Things to keep in mind while reading this review:
This review was written during the second closed Beta Event right before the NDA was lifted. Changes have been made to the “soul tree,” system to tweak points wise and I’ve tried to update sections where I could. Remember however, this is my personal impressions of a game in beta.

Rift: What is it?

Rift is a Fantasy MMORPG (Massively Multi player Online Role Playing Game) set in a land called Telara. Telara is a place of gods, goddess’, rebirth of the soul, Guardians and Defiants. Something happened to tear the peaceful barriers between Telara and other planets however, causing places on the planet to become weak and tear. In this places, rifts appear, allowed denizens from other far off places to flood Telara and cause destruction and chaos.

It is your duty as a reborn soul of a great hero to protect Telara, defend the citizens and last great cities from these strange creatures pouring out of rifts; as well as defend them from the opposing faction.

Combat

Let’s start off with the usual: combat.

Combat itself is actually generic. I’m not sure what’s going on with a lot of other sites giving Rift raving reviews in this area, because in all honesty this is one place that they haven’t done anything new. If you’ve played any MMO in the last eight years, Rift’s combat style won’t be a steep learning curve for anyone. Essentially, you’ll be granted skills as you pour points into your Soultree’s (skill trees) and as you level up you’ll also visit your trainer to purchase level appropriate damage upgrades to these skills. Drag your attacks to the action bar and you can choose to hit the keys they are assigned too or click them. Target an enemy, hit keys or click on them if you

prefer: rinse and repeat until your enemy is dead. Gear that gives you bonus to your class specific stats will help you.

Sanc

Sanctum, the home city of the Guardians

For the Beta 2 event I chose a Cleric/Sentinel, which is basically pure big heals and a little holy damage over time. Later on I was given the choice to pick a second healing subclass and I went with Warden, which is mainly heal over time. Beta 2 didn’t hand out enough points, in my opinion, to make it worth while to divy them up between Sentinel and Warden, so I chose to pour my points into Sent. Beta 3 even, the Devs changed the point system a littl

e bit. We were given more points per level, however we could only spend a certain amount in any one given tree per level, meaning there was always a point or two available to split into a secondary Soultree, making multi-classing more feasible.

Even so, one thing carried through out Event 2 and 3: monotonous button mashing. While I am not surprised or even too bothered by it, I am a little disappointed given how all of Rift’s videos seem to be trying to tout itself as a ground breaking game when there really isn’t anything amazingly new in it. It IS a good game, yes. But the Developers really should have steered themselves away from calling it NEW and INNOVATIVE and NEVER SEEN BEFORE when trying to describe Rift. I went in blind to the beta expecting combat to have at least something unusual to make it stand out from others. D&DO had you clicking the mouse for every sword stroke, Aion had characters who could fly, Age of Conan had special finishing moves that beheaded people and blood on the screen. Rift has….everything we’ve already seen before.

Did that make combat lame? Not at all. It just wasn’t something I could possibly say stood out from any other of the many MMORPG’s I’ve played so far. Find enemy. Press bewton. Collect lewts.

Enemy Spawns and Rifts

Rift character, with, well--rift in background.

Jahanya, my beta Defiant with an open Rift in background.

The one thing they DESPERATELY have to work on during closed beta is spawn rates. They are nutty at the moment. You can clear a spawn and have two repop in place well before you’re half way finished with one. Spawns in some areas are so tightly packed and return so quickly that finishing quests in some areas just isn’t a good idea currently. This also made exploration really difficult.

Rifts in Telara are places where the veils between all the different worlds and planes have become thin, and the various other creatures, magics and invaders try and use these rifts to invade as well as attack Telarans. Rifts, or their beginnings can be spotted on the player map or indicated on the mini map. The kinds of Rifts and creatures I encountered in Beta were: Earth, Water, Fire, Death. I’m sure there were more, but these are what I remember and come to me off the top of my head. Rifts are the defining factor that makes Rift, the game, stand out. They’re everywhere at any given time and they WILL attack towns and villages you and other people need to finish quests. The land around a rift is affected strongly by what plane or what creature comes from within it. Earth Rifts bring grasses to spread across the land, Fire brings well, burning and FIRE as well as hot deadly lava, death darkens and kills the land it touches.

As a reborn heroic soul in Telaran, you will also be given the ability to open a Rift should you be the first to encounter a tear. By participating in killing creatures from a Rift and successful closing it, you ARE rewarded various things, such as stones, collectibles and even in some cases–rare and epic gear. The catch is that it depends entirely on how much damage/healing you do, if I remember correctly. Exactly how the game factors this I never got into nor spent too much time getting into.

I really enjoyed the Rifts! I think the one thing that made them something awesome for me, and the strongest part of the game that stuck out in my mind was the fact it drew so many players together at any given time. The one annoyance I am not sure I like is how many times a rift can open on a single town–if you’re trying to craft or turn in quests during a rift invasion, during beta this could get frustrating due to frequency. I’m hoping during release these will be timed better.

