RIFT is an MMO created by Trion World and was released in March 2011. RIFT now operates under a free to play model, but players can subscribe for a monthly fee to get additional perks such as 10% faster mount movement, shorter group joining ques, and experience bonuses. The game is also funded through a real money store for in-game items and equipment. The game developers have stated that all of the game’s content is accessible to non paying players.
In RIFT an ancient evil that was defeated long ago and banished from your realm has returned to try to conquer your lands. This evil presence and its followers are trying to gain access to your world by opening up tears or rifts in reality. The player controls a warrior resurrected by the gods to destroy this ancient evil once and for all.
One of the unique mechanics of the game, obviously enough, is the rifts. Rifts are group battles that randomly occur throughout the game world, and any player can participate in a rift who meets the level requirements (or this is at least recommended). If Rifts are not closed quickly, enemies can conquer portions of the map. I have never personally seen this happen, so I cannot comment on the extent to which this impacts the game. When players enter a rift they automatically join a party with other participating players. Closing a rift requires players to destroy all of the enemies present. The amount of experience and gold players are rewarded depends on how much they contribute to the battle (healing done, damage dealt, etc.). Random dynamic group events, such as the rifts, are not unique to this game any more (Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV have them as well in some form), but it was a pretty unique mechanic when the game originally came out. I think these add an interesting element to the game that gives players a unique way to level besides completing quests, more chances to play with fellow players in a fairly casual way, and the feeling of being in a more dynamic and changing game world.
Players begin by choosing between two factions: the Guardians and the Defiants. The Guardians are guided by tradition and believe in following the laws of the land. The Defiant believe in doing what is necessary to achieve their goals even if it means breaking the rules set by the Guardians. Each faction has different cities, and players from one faction cannot join groups with players from the other. So unlike many other MMOs, your choice of faction does have a fairly significant impact on game-play. Both factions have three unique races that are more or less human, elves, and dwarfs, and each race comes with two unique passive or active skills.
Next players chose their character’s specialization from warrior, mage, cleric, or rogue and then select from one of the provided recommended/stock builds, which are classified by the role you would like to play (damage, defense, healing, or support). The classes here generally follow the classic trinity system I mentioned before that also defines character classes in games like WoW (tank, DPS, and healer). The game provides a number of character appearance customization options, many more than WoW or Star Wars, including choosing facial features such as nose, mouth, and eyes, and other characteristics such as hair, eye, and skin color. Players should be able to create a unique look for their character with all the options available.
In game interface, pretty typical for an MMO, but nicely laid out and easy to use
RIFT features more of a traditional reality based fantasy game look rather than the more cartoon like look of WoW. RIFT looks good overall, but the graphics are hardly going to amaze anyone when compared to current games. The graphics don’t look that smooth or polished, but there is a decent level of detail to them as well as some nice lighting and particle effects. In terms of the other MMOs I have looked at so far, I think RIFT looks better than WoW but not quite as good as Star Wars. The music and sound are both pretty good as well, but neither one really stood out all that much while playing. The interface looks very similar to WoW, with the skill bar in the bottom middle, chat window in the bottom left, and the character status bar and map up top.
RIFT Game Map
The map in RIFT provides a great amount of detailed information on locations and objectives and is easy to navigate. The map does not cover the whole screen, but it is pretty difficult to play with it open since it still covers most of the screen (besides some basic movement). I feel like the interface is overall well set up, configuration and menu size seems appropriate, and accessing the game’s features is usually simple. I think the interface is overall more appealing and easy to use than WoW‘s but on par with Star War‘s.
The battles in RIFT are pretty similar to other MMOs I have played, but one of the differences in RIFT is an active combo system. For the class I chose, the archer, certain skills build up your combo meter, which allows for more advanced skills to be activated at certain combo counts. Higher combo counts also make some abilities cause more damage. This mechanic made combat a little more active and engaging, which is certainly a plus for me since combat can ultimately feel slow and tedious in many MMOs. Combat in RIFT moves well and is possibly a bit faster than other MMOs I have played.
