RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 1Previous Post
After making our way through character creation, Jarenth and I found ourselves in the Defiant tutorial zone, a barren, dessicated wasteland full of strange monsters just waiting to reduce your hapless avatar to a pile of ethereal goo. Which is to say the tutorial zone was full of monsters with an agro radius the size of my kitchen that all went down in about five hits. It’s probably pretty obvious that I find tutorial zones to be exquisitely boring – I don’t really know many MMO players that don’t. Still, a tutorial zone done well can be something special (I again draw to Guild Wars when I point to pre-searing Ascalon). RIFT’s… are not. I can understand the necessity of introducing new players to the game’s mechanics but for anyone who’s played an MMO there’s nothing new being introduced here, aside from a brief explanation of the soul system. The only interesting lore bits in the entire tutorial are the exposition drop you get at the very beginning and the boss battle at the very end where you step through the time portal.
Which is really a shame, because it was not until after we finally got out of the tutorial zone and into the actual world that I got a taste of the second (and much more potentially interesting) unique mechanic of RIFT.
…Well, actually I stopped playing after we got out of the tutorial zone so I could drive through a nearby Raising Cane’s and get some awesome chicken fingers but then I got a taste of RIFT’s second unique mechanic (and some awesome chicken fingers).
And really, this mechanic is the one that everyone is going to be talking about when the game launches. The soul system has an interesting premise, but it’s nothing that could possibly be considered game-changing. Hell, this mechanic is the game’s title. In essence, throughout the game world, “rifts” will periodically open in random (or semi-random, I really haven’t spent enough time with the game to figure out if there’s more to the spawn algorithm than “don’t spawn where there’s no walkable land”) positions throughout the game world. These rifts will spawn mobs and bosses that will then being to attack nearby settlements, and without help the settlements will fall and then need to be taken back by players.
After about ten minutes of messing around with more kill-ten-rats quests, Jarenth and I spotted a large rift that was part of a major zone-wide invasion by some guy named “Jakub.” I guess he’s really been moving up in the world since the Omega 4 Relay suicide-mission.
Then again I suppose anything’s better than “So, what do you do here again?”
And when I say “we spotted,” I really mean “we, and everyone else within five kilometers.” You’ve really got to feel sorry for those mooks sometimes. I mean, they must have really been pumped going into this. I’m sure their boss gave some rousing speech, really got the adrenaline flowing, probably said something about how they were going to “burn some helpless villages, and really teach those Telarans who’s boss,” that sort of thing. And then they hop through their hell portal and absolutely everyone is just sitting there waiting to kill them.
|Pictured: Not how to invade Telara.|
I’ve heard this system described as “better Warhammer public quests” (because I guess Warhammer is the only MMO to ever do public quests, but I digress) but the system actually reminds me much more of the territorial control system from the late Tabula Rasa, with a bit of Oblivion flavor. Thank god you don’t actually have to go into the rifts and fight through the same. damn. map. to close each one. Still, the inclusion of this mechanic seems a little bit at odds with everything else. The idea of territorial control system versus NPCs in MMO worlds has always fascinated me, but with such a system in place you would probably expect more of a sandbox tilt. But aside from the occasional rift spawns, RIFT still seems to be, at its heart, a WoW-styled themepark quest game.
Of course I’ve played for probably a combined total of six or â€" perhaps â€" eight hours. All of these observations are from the perspective what I can see from the very early content. But at least from where I stand, the rift system seems to be more of a “Hey that’s cool,” addition rather than “This really changes the way the whole game plays.” The rifts seem ancillary, and from what I could tell you can largely ignore them if you just want to plow through the main quests – though I imagine you’d have to clear a few of them every so often if a major quest hub was taken over. If major quest hubs even can be taken over. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of a missed opportunity.