Graphics

During the Beta Event 2 screen tearing was a constant and the seam which fit zones together (I don’t know the technical terms) the seam where zones fit together and the anti aliasing doesn’t seem to work completely yet.

Those aside? The game environments are gorgeous. Lush forests, stately and elegant buildings, quaint villages, misty bogs and sparkling oceans–it’s on par and a little bit shinier than Lord of the Rings. Character model textures and details are very good as well. I found myself enjoying the scenery a lot, as is my habit when I’m in a gorgeous game. I like the looks of everything so far honestly, graphic wise and can’t wait to see what the game will look like when closer to release.

Since this IS a newer game, you will need a semi-decent rig to run it. Something that is older than four years old will probably not be able to run it with any kind of high end detail. If your drivers are out of date, the game will notify you of this and remind you to update them.

Classes

There are only four main classes in Rift. Cleric, mage, warrior and rogue. These archetypes split into several “souls.” These “Souls” are generally your subclasses.

Warrior:

    Champion
    Rever
    Paladin
    Warlord
    Paragon
    Riftlblade

Cleric:

    Purifier
    Inquisitor
    Sentinel
    Jusicar
    Shaman
    Warden

Rogue:

    Nightblade
    Ranger
    Blade dancer
    Assassin
    Riftstalker
    Marksmen

Mage:

    Elementalist
    Warlock
    Pyromancer
    Storm Caller
    Archon
    Necromancer

Once you pick your archetype however, you can pick up two additional “souls” within your archetype. Souls in Rift are a nifty way to re-name sub-classes, or talent trees within your archetype. To give you an example to hopefully clarify: I chose the archetype cleric. But for my “souls,” I picked Sentinel and Warden. Choosing your “souls,” open up “soul trees.” If you’re familiar with WoW or any other game that uses the talent-tree for specs, this is pretty much the same thing.

At its core, the “souls” isn’t anything too new we seasoned MMORPG’ers haven’t seen before, either. But Rift does bring its own element into the talent tree/soul tree aspect in that right from the get-go within the first 1-10 levels you’re offered two talent trees to play with. You can choose to split your points between two classes and dual class, or you can choose to pour all your points in one or the other, paying a fee to your trainer when you can afford it to switch between these roles at any time.

If you thought having two soul trees to play with with two different classes immediately is a lot of fun, there’s a third “soul” spot available for later and then apparently even a forth. This third spot purportedly won’t be restricted by your class. If I remember correctly, it means, for example that I as a cleric with two healing trees could slap a warrior sub-class into the third soul if I like. Or rogue. Or mage or anything I’d like, making the talent tree aspect of Rift something I do feel is truly diverse.

If that’s not enough, there are 2 parts to each soul tree (talent tree) as well. You have the upper ‘branches,’ to which you pour your points into it. These talents can either grant you new spells and abilities, or increase the damage/effectiveness of abilities you already have. Below the branches are the soul trees “roots.” These are ‘free’ talents and abilities that you are granted, no point cost, just by pouring points into the upper branches of your chosen soul tree.

Since this was a Beta event, we were limited to level 20. Rumor has it that the official level cap for the game at release will be 50 and I am sure that means there will be plenty of talents.

Anthy

Anthracite, my Guardian Dwarf Rogue/ranger

Character customization

Another personal big disappointment on my end was the lack of ability to make my character look different.

In the character creation screen, you have one face. You have a slider that will make that one face thinner, thicker, or give your characters face different definitions–but no matter where you move it, it is still only one face for that chosen race and sex. You can choose to up tilt or down tilt your nose, widen mouth, change eye color, change hair color, change eye tilt up or down, change eyebrow shape, facial hair if male, face markings, face marking color, height and hair style but the choices there are limited and I find myself in game staring at 239238293829382392 other carbon copies of my own character. The only difference I can see is that I appear to be the only elf so far to choose bright purple hair. Go figure.

This doesn’t mean the characters aren’t pretty (and I’ll have some screen shots below for you to check out ). They are actually very well done and remind me of a smattering of Lineage, Final Fantasy and Aion. Character female models aren’t going to poke you in the eye with MASSIVE BOOB WEAPONS and can range between cute looking, serious, formidable and pretty fierce. Males look manly (even the male elves) and the detail as well as textures on clothing/armor are fantastic. It’s just that…There are fifty million characters out there that look just like you, generally will have the same armor too. That’s kind of depressing but I have simply come to the conclusion that this is one area most MMORPG game developers choose to overlook in order to focus their resources elsewhere.

Game Play – Questing, Collections & Crafting

Questing
Questing in Rift isn’t anything we seasoned MMORPGer’s haven’t seen before, either: Go here. Kill 10 of these, return to me when you are done and Go here, Kill this Named, return to me for a reward when you are done. I don’t really mind this type of question because the alternative, straight out grinding would drive me to drinking. (And is the sole reason why I dropped Aion like a hot potato.) Yet, masking the grind with endless Kill this many whatsits and return to me can become as mind numbing and monotonous as the outright grind.

