Let’s all face it, the MMORPG genre is pretty full at the moment. Whilst for other genres having plenty of alternatives around is not really a big issue, the very nature of the MMORPG and the amount of time a player needs to invest tends to imply that players don’t just leap from one to the next every other week.
This means that for a new MMORPG to be successful and gather it’s fair share of long time players, it needs to be pretty successful. And for a premium MMORPG, with a monthly subscription, it also needs to compete not only with the plethora of high quality, free-to-play MMOs, but also with the juggernaut that is World of WarCraft.
Trion Worlds have obviously thought long and hard about this with the release of their first premium MMORPG, Rift. As a monthly subscription offering, the game will be expected to exceed the free-to-play titles in both what it offers to the player, and the quality. As for the comparisons with WoW, every massively multi-player online RPG with a fantasy setting will inevitably be compared with Blizzard’s game, which in some ways I do think is unfair. But it would seem that Trion Worlds have been expecting this and have approached the problem from another direction.
Anyone who has played WoW will find themselves in familiar territory in Rift. What the developers appear to have done is taken much of what makes WoW successful and easy to play, and incorporated it into their game design. The similarities between the games interface and mechanics are blatantly obvious, and why shouldn’t they be. If you are going to emulate a game in your chosen genre, why not emulate the most popular? But it is what Trion Worlds have added to Rift that should make MMO fans sit up and take notice.
Telara, the world in which Rift is based, is connected to a number of elemental planes and is currently under threat from Regulos, the God of Death. Players will begin their adventure by choosing a faction, each of which have their own races. The Guardians believe themselves to be chosen by the Gods to defeat Regulos and save the world, whereas the Defiant have shunned the Gods in favour of magical technology and believe they will be the ones to stop Regulos.
Players then get to choose a calling, or class, from Warrior, Mage, Cleric and Rogue, and then are dropped into the heat of battle, which serves as a tutorial of sorts. Each of the classes has nine different souls available, kind of like paths, from which the player can begin by choosing three. These paths are similar to the talent trees in WoW and allow the player to mix up what their characters abilities into something fairly unique. As an example, my first character, a defiant Warrior, took on the soul of RiftBlade to begin with, offering the chance to combine my melee attacks with elemental magic. To this I added the soul of Paragon, enhancing the dual blade capabilities, and BeastMaster to add a spirit companion.
As the player progresses, they earn points to spend on skills from any of the available souls, ensuring that characters can develop in very different ways. Later in the game, the player can gain access to the remaining souls within their given calling, although only three can be active at any one time. That being said, players will be able to create up to four roles for their character, each with it’s own combination of three souls. This means that players will be able to fulfill different roles within the game and are able to switch between them when not in combat. This makes it far easier to participate in group quests and such as any character should be able to fulfill any role. Of course, certain classes will be better suited than others, but the flexibility that this provides makes the games group events far more interesting.
One of the things that really make Rift stand out from the other games in this genre are the public events. These take the form of attempted invasions from the other Planes, which are immediately apparent by the huge portal that appears in the sky over the invasion point. Enemies will then come flooding through and players will be wise to drop whatever they are doing and head over to the area, along with everyone else, and lend a hand in fighting back these invasion forces. Failure will result in the enemy gaining a foothold in Telara and spreading out to nearby towns and such, meaning more work for everyone.
These events are a mad bundle of heroes and enemies, with all manner of magical effects flying around all over place. Complete and utter chaos. The player is rewarded depending on how much they participate in the event. All in all, these events are a marvel to behold and a hell of a lot of fun.
Another thing that shows the quality of Rift is the amount of polish and how damn gorgeous the game looks. Clearly this game has hit the ground running and appears to be devoid of the majority of hiccups and glitches that are usually found in fledgling MMOs. There were some issues during the head-start event that allowed players to begin before the general release of the game, but these issues seemed to revolve around Trion Worlds underestimating how popular their game would be and were quickly resolved with the addition of extra servers.
Everything that a player would expect from a premium MMO can be found in Rift, making it an attractive proposition for anyone currently feeling bored with their chosen MMO. When first starting the game, players will not be struck by how different the game is from other MMORPGs. In fact, many will take one look and think “been there, done that”. But I urge you to look a bit deeper and find that there are some new ideas here, and the tried and tested ideas that can be found in so many other MMOs appear in Rift fully polished and improved upon. How successful the game will be is difficult to tell, as MMOs grow with time and it will all depend on how much support the game gets from Trion Worlds and how the community on the whole takes to the game. Initial impressions would suggest that Rift has hit the ground running and may well have a Rosy future. Certainly one of the best MMOs that I have tried in the past few years.