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Torn By Rift: Beta Impressions

December 29, 2010

Opinions and impressions of Rift have been pouring in since the NDA dropped last week, and I thought I’d throw in my two cents worth.

I’m going to echo a common thread shared by all the beta reviews I’ve read so far, and call Rift a “chimera” in the genetic sense. Make no mistake, Rift is a whole new animal, but it does very much strike me as a creature composed of tissues of several other MMO species. Some say Warhammer and Aion, and a lot more others say World of Warcraft, and while I’m loathe to jump onto the tired old “hey, let’s compare every new game to WoW!” bandwagon, I have to admit there’s a lot of truth to that. Not that I have a problem with this; as many of you know, I’m a big fan of the “tried-and-true” and the “if it ain’t broke…”

Most of the write-ups have been generally positive and people genuinely seem excited. However, on a scale of 1 to 10, my own enthusiasm probably comes in at a very average 7. But before the torches and pitchforks start waving, let me just say that I did have a lot of fun. There’s certainly a lot to like about Rift, but after participating in two beta events and now being about halfway through a third, parts of the game still leave me underwhelmed.

Let’s just put it this way. Rift personified is a refined gentleman, cuts a great figure and has all the right moves, but hang out with him long enough and you’ll find he’s just your regular Joe who likes his joe regular. He’s agreeable to everyone, audacious enough to be a just little adventurous, but somehow still lacks the assertiveness to really stand out.

Okay, now that I’ve gone from comparing Rift to an animal to comparing it to a man, I’ll stop metaphorizing and get into specifics. Upon your arrival in the game, you’re presented with the interface for the first time. No surprises there. Then you start your first quest, which sets the tone for the next 20 levels pretty nicely. No surprises here either. Players are funneled from one area of a map to another like an assembly line, with questing being pretty much your standard MMO fare — which I’m totally okay with, by the way, but I’m nonetheless a little let down by the execution. I take a look around the beautiful world of Rift, and for lack of a better term the game environment truly does feel “alive” and the visuals seem to have their own personality. Ironically, I didn’t get that feeling from the questgivers and other NPCs. At all. They could have been wooden sign posts for all I know. Nothing in the text really drew me into what I was supposed to be doing, and I was disappointed at how little I was able to glimpse of the lore from the quests themselves. For a world rife with such history, its denizens seem rather “character-less”. After a while, I started skimming the quest texts, but certain important NPCs will still give dialogue options to delve deeper into their stories, which I really enjoyed.

I also adore the soul system. Though I personally found it beneficial to continue investing heavily into my first soul even after getting my third (for now, anyway), I love having options, and any game that strives to give the player more choice gets an A+ in my book. Given more time, I can see the soul system keeping me very busy trying to figure out combinations and I think it has very good long-term potential. More flexibility in MMOs is a trend I would like to see continue.

The other major draw of Rift are the rifts (shocking, right?) and while I’m all for dynamic content in MMOs, its lasting appeal remains to be seen. The first rift incursion I jumped into was with about a dozen or so other players and it was positively orgasmic. I had such an amazing time, honest. But by the time the 9th or 10th rift descended right upon my head, I was like, “Oh my God, again?!” I’ve spent more time trying to avoid rifts than trying to find them; they’re quite literally everywhere. It is quite an experience when you’re in a group, however, and it’s nice to be able to jump into one for a little excitement to spice up your leveling. You can gain quite a lot of experience doing nothing but rift-hopping.

I also enjoy playing the Defiants more as a faction (which explains the Kelari-centric screenshots of my Mage, Caidia) given their love for technology and magic. You wouldn’t imagine the two to be likely bedfellows, but the resulting look and feel is very striking (just look at that friggin’ mount!) Despite being the “chosen of Telara’s gods”, the Guardians didn’t speak to me on the same level, not to mention I was really turned off by their opening movie sequence. The visuals were fine, but the voice acting left a lot to be desired.

