RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 2
RIFT: Planes of Telara. I have to admit, right out the gate here, that I haven’t really been following RIFT at all. Trion Worlds even had a booth at PAX back in September, but there was so much stuff to do at PAX, and I didn’t see anything there that piqued my interest, so we didn’t visit it. This ignorance held true until about a week ago, when Jarenth, a certain Twenty Sided fan and friend of mine, tossed me a key for the RIFT closed-beta.
The one thing I did know about the game before playing it was that it had built up something of a dubious reputation of late in that one of the game’s tag-lines is “We’re not in Azeroth anymore!” despite appearing, for all intents and purposes, to be heavily derivative of WoW. Now I’m not really much of a Warcraft player; I’ve tried the free trial once or twice, but it never really grabbed me like it seems to have for so many other people. I’ve only really learned to dislike it by proxy â€" simply because so many other studios seem so intent on
ripping off copying the WoW formula. Badly.
Plus, I’m kind of addicted to Guild Wars.
|I think I need professional help.|
So I’m not exactly the best person to iterate for you, in detail, just how much RIFT borrows from the proverbial Warcraft pot. Even so, the resemblance was uncanny, even to me. In particular, the interface was rather obviously similar (Jarenth went farther to call it “an exact copy” of WoW’s) and the combat did nothing but conjure up memories of my last WoW trial. And as far as I played, the quest structure was exactly the same as well: Talk to NPC, go to field, kill rats, bring back rat macguffins, punch quest designer in face.
Erm, maybe not that last one…
So the game is similar to WoW. A lot. Not to say that there is anything inherently bad with deriving your core game mechanics from the industry leader, but I still can’t help but feeling I’ve played this game before in a dozen other games. That said; derivative, vanilla MMO mechanics and gameplay isn’t really the whole story here, which is something I’ll get to later on.
Anyway, last weekend the beta servers opened up for the sixth RIFT beta event. After a brief patching process I launched the client and got my first taste of RIFT lore. The story, as far as I’ve been able to glean from Jarenth, the opening cinematic, and quest text that I didn’t bother to read, is that Telara (the game world) was created be the gods at a nexus point in the “planes” (which I assume refers to dimensional planes or something along those lines). But evil… um… demons? Baddies? I don’t know, some evil dudes didn’t like that or something and sent armies of minions to conquer Telara, and the gods gave special powers to some of the Telaran inhabitants whom became “ascendants” to fight the evil guys.
Actually, now that I think about it, this sounds a lot like the backstory of Diablo…
Anyway, the ascendants formed the “Guardian” faction. A separate group of more technologically-inclined Telarans who came to be called “Defiants” built machines to fight the evil minions â€" but this apparently offended the Guardians or something so they broke all of the machines. And then the Guardians went and screwed up anyway and Telara was reduced to a barren wasteland with a single settlement remaining to be conquered, so the Defiants created their own ascendants through the power of SCIENCE! and then outdid even that by building a time machine so they could send the ascendants back to a time when the world didn’t look like the inside of my (well used) coffee mug.
Gee I wonder which side I’m gonna pick…
So Jarenth and I rolled Defiants, with my initial choice being the Warrior class, and this is where I got my first taste of one of RIFT’s unique mechanics. In RIFT, none of the classes have any base skills. Instead, you pick from a pool of class-specific “souls” that act sort of like a talent tree. You gain talent points every level and spend them on passive stat increases for your soul’s skills (5% more likely to cause x affect, all fire abilities have 1% higher critical chance, that sort of thing). And as you spend points on that soul’s bonus trees, you unlock skills to use from that soul’s skill tree.
The kicker here is that you can have three souls at a time, and there are no restrictions on what souls you can use or combine with one another. Therefore, despite the game being “class” based, it feels a lot more diverse and open than the average class-based MMO.
That said, I still have some reservations. I’m concerned about how difficult such an open system will be to balance. Since each of the classes have a wide range of offensive-, defensive-, and support-based options, what happens when someone just stacks offense and defense on one character to create an invincible murder machine? Despite being so open, a system like this could easily lead to the blandest of cookie-cutter builds that are an absolute must to compete in high-level PvE and PvP.
The other issue I noticed is that, from what I could see in my (admittedly limited) playtime, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of cross-soul skill interplay. Skills have plenty of synergy inside their own soul trees, but outside of them there only seems to be minor interplay involved, mostly when both souls use the same resource for powering skills. If this observation holds true, then it’s a major missed opportunity. One of my favorite things about Guild Wars (another game with a class system that is incredibly difficult to keep balanced) was the crazy things you could do with skills from different professions.
One build I used in particular for my Elementalist used a glyph skill to instantly cast meteor shower, effectively the most powerful AOE damage-over-time spell in the game because it combines high damage with consistent knockdowns, but heavily limited by a five second cast time and minute-long recharge. The downside of using that glyph is that it adds an additional thirty seconds to the recharge of the skill it’s used on. However, I would then use an assassin elite hex spell that would instantly recharge all of my skills (including itself) if an enemy died under its effects, negating the downside of both the glyph and meteor shower. In essence, the combination allowed me to spam instant meteor showers nearly indefinitely. It was all part of the fun of Guild Wars’ skill system â€" finding those insane combinations that allowed you to pull off otherwise impossible feats.
And I suppose if they’re already going for a difficult-to-balance system, why not go all out, right?
Man, when I started this post, I was planning on just writing a little “Hey I played a bit of this,” blurb and throwing in some funny screenshots. You may have noticed a lack of funny screenshots â€" because I haven’t even gotten to the fun yet. And I’m already pushing the word limit that Shamus likes to keep for individual posts, so keep an eye out tomorrow for Let’s do the Time Rift Again: RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 2!
But just because I feel bad leaving you without any funny screenshots, here’s a little taste of tomorrow’s post:
|I think this post bored my Skeletal Horror. Bored him TO DEATH! HAHAHAHAHA!|
Truly, my wit is a force that cannot be matched by mortal means.
RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 2
The Death of Half-Life
Valve still hasn't admitted it, but the Half-Life franchise is dead. So what made these games so popular anyway?
What Does a Robot Want?
No, self-aware robots aren't going to turn on us, Skynet-style. Not unless we designed them to.
Steam Summer Blues
This mess of dross, confusion, and terrible UI design is the storefront the big publishers couldn't beat? Amazing.
Good Robot Dev Blog
An ongoing series where I work on making a 2D action game from scratch.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.