Helpful in-game tutorials
The game starts with the player in a beginners zone, where the game explains some of the basic mechanics of the game such as gathering quests, movement, and combat. Occasionally question marks will pop up, which can be used to access articles that further explain game content (similar to Star Wars). Many of these include voice work or videos. This aspect of the game feels well done and shows that the creators spent some on creating content to get new players adequately acquainted with the game.
As in other MMOs, players gather quests from NPCs, which they can complete for experience, items, and money. The quests here are still pretty generic (fetch, travel to this location, kill this thing), but the interface is simple and straight-forward, and explanations tend to be brief and to the point. I have not experienced that much of the story yet, but what I have experienced seems okay. So far I have just walked around to different locations to help locals fend off evil creatures. My previous experience with MMOs has taught me to never expect that much from an MMO’s storyline though.
Rifts large and diverse Skill Tree
One of the more interesting mechanics in RIFT is the dynamic skill tree. Players can put their skill points from leveling in to one of three distinct paths on the skill tree. As more points are put in to a category, more advanced abilities are unlocked. This is similar to the upgrade mechanic found in Diablo 2 or other more action oriented RPGs. The game offers recommendations for different builds if players feel lost with all of the choices open to them or are worried about creating a less than optimal build. Players can even chose to auto-spend all their points and ignore this mechanic completely if they wish. I decided to play as an archer with an animal companion for my first run through (a build suggested by the game). I have read that players also gain the ability to switch between multiple builds later on, so players are not locked in to one build forever. One problem I see here is that MMO players in advanced group content in other games can be very picky about what builds people use, and players who are not concerned about creating these ‘accepted’ builds may be passed over for other players. I have also read that PvP is almost impossible to balance in RIFT due to there being so many potential builds. Still, I think this is a unique mechanic that players can have a lot of fun messing around with, which adds a bit more excitement to leveling and developing your character.
RIFT provides user-friendly options like a Guild and Party Finder
RIFT provides users with some convenient group oriented search options for finding Guilds or groups to play with. Group search can be used to find dungeon groups (not sure if this works for Raids) or players to just help you run through objectives in the game world. A looking for group feature is not unique to RIFT (WoW has one as well though I did not cover it in my previous write-up), but the MMOs I played the most previously, Guild Wars 1 & 2, were sorely lacking in group finding features. When looking for a dungeon for instance, the game matches you with other players looking to join the same dungeon and puts together a group of two DPS, one tank, and one healer. Ultimately you may have more fun playing with friends or members of your Guild rather than random players (often referred to as ‘PUGS’, or pick up group), but this search feature is very useful if you just want to play a quick dungeon or are running through the game solo (since beating dungeons is required to progress the story). Unfortunately, the join times are hardly instant with dungeon finders in MMOs, especially if you play as a DPS class which tend to be the most popular.
Endgame content in RIFT is supposed to be quite robust and one of the best in the MMO field, especially for a free to play game. This includes several raid instances for 10 or 20 people, a large-scale PvP group battle mode called conquest where players fight over territory, smaller dedicated PvP maps called Warfronts, and several hard and master mode dungeons. Players can also engage in PvP in the open game world if on a PvP server.
Overall the game feels polished and very solid. It plays quite a bit like WoW but with a few more bells and whistles, though probably not nearly as much content. The unique upgrade system, dynamic group events, and fairly robust end game content might give players enough reason to give RIFT a try. Just keep in mind that RIFT is becoming fairly old at this point, and I doubt there are any plans for major cosmetic or system upgrades (though they are still releasing new content). I think there is a lot to enjoy in RIFT, but it just didn’t really pull me in as much as I wanted it to. But, for a free to play traditional MMO I think you can’t really go wrong here, and I might come back to explore more of the RIFTs later.
Next I’m going to look at an MMO that tries to give users a more action oriented experience. I’ll see you next time in the land of TERA!
Let me know if have anything to say about RIFT in the comments section below, and as always thanks for reading!
Maybe see you in the future RIFT!