So, I’ve heard a lot about RIFT, pro and con, but I didn’t want to talk about it until I had tried it for myself, and having missed the beta I thought the chances were low…until a helpful Twitter friend of mine (thanks @Brigwyn!) provided me with a trial code for the Allies of Ascended free weekend offer.
With my brand-new code in hand I set out to explore the war torn-world of Telara, as best I could. The first thing I noticed was that the graphics, even in Low Rendering Mode on my gnomish computing device, were very pretty. The Guardians area (what I could see of it looking desperately for Brigwyn and other Rift Riders) was marble and glowy and very cathedral, while the Defiant areas (what I saw of them looking desperately for guildies) were very Myst and almost steampunk in elements.
I spent a good long time creating and deleting characters. The customization was…well, I certainly enjoyed the control over my appearance, facial structure, and hair color, but the only slider I found to change my body was height, and it basically seemed to be a choice between “fashion model” and “Playboy centerfold”. Striking a balance between height and curves, I first attempted to replicate something I’m very familiar with in WoW: a death knight.
The class system is, as far as I know, unique. It reminds me of nothing so much as it does Second Edition Dungeons and Dragons. You have four main classes, or callings: Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, or Mage. Each of these classes has numerous sub-classes (or souls as the game calls them) for tanking, healing, DPS, or PvP, each with its own unique talent tree. You can (and as far as I can tell, must) have three souls for your calling, and how you place the talent points that you gain as you level is up to you.
At first, contemplating the closest I could get to a death knight, I tried Reaver/Void Knight/Paladin. This gave me diseases and DOTs, self-buffs and healing, and resistance to magic. You do get a short tutorial as you accumulate the souls for your calling, and the hints are very good.
But. Here is where I started running into the limits of the trial account. Limits, I may add, that were not mentioned when I started the account or downloaded the client.
I could only level up to 15th level. Nowhere was this mentioned. I was stuck in the starting area, with again no warning until I spent ten minutes trying to get through an invisible wall for a quest. Couldn’t whisper players, find guild members, or join groups except for public ones. I was never able to try out an instance, but I’m guessing from the experience that I wouldn’t have been able to. This was one mark against Trion and RIFT and in my mind a fairly substantial one.
I understand that it was a trial account, and there’s an applicable saying about gift horses. Nevertheless, some warning regarding these limits, in clear language not a legalese TOS and/or EULA, would have been appreciated. Like, on the page where we download the patcher, above the Download button.
At any rate, tiring of my now-maxed, umm, an effective shorthand to describe character classes is difficult… well let’s call her a R/VK/P, I decided to try something different. I rolled a rogue – and not just a rogue, a bard. And this time, I decided to put as many points as I could into one soul first, then fill out the other two later.
Big difference. A bard is apparently the rogue healer and buffer support person, and although the site warns you that a bard alone is in big trouble, I found that the few points that I was forced to take in Riftstalker (the rogue tanking class(!)) and Assassin had me doing respectable damage, while my songs healed myself for as much as I was damaging the mobs. While my R/VK/P was cursing Arthas’ name every time a rift opened nearby – and because of the current world event, this was every few minutes – my bard would think nothing of running up, joining the public group, targeting the biggest baddie, and singing everyone healthy until it died.
One last nitpick. The armor. Specifically, the armor for female characters. I know we like to look attractive, and I know this has been complained about before – but when full steel hauberks magically transform into little chainmail looks-like-someone-forgot-underpants RenFetish outfits, you’re going to hear complaints, and those complaints are well-deserved. If you want to take any size chunk out of Blizzard’s fanbase, Trion, and your ads certainly suggest that you do, treating women worse than Blizzard does is not the path to take. In all fairness, the Defiants do have a strong female lead who is too busy with averting the destruction of Telara to worry about romance, and I found this refreshing. Blunted, slightly, by the fact that she was wearing a plate bikini smaller than mine when we had this conversation.
In all there are strong points for RIFT, the story, class system, and customization balanced by strong problems, namely the lack of communication, the class system, and the platemail centerfold clothing. I’t have to say that the balance is, on the whole, towards the good. The good things about RFT are very good, and the bad things are at least fixable.
With my budget, I won’t be leaving Azeroth for Teluria any time soon – though RIFT would make a good backup game (beating Champions Online) should I ever be able to afford to purchase a copy and game time.
Oh yes, Rift runs very well in Linux using Wine and the DiretX 9 from Winetricks. Don’t install DirectX 9 from the RIFT installer.