An Honest Review: Rift

28 Feb

I’ve mentioned several times now on twitter, in-game, or on other blogs that I had no intention of playing Rift at all, and I didn’t. Last week though my wife and I got our bonuses at work and found ourselves with some extra money. She said she’d been considering Rift because she often gets bored after doing her dailies and gathering a such and rerolling lowbies in WoW isn’t quite as thrilling as it used to be, so she wouldn’t mind looking at another game to move to when she’s tired of playing her main.

So we decided that since we had the money we might as well give the new flavor of the month game a shot for ourselves and see what we thought. And with the Collector’s Edition being only an extra $10 but providing a mount, pet, extra bag slots, and an item to make our weapons look cooler – we went with the collector’s edition. So yeah, we blew extra money on the CE of a game that neither of us knew much of anything about. It’ll give us something to do when we want a change and it gives us something we can do together and experience together as it’s new to both of us.

If you happen to be playing Rift, then I’d like to point out my Rift Tweeps page on the blog here where I’m keeping a list of twitter users who play Rift and who/what/where they play the game. I’ve done something similar with the WoW Tweeps list for quite a while now and found it to be very helpful to a large number of players out there so I duplicated the list for Rift even though we weren’t planning to play it at all.

Now, on to the reviews.

Pre-Order: Steam
After we decided we were going to buy it the next step was to decide who we were going to buy it from. Which company you pre-order from determined which type of visual effect you could put on your weapons, and my wife and I agreed that the fiery effect that you got for using Steam looked like the coolest one to us so that’s what we went with.

The pre-order process itself went pretty smooth, the only drawback being that it wouldn’t let me (or I couldn’t figure out how) purchase multiple copies in a single order, so I had to order one for myself and a separate one to be gifted to my wife. Not a big deal, just a few more seconds of my life lost to the internet.

We did have one big bump in the ordering from Steam process though, and that was getting a game key for my wife. I managed to get my game installed, patched and ready to go on the first day but my wife kept getting errors that Steam couldn’t contact their key server. I went to their website and went through all of the troubleshooting steps that the had mentioned and still no progress. Their support page mentioned that one of the reasons you might get the error is if Steam runs out of keys to a new game so they actually don’t have a key to give you.

As this was my first experience with Steam I wasn’t especially happy with this particular event. Granted, it only set us back a day, but if I had known that Steam didn’t have a key to give her then I wouldn’t have purchased it from them in the first place. They sold me something they didn’t have and they never bothered replying to any of my attempts to contact them. I understand the issue, but if they’re aware that they have a limited number of keys I would have appreciated a notification of some kind during the purchase process that they were low or out of keys and that there might be some delay in being able to use the product we were buying.

So because we purchased both copies from Steam and we wanted to start playing the game together, we had to start a day later than we were planning which was quite a bummer since we’d both been looking forward to trying it out.

As of right now Steam isn’t very high on my list of companies to do business with. Not because this one incident was just so terribly bad that I hate them, but because the first and only time I used them I had a problem and they never bothered replying to me.

Rift: Install and Setup
Getting Rift to install was a quick and easy process. It took a few hours for the download and patches to go through, but it wasn’t unreasonable at all. Neither of us had any issues in getting it installed save for my wife’s issue getting a game key which I talked about in the previous section. But that was Steam’s fault, not Rift’s.

The overall process was very easy and straight forward, basically about what you’d expect from any other gaming software in today’s world.

Getting it all setup as far as deciding on servers and factions and so forth was all equally simple, more or less the same as WoW overall.

Being in the early release of the game we do have a small patch to download basically every time we start the game, but that’s to be expected really, and they don’t take more than a minute or two anyway so not a big deal.

Rift: Out-of-Game Interface
Once you have the game running and it’s time to create characters and choose servers and such you’ll use the OoG interface to get around and do the things that you want to do. There are some shortcuts here that they could have taken, but didn’t. Shortcuts like allowing users to double-click an option to select it rather than having to click to select and then click another button to acknowledge. It’s not a huge problem, but it makes the game feel more like it’s an old game rather than something new as I haven’t had to do things like that in a very long time.

They do have some pretty good graphics on things even up to this point, though, and navigation is pretty simple and straight forward.

Rift: Character Creation – Race
Character creation is always one of my favorite parts of any RPG game. I just like designing and creating things in a fantasy setting and always have since my first RPG experience at the age of 9.

First you choose your Faction, Guardian or Defiant. You don’t get a whole lot of information on who they are or why you might choose one over the other, so new players who know nothing about the game will have to just make the decision on the fly and go with it. And of course you can cancel out of the next section and switch over to take a look at the other faction if you’re just looking around and trying to make a decision.

