The upcoming MMO Rift(releases Thursday Feb 24th) has been in closed beta for quite some time. This past week I got a chance to go hands on in the 7th and final beta event. The setting is Telara and players are charged with cleansing the land of ‘Planar’ beings that are attempting to rip through space-time and mallet everyone in the face. In between questing and Player v. Player combat ‘Rifts’ open up and various elemental beings are spewed across the map causing a ruckus and generally misbehaving.
The game is developed by Trion, a US based company that is also developing a SyFy Action MMO which will be linked with a show on the SyFy network. Interesting. They really have done a great job and I’m sad to say that I haven’t heard of them before Rift.
Let there be dwarf.
The character creation is fairly standard. Players are asked to choose a faction and then get a choice from 1 of 3 faction specific races, for a total of 6 races. The two sides fighting for control of Telara are the Defiant and the Guardians. The Guardians are chosen by the gods, an angel literally picks you up out of a pile of dead bodies in the opening sequence and rebirths you as the chosen one*, to purge the sins of the world and to right the wrongs that caused the planar tear. The Defiant, on the other hand, care not about the gods. They believe that the gods have abandoned Telera and really don’t care. They aren’t waiting around for some spaghetti monster to pull them out of the heap and tell them what to do, nor do they care to increase the morality of the general public. You could say there is a good and an evil side, but whichever side a player chooses will inherently be the good one to them.
*Somehow all of the 5,000 people playing on one server are the chosen one
The races are High Elf, Human, and Dwarf for the Guardians and Kelari, Ethian, and Bahmi for the Defiant. It is pretty basic that the ‘goodly’ side be more human-esque and the ‘sinister’ side manifest in a more deformed or demonic manner. Each race comes with 3 racial abilities that include a bonus to a certain stat, the ability to fall larger distances, or a resist to a school of magic. So, this means that some class/race combos will just be better than others because of the starting bonus to X stat or Y ability.
Once a race has been picked the player is prompted to choose a name and face for their avatar. The options present were numerous. You could choose the normal stuff- hair style/color, facial preset, tattoos/markings, but the cool thing was there were a lot of options available for each slider. So many in fact that I was a bit overwhelmed and just hit random a couple times til I was satisfied.
After personalizing your brand new character you are then to choose a class. This is where things get interesting. There are 4 basic classes in Rift and each has its normal characteristics. Mages deal in magic damage or healing, Clerics are melee users with magical overtones, Rogues use stealth and guile to quickly dispatch foes, and Warriors charge into battle with brute force and a giant axe. Sounds boring? Well Trion probably thought so too, so they introduced the soul system. Each class has 8 souls from which to choose. They run the gamut from high damage and low survivability to nearly immortal support classes with very little in the ways of pew-pew.
My hands-on, or How my life descended into nerditude in 6 short days.
I chose to play on a PvP(player versus player) server as I had never experienced that in any of my previous MMOs. Following suit with my ‘change-it-up’ decision I rolled a Guardian Dwarf Mage. After having my body picked out of thousands to be reborn(oddly enough I was a human and when I was reborn magically became a dwarf), I was shot thru the tutorial which taught me how to talk to NPCs and accept quests and open my inventory. So if this is your first MMO, or hell even your first computer application you will not be left in the dark as long as you follow the determined route. That said there were a fair few people who missed crucial points in the first 1-5 levels and were essentially crippled until they went back to the start area and completed the objectives.
I was made to chose a soul within the first 5 minutes of gameplay so out of the choices for mage (Pyromancer, Chloromancer, Necromancer, Warlock, Dominator, Archon, Elementalist, and Stormcaller) I chose Warlock, since I was fairly familiar with that term from WoW. You are allowed to chose 3 souls, and can switch from build to build on the fly so long as you have bought extra build ‘slots’ from your class trainer. This is VERY nice because you can essentially have any character you want from the 8 souls available. Making a healing character no longer delegates you to watching health bars for your entire career, you can just switch to a damage or tanking role and do what you need to do.
The start area was pretty basic. Quests include go here, talk to him/her… or Retrieve/deposit x… or Destroy this world object to free slaves. Within 80 or 90 minutes I was getting to big for my breeches and close to level 10 so I decided to move on up to the second zone. By now I had chosen my 2nd soul(necromancer) and was able to place skill points from leveling up into both of my soul trees. Shortly after arriving in the town of the lowbie zone I got a quest for my 3rd soul, I’m not quite sure if release will handle this the same way or if they will spread out the souls more because it *did* seem a bit fast.
