- Release Date: 2011/03
- Publisher: Trion Worlds / Ubisoft
- Developer: Trion Worlds
- Genre: MMO, Fantasy, Action
RIFT is a fantasy MMORPG developed and published by Trion Worlds in North America and it is also distributed by Ubisoft for EU. Although RIFT utilizes subscription-based business model, it still offer a 7 Day trial and let gamers experience the fantasy world before making a decision to purchase the game.
The closed beta began in December 3, 2010, and after some pressure and technical testing, the game entered the open beta in February 15, 2011, lasting two weeks before the commercial release in March, 2011.
Till now, the game has patched many updates including Planes of Telara, River of Souls, Spoils of War, Waves of Madness, Legacy of the Fallen and Ashes of History.
RIFT strives to overthrow the dominance of Blizzard, the giant developer in the game market. Will this be another failed attempt or a laudable success? We are still waiting for an answer.
The launch of a new MMORPG is never an easy thing. It is said that there is almost an entrenched tradition that the preliminary promotion activities tend to be undermined by various problems and annoying lags. Those disturbances will raise a fuss and throw a shadow on the new product, which will be difficult to shake off in the following course. To say the least, even World of Warcraft, which is now considered as the king of its genre, has experienced a troubled launch.
However, this was not the case with the release of Rift. The MMORPG surprised many professionals and many of them accepted it as one of the best launches in their living memory: Everything went smoothly, and the servers proved solid as a rock despite the overwhelming influx of players. In the following days, RIFT’s publisher confirmed that the game had achieved an excellent impression among its users during the beta phase: Bugs and technical issues were virtually non-existent, and the support was quick and precise in all aspects. In short, this was a heavenly launch which attracted universal publicity to once anonymous gaming company. But does the game itself deserve such generous compliments?
Rift has acquired certain notoriety in recent months, mainly due to the aggressive advertising campaigns which Trion Worlds launched in order to challenge the predominating status of Blizzard Entertainment in the market. The slogan “Forget Azeroth!” may seem a bit cheeky because RIFT is generally regarded as a clone of World of Warcraft. In fact, we can find many similarities between the two titles shortly after we set foot on the fantasy world of Telara. With the passage of time, it is also easy to discover that the developer is also inspired by other products like The Lord of the Rings Online. To my mind, this strategy is not entirely condemnable because it is pretty risky to grope with a completely new concept. And it seems that Trion Worlds has literally investigated all the preferences of its potential players so as to incorporate the best features of the most popular MMORPGs in a completely new package.
RIFT is like a MMORPG theme park that mainly revolves around the PvP conflicts between two hostile factions, namely, the Guardian and the Defiant. The belligerent sides are grappling with each other for the possession of valuable entities that belong to other planes of existence, in particular, the demonic dragon named Remulos. We have to admit that Trion Worlds has done its best to develop a background story with certain fascination. If you are a zealot for fantasy-themed games, you should never let RIFT slip by.
Needless to say, the most serious problem for a fantasy game is the lack of imagination. Besides, it is also important to portray a detailed yet vivid environment both aesthetically and conceptually. Then does RIFT qualify as a worth-playing game in this regard?
Technically, the game leaves nothing to be desired: the images of characters and creatures are well-crafted; the animations are excellent yet fluid; and background setting is extremely amazing. The open map offers a panoramic view of Telara which is composed of a variety of breathtaking geographical locations, presenting a realistic gaming experience. Actually, you will seldom feel bored with so many distinct realms to explore. Another selling point lies in its fireworks graphics that will certainly impress you at first glance. For example, there are dynamic shadows and particle effects of every kind. But the most striking feature is that the high visual complexity will not affect you in any way; on the contrary, the game will remain stable even in the presence of numerous players and enemies. So you don’t have to worry about being dazzled by chaotic situations in the virtual world.
The seamless world of Telara is inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, fairies, dragons, ogres and other creatures that originate from the Western fantasies. There are no particular strokes of genius or revolutionary inventions that will attract the instant attention of the veteran players, and the various environments are built upon repeated clichés in the genre, like enchanted forests, infested swamps, snowy mountains, obsolete deserts and other locations which are all inevitable scenarios in fantasy games.