Overall, there’s nothing all that markedly different about Rift that sets it apart from its peers in the genre, but when it comes to execution and polish, this game certainly has a leg up on the competition — especially when you consider the fact that it’s still in such an early stage. And really, I don’t mind more of the same as long as it’s well-presented and playable, and Rift has got that part covered. Believe it or not, while it’s arguably falling out of fashion, I still play betas to test. I do my part flagging down the bugs and glitches, but I also like giving positive feedback where it’s due, and in the end I think I had just as many good things (if not more) as the negatives to say to the devs. Things I liked ranged from the little things (like the transparent map when moving, or the ease of AoE looting) to more general topics like the awesomeness of the unique soul system.

I had fun. As a gamer, that’s really all I can ask for. How long it can keep people’s interest is another story, but what we’ve experienced is still just a mere fraction of the game. In the meantime, none of my thoughts are set in stone, and I’ll keep playing and testing with an open mind to see what else they have in store for us.

29 comments

  1. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with this sorta “meh” opinion on it. I’m sure it’ll enjoy a modest success, but I don’t think it has much lasting potential. Likely to be a stop-gap while folks seek out their own “Next Big Thing.”


    • My thoughts exactly. It’s a very well polished game though, and that alone should take it quite far. Even having modest success will probably put them in a better position than a lot of other MMOs.


  2. This is pretty much exactly where I am at with Rift. I look forward to playing it some more in beta, but I’m not sure it’ll be a pickup for me come launch.


    • Despite my average opinions of Rift, I’ll probably pick it up come launch…there is a bit of fun factor there, and like with any game I like to enjoy something while I can :P


  3. It looks good. I’m not really into all the hype for it but I’m sure I’ll check it out one of these days. That mount really looks awesome!


    • Yeah, I love the mecha magic theme the Defiants have got going. I saw a lot of really good looking and creative stuff in their starting area.


  4. I’m torn as well. Things I liked:

    – You get plenty of bag drops early on so inventory is not an issue
    – Gold is plentiful and you get plenty early on to stay well equipped
    – Green drops seem to be somewhat common which is nice
    – Avatars look incredible, game world looks incredible, the game engine is fantastic
    – Some very good, creative quests that stand out
    – NPCs look fantastic, there are tons of varieties
    – Respawn timers were short which will help with camping which I see happening

    Things that were meh:

    – Too many kill 10 rats quests
    – You can tell all the graphical bells and whistles are not on yet, jaggies from hell
    – Game feels too familiar at times. A couple times I swear I was playing WAR
    – I still haven’t seen any PvP

    Overall I came away impressed and liking the game. I’m just not sure. I still feel burned from FFXIV. $80.00 down the drain. At the same time I kind of want to support Trion. I wish Bioware would give a firm launch date for SWTOR because it would make my decision much easier. I think a few more Rift Betas will help me decide. Maybe I’ll end up playing Rift casually on the side. I do think the game is worth a look if you are looking for a new fantasy MMO. I would say it’s not incredible but it’s not mediocre which is more than I can say about 85% of MMOs in the last 5 years.


    • A good list, and I agree with much of it. But they must have done something to the respawn timers later on, because when I played I felt they were sooooo slow! :P There were a TON of people with me when I played though. I like the early bag space too, but I participated in so many Rifts I started running out of room from all the rewards you get from them LOL. I also like the artifact collecting.

      I’m with you on the kill 10 rats quests. I wouldn’t mind them so much if there was a good story behind it, but like I said, I felt the quest NPCs and the quest hubs were pretty devoid of any personality. The PvP thing is also a biggie. While not a big priority for me, I know it is for others.


  5. Innovation can’t come over night. Rift brings the best parts of most of the successful MMO’s and bundles them very nicely in a great visual package. This I think is the first step towards the next gen MMO. Just because it seems like more of the same, doesn’t mean that it isn’t different either.

    WoW isn’t a huge jump in MMO revolution compared to UO or EQ. It just does what they did much better and puts it in a package that’s easy for players to digest and find entertainment.