The second zone, Silverwood, was where I spent most of my time. It had quests out the wazoo and was the first area to encounter the rifts. And let me tell you there were tons of them. About every hour 15-40 rifts or invasions would pop up on the map and if they weren’t dealt with they could really put a damper on questing (read: kill/camp quest NPCs). Luckily there were a ton of higher level chaps running about quelling the elemental armies. The rifts themselves were amazing XP and they had drops as well. The normal drops from them were a form of currency that was non-player tradable and could be redeemed at NPCs for phat lewts. Purples at level 15? Yes please… and they weren’t welfare epics either you had to close a good bit of rifts to get the goodies. Some of the rifts were soloable but randomly they would spit out an elite mob- or 10, and you basically had to group up for them.
Grouping was made easy by public group system. Any time you were near someone who was able to join a public group a bar at the top of the screen popped up asking you to join, and it auto made raids for larger encounters. I spent a good deal of time running around with the same 40 or so people closing rifts and stopping invasions. This made for a really epic experience because giant treants or elemental generals were running amok and the only way to stop it was to band together in a makeshift army and fight back.
Midway through the beta I decided I wanted to see what the instance system was like. Getting a group turned out to be a bit more of a chore than I thought, but not because of the system, because everyone… EVERYONE had rolled a dps character. I did an easy quest (clear a rift and use an item to summon a soul, then defeat said soul) to get another soul for my build. This brought me up to 4 souls, Warlock(Dots, direct dmg) Necromancer(Pet class, mana/life swapping), Archon(support, buff/debuff), and Chloromancer(Healing thru damage, life spells). So I bought another build slot and happily had a Warlock/Necro/Archon (0 points in archon, kinda useless for low level) and Chloromancer/Warlock/Archon(again 0 points in archon, sadface).
This is when I fell in love with the game. The Chloromancer is a healing class, yes. But it uses damage to do the healing. It does 80-200% of its damage as heals to the entire party. This is simply amazing. The reason I hadn’t healed before was because I thought it boring and 1 sided. This was a really dynamic class that had castable heals as well as a slew of damaging abilities that kept everyone in the group/raid up. I instantly got groups for both of the 2 instances available for my level and had no trouble clearing them multiple times. The chloromancer really is a great class, check out this mainstay spell… it’s basically free healing and can be buffed to be 30% chance(as well as having another spell that increases its chance by 5% per second it is channeled).
After toying around with the dungeons I decided I wanted to get my hands dirty with the blood of the Defiant. Not that I particularly don’t like those chaps it was just the nature of the game. Like I said I had joined a PvP server, where anyone was allowed to attack anyone ever. This ruleset suits some people more than others, and I am not one of them. I found it pretty frustrating to have my body camped by a level 42(max in beta) while I was a level 11. Some people just like to do stuff like that, so if you DON’T want to encounter that frustration join a PvE, or ‘carebear’ server… /laugh.
The actual PvP (instanced battlegrounds, sort of like CTF from a xbox console game) was a great deal of fun. It pitted 2 evenly matched groups on each other and had them duke it out. At beta there were 2 iterations of this system, one was a ‘hold the artifact’ type game where the object was to keep the artifact from the opposing team. The holder of the artifact would take damage from the artifact itself, so no one player could really hold it the entire match. The other type of battleground was a King of the Hill type deal where there were 4 plots and teams gained points every few seconds based on the number of plots controlled by their faction.
I was thrilled to see that both my builds fared very well in the PvP, even though I had not chosen talents that increased my health or other useful PvP talents. Min/maxing at top levels this probably wont fly but if you are just leveling up and want to knock some heads you wont have to change your spec every time. Warlock PvP was intense. I just flipped from target to target unleashing my arsenal of instant cast DoTs and occasionally casting a bolt spell for direct damage. It usually ended with myself in the top 4-5 spots for damage given but I generally didnt net that many killing blows.
Chloromancer, on the other hand was the supreme healing class to end all healing classes in pvp… so long as there was an enemy in reach to deal damage to. I rarely wasnt top on the heals done, or the damage taken for the battleground. Which is amazing because I could pretty much solo heal myself and 9 other players without even trying. It got iffy if there were 3+ people attacking any one person because Chloromancer just doesn’t do burst heals that can deal with that kind of incoming damage.
Excited for Release
Overall I would have to rate Rift an 8.5/10. It reminded me a ton of Pre-BC WoW, which I know many of you will like. I deliberately tried to not compare it to World of Warcraft but it was impossible. As a player and raider from way back when I saw a lot of the things that made WoW a good game and nearly none of its downfalls. Things so trivial as Soul Walk, being able to resurrect directly at your dead body once per hour, or having all of your party members be teleported to an instance when 1 of the members actually enters the instance make the game faster paced and more enjoyable. Not to mention that nearly every class can heal/dps/tank given the right spec(mages have no tank spec, warriors have no healing spec, but why should they… rogues have a tanking, dps, and healing spec and clerics have a dps, healing, and tanking spec). Rift is a great game, and had a great beta. Gogo preorder for early release/opening of the servers.