Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wier Reviews: RIFT Planes of Telara


Rift is the product of a company called TRION that is trying to cut itself a little slice of the MMORPG cash pie. Rather than fall into the classic pit fall of people trying to compare one MMO to another I will instead approach this situation as if I had not played any other MMORPG in my life but still know what they are about. After which I will promptly compare it to other MMOs.



To start off, for the sake of all of you who are new to the whole MMORPG scene I'll give you the brief run down on what exactly a MMORPG involves. A MMORPG is a "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game", in other words Dungeons & Dragons without the joy of being creative at all. It involves you, as a player creating an avatar of yourself in the form of a character in game. Standard rules have you play from the pool of: stabby guy, magicy guy, shieldy guy, healy guy, shooty guy, and paladin. Once you choose a class you do your hair and make-up and lo' you set out into the world unknown.

With Rift you undergo this process in a typical MMORPG fashion where you choose one of the only two factions in the world that you get to play. These are the Defiant and of course the Guardians! So let's start there.


The Defiant: As you might guess the Defiant defy things. They defy things so much that they refuse to even obey simple story board rules such as "don't use time travel, it's dumb". These fellows are basically steam-punk techno mages that use technology in order to bring the dead back to life and infuse them with the power to fight their enemies. Essentially, from what I could gather you are in a future war with some fellow named Regulos whom I assume regulates destruction on your face (he is an evil dragon god among evil dragon gods). Through a series of events you find yourself traveling back in time or some such nonsense to fight the evil at the heart of the matter.

There are three major races in the Defiant faction which include;

1) The Bahmi - This race of tall Goliath like people basically hail from the Plane of Air and were brought into the world via one of the Air Rifts. They essentially joined this faction due to the fact that the founders, the Eth, sent them a gift basket and a hello card upon their arrival. I am serious, go read the official lore, it's all there.

2) The Eth - The previously mentioned techno-wizards the Eth are original denizens of Telara. They are essentially desert dwelling humans with a passion for pushing the boundaries of magic and science and marrying the two together. Unfortunately for them bad people stole their technology and in turn ruined their empire. The Defiants, as an organization base all their technology and innovation on Ethian artifacts and the alike.

3) The Kelari - Essentially these are dark elves. Elves with pointy ears that are tall and are highly spiritualistic. Their allegiance to the Defiant faction is primarily the result of their bitter hatred to those that are among the Guardians.




The Guardians: The Guardian faction consists of the Chosen ones. People who were picked by "The Vigil" (the gods of Telara) to do righteous battle against the evil dragon gods. These people are essentially the strong souls of people that the gods have deemed worthy to fight for their cause. As a result their faction consists of primarily religious zealots that are out to destroy their enemies. Their tiff with the Defiants is the result of the Vigil deciding that techno magic is not only a bad dance craze but also a forbidden practice. In true MMORPG fashion they also have the same amount of races as their opponents.

1) The Dwarves - It wouldn't be a fantasy game without dwarves right? RIGHT?! Well anyway, these dwarves are your typical craftsman/masons/rough and gruff short folk. Their allegiance to the Guardians results from their inability to afford the rent at the Defiant's house.

2) High Elves - The appropriate counter part to any faction that has dark elves, er Kelari, is the High Elves. Just like the elves from Lord of the Rings lore these fellows were gifted with long life and wisdom by the god that created them. They are seen as devout followers of the Vigil and therefor worth keeping around.

3) The Methosians - This is the other set of humans who hail from the highlands rather than those smelly deserts that the Eth come from. They are zealots pretty much, they love them their gods and they love to fight for them. Being devout and honorable they are members of the Guardians because they are possibly insane.

That is the basic run down of the factions and their races so let's jump into explaining a rift I suppose.