    Rift isn’t revolutionary, but it will bring the genre forward, maybe by only inches, but it will be a move forward.


    • I agree, there has been talk about “evolutionary” vs. “revolutionary”, and I concur with others that Rift is definitely the former, and not much of the latter. Innovation isn’t always good anyway, if you can’t peg your market. I’ve always said reinventing the wheel is overrated, a genius takes what’s already there that works and makes it better.


  6. I think what rift is, is a starting point. We’ve seen so many tweaks and changes between beta 1-3 that I hope that although it may be standard faire with some extras at launch, that they will add more and more content and grow as the game develops. They’ve said many times they don’t want to over reach for launch. Keep it polished, stable and fun, and then once the game is out, then add things.

    But either way I’m having alot of fun :)


    • Starting point is a good way to put it. I can see even in this short period of time between the beta events that they have been working really hard, adding more things and improving others. Rift may be “playing it safe”, but it has potential, and it is a serious contender in 2011. What I’ve seen so far already puts them ahead by a lot. I’m having a lot of fun too.


  7. It has definitely been a meh for me. Of all that I saw in Rift so far I was most impressed with the one trivial detail they nailed; price per unit in the auction house.

    The visuals were ok, not stunning. The world really didn’t capture me and the characters seemed uniformly bland. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by LotRO (for environment) and Aion (for characters).

    The two defining features of the game are also the two I think are the biggest distraction. Rifts and souls. Both ideas are great but the implementations are lackluster.

    With rifts it feels like little more than the wandering boss-mob of old. Of really old. Like of EQ newbie zone old. Each EQ newbie zone had a boss mob that would just destroy any newb that wasn’t paying attention. I remember being in the zones and people calling out that the boss mob had spawned. Once spawned they would follow some path and attack anyone in their way.

    Rifts have a static spawn. At regular intervals they spawn a patrol which picks one of a few end points (normally quest hubs) and follows a path there, attacking anyone in their way and often, if that person is solo, destroy them.

    Sure, its a pat of multiple mobs spawned from an area that you can shut down, there are special loot mechanics and some nice graphics (love how the ground turns black as they move!) but by-and-large it’s just the ol’ boss mob mechanic gussied up. The problem is most people tended to avoid the boss-mobs in the original MMOs and I feel the same will happen here. The rifts are too common to feel special. They feel like a chore and will be avoided as such.

    As for the souls my problem with it is right at its core. Powers are opened up by spending points in each tree. Each tree generally limits you to spending points in powers you already have. Each tree needs to be viable in its own right. Given those three constraints we end up with a ton of duplicate powers that people just aren’t going to use.

    For example I took a Warlock/Necromancer for a spin. Each soul had a ranged bolt attack, an AoE and a self-heal all front loaded. Each power’s improvement gave synergy with other powers in the same soul. So improving my Warlock powers didn’t help advance my Necromancer powers at all. The reverse was also true. At the same time while I might like stacking AoEs having two different bolts that are functionally identical with a quick cooldown but slightly different secondary effects is pointless. So unlocking higher powers in a secondary or tertiary soul is simply an exercise in wasting points early on.

    To be honest, Champions Online did it much better. Sure, they were called frameworks instead of souls but the concept is identical. Each framework has to be viable early on. Each one has synergy effects. But the synergy effects are often generalized to work across frameworks. Also the higher powers in each framework were gated not only on how much was spent in the current framework but how much was spent on all frameworks. So while someone could get bigger powers in the same framework sooner they can get the bigger powers in other frameworks in time without investing in the starter powers in those frameworks. So in Rift terms that means the useless bolt and many AoE issue melts away in time.

    Darn it MGC, you make me step up on the soapbox too much. That and you actually made me say something positive about Champions Online. o.O


    • Haha, I kinda like the visuals. I know they’re not exactly smooth or stunning, but like I alluded to in my post, I do feel the environment has its own unique personality. It’s hard to explain, but it feels real to me without looking real. The NPCs and the towns filling that environment are another story though. I think they still need to work on injecting some life into the people of the world.

