Posted by Applebrown at 11:36 am on 02.4.2011 (2 years ago)
A New World
Rift’s new world features a brand new beautiful, seemingly fully fleshed out experience to explore - and by beautiful I mean stunningly vibrant and continually interesting. There’s typically plenty of fireworks going on in the background whether Rifts or faction assaults, lush (explorable) vistas stretching vast distances everywhere you look, and varied terrain: rolling fields, scorched earth, impressive architecture, realistic and swimmable water, huge bridges, dense flora, etcetera, etcetera. It’s graphic euphoria, especially if you have a powerful enough computer. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has some impressive scenery as well, but it’s done in a style that isn’t quite as pretty as this in my humble opinion. It’s like they took WoW’s vibrant palette and pixelated that scenery into lots more realistic yet still fairy-tale-like imagery.
A Day in the Life of an Explorer
Well before I was able, mainly because “exploring” is my preferred play style (i.e., traveling everywhere I can and just experiencing the content), I attempted to cross into two adjoining zones (no loading between zones in Rift). One was full of gigantic mountain-like wind swept mesas but was inaccessible to my dismay. So I went back to the other end of the zone and was able to cross into a formidable and ominous dark valley with level 20+ creatures (me being 14 at the time). These included literal hulking giants that happened to catch me once and two-shotted me to death. Seriously, two shots? C'mon giants, that the best you can do? A quick soul-walk later (which is a 1 hour cooldown special death ability that lets you walk away for a brief time and automatically respawn nearby) and I was out of one danger and in the midst of others.
I managed to successfully weave my way through more giants, flying creatures, and rhino-like beasts until I came to a small town at the edge of a pool with 3 gigantic waterfalls spilling into it. Fortunately it had a portal (kind of like a flight path in WoW but instant) which was able to take me back to safety. The beta was ending in the morning and I still hadn’t yet tried the other main faction.
Though I’m sure it has its quirks and yet-to-be-finished areas, having spent several immersive hours over four days has led me to believe this is one highly polished and in general, functional game. It’s got fantastic things like smart inventory management, easy interface layout options, a brand new (to me) area-of-effect looting system where if other lootable corpses are in the area and you loot one, you loot them all, consistent iconography, intuitive map and quest journal integration, and super smooth and slick in-game notifications. We’re talking normally mundane things that say “Quest Accepted / Completed” or “Level Up” are prettied up and a pleasure to see each time. It’s all presented in a very polished way.
If you’ve played WoW or any other MMO, you’ll likely feel right at home with the controls and options. This is not a bad thing at all as it can only shift down the learning curve.
224 Ways to Play
Anyone who was in the beta would I’m sure agree: Rift has a new way of choosing your play style that is at once more customizable than most other MMOGs, and just incredibly fun to experiment with. I’ll try to make this easy to understand for anyone not yet familiar. You basically start with a class archetype using the standard four: warrior, cleric, mage, rogue. That’s completely standard fare so far. What’s cool about this initial choice from a design standpoint is that it addresses the casual player while quickly then catering to everyone including the hardcore min/maxer.
Your first quest reward is to choose a “soul”, which is basically any one of the (currently available) eight sub-classes of your archetype, for example if choosing the Rogue archetype you might now choose for your first soul an Assassin, Ranger, Marksman, Nightblade, or one of four others. Each one of these subclasses has its own skill tree and set of abilities you can upgrade as you level up.
But it doesn’t stop there. After a couple more quests getting used to your first subclass, you then get to choose another from the same archetype. Since you already took one you have seven choices left and when the choice is made you begin a second skill tree, immediately being granted that subclass’s abilities, which appear on your main hotkey bar.
Again, not long after this you’ll be given a final third subclass to choose, from the same Rogue archetype in this example, this time from the remaining six. I made two characters: a ‘lock, necro and archon. Then just to try the Guardians a marksman, ranger, and then the beta ended before I was able to get my third.
I did some math on this and for every archetype there are 56 possible combinations to play. With four archetypes, this essentially means that there are currently 224 class variations to play in Rift, which is amazingly impressive. I’m also reading / hearing on the podcast that you can swap them out at any time, which makes for one unbelievably customizable experience - just your subclasses mind you, not your main archetype. One previewer made the astute observation that the skill “trees” are actually like trees, going upward! Hmm, makes sense.
Rifts - Dynamic Content that Really Works
Rifts are elemental vortexes that open up in the sky seemingly at random all over the land, distort the surrounding area for a brief time, and provide both public grouping and rewards for participating in quelling the invading demonic forces.
I usually don’t buy into dynamic content hype until I see it, mainly because something like this hasn’t been executed to this degree yet but you know, it’s actually really, really fun! For example you’ll be off on a quest and suddenly a minor rift appears somewhere in the distance and beckons (you can see them clearly). You might see some people running toward it and can’t help but feel a little curious. Soon you’ll join a public group of many fighting waves of invading creatures until a final boss is defeated at which point the rewards come. The whole process is usually only several minutes.
At other times a major inter-zone rift event begins that you’ll automatically become a part of with rifts opening up all over (you can also see them on your map), monsters running from them to wreak havoc on the open road and in towns, and an end “boss” that needs to be defeated. How much you participate in these events determines your reward(s) to some extent, which makes participation even for events well above your level fun even if you get the minimum rewards.