Friday, January 17, 2014

3 days of...Rift!

First foray into FTP MMOs

Rift, the FTP MMO by Trion Worlds, was released late last year. Since it's inception I've heard some very good things about it, and their free to play model is nearly worshiped by the exposed masses that are tired of the standard play to win model. The idea of a Free To Play MMO may inspire a hopelessness to the participant unwilling to invest, but the trade of money for goods by the Developer is fair and balanced as I've seen it. 

From start to finish of 3 days of play, Rift is exciting and quick paced. Right from the start you're exposed to portals, time travel, inter-dimensional demi-gods, and spiritual ressurection. They introduce quite a lot of lore very quickly, however the ideas behind the societies, races, and factions are familiar. Technology vs. Religion, Good vs. Evil, these struggles allow the player to identify quickly with the story, and so the lore is deep, but also easily understood. Complex politics and philosophy are left behind, or not immediately introduced, and enemies are iconic and easily identified.
The opening video paints a very clear picture of a world in chaos. With dragons!
Creating a character is easy, and the classes are explained well. Even to give you a sense of how they'll be played throughout. Warnings are given early explaining how difficult changing classes, or equipment, will be later on. This is appreciated very much, especially considering that you may have to re-spec multiple times to meet a party or raids needs.

There are multiple sizes of party events, including single man instances, 5 man parties, and raids. I never got to experience each of those individually, however the instructions for the groups are easy to understand and most instances scale with party size and level from what the game tells me. This is a well considered feature, especially when you may not be able to find a 5th man that is dependable, taking 4 dependable team mates and allowing the mobs to scale lower might be preferable.

All these concepts are introduced early on, and especially right when you may need the information. I was curious about how a concept worked, and sure enough, the next quest was specifically about that concept, or allowed me access to a previously inaccessible portion of the game. The only thing that wasn't introduced quickly was the skill tree, and it's quite complex.

This is Rifts steam punk version of Big Daddy!
Coming from World of Warcraft 5 years ago, I am used to the basic skill tree that is used in most MMOs. However, Rift uses 3 skill trees at once, all independently interchangeable depending on your preset class, and skill choice. You can also forgo presets, and customize your 3 trees independently, to create a class that is entirely your combination. The only restriction is that each of the 4 main classes has their own specific trees and abilities that are specialized to their class (ie. you can't use rogue trees as a cleric). It sounds complex, but once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless, and customization is one of the preferable traits I look for in an MMO.

The last unique trait to Rift are quite namely, the rift events. They are tears in the sky, that cause local public groups to form. Players in the area can band together at a moments notice, and identifying the sky marker, rush to raid on an invading enemy from another dimension. These groups are quick, fun, and rewarding, and add to the excitement of playing. Knowing that at any moment a rift can open nearby and a small war can start keeps you actively interested in your surroundings.

The world is constantly tearing itself to pieces around you.
After about 5 hours invested, I decided to drop five dollars into the store to see what I could buy. Adding credit is easy, as the game quickly links to your steam wallet. Items in the shop are mostly cosmetic, or useful items that you can use to customize your experience. I paid about $2.00 for a rare set of equipment and a cheap mount that I could use at level 10. This is nice, as it allowed me to travel and fight quicker. There are even more rewards for regularly paying customers to speed their experience, but I saw nothing that would allow anyone to pay excessive amounts of money to break the game. This is a relief from the modern affliction of pay-to-win games that we see often on the market. Most players ended up with a specialized unique looking follower/pet, or a very colorful variant of a mount.

Overall, I enjoyed my few days with Rift, and if I decide to dedicate my time to an MMO, it will likely be my game of choice. I enjoyed the different aesthetic that it brought to the table, and the pay to "customize" model that allowed me to spend my money to change my experience how I liked. The character building was fun, and could be exciting to mess around with to create an optimized character for a role. I just hope that as I progress the game becomes more challenging, because I found it quite easy for about the first 15 levels. 

You might like this game if you like:
MMO's with a unique take on skill trees, solid game play mechanics, and a well crafted free to play model that lets you spend your money how you desire to change your experience. Now with sky rending inter-dimensional tentacles!

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