A WoW killer or just wannabe?
Developer – Trion Worlds
Platform – Windows PC
Price – $49.95 for standalone product. Subscription rates $15/month
World of Warcraft, the world’s largest MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) has become ingrained into the general pop culture of today. It has appeared in movies and even the South Park team filmed an entire episode around (and inside) the game. With over 12 million subscribers, It has remained the top title for anyone looking to entire the online gaming scene.
A handful of other MMORPG titles have come out in the last six and a half years with none standing their ground against the king of the genre. Rift is the latest game to try out the MMORPG trend and after spending six weeks in the game, this is the strongest contender yet.
Much like any online game since the late 90’s. There are two sides to this grand war. The world has been attacked by a dark force known as Regulos, looking to bring about the destruction of life on this planet. Original? Not really but it seems to work with the factions available for play. You can choose between the Guardians or the Defiant who are also at war with one another, bringing a bit more danger to running around the zones . The former being the, for want of a better word, good race who are resurrected heroes from previous battles against Regulos’ commanders. The latter being technology formed clones of previously killed defiant who are send back in time (still following me?) to a time before Regulous has taken over the planet. There are three races to choose from in each faction and a fair amount of customization to your player with a downside being that after grouping up, it can become easy to lose yourself when everyone can look like a variation of the same character model.
Classes in this game are unlike the general MMORPG set with only four options but due to the soul tree (talent) system, nearly every class can be played in a multitude of ways. Mages can be your standard burst damage, slow working damage over time, buffing or healing classes. If you just want a bit of everything, just choose one soul for each role and it is possible. All the classes have 8 available souls (roles) they can select from and can use up to 3 at a time by just spreading your talent points across all options. It does add a level of complexity to your character build but after a week of play, you pick up on which souls suit your play style. I am personally impressed by the variety offered by this system as compared to WoW or Everquest as it does allow experimentation with your avatar, not locking you into one play style with the only change happening when you make a new character.
Enough talk about the set up? Indeed. Let’s get into the game. The first thing to say about this game is that it is stunning.The art style and graphics engine really shine for this title. Each zone, city and faction have their own feel with the enviroment. Defiant camps have cables and consoles strewn around the place, giving a honest grounding to the story idea that this faction is reliant on technology. Guardians have a very pristine look to their camps and cities. Luminescent towers and bright marble buildings give a rather heavenly feel to the city of Sanctum with people sitting beneath trees. The graphics engine is capable of rendering very far draw distances with a high level of detail on the simplest of flowers to the largest Rift-walker now chasing you around the forest. As with any new games, a reasonably new computer (within the last year) is needed to run this game at the highest settings but the effects can be turned down to suit a older system with the game running smoothly.
The gameplay is the standard for any MMORPG with your character given the quest to go out and help save your race from being destroyed. Quests are the standard fare for leveling your avatar with a interesting range of quests from killing 10 creatures to helping someone make shoes to fill an order. It does tend to load you down with quests requiring a item for completion which can be annoying when you have limited bag space as a new player but many of these issues have already been addressed at time of writing. The combat mechanic is lifted from WoW with little or no adjustment but with little complaint. It is a tried and true system that combined with a fully customizable user interface layout allows you to place your toolbars and icons where you want them, all without using any third party addons. As much as these simple additions add to the game, the best thing so far is rifts.
Rifts are the elemental invasions plaguing the inhabitants of Telara. Coming in six flavors consisting of Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Life and Death, They can be opened by either calling upon Captain Planet or ripping them into the physical world through tears in the environment. With level requirements on them, many players head to any open rifts to close them as soon as possible. If left alone for too long, the rift will spawn in a team of invaders who will run off from the rift and find the nearest settlement with the plans to burn it to the ground and set up camp. This throws a very interesting dynamic into the game world with logging into a former safe camp to find it razed to the ground and half a dozen very perplexed enemies about to turn you into a red stain on the ground. It does reinforce the idea of a (to borrow a phrase from Paul McCartney) “ever changing world in which you live in” Closing a rift or defeating invaders rewards players with planarite, a mysterious material used to purchase items and weapons for your character. Half the fun comes in just leveling your avatar by grouping up with a few others and just running from rift to rift, snapping shut these extra-dimensional portals before they have chance to set up camp and make a cup of tea.
One great improvement upon the WoW grouping system is the idea of public and private groups. If you are a single loner, looking to just traipse across the countryside and just go at your pace, you can just set yourself to private and all quests will be triggered by you and no one else, much like a instanced system with other players limited to tagging your kills and spamming your chatlog with group requests. If you are rift running or about
to head to a area where others are already on a quest or instance, a simple button press of ‘join public group’ will group you with those players and allow you to share quests, chat and mark out quests on the map for others to see. This does work well for normal questing and play but is let down by the lack of a LFG (Looking For Group) option for people to join in the instances. Players are left with only asking for others to join them in public zone channels which can become annoying after a while. A LFG option is being implemented with a patch later down the line.
I could go on about what does work with Rift but much like other MMORPG’s, It is purely down to taste. I think the developer has done exceptionally well in implementing the best of other MMORPG’s into their title and seem to be well prepared, having handled the launch with minimal fuss and inside six weeks from launch, starting their first world event with new raids and items available. It does a great job and offers both the casual and hardcore players the game they are looking for. The game does look incredible on newer computers and with a wide range of play available inside, I feel this game has started strong as a contender against World of Warcraft. Time will tell if the developer can offer enough to keep the player base interested.
The Scarecrow will review this title again in 6 months to see if anything has changed. He is also petitioning Trion Worlds to have Captain Planet appear in game when five rifts are opened.