Still, making it to level 13 on my cleric– in spite of the cookie-cutter questing system–was moderately fun. Early levels won’t feel like a grind fest as they come quick and easy in the 1-20 phase. Of course, doing quests in one town will often lead you on the trail to the next town, the next set of generally level appropriate quests and so on and so forth. What I found the most interesting truthfully was the amount of Lore given by each quest giver. Rift has some how perfected the talent of making reading Lore given with quests quick and easy as well as interesting.

Again, Questing in Rift is pretty much cut and dry. If you’ve played any MMORPG in the last ten years, Rift won’t throw anything at you to hurt your brain in this area.

Collections
Hello my fellow Ever Quest II players. This for you won’t be strange at all. In Rift, there are various bits, baubles, books and other things cluttered about the ground all over and these are called collectibles. Just like in EQII, you can discover a collectible by noticing a very bright white shimmering dot on the ground. Picking it up will reveal either a book, trinket, or piece of history that you can click-add to a collection. Collections when finished can be turned into a Collection vendor, granting you EXP and small rewards. So far the rewards outside of EXP have been potions and stat increase scrolls, but I assume I have handed in newb collector quests so get newb like rewards.

Crafting
Gather supplies. Make mats. Make item. Congrats, you’re done.

No. Serious. That’s all there is to it. If you’ve crafted in World of Warcraft you’ve crafted in Rift. You run our and gather things that match up whatever crafting class you’re after, pick them up off the ground, fashion them into the mats (materials) needed to craft and then open the crafting panel, click on what you want, mark how many you want aaaaaaaaand….Sit back and do nothing until done, reaping in the rewards of earning more xp to learn more recipes to go back and stand around a crafting area for another six hours. Do I sound a little bitter about crafting? Maybe. I love crafting. I do and I think it’s one aspect of a game that tends to get neglected so much. Rift’s crafting is terribly, horribly neglected and I am sad to see it that way.

On the flip side, you can choose 3 professions in gathering/crafting. Once those three are taken, you have to unlearn one to change. I did choose instead to take up all of the gathering professions–which is nice for a change–and skipped out on doing any crafting past the basic smelting tin ore into tin bars, for example.

Not much else to report on this front. Perhaps in the future they’ll make crafting a bit more interesting and worth while.

Jah

Jahnya, my Cleric/Sentinal elven Guardian

PVP

I chose a PVE-RP server out of choice, but noticed there was a PVP faction rewards NPC area, a hand in reward that teleports you to the other sides starting area, and a PVP NPC who could transport you into Solo or group PVP situations. Alas, those aren’t implemented nor ready yet and could not test them. And because I generally have little to no interest in PVP I didn’t even try this area of the game out–sorry PVP enthusiasts.

Summary and Overall impression?

Would Mel recommend this game?
As it stands? With all of its glitches and weak points and in the middle of beginning beta? If you have nothing better to play?

Yes.

And I’ll tell you why I say yes: MMORPG gamers are bored as hell. If you listen to the mass of us, zombie shuffling to our computers day after to say to get our MMORPG fix, you’ll hear us mumbling the same things over and over again. “Woooorllld ooooof Warrrrcrrraaaft,” or insert some other game that has been going on for years and people return to it because frankly there’s NOTHING NEW TO PLAY OUT THERE. Until Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out (or anything that isn’t World of Warcraft) gamers are having to go back to the same old game, over and over again to get their fix while the majority of companies pump out cookie-cutter MMORPG’s in a desperate bid to cash in on WoW’s success.

A little change of scenery in the midst of boredom is good. Rift is definitely a change in scenery and I believe the fact it’s something different is half the reason Rift’s getting the glowing reviews and warm reception it is. If Rift can keep up the questing, improve crafting, smooth the graphic glitches and not follow in the footsteps of several games that failed horrifically–I can see Rift becoming a contender.

Do I think Rift will become a game that will stand the test of time? As the game stands right now? No. Rift is good, don’t get me wrong. I like the game and, should miracles come to pass and it’s released before SW:tOR and I have $50 I want to shoot into the wind? I’ll probably get a copy of it. But there’s nothing that Rift offers that Warhammer, WoW, Aion, Tabula Rasa and several other games haven’t already offered us. It’s everything we liked about those games repackaged in a new, shiny world.

Rift is undeniably fun for a non-serious, casual gamer. If you’re a hardcore gamer that demands a lot from your game to entertain you, Rift probably isn’t for you.

If your bored as hell however and have money to waste, when it comes out I’d recommend giving it a try.

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Written by M. Pence
elf_fu is also known as Mel, and is one of the primary authors to 2phatgeeks. She likes cats, Star Wars, chasing her husband around the house making light saber noises and being a geek.