      And I can relate to your comments about the rifts. The fact they are so common takes away from them, imo. The idea and story behind the rifts is unique, but they need to tweak the execution a bit more. After a while, I started losing interest in doing them, because 1) they were all over the place and 2) because variety was limited.

      Regarding the souls though, I know the devs will be working on it so players will have more points to spend. And because of the point you bought up, that was why I really just stuck to my first tree after a while. It made more sense to do so than to branch out and end up doubling on similar abilities. I think part of the problem is also the lack of detail we are given. They really need to find some way to give a more detailed overview of the souls so players can plan ahead.


  8. I haven’t been following Rift very much but after seeing all of the previews popping up everywhere recently I’ve become a lot more interested. It definitely sounds a like a proper contender and not just another flash in the pan that will die a quick death.

    When is it released properly?


    • Sometime in 2010 most likely, but I don’t know the specifics. I wasn’t that interested in Rift either, until perhaps a month before they started ramping up to beta, and then I started seeing a lot of buzz and then I ended up snagging a VIP key. I may be underwhelmed in certain areas, but overall I’m really impressed. The team behind it has obviously been working hard and it shows in the polish, even in this beta stage. That alone makes me want to root for them, I want to see them do well. So, if I was ambivalent before, I’m definitely interested now, and I look forward to following news of the game. :P


  9. […] again MMOGamerChick wrested a blog post out of me as a reply to one of her posts. Grrrrr, must get better at the dueling blogs game!  This time it is about the in-beta MMO, Rift, […]


  10. I don’t get the hype either. Everyone seems so incredibly excited by the rift system and the devs act like its some genius idea that will revolutionize MMOs for years to come…

    When I first heard about it, this exact thought popped into my head:

    ” The fact they are so common takes away from them, imo. The idea and story behind the rifts is unique. After a while, I started losing interest in doing them, because 1) they were all over the place and 2) because variety was limited. ”

    Sorry for quoting you MMOG but that is exactly what I thought, and this is the main draw of their game? Sorry…no thanks.


    • Haha, I don’t know about the hype, but I’m guessing some of it had to do with the beta launch trailer Massively had the day before the first beta event. I have to admit it was a bit overblown, and the actual rifts themselves were a bit of a let down. I was floored by them at first, but by level 20 they’d lost much of their novelty and excitement. All is not lost though; like I said, I do think the idea behind the rifts themselves are pretty unique and interesting. What they need is a way to make them viable in the long run, with enough incentive and fun to make people want to keep doing them down the line.


  11. Since I don’t do betas, I haven’t been playing this. Thus I really appreciate reading your thoughts about Rift. At the moment I’m cautiously optimistic that the game will turn out okay. I’m looking forward to trying it out, at least for the thirty days in the box.

    Rift does look neat, but how come every screen shot of the game I see looks like it’s taken after dark?


    • LOL Funny you should ask that. Blame my own moral attitude, I suppose. Like all legally binding agreements, I took the NDA quite seriously, and so I purposely didn’t take or keep any records of the beta events which includes screenshots. Once it was lifted, however, I went nuts. Hence all my screenshots were pretty much taken in one sitting, and I guess it just happened to be night time at the time!


  12. […] MMO Gamer Chick — Torn by Rift: Beta Impressions “Let’s just put it this way. Rift personified is a refined gentleman, cuts a great figure and has all the right moves, but hang out with him long enough and you’ll find he’s just your regular Joe who likes his joe regular.” […]


  13. […] Basically, this question surfaced in my mind: “Why are you still pre-ordering Rift, if your impressions of it were so average?“ […]


  14. Every negative comment I have read on Rift so far, can be found in the king of kings that is WOW. So as far as I am concerned, if people are willing to put up with it in wow, then they should not complain about it in Rift. One of the most inportant things to consider is stability. Can I get on, do a quest, and actually finish the quest and it not be bugged in some way?

