Rift‘s gameplay takes place in the world of Telara which, now that the ward which protected it has been weakened by the hubris of the mortal races, is slowly being ripped apart by the titular rifts: tears between Telara the elemental planes.
Telara is populated by six different playable races, split into two opposing factions. The Guardians believe that the divine powers that once protected Telara can be entreated to help protect the world again, if only the mortal races are brought back into the fold and can be shown how to “properly” respect their homeworld, no matter the cost. The Defiants believe that the old gods have finally abandoned them and that it’s up to the mortal races to use any means necessary, including forbidden ancient technology, to protect Telara and ultimately stop Regulos (the mastermind behind the elemental invasions) from destroying the world.
While such a setup of player factions is a perfect foundation for it, Rift doesn’t force you into player-vs-player gameplay unless you want it. For those who relish the challenges of PVP gameplay, there are several PVP servers, as well as several “warfronts” to take part in and help defeat the opposing faction’s players. For those who don’t want to be forced into PVP play, there are also plenty of Player-vs-Environment servers to play on. Those on PVE server do have the option of taking part in PVP play either through deliberately activating PVP in the game world for themselves, or through the forementioned Warfronts, pitched battlegrounds between the factions with different goals and objectives.
The environments of Telara are beautiful and expansive. The various zones you will be questing through are massive, well-detailed and varied. Stony Pine Peaks is a snowy, craggy, mountainous region occasionally afflicted by white-out blizzards, and Gloamwood is an ancient and imposingly foreboding forest. Shimmersands evokes the mirage-inducing heat of the Saharan desert, while Stonefield reminds you of the verdant, rainy highlands you might find in Scotland or Ireland.
Across these landscapes, sudden, unexpected tears in the fabric of reality can happen, and the creatures from the elemental planes come roiling through to wreak havoc. If the players do nothing, or don’t do enough, these invasions can grow as the elemental forces gain footholds throughout the region and eventually take over the players’ towns. Logging out in a town that’s friendly, you may be in for a shock later if an invasion isn’t repelled, and your once-friendly haven is now over-run with bloodthirsty monstrosities when you join the game again later.
There are four base character classes: Mage, Cleric, Warrior, Rogue. Once you pick your “calling,” you can then choose your initial specialization. There are eight specializations to choose from, and you can mix-and-match up to three of them at any one time. Each specialization (or “souls” as the game calls them) helps you fill a certain role, from pure damage-dealer to support and utility to healing. As you gain levels, you can create new combinations of souls to switch between, up to four different specifications (“specs”) each with up to three souls.
This customizability lends Rift a phenomenal attraction to people who want to mix-and-match their playstyle. One of my biggest complaints for World of Warcraft (and, let’s be honest, comparisons WILL be made, because WoW is such a juggernaut) is that all individuality for each class has been removed, because if you want to progress in the game you simply must spec your character in a certain way. Rift, at least for now, grants players like me the chance to break free from such cookie-cutter mentality to try different roles and encourages experimentation with your playstyle.
Incorporations of gameplay or design from other genres and games are evident in Rift, as well. I particularly like the fact that, during an elemental invasion, you can simply click a button on the interface to form a group with all the other players around you; no more trying to figure out who’s going to form the group and who’s going to start inviting others. During questing, if you find the enemy you need to defeat for a certain quest is already being fought by another player, simply click the button and you’re grouped with them to fight the monster together!
The game features a built-in Twitter client, so those who enjoy the micro-blogging service can tweet without leaving the game at all. A set of in-game commands will send your message out to the wider world, and even allow you to include a picture with your tweet! Lots of folks all over the world are using it right now.
I also like the built-in options to completely reorganize your interface’s elements to your desires. Don’t like the minimap in the upper right corner? Move it! Want to make your action buttons smaller and move your targeting items? Go ahead! With these options built into the game itself, you don’t need to install third party add-ons, which helps keep the game running smoothly and quickly.
Speaking of running the game, you’ll need a fairly powerful system to play the game at its highest settings and see all the eye candy. However, if you accept that you may not see all the “pretties,” a mid-range system will perform quite well.
All is not perfect, however. Rift‘s servers have been inundated with players, resulting in queues reaching as many as eight hours. Yes, this means you had to wait for EIGHT hours before you could play on the server you were trying to connect to. You could always try another server, but if you wanted to play the character you had on that particular server, you had to wait. This issue, however, has been alleviated to a certain degree as the developer, Trion Worlds, makes more servers available for players to use (though certain high-population servers may still encounter a queue now and then).
Another issue is the unannounced server downtime. It’s disrupting for the players to be questing or fighting Rifts or any number of other things, and suddenly a message will appear stating that the server will be going down in 15 minutes for a certain amount of time (sometimes only 30 minutes, sometimes more than an hour). I understand the need to hotfix issues that have cropped up since launch, but it does get frustrating to login only to get the message that the server is going down in 15 minutes. One upside to this is the fact that you know issues are being fixed fairly quickly, so it mostly balances out.
There have been reports of player accounts being hacked and their characters being deleted or their inventory being stripped bare and sold for in-game currency, though it’s unclear if the problem lies with Trion’s security system (there definitely is room for improvement) or with the individual players affected, which does seem much more likely. That scum, the plague of MMOs, the gold-seller? They were already in the game and trying to ply their “wares” before the game had even officially launched. (I received multiple messages from them in-game four full days before the game’s release date!)
Trion, to their credit, has been working hard and fast to get the account security and gold-seller issues rectified. There’s only so much they can do on the security side, unless they were to go to something like WoW‘s Authenticator system (which I heartily recommend), so it’s always good for players to be more security conscious! The gold-sellers, however, can be banned en masse (fired into the heart of the sun is my preference, to be blunt) and Trion is working overtime on that.
Flaws aside, I’ve been enjoying my time in Telara very much, and I very much hope that Rift continues to hold it’s own in the MMO market.