I did not participate in the first two closed beta events for Rift: Planes of Telara, beacuse the folks at Trion Worlds are villains and out to get me. However, I was (by mistake no doubt) invited to be a part of the third event, which kicked off at around 1 PM EST yesterday. I put in some time late last night and a bit more this morning… probably about five hours total. Here are my thoughts.
As you have no doubt heard, Rift is not revolutionary. Its two “new” elements, the rifts themselves and the collected soul system, are not tremendously innovative; rift events are a somewhat more dynamic iteration of Public Quests from Warhammer Online, and we’ve seen variant character progression systems in a slew of games. What I will say, though, is that I think Rift is in great shape for where I imagine it is, about midway through closed beta. What’s there and what I’ve seen so far is all pretty polished – more so than Aion was mere days before launch.
The instanced starter area takes you to about level 6, and there’s a different version and story for each faction. I’ve played through them both and thought the Defiant storyline was pretty neat, and the Guardian area was less interesting but well-done. Both areas seem a bit bigger and more elaborate, especially in the area where you spawn in for the first time, than they need to be – I suspect some content was cut from them and the zones not redesigned, but I didn’t consider it a big deal.
Once you finish up the newbie zone, you spawn out in the open world – and the arrangement of opposing zones is pretty neat. Once you’re there, it looks like the whole world is contiguous save for instanced dungeons – one of my goals for this wave of beta is verifying that.
The “souls” character mechanic is only moderately interesting, however, it has a notable side effect: because of the variety of souls initially offered, and because you can swap them in and out in different combinations, there’s a lot of variety of character types floating around, and this is a good thing. Balance is obviously a potential issue here (it’s too early for me to say,) so what we might end up seeing is a much more limited number of optimal configurations in practice – but right now the variety is refreshing.
The look and feel of Rift is highly reminiscent of Warhammer Online, and the updated public quests in the form of rifts adds to this. It’s not just that, though – the graphical style of the game looks similar to me, and the tendency for important notifications like leveling up to pop up over your head is also notable. I liked that look and feel in Warhammer, though, so a decent game striking a broadly similar tone is fine by me.
I played three characters: a Defiant warrior who got to about level 4, a Defiant Rogue (Marksman) who got to level 7, and a Guardian Mage (Pyromancer/Elementalist/Stormcaller) who reached level 6. This last was by far the most fun to play, even though I thought the Defiant starting area/story was cooler. This is notable; the Mage type is a character I should enjoy more often than I do. Often, however, such characters end up being a chore for a long while before becoming fun. In Rift (as in WAR,) the Pyromancer was fun from the get-go. Maybe it’s merely the thrill of setting stuff on fire.
I intend to play some more tonight and probably early tomorrow; I hope to get a bit farther out into the world and maybe even sample some PvP.