Since trying to actually kill any of the mobs that spawned from the rift was akin to fighting with ants over scraps from the scraps that a pack of rats are fighting over, we finished off the day with a dance party under the nether-portal.
|Yes, that’s my warrior, wearing cloth armor and doing a jig under a nether-portal that can only possibly lead to Cthulhu’s chin. And you thought I only played that way on (internet) TV.|
The next morning we decided to try again with new Guardian-aligned characters on a European RP-PvP server so Jarenth wouldn’t suffer game-crippling lag. Jarenth brought a friend of his along for the ride as well, so our party of dance-loving misfits was now three-strong. This time I rolled a mage, picking two elemental-themed souls and rounding out the selection with necromancer – because you’ve just got to have skeletons.
The Guardian tutorial zone is notably not set in the future like the Defiant zone, so you’re thrown into your standard fantasy MMO pseudo-forest village area. This does not make it any less boring or tedious to get through than the Defiant zone, though you do meet a lot of presumably important Guardian NPCs and rally them to go fight and (apparently) defeat the big-bad… at level 5. In the process, some NPC I don’t think I’d ever seen before was killed horribly in a way that I think was supposed to be dramatic. But then I’d never seen them before and I didn’t read much of the quest text so it came off more as “Oh an NPC the game wants me to care about died, yay!”
After we got out of the tutorial zone, we more or less immediately dropped the main quest line and set out to go kill some hapless players because that’s what you do on PvP servers, right?
Crossing the border into what was apparently a PvP zone (a system message said we were flagged for PvP) we immediately ran into another rift, this time of the fire variety. Also, all of the mobs it spawned were level 20, and we were level 7. Fortunately, we discovered that if we pulled each mob individually into the nearby trading post, a helpful chaplain would immediately drop what he was doing and attack the enemy, allowing us to unload on it while the chaplain absorbed all of the damage.
|Somehow I feel like this isn’t the way you’re supposed to be doing this…|
I suppose you could say we were being a bit dick-ish to the chaplain, forcing him to fight the evil forces of whoever the hell is trying to take over the world and all, but he actually didn’t seem to mind all that much. He even healed our wounds (for a modest fee, of course) if we accidentally got ourselves killed. Which happened quite often.
Unfortunately, after we cleared the first stage of the rift, a boss showed up and lumbered over to the trading post and started killing everything, so… whoops.
|If at first you don’t succeed, summon an undead skeleton to distract them while you run away!|
It was only with the timely arrival of a group of players that were actually at level 20 that saved us from our inevitable demise. Or, at least, from respawning at another resurrection shrine. And somehow, Jarenth still managed to pull top spot on the rift scoreboard.
We celebrated in our typical fashion: Dance party!
|Not even dance parties are enough to cheer up my Skeletal Horror.|
To be entirely honest, RIFT just isn’t really grabbing my interest. Sure, it has some intriguing ideas, and the game is quite well polished. I can certainly see it carving a niche for itself in the market. But the core of it is still very much the same as the games we’ve been seeing for years. I’ve played quite a few themepark MMOs in that time, and throwing a few sandbox elements into the pot isn’t really enough to get me truly excited. Is it really too much to ask for a game that actually really tries to shake things up â€" a game that dares to implement systems and mechanics not because “they’re what every MMO has to have,” but because they’re fun?
I suppose you could argue, “Well, Josh, WoW is the standard. Why shouldn’t you try to emulate the industry standard? After all, Warcraft’s ideas didn’t come from a vaccum.” And I guess you would have a point – reinventing the wheel simply for the sake of reinventing the wheel doesn’t tend to be the best habit to get into. But why should I have to be content with just that? Look at MMOs today: Sure, developers are willing to mess around with some of the secondary systems – new public quests here, some voiced dialogue there – but when you get down to the basics, most games still have the same slow, dull combat, and the same bare-bones, uninteresting quest-progression we’ve had for the past decade. Sure, I suppose they work, but why shouldn’t we demand they work better? Isn’t that how genres evolve? Isn’t the alternative stagnation?
In any case, regardless of how much you buy into my view of things, the RIFT open beta goes live today. If you’re interested, go check it out and draw your own conclusions.
RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 1Previous Post
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