Monday, April 4, 2011

Rift Impressions

Due to a code generously provided by Anjin of Bullet Points fame, I was able get into Rift and take it for a spin this weekend. I played a bit on Saturday and it honestly didn't click at first. However, not wishing to waste my free time, I forced myself to play longer on Sunday. By the time I hit level ten I was having a heck of a lot of fun.

I got a female Defiant Kellari Elementalist/ Dominator/ Stormcaller up to level 14 by the time I called it quits last night. Most of her points went into elementalist, and the few extra into Dominator. I tried playing a male Kellari, but I found their heads to be either too odd looking or too John Travolta looking depending on where you put the sliders. The crowd control from Dominator really was a nice addition to the pets and DPS from Elementalist, I think I only managed to die once the entire time. Overall the flexibility of the character development system is very impressive, I could see playing mix and match on alts for a long time.

The graphics also really impressed me. I had to leave shadows turned off, but other than that I was able to max out everything (save object draw distance which was at about 60-70%) on my two year old rig and still get good frame-rates most of the time. A few big rift encounters did bog me down, but on the whole it ran quite well. The character/ mob models and terrain also really impressed. To me, the terrain is almost as well done and atmospheric as LoTRO while the character models and animation are on par with Age of Conan. On an engine that scales with older hardware so well, that's an impressive achievement.

Overall, I'd say Rift is likely the best looking MMO on the market right now, at least technically. Obviously the design aesthetic is hit or miss depending on taste. I didn't like the male Kellari heads, but quite liked all the other racial models I fiddled with. The the art direction is at least quite cohesive and somewhat unique.

The questing I have mixed feelings about. It was structured very well, with relatively little backtracking. I like that so many random side quests were from random dropped objects, or from exploring the environment. For example, at one point I saw something in the bottom of a lake. When I swam down to investigate, it started a quest. I also like the optional conversation options to get additional lore. The collectible system is also great, I really enjoyed going after random shinies. And of course rifts are a lot of fun. All in all, mechanically, activities in game are very well done.

Despite the fact that I was having fun, I didn't find myself really being drawn into the narrative. At the end of the day, I met very few NPCs that I actually cared about. Most of them, with one notable and rather funny exception, were just "dudes with quests" to me. The very early game also didn't quite click with me, I wouldn't say I was really enjoying myself until some time around level eight. From level ten on I was having a blast, and I haven't been able to put my finger on what was lacking to me at the lowest levels.

In the grand scheme of things, those are pretty minor quibbles. On the whole, I came away much impressed by Rift. Were it not for my current rampant addiction to the "solofied" book quests in LoTRO, I likely would have ordered it before I went to bed last night. As it stands, Rift will almost certainly be the next MMO I sub to whenever I let my WoW subscription lapse.


  1. Doh, I wrote a long comment and your blog ate it. Anyway, let's try to do this again...

    First of all, glad to see you enjoyed your time on Rift. I only heard from someone else who also had a trial code that the trial was capped at level 15, so I can't confirm that personally.

    And I'm not surprised that it took you a while to "click" with the game. I'm guessing the tutorial had something to do with that? To be honest, I think the blandness of the tutorial is one of the things hurting Rift right now. But things do improve right after you get through it.

    I'm with you -- at this point, I'm still not really connecting to the NPCs in the game or the quests...though as you level further, they do start to get a little more interesting, especially the "story" quests. Whenever I see rifts or zone-wide events, I also jump right in. Doing them mixes up my activities a little, and so leveling doesn't feel like a grind at all!

    Elementalist is a great choice! That's what I played with during beta, with the Chloromancer soul for some healing. By the time I got my greater earth elemental, I was pretty much unstoppable!

    So you said you rolled on Faeblight? If you continue playing Rift, feel free to look me up! I'm in the Circle of Trust guild with the crew. Blue Kae is there as well.

  2. I think it was the tutorial that put me off at first. It was obviously built assuming there would be a ton of players out there at all times, mobs density and respawn rates are really high by the time you get to the third hub (the one with the masked guy). There's also a wandering pat of ten guys on the roads that will jump you and butcher you like a pig. That actually spawned on top of me when I tried to follow the roads on the map to one of my objectives. Not the best "learning the ropes" experience.

    Ironically, the third quest hub in the tutorial ended up being some of the hardest solo content I encounterd during my entire play time because I had so few defensive abilities by that point. Not sure that's very well thought out.

    The game did improve dramatically pretty much the moment I got out of the tutorial. And yes, I was on Faeblight. I'll let you guys know once I get going there again :-)

  3. I'm level 50 and I don't think I could name a NPC.

    Well, actually I can name one but that's because Bartle wrote about how annoying the name was (in the Haris Pilton vein).

    The fun in Rift is not, imo, in the story.

  4. That doesn't surprise me. Even the one guys who's quests I thought were really funny I can't remember the name of.

  5. On the guardian side, there's a series of quest chains involving a single NPC, a dwarf named Scotty. You track him as he goes from a freshman at the magic schoool, then in other zones he becomes more powerful and eventually becomes a hero.

    I thought the whole idea was well done, and would like to see more of this kind of NPC progression in other games.

    Overall, RIFT quests are mostly "kill X foozles", "collect Y macguffins", so I find myself leveling more by invasion/rift grinding. This is slower than burning through all the quests, but I'm not trying to rush to 50 too fast.

  6. The tutorial is stumbling block for Rift. Although I don't think that the questing is especially bad, it is the weak point in the game. So focusing on that for the first several levels is detrimental to the experience. I'm glad you pressed on to finish the tutorial and move to the gameworld proper where Rift starts to shine.

    If I have any advice to prospective players, that is it: at least get out of the tutorial and find your first rift before giving up on the game.

  7. @neowolf2: I haven't done anything on the gaurdian side yet, but that does sound like an interesting chain.

    @Anjin: I agree, you really need to stick it out past the tutorial to see the potential of the game.

  8. Sounds like your play experience mirrored mine (not to mention you're also playing a similar soul combo, except I focused on Stormcaller early on and not Elementlist). I think it took a while for me to click with the game because I had to warmup to the lore first.