active.
Rewards are fairly matched to the average zone level, occasionally with a far better than common reward for the more difficult missions.

The crafting was a bit boring, and somewhat easy to level with. It didn’t take long for my characters to start making items with far higher level requirements than I actually had. Still most of the time there were loot items that were worth far more than the crafting items available even at a level 3 higher than my character.

Player death is a bit unique as well. the standard ghost to your body exists, but upon resurrecting you lose 10% of your health and some abilities. This is a cumulative effect – ie then 20%, 30, 40, ect. Healers are available usually very close to resurrection portals, and the cost makes returning to peak basically trivial after level 10. Often at higher levels, or when fighting an invasion, it is worth it to fight through several deaths and then just revive at the resurrection portal, find a healer and return to full health.

The big draw to the game are the somewhat random rifts, and the massive zone-wide invasions. Playing through zone-wide invasion is the quickest way to spend hours of gametime without knowing how much time has passed. It’s also a handy way to level quickly.

Having played up to level 30 (in the Rogue archtype class – riftdancer, assassin, sabouter – during Beta), as well as having created characters in every major class ranging in level from 7 – 20, for both sides, I think I can give a good summary of how this game compares to WoW. This is not a WoW-killer MMO. But it is real competition, and more importantly a real choice for an MMO player that wants something new and fun.

Graphics – 8.5
Sound – 8
Storyline – 9
Playability – 9
Replayability – 5 (the 3rd time through the lower levels get really tedious)
Stability (Beta) – 9.5
Crafting – 6.5

Overall – 9.3

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Topics: Video Games | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Video Game Review: RIFT – MMO”

  1. Mizzelle

    Video Game Review: RIFT – MMO | Black Entertainment USA – just great!

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