Next you’ll choose your Race. Guardians can choose between Dwarves, High Elves, and Mathosian, while Defiants have Bahmi, Eth, and Kelari.

Dwarves look pretty stupid in my opinion; they have some options that can make bits and pieces of them look kind of cool, but overall they look rather ridiculous. Their racial benefit is pretty weak too, allowing them to take less damage from falling. High Elves aren’t all that bad, they have some pretty cool features to choose from, and they have a racial ability to fly a short distance with increased speed which is actually both cool and useful while leveling. The Mathosian are basically the humans and they’re pretty standard; their racial ability allows the whole party to move 30% faster for a short time which is great for when you’re questing with other people.

Bahmi are the closest thing to a “monster” race that Rift has to offer. They’re similar to the Draenei in WoW, minus the tails and hooves. I like that you can change their skin color to basically look human, which allowed me to have that big, beefy human style look for a melee character. Their racial is similar to the High Elves, except that they jump instead of fly, but they’re more or less the same abilities as far as I’ve been able to tell so far. Eth are your typical desert-dwelling humanoid, the kind that are always cast in the “evil” role for being mysterious and having thin mustaches. Their racial ability allows them to run 70% faster for a short time, similar to the Worgen from WoW (except almost twice as fast). The Kelari are an interesting race, similar in looks to dark elves or Night Elves of many other games as far as general appearance goes. Their racial ability allows them to turn into a ghostly fox for 30 seconds, reducing their agro radius while they do so.

The interface does a pretty good job of showing you what the races have to offer during character creation.

Next up is the physical customization. Rift offers a pretty fair amount of customization options in their creation process; much more than WoW for example. It’s not the best I’ve ever seen, but you do have much more control over things such as facial features and hair/eye coloring. I also liked that they had an option for changing your character’s height which a lot of games don’t give you.

The one thing they skipped over that I really wish they hadn’t is weight. Once your toons are covered in armor you pretty much look just like everyone else in the world. I’ve got a Warrior that looks like he’s be lucky to bench press more than 80 pounds, and I’ve got a Mage that could punch a hole in a tree. I like my fighter-types to be a bit larger both in weight and muscle mass, where I like my casters to be skinnier and physically weaker, and I don’t have any control of that. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but with so much other customization available to us I really wish that had been an option as well.

Rift: Character Creation – Class
Choosing your class is pretty straight forward and simple. On one hand this is a good thing because it doesn’t overload you with information when you’re just starting. On the other hand, Rift’s class system is one of the main perks of the game and it’s over-simplified in this setup.

Rift has four classes, or Callings, that you can choose from: Warrior, Rogue, Mage, and Cleric. During character creation you pick one of those four and that’s it. But each class is actually broken down into (currently) nine sub-classes called Souls. Each of those souls is basically a class in and of itself, giving the game 36 different classes that are generalized down into only four options while you’re building your character.

I really wish there was more information on the souls given during character creation so that you had a better idea of what class you wanted to go with to achieve the type of character you were trying to build. If you wanted to rebuild your WoW Hunter in Rift for instance you might thing Rogue is the way to go because those are the agile, archer classes, but there’s actually a very strong archer soul that you can only access by taking the Warrior class as well. If you wanted to rebuild your WoW Paladin then you might not know off-hand that Paladin is a Warrior soul since being a holy warrior could easily place it under the Cleric soul as well.

So I would like to see some more information available in the class selection portion of the process. You really solidify your class once you’re in the game and advancing through levels and so forth, but of all the places to go easy on the information, this wasn’t the best option in my opinion.

Rift: Graphics
The graphics in Rift are pretty cool. They don’t thrill me nearly as much as they seem to everyone else, but they’re still really good. The problem I have with games that try to get more realistic in graphical appearance is that the closer they get to it, the more all of their inconsistencies take away from it for me. It’s like seeing excessive swearing while I’m reading a book, or seeing modern lingo thrown into a historical setting, it forces me out of the setting and makes things just not work for me anymore. I don’t like reading G.R.R. Martin’s books for the swearing while other people love the books despite or even because of it, we’re all different in our taste and to each their own.

While the world as a whole looks really good, there are certain monsters or gear that just don’t look right and take away from it for me. Most of the terrain looks really great. I think they did a good job building the world from the pieces of it that I’ve seen so far, and a lot of the mobs you face look good as well. The problem for me is that when I do come across those few inconsistencies it throws me off completely because of that contrast. If you look at WoW as an example, having more of cartoon style of graphics for the world you can put just about anything in there and it will look just fine, but the closer you get to reality the more things stick out like they don’t really belong.

