Rift Beta 5 Impressions

Posted on 28 January, 2011

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This week I’ve had a few (very) early starts in order to get in some Rift beta testing before heading off to work. Beta 4 was my first experience with Rift, and with those characters being rolled over to Beta 5 I’m now starting to get a good sense of the game.

First impressions with Rift are positive. It sticks closely to most mmo conventions, after creating a character (on effectively the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’ side) you dive straight in to a starter zone in which you can get your bearings, pick your class and start to make your way in the world. Combat is the usual hot key affair, items are progressively improved mainly as quest rewards, and you are soon customizing the exact build of your character as you allocate points between 3 “souls” (or sub-classes) relating to your chosen class (mage, warrior, rogue, cleric). Given that each class has 6 sub-classes, and there are many skills in each the variety of possible builds is really rather large.

At the end of the starter zones you encounter your first rift, a gaping maw in the sky through which invaders can flow forth. Dealing with this completes the starter area and you are thrown forward in to the world proper. The world proper appears to be a somewhat linear affair, moving between quest hubs as you rack up experience, levels and loot. The dynamic elements of play come from the rifts that appear in the sky. When this happens you can dive in to help fellow adventurers deal with the invading forces, resulting in rewards tied specifically to rift-related combat. Should these invasions go unchecked they can threaten the very quest hubs you depend upon.

Put this all together and you’ve got yet another mmo that rarely strays from the tried and tested formula, with the addition of a new setting and accompanying lore to make it feel fresh. As playable and enjoyable as it is, most of that enjoyment comes from it being a new world to explore. There’s really nothing that stands out as genuinely new. Arguably the thing that infuriates me most is how current mmos are being built to a very linear design. I loved Aion’s world and characters, but there was zero replayability. You trod exactly the same path and quests every time you created a character. And for the most part you needed to do every quest in order to get the experience to progress. Rift seems much like that, choose a side then embark on one of two routes. Every character you create will plod exactly the same path.

As expensive as creating multiple paths through a virtual world is, it is exactly what this genre needs more of. Without that open-ness it really isn’t a virtual world at all, it’s just a corridor-based rpg. With very wide corridors.

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Posted in: Gaming, MMO, RPG