Monday, January 10, 2011

Rift Review (beta 4)

Rift is Ashron's Call 2 meets Warhammer Online and it is doomed to follow in their footsteps on the path of mediocrity.
Many things in Rifts are basically copy and paste from those games. The look and feel of the game is neigh indistinguishable from Warhammer and the rifts are carbon copies of the public quest system used in that game. Which is actually an evolution of the Ashron's Call 2 community "forge" system that players used to rebuild cities after incursions. The world graphics, with its big colorful sky and alien fauna feels right out of Ashrons call 2. A game that had 3 races, one of which, the Lugian, was a blueberry giant. Rifts only has only 4 races - Humans (black vs white), Elves (white vs blue), dwarves, and blueberry giants. AC2 had a open "soul system" where you choose whatever talents you wanted from 3 classes very similar to picking 3 subclasses as you do in rift. Ashrons call 2 also featured NPC "incursions" where quest hubs, cities ect would be damaged or conquered by the bad guys. 

I believe most people consider both Ac2 and Warhammer online to be failures and I fear Rift will also share 2nd tier failure in common with them. Dont get me wrong - AC2 is my all time favorite MMO, and Rift has a lot going for it. The Soul system is very free form and appealing. You pick your class (warrior, mage, cleric, rogue) and then pick 3 trees of subclasses to multiclass in though you really only have the talent points to meaningfully use 2.

The various subclasses are fairly distinct - Rogue get subclasses like bards and a tactician/Engineer. The Fighter and mage subclasses are all fairly classic, distinguishing themselves mostly by which elemental force they get their power from. All 4 classes have pet classes like the fighter "beastmaster" or preist "druid". I'm not fond of some of the mage casting animation..they look like dance moves. I feel the cleric subclasses need work as their is very little to separate them other than the clerics that heal and the cleric that fight.

Crafting, from the little I've seen of it, is well designed and the ability to customize the stats on what you make keeps it from being too simple a system. You get half your recipes from your trainer and half from doing work orders, which atm can only be completed once per day.

I played quite a bit of the PvP "warfront" Black Garden and here again you could see more borrowing from Warhammer pvp system in the look and mechanics. Its was fun and very much not warsong gulch. I got a ton of experience for competing those warfronts, bout a third of a level per battle, more if we won, and I hope that was due to some beta-ramping of experience. I had no lag or crashes or technical issues during the battles and was collecting warfront achievements left and right all the while playing on a bestbuy lap with a motel wifi connection.

The whole game is very stable in fact and I did not have a single crash or technical problem the entire weekend. Wow on the other hand has been crashing regularly on me since cataclysm. But speaking of Wow, Rift just doesnt draw you in like some games do. Even with the Rifts/incursion system, which were certainly dynamic as well as visually stunning, I really didnt find myself caring about the world, or its people. I played a Riftblade/Reaver/Paladin, who was very fun and who basically alternated between launching missiles (aka spears) and spreading AoE disease attacks. But as interesting as he was I still felt more like an avatar running around in a game and less like a character is a world. The ability to dye my armor helped though I imagine once more people find that benefit will diminish.

I think Rift will bring over the warhammer crowd who arnt loyal to that particular license. And it will attract players who are seeking to get away from the cartoony atmosphere in Wow. But I dont see it drawing lots of people from games like Eq2 or Wow because those MMOs have high fantasy worlds with multiple cities and cultures. They are very immersive. Rift has a story with a beautifully landscaped world but very little "palatable" history or culture.

I think, more than anything else, the key to MMO success is immersion. People need to be able to identify with their character; to wear that character over their own skin. Itl keeps them coming back to the world. It encourages them to create depth and culture and communities for their character to live in. There needs to be more to this world than players vs dragons/elemental. There needs to be fishing and weddings maybe housing and neutral faction/cities etc etc..which might be difficult to pull off given that you are a resurrected hero who only has one reason to exist atm. Now its only beta 4 of 7. I've only seen the starting zone (which was so huge I only explored half of it in 16/50 levels) and I wasnt high enough for any of the dungeons. There is a lot of content out there I havnt seen. But I dont see any evidence that there is more out there than high quality pve that lacks a living soul.

Rifts, while a good game, will sputter and be 2nd tier then slowly fade when the next round of MMO are produced due to its lack of  interplay and depth of the world. Which is ironic given that's likely what they were aiming for with the whole "rift/incursion" system...

Update : After reading about the personal-storylines and dynamic-event system Guild Wars 2 aspires to offer I am more convinced than ever Rifts is not going to be able to attract enough players to be viable.


Saylah said...

Do agree that Rift feels AC2 like in many aspects and that's probably why I like it so much. And it has WAR beat in that at least Rifts are dynamic, not do each specific chapter enough times to get the 3 rewards and you never consider doing them again unless you're re-rolling.

The PVE is more solid than WAR which means they could capture the "I only PVP" sometimes crowd currently at lose ends.

No, this won't capture WOW folks. We shouldn't assume that's their goal, I think their commercial points toward the not wow crowd similar to Dark Fall.

GW2 if realized as billed will be the biggest fantasy challenge to WOW even though I doubt they are targeting it directly. It's going to add much that has been missing for me from GW1 - being a static lobby MMO. That is the game I'm really waiting to play.

I think Rift has the potential to completely displace WAR and Aion in North America and while those are Blizzard numbers, they're not shabby either and enough to keep the game viable.

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