Rifts: A rift is essentially one plane of existence leaking into Telara. The planes of course are elemental because trying to think of anything beyond elemental balance is really hard to do. So there are water, fire, air, death, earth, etc rifts that open up randomly in the world and rain baddies down for you to fight. The lore suggests that the rifts are the result of the dragon god Regulos trying to free his minions from captivity so that they may once again have tea and crumpets on the shores of Telara as a soft but haunting breeze soothes their souls. From time to time in the game you will experience something along the lines of....



Some terrible protruding thing forming in the sky and creating a bunch of elemental based opponents for you to fight. When inside of the rift you have the option to party with anyone nearby automatically and help put some damage into the invaders to gain rewards. Most rifts have multiple stages of enemies that culminate in a final boss of sorts that you defeat and in doing so close the rift. After which an icon appears on your screen with a little bag that you can click to obtain your rewards. Rewards in this case are based upon the contribution you made to the battle. Just joining the battle at the end awards you very little where being there from the start and doing a lot of damage/healing nets you more prizes. This is actually a nice mechanic because it keeps people from being too lazy when they enter a rift area.

On occasion something called an "elemental invasion" will occur where multiple rifts and roaming death squads of opponents will spawn whereupon you and everyone in the zone will have to fight them back in order to keep control. Since rifts scale in difficulty with the amount of people in the zone it should never be too difficult to beat these things back. All and all this is a neat concept but honestly it becomes easily avoidable and uninteresting after the first few bring wonder to your heart. At one point or another you will eventually be left sighing and realizing that you're just grinding kills for arbitrary loot points and hoping the idiots around you are helping so you can talk to your quest givers again.

Dungeons: Dungeons are a funny thing. You gather five people, someone who can tank (take all the monster hits to the face) , someone who can keep that person alive and three other people to kill things. In Rift there are dungeons and boy let me tell you they are long and boring. The dungeons look like a dungeon, meaning they are dark and dank and filled with dark and dank things. I really don't even want to begin to describe them more than that because going into one made my brain want to explode. If you're looking for useful information about these dungeons I'll tell you this, getting a group involves searching through the level channels to muster a party and then you begin the fun of hacking and slashing your way through the three monster models that inhabit the dungeon. Not that this is particularly shocking, but it is particularly boring. Sorry Rift, you bored me here. Also I found it mildly disturbing that the first dungeon defiant side had me killing zombies and ghosts when everyone in the game is basically a zombie or ghost. Sometimes I wonder where these zombies and ghosts went wrong, perhaps the public education system is to blame.

Questing: Quests are an integral part of the MMORPG experience. Rift brings you all the action of go loot eight statue of liberties and kicks it up to go loot nine statue of liberties. For the most part, especially in the starter areas you are either gathering, using, or killing any number of things. While the questing was not horrible I would not give it the gold star of innovation. In fact the majority of the interesting quests were those that involved hunting down rifts which even then are still just kill grinding quests but at least it involves using the gimmick that is there. Honestly good quests are the result of good story telling and clever use of mechanics more than anything. Due to the lack of interest in the overall story I found it hard for me personally to really enjoy the questing from the Defiant side. However, when I switched to Guardian I did find myself enjoying the quests more because the story was actually compelling me forward. I know some people who would disagree with me on this front but hey, I like ROLE PLAYING in my Role Playing games to be involved. Too often do you feel like the unimportant slob that has to pick apples for pies that orphans are going to eat rather than the amazing hero of time. Rift attempts to make you feel like a true hero by insisting that you were something amazing before you died but when you see them delivering that line to everyone they resurrect you sort of feel a little less special. I suppose ultimately that is less of a problem with Rift as it is a problem with the genre, oh well, moving on.

SOULS!: Since I haven't spent much time talking about game mechanics, because honestly I will get to that in my mini-rant comparing apples to oranges later (maybe), I want to touch on a key conceptual piece of the game. In Rift you don't have set talent trees. You have four classes; mage, rogue, warrior and cleric and each one has multiple souls that you can choose from. The souls range from defensive, healing, support and offensive.