    Kill 10 rats…So what…Tell me what MMO out there that does not have you killing 10 something. Who cares what it is. Quest grinding is quest grinding, no matter how you look at it.

    Character creation and customzation is another very important part of any good MMO. Again, take wow for example. Character creation is just plain terrible. EQ2, pretty much the same thing, you just have more races to choose from. LOTRO, same, not much in character creation. Aion, well, for me, it has the best character creation of any MMO out today.

    Let’s talk about character animation or physics. Do the charters have fluid movement, or do they look all blocky when they move? Do you weapons and shields actually make physical contanct with the character, or is there a 2 foot cap between the character and his shield when not in use? Do weapons intersect with the models?

    These are the things that make a polished MMO, along with content and delivery of content. Having quest givers tell the lore, or at least there little part of the lore is great, but let’s be honest, most, not all, but most of use get the quests as fast as possible, so that we can get to killing. Lore is secondary for a good majority of the player base. I have been playing WOW for 5 years, and the lore is great, but in no way affects my game play.

    You also have to keep in mind that Rift is in beta. Even when it is released, it is a baby in the MMO market. It will take time to mature, and we are a huge part in that maturity process. I mean come on, WOW has been out for 6 years now, and they still have as many if not more bugs than any of the other MMO’s out. They just have a loyal and blind player base.

    I think Rift has a real chance here. It just depends on how well they listen to the community.


    • I’d agree with all that, except lore does play a part in the games I like. Kill ten rats quests are fine, but why am I doing it? Fine if you’re just going to tell me it’s because you’re overrun with them, even better if you can engage me even in the face of such a mundane task. Quest grinding isn’t just quest grinding, not the way I look at it. Important NPCs and questgivers need substance, otherwise, like I said, you might as well be a wooden sign post. Maybe I’m old school, because you’re probably right about the lore being secondary for a good majority of the player base. But I do read every quest dialogue that pops up, and I am happy when I see elements and details beyond the objectives of the quest.

      You’re right that Rift does have a real chance here, however, and I preordered it because I do see the potential.


      • Yeah, I can see what your saying about the quest givers. I can agree that it would be nice to know why it is that I am killing all those rats. Better be for a damn good reason :). My issue is lack of patience. I just dont take time to read the quests much. I think the build in quest tracker is going to be a killer for most when reading text. Why read when you have a big yellow cirle on your map that show you where you should be. Maybe that should be an option that can be turned on and off. Heck, it might be already, just got into beta yesterday (Sunday, 9th) so did not get to do too much.

        Maybe I will try to actually read the quest this time. That might help me not get so bored with the game (like I did wow) so fast :). Like you though, I like it for the most part, so I will be pre-ordering this week. Now, if I can just figure out what it is I want to level as :)….OHHH the options….soooo many.


      • LOL it’s sort of funny, because this past weekend I stopped really pouring over the quest texts and started just scanning them. You know what occurred to me, I think sometimes a bit of humor can do wonders for the quest text. WoW quests never used to be so interesting either, but ever since Cataclysm, they’ve stepped up the writing in the game and it’s great when I find myself chuckling from something I read. For now, I think Rift quests still lack a bit of “personality” but I had a blast anyway in beta 4, the best experience I’ve had with Rift so far.

        And I hear ya. I’ve been sticking with my mage and her elementalist/stormcaller/chloromancer combo, but I’m going to be lost as hell when the game releases as to which class and souls to pick up! So many choices that appeal to me, it’s hard to narrow it down!


  15. […] I am not happy that I didn’t get into the Rift beta. It also doesn’t help that everyone and their mother is in […]


    • I was surprised I got the invite. I signed up for in on Thursday night and Friday evening I got the invite. You might try again and maybe you will for the next one. I am betting a good portion of the ones in Beta are the ones who pre-ordered the game.



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