Fortunately, RIFT is one of the few MMORPGs currently on the market that encourages everyone to deviate from the specified paths and explore the vast land with freedom. Each road you choose will lead you to the next preset quest or goal. Along the way, you have to gather up a series of special items to manufacture some “artifacts” which are required by your quest giver. Additionally, you can also search for secret treasures and solve real environmental puzzles.
Soul and Body
As mentioned above, Rift is like a “theme park”, and its structure created by Trion Worlds is very similar to that of World of Warcraft, especially of its latest expansion Cataclysm. In detail, there is small hub where you can receive your tasks, and as you complete quests, you will be naturally led to the next destination. At the beginning of the game, you have to choose your favorite vocation among the four available options, including Cleric, Warrior, Rogue and Mage. Your selection basically outlines your skills, your type of equipments as well as nine specific “Souls”. Having accomplished a handful of quests, you will find yourself in possession of three Souls. Of course, you can unlock other options through the following adventures. But you should know that you can only possess three of them at a time.
The system of Soul is a curious hybrid between World of Warcraft’s Talent System and Final Fantasy XI’s Job System: each Soul is an upgradable skill tree. To gain a rise in level, you can dish out your accumulated points to the three Souls in your preferred proportion. When the trees grow bigger, you can earn enviable bonuses and acquire unique skills. In a nutshell, you can customize your character to your liking by distributing most points to your favorite Soul.
Theoretically, the system of Soul can offer a massive amount of variety and creativity, but in practice, you will soon realize that it is utterly necessary to follow a certain procedure in the composition of the Soul. In other word, you should distribute collected points with the aim of cultivating effective skills rather than creating a useless hybrid that is neither fish nor flesh. And there are various archetypes, such Dealer and Healer, that you can strive to become by adhering to certain rules.
And it is almost impossible to obtain all the skills within the preliminary levels. When you are in need of certain skills or characteristics, you can only get them by distributing as many points as possible to the corresponding Soul. However, the game offers thirty-six “unique” abilities to complement the skills associated with the Soul System, although some of them resemble each other very much. The variety of this complementary section naturally results in the possibility of creating multiple specialties simultaneously and switching from one to the other almost at will. This part may easily remind us of the Dual Spec in World of Warcraft which enables us to adapt to different game situations, for example, we can focus on acquiring specific spells and combat skills to deal with PvP battles after we have successfully finished the solo quests using building and designing abilities.
Don’t Open the Rift!
Unfortunately, the quests in RIFT are not particularly innovative. Most of the missions require you to collect a certain number of objects and kill a certain number of monsters, rarely breaking away from those traditional types.
The structure made by the developer is convincing, but at times, the game tends to dwell too much on certain areas or some portions of a location, forcing us to visit them several times and producing an unpleasant feeling of redundancy. To compensate for this disturbing situation, the developer provides an overwhelming horde of hostile creatures and a rather rarefied connection to your buddies, all of which are intended to break the unbearable monotony of quests.
You will probably wonder about the underlying meaning of the game’s title RIFT. In fact, it is an evolutionary edition of the Public Quest in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning which is developed by Mythic Entertainment. A rift refers to a series of events that are generated randomly. It takes place with high frequency within each zone, unleashing a massive bunch of monsters that must be banished away by you. The rift is of varying difficulty, depending on your level. Sometimes, you have to rely on the assistance of an entire group to vanquish your opponents. It is disarmingly simple to participate in one of these events. Upon arrival at your neighborhood, you click to join in a group of players, and then you will be automatically thrown to some battles. At the end of the fight, each player will get a certain number of rewards based on his or her contributions to the ultimate outcome of the battle. The most gallant warrior deserves the most bountiful prizes.
Dozens of rifts will also appear at the same time, making the whole situation chaotic and messy. To repel the invasion of those ferocious monsters, you are required to make good use of the teamwork of your combat squad. Though the combat is tough, you can earn a lot of experience points with which you can buy special items. And there is also a chance to lay hands on randomly generated and much-coveted rewards, motivating countless players to participate in those competitive events. But you will find the rifts similar and repetitive in the long haul. Sooner or later, you will choose to ignore them and focus on other content. To be fair, the rift can be more annoying than rewarding, especially when it appears in the sparsely populated areas where there are not enough players to overcome it, at which point the only thing to do is devoted to something else.