I don’t play a wide variety of games, so I can’t tell you where Rift’s graphics stand in comparison to other games out there, someone might be better than them or they might not, I don’t know. I do like the graphics in Rift though, and overall I think they did a really good job with it.

Rift: User Interface
Rift has the sort of typical MMO- interface on it. It’s similar to WoW which itself is similar to other games. Many of the default keybinds are similar between Rift and WoW so if you’re transitioning from it then you’ll have a fairly easy time finding most things.

I do like that they have more options for their default interface than WoW does. I like being able to control, without addons, how many action bars I can add to various parts of my screen for example. As I’m going through the interface options in my head right now, I think most of the other settings exist in both games for the most part.

Some cool new hotkeys they have were pretty cool too, like being able to hold ‘V’ to flip the camera 180 degrees to look behind you. I don’t need a key like that because I’m very active with my mouse and camera angles while I’m playing, but it’s still an example of one of the cool features that Rift has built into it.

One of the things that kind of sucked on the UI was that none of the settings transfer from one character to another, so I had to do them all individually from scratch – or so I thought. After about my 6th character I noticed an Import option in the menu and after clicking on it I found out that you can import any/all settings from one character to another. It’s still kind crappy that you have to bother in the import instead of it just being the default, but it can be a good thing if you’re one who likes to customize the UI for each character individually, I just happen to be the kind of player that likes everything to conform to a specific standard.

One thing I didn’t like was their click-to-move feature. It’s one of my favorite things to use in WoW, but I really don’t like it in Rift. The problem is that it used the left-click to initiate a click-to-move action, but that left-click is also what controls your camera movement, so if you are someone like me who frequently shifts your camera angle to see what’s going on around you, then you can’t use the to features together because you constantly end up making your character move where your’e trying to look. I was not able to find a way to bind CtM to any other key or mouse click or anything, so sadly I had to give up on using CtM in Rift.

Another feature I didn’t care a whole lot for was that you can’t see a nameplate or health bar on any mobs until you engage them in combat. You can see their names, glowing in red/yellow/green text above their heads to show their attitude/agro, but you can’t see the health of mobs unless you’re hitting them which is really going to suck in dungeons and PvP. Hopefully we get a solution for this before too long.

Rift: Game Play
Playing the game itself was pretty cool. I loved the Rift events that kept spawning after the initial starting zones and how those work. I missed getting my rewards for the first 2 Rifts that I participated in, so they could use some help options on those to let you know what’s going on, but I did figure it out on my own so it’s not a huge issue (and it does appear in the user manual if anyone still reads those things).

Questing is pretty generic for MMORPG’s as far as what you’re doing and where, like “kill X mobs”, “use SpecialItem at SpecialLocation” and so on. I do have to mention though that the whole questing system feels very similar to the Cataclysm zones in WoW, where everything is railroaded down a specific chain. There are some cases where you can just go explore a new portion of the map and find some quests waiting there for you, but most likely you’ll end up at a higher level zone where mobs that have just 2-3 levels on you will destroy you.

There isn’t a huge difference in solo questing versus group questing except when it comes to loot. The loot system in Rift seems weird, like it just randomly gives loot to party members instead of following a pattern. By default there’s a cool interface option turned on called “AoE Loot” which means if you click to loot a corpse then you also loot every other corpse in the area. Mobs that drop loot that’s just coins don’t go to a specific person though, anyone in the party can loot it. When you’re in a group questing like that and people have the AoE loot turned on, it’s easy sometimes for one person to feel like they aren’t getting to loot.

Rift: Overall Review
Overall I’d have to say that Rift is a pretty cool game. With it being so new I can’t judge it too harshly because there are still features being added to it and things like addons don’t yet exist which could fix some of the minor issues I have with the game.

Graphically, the game is really good. The play is similar enough to WoW that I don’t feel lost at all, though the questing does have a lot of that back and forth, back and forth crap that got really old in WoW before 4.x, so it feels a little old from that perspective. The railroading in the quest lines does bug me a bit so I’ve done some leveling strictly by chaining Rift events, bouncing around from one to another over and over. It’s cool that we have that as an option, but it kind of sucks that I already got tired of questing in just 2 days and was already looking for an alternative.

The professions/crafting aspect of the game is pretty close to WoW, but I think they could have developed it a little bit more as well. I like not having to carry around tools to do my gathering, but I hate that every single crafting profession requires you to be at a specific location in the game; that’s a completely unnecessary restriction that they really should have left out completely. One of the things that sucks about some of the professions in WoW is that you have to hunt down specific locations to build certain items where others you don’t, and it’s annoying without a necessity for it to be so.

