In the mood for something new, I picked up Rift on Steam.
First of all, my desktop computer is really starting to show its age. I upped the RAM from 3 to 6GB to try and keep it going for a little while longer, at least until I can afford a solution in the form of a new rig.
Basically, the game runs about as well as WoW ran on the computer I had at the time. About 15 fps tops. I can’t stand to turn the graphics down any more than they already have been. Additionally, there truly is something to be said for Blizzard’s choice of color schemes. Their models may have low polygon counts and their colors, while not “RAINBOW BRITE” bright, are easy to look at. It may just be that I’ve been playing WoW for almost 6 years and so…maybe I’m just a little used to it. But, and this is a bit of a trend in many recent games actually, as video game graphics progress towards photorealistic, they seem to become largely shades of brown and gray (lookin’ at you, Gears of War). While this is not strictly true in Rift and there are some very obvious proclomations of color, there’s a lot of brown and gray everywhere.
My next minor complaint is actually in the way the user interface displays damage. The damage you deal is displayed in numbers that are quite small, and always above the head of the whatever you are fighting. Thus, if you are fighting something very large, you won’t be able to see it. In comparison to WoW (which I will continue to do, as the two games are VERY similar, probably on purpose), it’s just lackluster. WoW’s critical strike damage, the way the numbers popped into view and shook a little bit, made combat feel intense. Rift does some nice things with animations as well, where my shaman’s weapon attacks will crackle with electricity or what-have-you, but it’s just not as intense. When the numbers are big, they help you see your character become more powerful as time goes on…which is one of the pulls of these types of games. I still remember the first few times I saw numbers above 1000 in WoW, and how exciting that was to see.
Moving on to some praise, I like the class system. As described here, you start by picking one of four archetypes: Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, or Mage. Your very first quest in the game allows you to choose a Soul, which in WoW terms would be one tree of talents. By the time you’re level 6, you will have acquired an additional 2.
In WoW, it would be like initially choosing “plate-wearer” for your class. As your first quest you choose one of the talent trees held by warriors, paladins, or death knights. If I took the warrior’s fury tree, I’d get my first few abilities based on that choice, say Bloodthirst and Battle Shout. Then, at level 3 or 4, I get to choose another. I’ll take the paladin’s retribution tree, and I get Crusader Strike and Blessing of Kings. Finally at level 5 or 6 I get my final tree, and choose to pick up the death knight’s frost tree, which gives me Frost Strike and Icy Touch (or whatever). As I level I can put my points in any of these trees as I see fit; there is a level-based restriction on how many you can havein each tree that I haven’t really bothered to figure out, but I haven’t leveled very far so I assume this is basically the case.
The four archetypes have 10 different souls each. There is a great deal of combinations to choose from. Obviously some will be better than others, but the freedom of experimentation is at once invigorating and overwhelming. I checked out the soul trees at rift.zam.com before playing just to have a look see. While putting points in it’s really easy to feel like you can do so much at once, and thus lose focus. My first choice was to start a Cleric with the Justicar soul. Clerics are going to likely be the mainstay healers of Rift, but there are some damage trees. The Justicar is a melee combatant who does some healing to itself and its party by dealing melee damage. It was also a healer and had some tanking potential from a look at the talents. I would be playing with my girlfriend so this was appealing, I could simultaneously keep the mobs’ attention, keep us healed up, and help deal damage.
So to complement that, I tried Shaman for the next Soul. The Shaman tree is heavy with melee damage, so it seemed a good second; more damage = more healing! And then for the third, I was divided between Druid and Purifier. The Druid was the only other melee-based Soul, but it also came with some pet management, which I didn’t want to deal with, so I ended up with Purifier which eventually would come with some dispel capabilities as well as improving healing a bit.
Now, my favorite part about these trees is how your abilities are granted. There are zero abilities just for being a cleric or warrior or whatever. Nothing is baseline. You get your 100% of your character’s abilities from the souls you choose. Each soul, as mentioned above, comes with a few. As far as my experience goes, most of these abilities are very similar to one another and merely serve as a starting point. When you get up to three souls, it is likely that trying to use all of them will not be useful, as there is an issue of redundancy. One of the characters I started up in the warrior archetype was a paladin/champion/warlord. This gave me access to around 10 different ways to hit my opponents in the face. Some of them applied debuffs, some of them were just pure damage, some of them gave me buffs, some of them were reactive. It is in this that the class system can again feel a tad overwhelming.
However, and I recommend trying it for yourself to see, the more points you put into a tree, the more abilities you get. There are specific abilities you can go for within the trees themselves, but for instance if you put 30 points into the Justicar soul, you will get Virtue (increasing healing to party members by 5% for 30 seconds). The extra abilities just unlock as you spend points and become available immediately, so every 30pt Justicar has the ability Virtue.
Otherwise, the game is very very similar to WoW. Kill quests, gather quests, quest rewards, etc. The game’s namesake, the Rifts, are random events where an opening between the world and the elemental planes open, spawning monsters. You can help close the rift by killing the monsters, with the option to immediately join any groups without talking to anyone in order to do so. Helping defeat the final monster spawn, no matter when you joined the fight, entitles you to some random loot. I seem to have mostly acquired some minor crafting materials so far, but it is early in the game.
There are two factions in this game to enable PvP, the Guardians (Humans, High Elves, Dwarves) and the Defiant (Desert Humans, Jungle Elves, and …Hill Humans?). Each race has a minor active and passive ability. There are no class restrictions. I guess another limitation in the game is that there is only one starting zone for each faction (the reason being, you are becoming part of the major conflict in the story after almost everyone has been killed, and so the two factions are kind of all in their respective holdouts, everything else having been “consumed”).
I’m not yet sure whether or not I’ll play after the free month. Need a bit more playtime.
I could certainly do with fewer plate miniskirts on the female characters though. It’s a separate rant really, but if you’re going to hop into combat, wouldn’t you want your armor to cover your midriff? You know, where all those really important organs are? The tops of your legs, too, maybe? Yeah, yeah, fantasy art and all that, but sexism is sexism.