As for the PvP section, the Rift is probably the weakest part of the whole package. To date, Trion Worlds has been committed to developing some corrective patches so as to balance different classes’ strength in PvP and PvE battles, which is an enormous task that even Blizzard has failed to accomplish with unequivocal success with World of Warcraft.
The PvP battles in RIFT are generally skill-based, so it is better to make certain combinations of Souls than to fight with only one skill. And you are advised to get well-prepared because irreconcilable clashes may occur at any time. This is much like Runes of Magic, the ever popular free to play title.
Needless to say, the battlegrounds of Trion Worlds are similar to the scenarios of World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. As a result, if you are familiar with either of the two games, you will feel right at home when you enter into theatres of war.
The battlegrounds are essentially instanced zones where two teams of players compete against each other and reach their goals, which is typical of Catch the Flag. As a reward for winning a PvP battle, you will earn points with which you can buy special equipments and useful weapons, but there is nothing new in fact. In addition to taking part in extensive PvP battles, some players choose to engage themselves in crafting so as to unleash their originality and creativity to the fullest.
The commercial professions are also typical of the genre. In RIFT, you can focus on manufacturing fabrics and armors or conjuring up some magic lotions by learning chemistry. Of course, different professions can be associated together. In this way, you can easily obtain primary materials. The interface of those professions is very simple and intuitive, but the actual process is anything but exciting since all you need to do is press a button. Moreover, the utility of those objects produced by players is quite relative, because quests and dungeons are perfectly able to provide equal if not better alternatives. But the crafting is still an indispensable element of the game that provides a certain level of autonomy and contributes to the economic stability in the fantasy world. Additionally, due to this feature, you will never be short of money in RIFT.
As we have repeatedly reiterated, the developer of RIFT has clearly been inspired by the success of World of Warcraft, so the game cherishes top-notch quality in all aspects. In my opinion, the strongest point of RIFT lies in its dungeon exploration which takes you to monster-infested instanced zones where you will be confronted with bloodthirsty beasts as well as hostile enemies. All the best features and well-acclaimed quality of Blizzard’s blockbuster are retained in this part, making us pleasantly surprised by its wide variety, intricate complexity and great balance. However, it is a shame that Trion Worlds has created a feature that allows players to queue up in order to participate automatically in a dungeon. This problem will force players to wait for hours to join in a group or to rely mainly on their guild mates during combat.
In fact, the dungeons are not particularly large, each of which will take about an hour to be completed by a highly skilled and properly equipped group. And each area in the dungeon has a certain dose of threats in store for you. What’s more, quests are frequently interspersed with boss battles which are much more complex and require some strategies to win.
The learning curve designed by the developer is also worth mentioning. The first dungeon offers a decent level of challenges which are of certain difficulty, quickly stimulating the participants to make detailed combat plan and team up with congenial friends. The progress is usually advanced via narrative elements like real-time dialogues that make the gaming experience much more immersive.
Of course, the defeat of the most powerful creatures will lead to the most valuable items as a reward. RIFT boasts a very friendly interface which is identical to that of World of Warcraft, allowing you to roll the dice in hopes of winning precious virtual objects. The background setting is also a blend of various titles, such as WoW, Warhammer Online and Aion. In the rush to create a compelling yet functional structure, Trion Worlds successfully added an Expert Mode which offers a greater level of difficulty. This mode serves as a culmination of the whole dungeon adventures like the endgame of World of Warcraft.
Since all elements of RIFT are virtually inspired by other well-known MMORPGs, this game can be called as a powerful clone. You can see many similar, if not identical, features of various games in only one package, so to some degree, RIFT is worth our time and attention. The brazen action of copying is not helpful to the market. Even so, this MMORPG by Trion Worlds still counts as a valuable summary of the best games of its kind. It is equally true that when the final product entered into the market, it was well-received, thanks to its polished graphics and rich content. Most importantly, in this game, players are free from agonizing bugs and technical problems.
When we compare RIFT with latest products with disastrous launch and paucity of contents, we cannot resist from giving applauses to RIFT. For all intents and purposes, the game can been treated as a perfect alternative to the two most popular games in the MMORPG market, that is, World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings Online, and I think this is really a big deal.
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