I thought long and hard about the best way to share my opinions on Rift as I experience it a second time. Initially I decided to do a running commentary of events as they happen but that would ruin my play experience since I’d have to regularly stop and write details down. I’m not actually a hamster but I definitely got the memory of one so taking notes is a must for me. What I decided to do instead is to outline briefly what I am doing in-game, for the sake of context, and then discuss both one positive and one negative aspect of the game with each blog post. I believe this approach will prevent this from becoming one big rant. So, here it goes:
A year ago I played on the Defiant side and hated the story so this time I went with the Guardians instead. I rolled a dwarf mage. Call me what you will but I have an affinity for short stout men with beards and big noses. I guess shooting electricity from the tip of your fingers is a nifty party trick so I selected Stormcaller as my primary calling with Elementalist as my secondary since they seem to complement each other. Three days of casual play got me to level 14.
Pro: Fun Combat
Rift does combat old school. You have hotkeys which you press to make things happen. Once a spell/ability is cast you will hit or miss based on an invisible dice roll which is modified according to your stats. There are line of sight and positional mechanics but these matter only before the spell/ability is cast although you can (and should) move out of area of effect spells while they are occurring. With this system you can’t dodge out of the way of an incoming fireball. It will just swerve to your new position and hit regardless unless chance dictates that it should miss. I will not debate whether this is better or worse than an action based combat system. Clearly they both have their merits.
What I can say is that Rift does hotkey based combat well. Its fun and familiar. The animations are fluid and reflect quite accurately my actions and those of my enemies. You are given plenty of spells to play with which are for the most part varied and come with fancy effects which make you feel like a demigod on the battlefield (unless you decide to take on a mob a couple of levels above you). Enemies also come with their own spells and abilities making you think about how to tackle the encounters. They definitely could have taken combat further with better visual cues and by altering/removing of some abilities which feel redundant. Having said that, the pacing of the fights is spot on. Bottom Line: I am enjoying zapping stuff in Rift.
Con: Bland Writing and Confusing Lore
I am not the kind of MMO player who reads all the quest text but I do try and make an effort. It’s easier with some games. WoW does it particularly well with short and often humorous stories and SWOToR is a cut above the rest since virtually everything is fully voiced.
I am honestly trying to follow the story in Rift but I just cannot manage. It goes something like this: Regulos (a dragon from the Plane of Death, the most powerful of the six dragon baddies) risks invading Telara because some dude called Aedraxis damaged the ward which was keeping him away. Presumably this is bad news for everyone except for Aedraxis who must have some serious grudge with the inhabitants of Telara. During the time period when the game is set the Defiants are sending brave heroes back in time using their advanced machines in order to change a future where Regulos manages to break through and destroy all that is good. Meanwhile Guardian heroes are also returning to Telara after they have been summoned by the Vigil (the five good Gods of Telara). Confusingly both factions call their heroes the ‘Ascended’ (basically these are the player characters). Defiants use the aforementioned time machines while Guardians rely on the powers of the Vigil to resurrect their ascended. Despite both factions having the same aspirations of defeating Regulos, Defiants and Guardians don’t see eye to eye. Defiants believe that it’s futile to rely on the Vigil to get things done while Guardians still maintain their faith and see the use of technology as an abomination against the Gods.
The lore is somewhat interesting and handles things a bit differently than other MMOs with a fantasy setting. The problem I find is with its delivery. First of all the game does a piss poor job of explaining the lore to you. All the information above I had to read from web sources. I did watch the introductory cutscenes and read most of the text in the newbie area but I was still left perplexed. The story is quite convoluted (what I presented here is a simplified version of it) and littered with hard to remember names such as Cyril, Asha Catari, Orphiel Farwind, Aedraxis Mathos and Zareph. I am struggling greatly to read quest text in this game and often find myself just skimming the synopsis. It’s a textbook example of a mind boggling tale brimming with time travel, people returning from the dead, multiple dimensions and political intrigue. Rift needs extremely good writing to be able to tell its story and sadly I find it is severely lacking in this regard.