I enjoy all of the combat that I’ve participated in so far. They could really make some improvements to it, such as allowing me to see the health for all of the mobs I’m facing at once and so on, but it’s still manageable as it is right now. There are some balance issues between the classes, but at the same time I kind of like that with 36 classes they don’t all feel like the same flipping thing. There’s a lot of simplifying going on in WoW right now where classes and roles are being standardized so that everyone can do the same things with every class, and that takes away some of the uniqueness that used to be really appealing in WoW. So right now Rift is at one extreme (lacking balance) and WoW is at the other (excessive balance), and I personally would like both of them to slide just a little bit more towards that middle ground. Not enough that people refuse to let you play with them based solely on your class, but enough that I don’t feel like I’m the same class with different colored pixels when I change toons.

I haven’t given PvP a shot yet, though I probably will the next time I play. None of my characters are high enough in level to participate in the dungeons, and I’m not sure when I’ll get around to that just yet as I haven’t decided which toons I’m going to level beyond 10 just yet with so many classes to choose from.

Spending most of the weekend in Rift was a nice change and my wife and I both had fun. At this point in time it’s not cool enough to take me away from WoW, but it does give me something to do for those rare times where I don’t feel like playing WoW, but still feel like gaming. To compare the two, I’d say that right now my personal rating for Rift is at about an 8.1 with WoW at 9.2 out of 10.

I managed to get three Rift characters to at least level 10 over the weekend, and played a total of 7 different toons with different race/class combinations. I loved being able to match classes and races across the board which is something I still really dislike about WoW. Maybe some of the other issues I’ve had will go away as I get higher in level, or maybe becoming familiar with them being the way they are over time will make them not matter, but for right now there are still enough things that don’t really do it for me that Rift isn’t super high on my gaming priority list.

Rift is a really cool game, and I will definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a new MMO to try out, or anyone who’s started to get a little burned out on WoW and could use a bit of a break. It’s enough like WoW that transitioning will be really easy for you, and for a lot of people Rift solved some of the problems that they were having with WoW.


Posted by on February 28, 2011 in World of Warcraft



16 responses to “An Honest Review: Rift

  1. Ttrinity

    February 28, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    I agree with your review. I like Rift and use it as time away from WoW. It is nice to just learn a new game and meet some new peeps. Xandrion, akagold and I are on Deepwoods in ConcordiaDiscors. I am, of course, loving the cleric.

  2. fynralyl

    February 28, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    In game graphics, interface, movement and questing it actually felt more like an upgraded version of Dungeon Seige II to me, than a straight knockoff of WoW (which is what a lot of people are saying). I agree that it’s nice to have something different to do, but I am still primarily a WoW player. :)

  3. stiubhart

    February 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Is it different enough to interest someone who is burned out on WOW? I have gotten very tired of the endgame grind, and leveling alts has never really been my thing, even in the rebuilt zones. Is the questing experience similar enough that the variety of class experiences can’t override the sameness?

    I’ve been interested in something different for a while now, but I don’t want to have to learn an entirely new system. Would Rift work for that?

    Also, I’m glad to hear someone else has problems with The Song of Fire and Ice. I like the overall story, but the writing, including the excessive profanity, just puts me off, and I had to stop reading the second book. I always feel alone in my dislike, with the near universal praise.

    • Psynister

      February 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM

      That’s a tough question to answer without knowing what all has you burned out. Right now everyone’s trying to make it to end game in the first place, so I have no idea what the grind is going to be like.

      The questing experience is almost an exact copy, except with more running around back and forth. As for whether or not the number of class choices can override it? That’s going to be to each their own, I’m afraid. For me? Yeah, I can get passed the dullness of doing the same typical quest lines due to such a wide variety of classes and builds.

      Rift is perfect for not wanting to learn a whole new system. A lot of things are exactly the same, and a lot are really similar, but there’s enough that’s sort of the same yet different enough to not feel the same that you can probably get passed that and just enjoy a new game with a feeling of familiarity.

      I’m totally with you on the book, save that I didn’t even make it through the first one. It’s been recommended by a dozen close friends at least, but I can’t even get through the first. Ah well, to each their own. :)

  4. Nochecazador

    February 28, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    Nice review. Thanks for being in the middle and positive. I’ve read, via twitter, what seems to be a backlash against WoW, from so many posting like Rift is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    I’m not going to try it at this time, but I can fully understand the desire for some thing else other than WoW. I have a console to play on and other things to do.

