I managed to get an invite for Beta 5 of Rift, and after hearing friends raving about the game decided it was worth trying out. I was not disappointed in the game, but after playing LoTRO so long, I experienced some shellshock with the community therein. This is bound to happen in this day I suppose, but the sheer amount of people who logged in to seemingly do nothing but deride the game and every other player that talked in public channels was a big alarming. During the day, the channels were largely free of this, with advice, random jokes, and comments about specific elements of the game that they liked or didn’t like, with reasons why. Night, however, is when the trolls began to roam the land.
That said, I’d like to give my feedback on the game itself. I’d recommend you first read Ravious’ post here about the Defiant side and his Beta 4 impressions, as you can see some of the issues he mentioned have been retuned, and others have not. After that, come on back and let me tell you about my view, as I played my time exclusively on the Guardian side.
First off, the game has a nice intro movie that really lets you know where you stand. As a player in the game said, the Guardians (where I played my week) are religious zealots and the Defiants are mechanical crazies. Both sides have done something wrong, but blame the other. It’s like any weekend at my in-laws. The interface is pretty much using the gaming standard these days, the one that has been used by most games released in the past 10-15 years, with hotkeys, skill windows, health bars, and the mini-map. I like that they’ve put the common controls to the mini-map on the outside, which allows you to quickly zoom/un-zoom, and turn on map items. Below the map window is a bar that shows server time, mail, and GM ticket status. It felt comfortable and looked good.
Visually, the game is really stunning, especially at low levels. The place that impressed me the most is the game’s first instance (cannot call it a dungeon), Realm of Fae. This sprawling zone is a trip through the seasons, where you are out to defeat a madman who wants Nature to rule the world. While the first three parts are beautiful, the final section was amazing. I’ve seen a lot of “winter” zones over the years, but this is the first one that I actually felt captured the feeling of a blizzard. And this mechanic feeds into both the story and lore of the zone, as well as the mechanics of the final fight. Clocking in at just under an hour, it fit my time expectations perfectly. Sadly, the reward was not really useful to my over-leveled character, but I was happy to have gone.
While I only visited 5 zones total, I was happy to see that I still had many quests and much exploring to do, despite being at level 26 (level cap in beta is 30) – I wasn’t running out of content, and in fact I was going back and doing green content. In fact, when I went back to the landing area after the newbie island, I found some level 20 quests had popped up, thus encouraging some wandering. One very nice touch I found is that loading screens would talk about my quest progress. As I completed various chains, the loading screen would mention that I vanquished some person, or saved a town. It was almost like I was reading about my own adventures. On the topic of quests though, Rift is FAR too reliant on clicky and collect quest items. My very limited bag space was constantly packed with items to click for a quest, and then often with loot for a quest to bring back. This desperately needs a retune.
I also played with crafting, and as of the final night was getting a lot of server firsts so I guess not a lot of folks tried it. As Apothecary (potion making) had been revamped, I worked with it. I found the interface easy to use, and comfortable, and the progression to be at a fair speed. The potions I made were pretty useful, and I tended to carry around a few to supplement my fighting.
Rift, or its designers at least, are also aware that other games are out there, as well as that it is a game world. This is obvious to me by both the pop-culture references (Scotty from Eurotrip being the most blatant) and gaming references. Quests or drops sometimes have funny or snarky names, and there are numerous good natured nods to other MMORPGs. There’s also some borrowing of good ideas from other games, like EQ2’s collections (one of my favorite parts of EQ2) and WoW’s tradeskill window. This happens in every game though, so I don’t find it annoying. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all.
One mechanic I’d not seen in other games that Rift has that I loved was AE looting. That’s the name I’m giving to it. Let me explain. Frequently, especially as I got an AE damage skill, I’d end up with multiple corpses at my feet. A single click would loot all of them, within a small area (about 5′ or so it looked like). This alone was enough to make me forgive Rift’s designers from making female heavy armor wearers go with only the chain mail bikini option. There were some females in chat who sounded annoyed with it, but I guess it’s more or less the standard “female hero” wear now.
The soul system deserves its own post all by itself really. I really liked what they are going for here, but I am glad I am not a dev on this game. Balancing would seem to be a nightmare. My cleric, for example, could AE heal, healed mana and health when it hit something, had a reflect shield, had an absorbing shield, had a pet, had self heals, had an enormous amount of self buffs, had short and long distance attacks, and wore pretty solid armor. For the most part, I only died when I tried to solo elites (roughly 5x the power of a normal mob) two at a time. Being able to swap skills at a whim, and have such a huge amount to choose from, was fun. The min/maxers were all over chat, trying to find out the ideal build, of course.
Lastly, the rifts. On day one, rifts caused the servers to explode. Sure, some people said they had no issues, but the vast majority of people did. You’d see a dozen disconnects around you when a rift fired. The devs responded to this, and after taking the servers down on the first night for a 30 minute patch, I never experienced lag in a rift again. And this is running with everything on, and sometimes in groups of 30+ people, plus mobs. I have no idea what they did in 30 minutes, but they need to bottle it and sell it to every other company out there. That said, on Thursday, on the server I was on, Fire and some other rifts bugged out and would not give any rewards. In bugging and feedbacking this, I got an email saying it was my client. I’d believe this was true except for the dozens of other people complaining about the same thing in public chat. Only after the server went down for a reset about 7 hours later did the problem fix itself. I found this disappointing, in that in a beta you want to try to fix things in order to allow your testers to test stuff, or at least let them know you were. There was no communication that this was being looked into, unlike the lag fix on the first night. Rifts are a very interesting mechanic. Per the patch notes, they will show up more and stronger based on the population of the zone. This was apparently to me, when I was playing in the day and night. Invasions, a side element of rifts, also play out fun. My main suggestion on these is allow people to trade in the rare and ultra rare planarite (special reward currency given for participating in the events) for normal planarite. The first zone has quests that go to 18-20, and the planar rewards are easily overshadowed by quest rewards before you leave. With each zone having its own currency, I ended up having a lot of rare drops I could do nothing with.
In summary, Rift looks to be a fun game. Is it a $50+ $15/month fun game? You could do worse on the initial investment. For me, funds are a bit too tight for me to buy the game right now due to unemployment, but otherwise I’d probably pick it up to give it a month trial. The game plays well, and the rift/invasion element is a nice new mechanic that I’m really curious as to how it will play under extended use. It’s also very visually appealing, and I’m very big on that. I’d like to see the monthly rate drop to $9.99 a month to be honest, as I’ve always felt the $15 price point is too high, but that’s just one gamer’s opinion.