“We’re not in Azeroth anymore.”
The above line is the incredibly ballsy slogan that Trion Worlds has adopted for their new MMORPG called Rift: Planes of Telara. Trion Worlds is incredibly brave to use a tagline such as that. Rift has just launched and they are already going in for the kill by directly aiming to defeat Blizzard’s competition devouring title World of Warcraft. For the uneducated, WoW has destroyed every other MMORPG’s chances of becoming the “next big thing” ever since it came out at the end of 2004. Trion Worlds, however, might be onto something here. WoW is at it’s weakest point ever. Despite still going strong, there is a lot of discontent spreading through the ranks of WoW’s casual and non-raiding playerbases. The most recent expansion, despite giving the entire game world an attractive overhaul, was actually surprisingly skimpy on 80-85 content for anyone who does not raid.
It has become evident that Blizzard is solely out for money now as they are charging players the same old amount for less new content than before, and then there’s how Blizzard overcharges it’s players for every service there is. While the subscription fee is the industry norm, the cost of character renames and recustomizations (changing their appearances) can cost from $15 to about $25. Transferring characters between realms (servers) runs at about $30. Compared to the competition, this is pretty insane. A complete rename in another MMORPG, Champions Online, will run you at about $6. And recustomizations? Completely free. You’re allowed to change how you look whenever you want ingame, and yet WoW players happily charge an arm and a leg for the same service? Bizarre!
I’m getting off track, though. As I was saying, World of Warcraft is becoming less and less spectacular, and the “same ol’ prices” for new content and services is starting to look a little unjustified considering how much money Blizzard makes off of WoW these days. The company’s profit off of WoW is so immense that it is, literally, incredibly laughable. Trion Worlds knows that unhappy WoW players can easily be persuaded to jump ship by offering something that is essentially the same as what they know and love, only better looking and with more dynamic world events. Yes, Rift is a complete and total WoW rip off. The core design of the game isn’t quite as good, but the end product surpasses WoW by far in my opinion. The only advantage WoW has? Better controls and better music, and that is all. Really!
So, if you’re a WoW player who isn’t feeling very entranced by the “Walmart of MMORPGs” anymore then read on. I’m a former WoW player myself. I played for six years, but I severed my ties to the game at the start of January this year. I had good times in the game and am not a hater, so know that the impressions I’m about to go over are very honest and sincere.
Now, let’s talk about Rift, the game that wants to defeat World of Warcraft.
When I started the game up, I was instantly mesmerized by the opening cinematic. It wasn’t trying to be epic and grand like the WoW opening movies and it didn’t really explain a lot at all. The opening to Rift just showed a Guardian (Rift’s Alliance faction) duking it out against two Defiant (Rift’s Horde faction), followed by the opening of a rift which unleashes a monster that easily overpowers the two Defiant. The stealthy Guardian gets the upper hand on the monster and manages to slay it, only to see dozens of rifts opening all throughout the sky. That is the opening in a nut shell, and it does a good job of establishing what the game is about. Rifts.
After the cinematic, you get to choose which shard (server) you want to play on. There’s PvE, PvP, RP PvE, and RP PvP. I don’t think I need to explain what each kind of server is, so I’ll just go on to say that there are quite a lot of servers to select from. I settled on Estrael, an RP PvE server. As soon as you choose your shard, it’s time to make a character.
The first decision you have to make when creating a character is which faction you want to play as. The Guardians are promoted as the good guys while the Defiant are pushed as bad guys. However, I learned from playing that the line between good and evil is a little blurred and neither faction is truly good or evil, just like the Alliance and Horde from World of Warcraft before the previous Wrath of the Lich King expansion (when everything was fine and dandy between the factions). Guardians are your typical religious folk who feel that they are in the right and always try to do what they think is best. Dwarves, High Elves, and Mathosians (Humans) comprise the Guardians faction. The Defiant are a bit darker looking and are pretty big on technological advances and such. Their races are the Bahmi, Eth, and Kelari. Those three names may seem intimidating due to being completely unfamiliar to everyone, but know that all three races are very human-like in appearance.
