Conflict resolution for the Warcraft weary?
Review Carpal tunnel syndrome has almost set in since the release of WoW Cataclysm  – bash, level, bash, ow, ow – so perhaps change is as good as a rest. Well, one look at Rift and I am left with nightmarish flashbacks of DC Universe  another MMO that is ultimately flawed with a levelling cap, a boring character build system and no originality. It was nice to dream for a while that Rift was a decent alternative but the regular sub disappearing out my bank account certainly makes one wonder if either of these games is worth about a tenner a month, especially when World of Tanks  is free.
I loved Neverwinter Nights 2 and I must have completed the single player game at least five times before I went on to playing on persistent worlds. So much geeky fun was to be had on a full RP server with live Dungeon Mastering – and you know it’s a quality system when it’s based on the Advanced D&D game. So here comes Rift claiming to be the daddy – highbrow, don’t you know – in a new generation of MMO’s. But can it compete?
The game is set on the world of Telara which we are introduced to during a very pretty animated opening sequence – that seemed to feature Cthulhu heavily. Telara is one of several planets, but unlike any other worlds it is intersected by many powerful planes of reality. Regulos the God of Death heard about this wealth of power and led a Blood Storm in a planet nomming rampage towards Telara.
His quest to lunch on Telara was cut short by the local gods and inhabitants. You are awoken 80 years after the defeat of Regulos the God of Bran, where it seems things aren’t looking too comfortable for the locals and even the estate agents are having a bad time of it. Rifts of baddies have been opening as the once strong ward has begun to weaken.
Say yellow, wave goodbye
Only two factions and six races – yawn. So that will be humans, dwarfs and elves then. The Guardians are the chosen of Telara’s gods, whereas the Defiant do not care whether the gods abandoned the world or not and plan on using their own powers and technology to defend their world. So being a rebellious sort, surprise surprise, I chose to be one of the Defiants.
Pimp my guide
Disappointed already, alas. Yes, because despite the aggressive marketing there really isn’t much in the way of character creation at all – who am I again? Everyone looks like Draenei but ugly Draenei with rubbish hair and, believe me, a bit of dyed cloth does not make up for bad hair. I finally chose to be a Kelari Cleric druid because, hey, what's a girl without a fairy?
Does my plum look big in this?
There are various customisable classes that looked like they could be fun. The ability to change your three soul trees around would, I’m sure, come in super handy at later levels – raiding, soloing and the like. You can choose a basic class of Mage, Warrior, Priest or Rogue each with eight soul classes that you collect and personalise, such as a rogue who has the soul class of an assassin nightblade.
You start initially with one soul, brought back from the dead and formally belonging to a banished or imprisoned hero. You earn more as you slog your way through all the countless minions and the storyline starts by throwing you straight into a battle – nice. In no time at all you are able to combine up to three of these classes to create and change your character around. This then gives you a range of abilities and a palette of numbered cool down attacks to finger at frantically in your relentless quest for peace, booty and experience points.
No matter what mission I was questing for, I felt I was pretty much doing the same thing over and over again and never felt involved with my character, the plot or anyone else in the RP PVP world that I came across. I couldn’t even name my druid's pet fairy William Hague.
I am the God... well, demon of hellfire
The character levelling system is totally blandflakes and very limiting. Only having one point per level to allocate, yet having a bunch of stats that could be used to sculpt your character, seemed a little basic. Yay! I got +1% to my crit damage, fear my roar or rather fear my whimper. The 'storyline', aka the character grind, was dull after a couple of hours. It consisted of the same number bashing over and over mixed in with the odd right click to complete all the missions in and outside of rifts. There are some nice cut scenes, but I wasn't impressed with the story telling. After all, Trion could easily have banked on getting enough cash through monthlies to add some classy voice acting – grrr.
Always in control
As for PVP I checked out Port Scion and was unsurprised to find myself playing Alterac Valley, but without those pesky rams.
That said, I did manage to find a couple of plus points. This game is all about helping to close rifts and the more you battle your way through the legions the more you get out of it. Even though this is the fundamental focus of the game, it often felt repetitive. No trouble finding groups, either classes are often interchangeable, so not everyone is waiting on a healer or a tank to show up.
Get off my camp
The user interface was pretty and easy to use. There's a Rift keyboard layout card in the box too, along with a tidy map that came in very handy. I also loved how easy it was to locate your current mission with a click on a button, as that saves on time spent wandering around in circles. More to the point, there seemed to be little lag to get frustrated about and no bugs to speak of.
But the graphics felt very 'meh' looking and so very last Tuesday, if last Tuesday was like eight years ago. After all, ashen grey brown is the palette of choice for the first few levels and this is what's supposed to draw you in and hold you for the next 30 days till your subscription kicks in. Things did pick up towards the end of the grind and I did get a peek at some impressive vistas. I guess I am just a cartoon whore and the visuals made me miss WoW all the more, bringing back memories of how disappointed I felt looking at Warhammer Online and Age of Conan.
Things come in trees
There is no denying Rift is well packaged but do I want to be notching up sub fees and playing it when I can see sunshine through the curtains for the first time in months? Spring is around the corner not to mention Witcher 2, and maybe even Diablo 3. So no, if you need me I’ll be in the garden barbecuing with the ferrets. ®
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