Let me come at this straight and say that RIFT is everything you want and don't want in a themepark MMO. If you are looking for a robust and interesting leveling system, then RIFT has it, but be ready for a grind. If you want fun PvP, RIFT has it, but look out for class imbalances and totally worthless character builds. If roleplay is your thing, RIFT has that too, but it's not always easy to find, and guilds sometimes hide themselves.
I believe a mistake a lot of MMOs (and some other games) make is attempting to be all things to all people. Perhaps such a game is looking to be the next World of Warcraft. Perhaps it is trying too hard to earn that bajillion dollars its CEOs promised their investors. Whatever the case, I believe that this is one of the pitfalls of RIFT. It appears that the developers are trying to make everyone happy. Quests are simply constructed with even simpler click-accept-follow-the-mark-on-your-map mechanics. PvP is easy to get into, too, and it's tiered for specific levels. With the exception of the souls, everything is really easy to do. And as to souls, if you don't like your current build, just respec or buy another soul. In fact, if you happen to fulfill the wrong role for your particular group, then use one of your other saved specs. This certainly widens the audience that can play the game, but if everything is handed to you, does that make it more fun? The balance between fun, easy, and hard has to be the most difficult part of designing video games. I commend Trion on getting as close as it has to that balance.
As I mentioned in the last issue, PvP is easily the most fun part of the game. This could be because capture the flag has been my favorite PvP activity since I was a kid playing it in the schoolyard. With the Black Garden as the first PvP arena, I was hooked.
However, that isn't the only great part of RIFT. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the story behind RIFT. I know some people are turned off by the mix of magic and technology, but RIFT strikes a good balance. Usually magic and science sit at their respective corners and don't join each other on the dance floor, probably because one likes folk music and the other likes heavy metal. But much like the music of Eluveitie shows, these two tastes aren't as far away from each other as one would expect. However, the combo is certainly not everyone's favorite.
The first 10 levels had incredible pacing. One quest flowed into the next with little drag. In fact, when I first played through the starting zone, I didn't notice how long I played. The lulls in action made sense and were spaced far enough apart as to not make the experience boring, yet neither were they high-action all the time so as to burn me out. It was quite apparent that the designers spent a good deal of time gauging the ebb and flow of the story vs. the game.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that the pacing in the later game maintained an entertaining flow. As I mentioned last week, at level 17 or so the leveling tended to become a grind, mostly because of how predictable the quests became. On top of that, the consistent MMO mistake of more-equals-better cropped up time and again. If the creature has more health, then it's better, right? If you have to fight more monsters at time, it's better, right? More levels, more monsters, or more health doesn't add to the fun; it actually multiplies the flaws. If one monster is annoying, then five of the same monster is five times as annoying. When you have gained enough levels such that fighting loses its challenge and becomes something a player just has to do to cross a field, then it's annoying. Fighting level 12 mobs at level 10 was enjoyable, but fighting level 14 mobs at level 19 -- not so much.
Before everyone begins to think that I absolutely hate RIFT, let me finish this on a positive note. RIFT certainly appeals to players who absolutely love MMO themeparks. I cannot tell you the number of times I've hated waiting for a specific type of player to either log on his alt or asking random people if they would take the tank role in our instance group. With the number of souls and number of roles for each class, there is no need to wait around anymore. On top of that, if you are into PvP, the cross-server queuing system is awesome. I never had to wait more than four minutes for a PvP group to open up, no matter the time of day.
With that, we are done. Despite not falling in love with RIFT, I found that this experience writing for Choose My Adventure was a whole lot of fun. Hopefully, I can do it again sometime. But before I leave, I do want to give another shout out to the Gaiscíoch Clan and all the others who joined me on my adventures. I hope that all your future MMOs are your own special brand of epic. Until next time, I'm out. RIFT sealed.
Larry Everett is a nut who loves to play MMOs. Sure, he really wants to be playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, but alas, it's not out yet. In the meantime, he needs your help: Tell him what and how to play while he waits! Direct his game time in Choose My Adventure on Wednesdays and the livestream on Fridays!