I decided to go with the Guardians because I typically enjoy good guy settings more often, as they always feel more exciting and majestic. I almost went with making a Dwarf, but decided to go with a High Elf instead. After choosing your race, you’re asked to pick a class. There’s cleric, mage, rogue, and warrior. Each should be pretty self-explanatory so I won’t really explain them, but I will say that you shouldn’t be discouraged by there only being four classes. In a way, there are actually DOZENS of classes, because each of the four classes has several sub-classes that you can mix and match. For example, some things that clerics can choose are druid, inquisitor, and warden. Warriors can classify themselves as beastmasters, paladins, warlords, and so forth. Each main class has eight of these sub-classes, so there’s plenty of variety and I’ll talk about that a little more shortly.
After choosing your race and class, you get to customize your appearance. After playing some MMOs such as APB and Champions Online, I felt a little let down with the customization but only because those two games had INSANE customization options. Rift still beats other MMORPGs such as WoW with ease. Here’s a list of things that you can customize in Rift.
- Eyes (Colour, Rotation, Size)
- Face Shape
- Facial Features
- Hair (Colour, Highlights, Style)
- Mouth Size
- Nose Size
- Skin Colour
There are a few options that are specific to certain races and genders, as well. You can change the size of Elf ears, and male Dwarves have several different beard options.
It’s not the best customization ever, but it’s still pretty decent and, as I said, beats WoW pretty easily. The character I ultimately created in the end is a female High Elf cleric named Celianne. Let’s take a look at her, shall we?
So after making your character, you are plopped in a sort of Cathedral-like stronghold where you are assigned your first soul. Souls are the sub-classes I talked about. Until you take on your first soul, you have no abilities and are essentially as useful to anyone as a level 1 NPC with poor stats. After the first quest NPC gives you a soul, you get a few skills to play with. For Celianne, I went with the “warden” soul, which serves as a sort of water-based super healer. Becoming a warden allowed Celianne to shoot blasts of water as well as use a few healing spells.
After getting your first soul, you’re prompted to go outside where you receive your first real quest that will feel very familiar to many WoW players. Kill X number of Y mobs. It’s pretty simple and I found that Rift was prompting me to kill less mobs for quests than WoW does. The mobs I had to kill were sort of zombie-like ghosts of what I think were deceased warriors. This fit with the tutorial zone, which was essentially the Mathosian kingdom after being overrun by invading undead baddies. The following quests were all standard fare, such as disabling certain structures, collecting quest items from defeated mobs, and so forth. It wasn’t long before I was allowed to choose a second soul, so I went with the druid soul. This turned my water-flinging healer into… Well, a water-flinging healer with a fairy companion that healed me, and I could defend myself with a wall of thorns that soaked up damage. The wall of thorns skill acts just like a priest spell that we all know from World of Warcraft, and that’s Power Word: Shield.
I gained a few levels during this time, and I found myself to be around level 3 or 4 when I became a hybrid druid-warden. When you level up, you are given a few points that you can distribute in skill trees. This is exactly like WoW’s talent points and talent trees.
It wasn’t long after getting my second soul that the game finally threw a little variety into the quests. I was asked to mount a horse and return it to an NPC while another quest giver at the same location wanted me to decimate undead forces using catapults littered throughout an expansive battlefield. It was nice to have a little more variety, but I still didn’t find the actual quests to be incredibly enjoyable or anything. I just felt like I was going through mandatory tasks that I had to endure if I wanted to level up.
At the end of the tutorial zone, you get to team up with other players to form a raid group to take down, quite literally, a king. I’m not sure of the lore behind the guy, but he was a minion of the game’s central bad guy, Regulos the Destructor. For the curious, Regulos is a nasty dragon who basically just wants to muck everything up.
After taking down the evil king, I was suddenly in a new zone… Twenty years into the future! The zone I was plunked into was Silverwood, home of the High Elves. It appeared to be under siege from goblins and a heck of a lot of fiery creatures. The quest variety didn’t really improve, but Silverwood was certainly a much more appealing location than the tutorial zone, and Rift’s beautiful graphics engine really showed itself when I ventured into the forests. Shadows from the trees above were really impressive to see as they danced across Celianne’s face and body realistically. I ended up exploring the areas I was sent to in Silverwood a bit, really liking the look of the world.