    Hopefully both games learn from each other making each other better for the consumers they sell to.

    • Psynister

      March 1, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      That’s why I wanted to do the review like I did. Right now there’s some unholy war being fought between WoW fans and Rift fans with each trying to prove to the other and the rest of the world that their game is the best and the other not worth playing.

      Part of that issue is people feeling hurt or displaced after WoW guild members bail for the new game. People get upset that things have changed or that people have left for something new and then they make the decision of whether they want to leave too and join them or start spewing hatred against it. It’s rather unfortunate really, when in the end we’re all just a bunch of online gamers doing what we love.

  5. Mishaweha

    March 1, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    I actually like how the dwarf women look. It was different than other dwarves I’ve seen in fantasy games, and I plan on rolling one once I pick out a server for the poor neglected Guardians.

    I haven’t gotten past the starting area for the Defiant yet, as I keep going back to roll another character. I managed to rock a ‘fro on one of the Bahmi, so that was fun. Though I must agree, it was weird not having body customization besides just ‘height’. That does make it easier for them to animate characters, though, so I can understand why they did that, even if most newer MMOs these days allow for body customizations. Though no body customization means that there are no oddly proportioned folks running around, which can be a good thing, especially on RP servers.

  6. Mel

    March 1, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Nice review.
    The game looks nice but I just got back into WoW so I’m not really looking for something else. And If I ever try another MMO it’ll be The Old Republic to at least have a change of setting.

  7. Beruthiel

    March 2, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    “but it kind of sucks that I already got tired of questing in just 2 days and was already looking for an alternative”

    So much this. I’m getting a little burned out on WoW, and I thought that maybe some time away in Rift would be a nice change of pace. Only…it’s really not. I found that there was so much “WoW” type play in Rift, that I just didn’t really feel that I’d really gotten away from WoW. And in that I was somewhat disappointed.

    One thing that I don’t think that I saw you mention, but which I do think is a pretty big step in Rift’s favor with regards to the UI is that it’s 100% customizable and movable. There is a button that you can click and it makes every piece of the UI moveable – similarly to how you would see Pitbull or Shadowed while you were setting it up. I did think that was pretty cool.

    I honestly don’t know how long it will keep my attention – but unless it gets more interesting in the levels going forward I just don’t know that I see myself continuing to pay a monthly subscription fee for the game. Largely, as I indicated in my earlier comment, because it doesn’t really feel like “I’m not in Azeroth anymore”.

    • Psynister

      March 2, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      First thing’s first: I can move anything!? I must find this option! I saw in the 4.1 patch notes that WoW is going to allow us to do the same thing with the default UI, so I might be able to drop an addon or two.

      And yes, the general game play is very, very similar to WoW. I don’t know that there’s really anything they could do to not feel like WoW given the nature of the game and the world that it’s in, but still. That’s why I got bored with it pretty quick and why I only read the quest text of the very first quest and then nothing at all after that on any of my toons. I already know what I’m going to do, where I’m going to do it, and how many times I have to do it until I’m done.

      I agree with what you’ve said there, though. For now I think we’re going to go ahead and sign up for the 6 month subscriptions so we only pay $10/month, and if we find we rarely play it in the 6 months then we’ll cancel, otherwise we’ll enjoy our cheaper subscription.

      With the exception of the rift events, it really does feel like a re-skinned Azeroth as far as gameplay is concerned. The class system is really cool and allows for a lot of flexibility, but as far as the experience of playing goes that has little impact overall as no matter which class/spec you’re in you’re still filling one of the basic RPG roles found in any other game.

      • Beruthiel

        March 3, 2011 at 4:06 PM

        Did you find the UI button I was talking about? If not, I’ll see if I can nudge Brade to give better instructions aside from my “there is this button here” :)

        • Psynister

          March 3, 2011 at 4:09 PM

          I haven’t played it again since before you commented, so I haven’t looked for it. I probably won’t have time to play again until this weekend, but if I don’t find it I’ll be sure to let you know. ;)

  8. thesupercasual

    March 2, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Love the new look! This is one of my favorite blogs, and Im finally commenting here (totally inane comment to boot). Looking forward to some other class leveling guides.

    • Psynister

      March 3, 2011 at 4:11 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Cas.

      Next up on the leveling guides is most likely going to be a Shaman, unless some other class sneaks up and grabs my interest away from him.

  9. Keven

    March 27, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    This review was very good and fair considering Rift is so new. I also started Rift to take a break from WoW but its been 3 weeks since ive logged onto really enjoying Rift.


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