“Clarification” and Rift Impressions

Don't look at me.  They put that in their own trailers!

I downloaded the beta for Rift back in late February after reading several gushing accounts of it from disenfranchised WoW bloggers. From the way most of them talked, I expected Rift to be something fresh, something new, something magical. Instead my character awoke in an Abbey, wherein I talked to an NPC with a floating exclamation point over his head who gave me a quest to kill 10 whatevers. I then ventured out, to find that there were several whatevers to kill, and when I killed them I could right click their corpses to loot them for vendor trash.

This is the innovative game that’s snatching people from WoW?

Let’s not bandy words: the game is WoW. The interface is the same, the mechanics are the same, the quests are the same, the factions are the same. The only difference is that you are not, in fact, in Azeroth anymore.

As for the vaunted soul system, I was likewise underwhelmed. The game has four classes: warrior, rogue, mage, and cleric (which means the game is also cribbing from First Edition Dungeons & Dragons), but each class has access to eight soul trees, which are talent trees from WoW. The “customization” comes from the fact that you can mix and match any three soul trees you wish on your character. So in theory, you can have a mage that has a fire magic tree, a demonology tree, and cleric tree with attacks attacks that also heal allies.

But this doesn’t really add anything new to the system. It just means instead of mage, warlock, elemental shaman, or boomkin, you have “caster.” The ability to cherry pick talent trees that suit your play style and have good synergy with each other is interesting, but I don’t see how this is a ground-breaking dynamic. (Plus there seems to be some overlap on trees. On my rogue character I picked two different trees, and the first two abilities unlocked from both were identical.)

In all fairness, I played the beta for about twenty minutes, and started a character with both factions. I didn’t play past twenty minutes because I saw nothing original at any point, and certainly nothing that interested me enough to keep playing. The whole package was uninspired. The gameplay felt bereft of new ideas or twists on old ideas; it just felt like old ideas. The lore is the best part, but it’s not good enough to make me want to play to uncover more of the story.

I will give it credit that it looked polished, and that the graphics and art style were pretty, but the bankruptcy of original gameplay ideas was too overwhelming. If you like WoW, but don’t want to play WoW itself, this is an acceptable stand-in, by virtue of being a carbon copy, but if you’re looking for something actually new, I’d advise you give this one a pass.

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