In the first few years of running the guild I would get anxious whenever someone mentioned another game, MMO or otherwise. I would try to slyly discourage it: “Oh, Aion! I hear… it gives you rickets.” Over the years, though, I learned from experience that there is room for more than one game in most people’s lives, and even if a Cat DOES leave WoW for another game (this has only happened once, though) few people ever actually leave our community.
I do feel a bit like I’m cheating on WoW when I play another MMO, but I really enjoy checking out other games, particularly at their launch. Despite its popularity World of Warcraft is not the best MMO currently available. It definitely wins in some areas but loses in many others such as crafting, cosmetic items, and honestly just some of the core gameplay.
Anyway, all this is just a really long preamble to explain how and why I found myself in the RIFT: Planes of Telara beta over the past few weeks. I played in the beta at the end of January, and again over the weekend in the Open Beta.
Character Options: I did enjoy the character creation menus, although honestly it’s painfully easy to beat WoW on this front. There’s a height slider for certain races, two-tone hair colors, and options for things like eye rotation and nose size. The array of races seems interesting, too, from dwarf-ish to big giants elves.
Classes: This is one of the places that RIFT shines. You can make a warrior, rogue, cleric, or mage — but wait! You’ve probably already read the details by now, but essentially you have three talent trees and an almost unlimited number of spec options. That means you end up with healing mages and tanking clerics, and a rogue could be be a stabber or a hunter or a bard. Eventually I’m sure the community will math out ideal specs and set the dogs loose on anyone who does not comply, but until that point players can enjoy being truly unique (if not always efficient!). Over the weekend I made a bard/riftstalker who by level 9 could stealth, blink, buff stamina and attack power, and AoE heal a raid or party. It was a blast.
Gear: The gear paradigm of “pants on males, bikinis on females” is alive and well in RIFT, and honestly it seemed a lot more obvious than in WoW. At one point my adorable rogue sold off a chest upgrade because it looked like it had been sexily mauled by a bear. Cleavage is one thing.. melee in a half-shirt and no pants is something else entirely. The esteemed Spinks noticed another example. Guardian faction, in particular, seems to have a surplus of slutty elves. (I leave it up to the individual reader to decide how they feel about that.)
Quests: Honestly, the quests were not that impressive. It’s the “rails” style of questing that Blizzard introduced in Cataclysm, which I don’t necessarily dislike. However the quests are a little obtuse sometimes, and they’re just not interesting. Kill 10 of the local mobs. Collect 10 trinkets from different local mobs. Now kill their leader! Great, go to the next town. I know people complain that Blizzard’s questing is heavy with gimmickry now, but I LIKE those gimmicks! RIFT is seriously lacking in their equivalent of bombing run quests or vehicle quests or something that doesn’t involve just killing ten rats.
Graphics: I hear the graphics in RIFT are awesome, but I wouldn’t know because the game brings my 18-month old video card to its knees. I play on the Low Graphics settings. It makes me sad.
Rifts: These are fun!! I know they liberated the public quest concept from Warhammer Online, and I feel sure that one day Blizzard will liberate that concept from RIFT. As a social gamer, I like seeing everyone in a zone stream out from the trees to band together and kill bad things. The spontaneity of the events is also a blast.
All in all I don’t think RIFT has done anything that much better than WoW. If you are looking for a first MMO, or you have very tenuous ties to WoW and want to play something new I think this will be a fine game to make your “main”. For me there’s certainly not enough to warrant moving me or the guild. I expect I’ll play for a month or two, have some fun, and then move on to whatever is new and shiny then. (Helloooo, Dragon Age 2!)