While Trion was happy to announce the name change for Heroes of Telara to Rift: Planes of Telara, we were stoked to be able to get our hands on the game for the first time and really see it in motion. We've heard all this talk about delivering dynamic content, high quality "HD content," a deep back story, and an evolving world. But, could Trion deliver all of the hype they were promising?

Well, if the titular rifts are any indication of how the rest of the game will progress, then this game seems to be in good hands. Join us as we pilot a cleric through the dangers of Telara, take on a rift from the Plane of Life, and learn just what makes Telara tick.
Character creation

Right from the start, Rift is gorgeous. The game features a high quality set of bump mapping and dynamic lighting, which really sets the mood of the world. The world itself is seamless, as a player can run across the entire continent without ever encountering a load screen (unless they take a portal, in which case you'll be hit with a brief load time.) Even during character creation, Trion wasn't lying when they said they had an "HD experience."

Character creation, however, is streamlined when compared to other games -- streamlined in a good way. Instead of weighing down the player with sets upon sets upon sets of sliders, Rift lets the user change "morph points" on the character's face. Clicking and dragging on these morph points lets the user create their own unique character while dynamically altering the face proportionally to keep things in perspective. No ugly, triangle-head, super-sunken-eyes characters here. Even using the randomization option in the character creation kept returning good-looking, usable results.

For the purposes of our hands on, we got to see only two of the game's classes -- the Cleric and the Inquisitor.

The world

But, before we dive headlong into combat and rifting, it's actually important to know the lore of the world. The game's back story provides the groundwork for the rifting mechanic and the game's two-faction structure, integrating the lore right into the gameplay.

Thousands of years before the start of the game, a set of five dragon gods, rulers of the extraterrestrial planes, decided to join forces and conquer the land at the intersection of their dimensional domains -- Telara. As the planes began to encroach into Telara's reality, gigantic rifts appeared in the world, spilling out all manner of monsters that assaulted and killed everything around them.

"This is a 'HOLY S#!% I'MMA CHANGE YOUR WORLD NAO' rift."

However, a group of five outside gods known only as The Vigil took an interest in Telara's woes. They ended the planar incursions by overthrowing the dragon gods and protecting Telara with a gigantic magical shield called The Ward. Telara returned to relative peace and prosperity, until a civil war broke out between the humans of the world.

During the brutal war, one of the human kingdoms inadvertently pierced The Ward, leaving room for planar energy to seep in and begin creating rifts in reality once more. Already divided by the war, two factions of heroes rose to combat the planar incursions -- The Guardians and The Defiants.

The Guardians are the factions of humans backed by the five gods. These are heroes who have been resurrected to combat the planar incursions, and will continue to be resurrected as they attempt to piece the ward back together in honor of The Vigil. They are most like crusading Paladins, fighting for holy right.

The Defiants are a faction of mortals who have taken the world's interests into their own hands. They utilize powerful technology to find a new way to keep the planes at bay, seeking to put humanity's safety into the hands of humanity, not frivolous gods. Their heroes are resurrected straight from the Plane of Death by a gigantic machine that pulls souls from the plane and reinvigorates them on Telara.

These two factions are at war, creating a Warcraft or Aion-esque PvP system with a twist -- the rifts.

Rifting 101

While Rift has many of the hallmarks of MMOs today, such as towns, auction houses, instances, and quest hubs, rifting is (obviously) the game's namesake mechanic -- and for good reason. Rifts are literally distortions in reality; places where the many planes are encroaching onto Telara. They are unscripted, unpredictable, and unwelcomed.

They are, also, the game's main way of keeping you on your toes. Rifts can open up almost anywhere at anytime, but they have warning signs attached with them in the form of tears. Tears are subtle distortions in the world -- small sparks of energy that bend and warp reality around them quite literally.
Tears can turn into rifts haphazardly, or they can be helped along by some of the game's classes like the Inquisitor. Our party's inquisitor ripped open one of the rifts to show us what happens, and the rift literally blew us away. This isn't your "I spawn monsters lolz" type of rift. This is a "HOLY S&$# I'MMA CHANGE YOUR WORLD NAO" rift. Telara literally distorts dynamically around a rift, changing to reflect which plane is invading. The lighting changes, the sounds change, the world's textures change, and, oh, some monsters spawn too. Above this paragraph we've shown you the changes dealt by the Plane of Life -- the creation of a small jungle and the addition of a dude who really wants to kill you.

Rifts work much like unpredictable public quests. As you fight monsters you'll deplete the rift's energy until it closes, dropping loot and changing Telara back to normal. Don't worry about dying either, as any loot you earn during the rift will be awarded to you after the rift, even if you should die and end up somewhere else in the world.

Anyone can jump in and help close the rift, and it's quite noticeable as it causes a pretty large change to the landscape. This may cause the rival factions to actually come together and combat the dangers of the rift, or it may just be a beacon for player killers to come and stab you in the back while you fight off the rift. You just never know.

During our rift encounter, we got to see the life and death powers of the Cleric, who was able to destroy his foes with life drains, heavy damage spells, and large amounts of DPS. It's a very survivable class, and one that could easily solo through the world or team up with a group.

The Inquisitor, on the other hand, was a much more selfish class. Inquisitors can steal life and mana from their enemies, using their power to stay alive and occasionally offer heals. But, even the heals are centered around getting to an enemy, creating a class that uses their power to stay alive in battle.

More to come

Obviously we've only scratched the surface of Rift in this small hands-on preview. We only briefly took a look at Rift's instances, which offer a tailored, scripted adventure for your party to solve, and we didn't even get to check out RIft's 12 man raids or 20 man temples.

We'll be looking forward to more information on this game as it comes out, but from what we've seen so far, we'd like to dive head first into the endless rifts of Telara.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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