Here’s a picture of Celianne cruising around Silverwood on her awesome two-headed turtle that I received from buying the digital collector’s edition off Steam.
The zone contains, predictably, a lot of trees. There’s also some nice lakes and ponds, and the coastline is very pretty as well. I found the zone to feel much more organic than any location in World of Warcraft or, heck, any other MMORPG that I’ve ever played. Rift really succeeds in making it’s zones look pleasing to the eye, so I think just about everyone will at least enjoy the visuals.
While I was running around performing various mundane tasks for the quest givers, a few rifts opened up. Rifts were promoted as one of the game’s main selling points, which should be obvious considering the fact that the game is called Rift. Anyway, rifts are NOT scripted events and can happen anywhere and at any moment. When a rift opens, several mobs will spill out into the world and, if they are not dealt with swiftly, they’ll take over the surrounding terrain and even try to invade nearby settlements. I noticed that whenever a rift opens (you’ll know because they show up on the zone map), every single player nearby stops what they are doing and converges on the rift. It’s really cool to see everyone take part in closing the rifts. There’s a lot of teamwork from what I’ve observed and rift closers really do help each other out tremendously. Every single player I observed who was low on health would receive generous heals from other players who were also under attack. Anyway, there are several waves of mobs to defeat before a final big “boss” appears out of the rift. When you defeat the boss mob, the rift closes and you receive a generous amount of money as well as planarite, which can be used as it’s own sort of currency to obtain special gear and items from specific vendors.
After closing a few more rifts, I decided to give the game a rest at level 10 since I had other things that I had to do. As a whole, what I experienced smelled strongly of familiarity. Rift does a lot of things like WoW. In fact, it shamelessly copies WoW in so many ways that anyone who has played Blizzard’s behemoth will feel right at home here and won’t need any tutorials. Combat pets, vanity companions, and mounts all function the same as they did in WoW. Your backpack and additional bags, ingame currency, and action bars function the same as well. The menus are distinctly their own however, which is good. Even the character sheet screen does enough of a job to distance itself from WoW that players won’t feel like they’re just playing a prettier version of the Blizzard MMORPG.
So, after ten levels, what is Rift like? It’s certainly enjoyable and I am having a positive experience with the game. The visual presentation and controls remind me of a cross between Dragon Age and Guild Wars while the actual core gameplay is pretty much a carbon copy of WoW but with a few worthy additions (you can dye your gear and such).
The world of Telara is very nice looking, and player characters have a decent amount of variety. Rift has had a very stable launch and the game is already very polished. In time, I can definitely see Rift being a fantastic MMORPG, but a few things need to be refined, such as the Guardians’ tutorial zone which was a little dull. The graphics really are fantastic for an MMORPG, and I can’t stress that enough. The ingame soundtrack isn’t too great, though. After playing for about three hours in total, I shut the game music off because it ranged from being unspectacular to borderline cringe-worthy. The menus have good music, though. I’ll turn the music back on when I hit new locations, but I can definitely say that the tunes you’ll hear in the tutorial zone and Silverwood won’t wow you at all.
In conclusion, Rift is good. It probably isn’t a WoW killer just yet, but the future is definitely bright. With enough support from players, this game can definitely become an MMORPG that could, in theory, tangle with WoW. For the sake of having something fresh on the market, I hope that Rift succeeds. The ingame rifts that open, which are completely random and spontaneous, bring something very cool to the game and I love how everyone teams up to take down the rifts before they become big threats.
Just to make things a little clearer to some people, I’ll make three comparisons just to paint a picture.
Rift flows like: Guild Wars
Rift looks like: Dragon Age Origins
Rift is structured like: World of Warcraft
I’ll post more thoughts on the game as I play it more but, for now, there’s how I feel. To end this article, here’s a picture of my level 1 Dwarf warrior looking far cooler than he probably should.