MMORPGs are becoming a regularly released genre lately. Within the last few months, we have had eleven games and various expansion packs released. Rift is the most recent release from this genre, and it is an impressive offering at that.
Rift is a unique game. It features a story and setting that actually breaks away from the traditional orcs and wizards, introducing a two-tiered enemy system. This system is not flawless, but it offers some interesting twists on the traditional gameplay styling that have not been seen before. Rift is also a gorgeous title that stands tall as one of the visually stunning titles released in the last few months.
At the beginning of the game, you get to pick between two factions; The Guardians, spiritually bound warriors that are very reminiscent of Roman soldiers; and The Defiant who are scientifically and technologically oriented. Afterwards, you can customize your character through use of sliders and color options, and pick your character's Calling.
Callings are the traditional classes that any fantasy MMO have specifically Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, or Mage to be exact. Each act as their name suggests. Warriors tend to be tanks with strong physical damage. Clerics are healers. Rogues are your fast attacking assassin type. Finally, there are the Mages that focus on attack spells.
This is where Rift starts to break away from the traditional class system and introduce its soul-tree. The soul-tree allows for a mixture of any three race specific jobs. No matter what Calling you follow, each job is similar to another Calling's jobs. Jobs focus on attack speed, range, magic damage, etc. Luckily, you can mix-and-match jobs, for a small in-game fee, so you can make your character play how you want them to.
Rift's soul-trees also introduce another interesting feature that is unique to the game. For each level you gain, you gain a point to add to one of your three unlocked job trees. The more points put into the tree's ability upgrade branches, farther range and damage for example, the more abilities will unlock in the tree's roots.
Your faction decision at the beginning of the game will give you one of two cut-scenes that explain what happened to the world of Telara and the ultimate enemy, Regulos, the dragon god of extinction. The Defiant cut-scene explains how the faction's future with no guardians and little hope to stop Regulos came to be. A lot of the blame goes straight to the Guardians for destroying important technologies said to have been able to defeat Regulos's armies. Of course, the cut-scene for the Guardians paints the opposite picture. The Defiant was using technologies that harnessed the power of evil dragons of the past and their leader Regulos which lead to Guardian lord's fall from the grace for supporting the Defiant's way. All of which caused the Rifts.
I picked Defiant, so my adventure began in a grim future in which Regulos has destroyed everything. The Defiant is creating beings to send back in time to save the world from this future, and stop the guardians. This entire part is a tutorial. You learn how to battle, collect items, and do various types of quests. There are other players running around so you can form a small party to make things easier. It helps a lot when you get a mission to kill a number of enemies and each player's kill counts for everyone's kill. At the end, you experience your first Rift battle against Regulos's army and shockingly himself. Luckily, you do not actually have to fight him. An NPC uses one of the Defiant's technologies to hold him while you use the Rift powered time machine.
Upon arrival, you land in the past, in the land of Freemarch. There is a lot to do upon arrival. There are Rifts to battle, and help close, as well as quests to complete. You also can learn about the three basic crafting jobs, Mining, Foraging, and Butchering. You can travel to the next land of opportunity, Stonefield or Droughtland, to continue your quest to defeat Regulos, but I recommend waiting until you are at least level 20.
Rifts are raids that feature Regulos's armies and other beasts attacking Telara. Each area of Telara features two different, opposing, elemental rifts. The six rift elements are earth, fire, air, water, life, and death. Every rift has their own unique animations that can be fun to watch as they spawn and seal. Sometimes a rift can sit dormant, and will not spawn until a player forces it. Doing so can be a good thing as it can prevent instances where there can be a massive invasion of one element, which sends hundreds of enemies from various rifts to take over different regions.
Rift battles are not the only raids that happen though. Occasionally the opposing faction will attack in an attempt to take over some land. Each region has a crystal that needs to be taken over by force. Usually the attack is not successful, as there are enough people stopping the attack in its tracks. If it is successful and your faction fails to stop the takeover of a region, it can be a major hassle to battle to take back that land. That land becomes a spawn point for rift monster or the opposing factions. Also, the crystal has a lot of health and a shield that can only be knocked down after all enemies around it are killed.
Crafts or jobs in Rift have a unique tiered system. The player is limited to three trades at any given time, and two basic tiered crafts are needed to perform professions. The beginning tier can be considered the gathering tier as it consists of the three starting crafts Mining, Foraging, and Butchering. Each one of these is important for the "Crafting" or professions tier, which are Apothecary, Armorsmith, Artificer, Weaponsmith, Outfitter, and Runecrafter. Each profession, typically, needs two gathering tiered crafts in order to be accomplished. Weaponsmithing for example, needs Foraging and Mining to collect the materials needed to create new weapons. You can constantly switch between crafts so you never have to be stuck doing the same things constantly.
Battle is similar to most MMO combat systems. Using right-click on your mouse targets an enemy, then hitting your macros, number keys, or skills across the ability bar to use your abilities. There are six ability bars available to customize. Each can be tailored to how you want to play or by soul tree roots. You can also make a bar to focus on other abilities and skills like crafting abilities or summoning mounts and pets.
During combat, you can still move around to dodge or get a better viewpoint of the enemy you are attacking. Sometimes, you can use the ability to move to draw enemies to a safer area so that you will not be ganked by more enemies then you wanted.
The more interesting battles are in the Rift raids. Since Rifts are very active battlefields there can be times where you will be thrown around and damaged by the environment itself. Water rifts for example can have water jets burst from the ground sending you into the air. Life rifts can have rocks that need to be dodged constantly, or face massive damage or instant death based upon the size of the rock.
Rifts appear at random. There are two types of rifts, minor and major. Minor rifts are basic raids that a small group can handle. Major rifts are the rifts that cause invasions that send minions to attack multiple regions' crystals. Defeating a rift gives you Planarites, which is one of the various currencies in the game.
The other combat related gameplay is, of course, Player vs. Player (PVP). Currently, there are four warzones to battle against the opposing team. Gameplay for the four requires you to hold a specific area for a certain amount of time, or capture and hold the "Claw of Regulos." The higher the kill count, the better the prizes. If you participated in a PVP event, your character will be marked, allowing opposing faction players to attack you.
Graphically this game is stunning. Rift can be very rich and vibrant, and at the same time can pull off a dark and grim color-scheme when the environment calls for it. NPC and Rift animations are fluent and beautiful, but combat animations seem forced and shaky. It almost appears there is a second or two missing from certain attack animations. Otherwise, the game is visually pleasing to the eye.
Getting a bit more technical, the game runs smoothly. It holds a steady 60fps as 1080pwith full visual settings and max particle effects. Draw distance could be slightly improved, but you can see shadow outlines of distant mountains and buildings. Anti-aliasing actually is not needed, but it does make a slight improvement even though jaggies are not noticeable.
Audio comes in clearly through my 7.1 system. I have yet to pick up any distortions and issues in voice, music, or sound effects. Just like the graphics, the audio is well done. From the battle theme to the casual stroll tunes, it all fits. There is nothing out of place. There is also a pretty good sense of distance audio control. Sound effects and voice acting volumes are properly balanced with distance variables so that they slowly fade off as you walk away from what is happening.
Overall, Rift is an enjoyable experience. This game is completely worth its monthly fee, and so compelling that it will keep you coming back to it day-after-day to continue your quest to save Telera from Regulos. The basic storyline is enjoyable, and there is a ton of lore to find to get a better grasp at what is happening around Telera, and what every NPC character is doing to save it. If you are an MMORPG fan, give Rift a shot, the first month is free after all.