Each class has at least three of these roles to choose from in their soul tree. Each character gets to pick three of the souls that they want to have with the ability to quest and gain access to the others and swap them out later on in the game. Essentially this allows the player to build their own character in a very in depth way. You can pick two offensive souls to go along with a defensive soul but focus on your damage output through a specific offensive soul. The other two souls you can put points into later or just use them for their base bonuses such as a magic resistance aura or some such thing as that. I found this interesting at first until I realized that you are picking one tree ultimately to stick with in the end. You will funnel the majority of your points into one soul and then throw a few into another when the level restriction wont allow you to put anymore into your main tree. This makes the other souls seem more like an obligation rather than a choice to be used. Despite that it is really nice being able to swap up the role of your class on the fly should you so choose. So the flexibility of the system is really nice even if it only provides the illusion of substantive choice with the extra two souls in your spec.

PVP and Warfronts: PvP, or Player versus Player combat has become a staple in the genre. Most players expect to be able to beat up their friends in some manner of arena or non-existence plane that you all get magically teleported to in order to do battle. Rift has what they like to call Warfronts where the Defiant and the Guardians engage in battle over an arbitrary objective. The two I got to play were Black Garden and the Codex. Black Garden involves capturing "the fang of regulos" and trying to stay as close to the middle with it as possible in order to gain maximum points. While holding this object you are killed over time by it as well as the target of all of the fury of the opposing faction. It's like a game of hot potato where the potato is going to murder you. The Codex involved basically capturing flags and holding them from your opponent. The more flags you had the more points you gained and so on. The combat itself felt pretty solid. There were no real issues with getting around the maps or being able to duke it out with your enemy one on one. Most souls get some manner of pvp abilities within their main trees making it easy to adapt to that field of battle from the rest of the game content. Aside from Black Garden, which was an interesting new type of battle, the rest of the pvp is pretty standard. I can't really say how fun it was given that most pvp ends up being a bout of button mashing but all and all I would say it was a solid experience. I at least enjoyed my time there.

Well Wier WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE GAME ALREADY?!:

In many ways I have seen everything that Rift is doing before from countless other MMORPGs. PvP combat, questing, dungeons they all are no different or interesting from any other game I have played before. I am not saying that Rift is BAD in these aspects I am simply saying that they are not anything amazing. Granted I will say that Rift manages to do a lot of things right the first time around instead of muddling about with experimentation but you could probably suggest that they have the benefit of learning what did and did not work from games that came before them. The most innovative and interesting parts of Rift are events that occur in the game world such as the rifts or the invasions. Aside from those two things it is just another MMORPG in a fantasy setting with different skins and styles. Some people ask me idiotic questions like "do you think Rift will kill WoW?!?!?" which is like asking if a spoon is going to kill the use of forks around the world. Sure they could be used for the same things but ultimately they each have their own gimmicks and audiences (soup vs salad eaters you know). Despite Rift's overly aggressive marketing campaign where they directly compare themselves to the world's most successful MMORPG they aren't going to attain that status by doing the same old same old. The game isn't hard by any stretch of the imagination making those hard core players weep a tear into their eternal pool of QQ and it isn't exactly the most creative thing I have ever seen. All and all it is a well polished and well done MMORPG which will attract a healthy player base simply because it is solidly built. So it's a good game. Not a great game, but a good one.

But Wier wier wier! The crowd screams, you didn't even mention the graphics!!!! Let me tell you something about graphics, they mean absolutely nothing to me. I grew up playing games like King's Quest and text based adventures. As far as I am concerned a good game is the result of a well told story seamlessly integrated with game play. It could be a 8-bit hero for all I care so long as the marriage of those two aspects compel you deeper and deeper into the game.

So Rift, a solid game with a fairly interesting concept behind it. It's well worth a look if you are into the MMORPG scene. As such it gets...

3 smiling Cos-Player Girls out of 4.

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