Chances are, you are interested in Rift because you’re either curious about the MMO genre, you’re burnt out on World of Warcraft, or you need something to pass the time until Star Wars: The Old Republic is released. If you can relate to any of these scenarios, then Rift may be a good fit.
Like my other game commentaries, I don’t intend to rehash aspects that have already been detailed in other reviews. Instead, I’ll just point out some highlights of Rift that may help you make more of an informed decision.
It seems like the first question asked of any new MMO is, “Is it better than World of Warcraft?” Let me get this out of the way right now. No, Rift is not going to unseat WoW as the MMO king. I doubt anyone at Blizzard is losing any sleep over the possibility of Rift cutting into their user base.
So why, if WoW is still the MMO standard, should you give Rift a shot? Because what Rift succeeds at is taking the best features of other games in the genre and packaging them into a highly-polished, stable, and extremely playable experience.
Wow-style PvP battlegrounds with faction rewards? Check. Numerous in-game achievements to strive for? Check. Large-scale world PvE encounters? Check. Warhammer-style public groups to combat said encounters? Check. Story-driven instances with cut-scenes, voice dialogue and sub-themes? Check. Guild leveling and perks? Check. Accessible crafting interface? Yep, Rift has that, too.
So yes, Rift is derivative. But, while many of the game’s roots can be found in its predecessors, Rift still manages to put its own polished touches on its renditions and, in some cases, improve upon them. For example, you won’t need to take a coffee break while waiting for your Griffin to take you from one map point to another. Rift’s primary method of long-distance travel is its porticulum system which allows you to step into one porticulum and emerge at another of your choosing. For travel within a given zone, mounts are readily available.
Speaking of zones, this is one area where I think Rift does manage to one-up the competition. Lately, I have been questing in the undead-infested zone of Gloamwood. It’s basically Rift’s version of Duskwood in WoW. But where Duskwood can feel limited and constrained, Gloamwood comes across as a sprawling world of its own with rich character and ambiance.
Dungeons are equally beautiful. In one of the low-level instances, you make your way through an area that changes seasons as you progress, ending in a winter storm that is presented with gorgeous animation.
So it’s obvious that I’m enjoying Rift but here’s the big question: will I still be playing it this time next year? My gut tells me that I probably won’t. With The Old Republic just around the corner and Bioware’s proven track record, I suspect Rift will eventually be put on the back burner. That doesn’t mean that the developers of Rift won’t change my mind by the time I have to make my decision. With the effort they’ve put forth so far, there’s no reason not to expect future additions that offer the same quality and polish.
Even if Rift doesn’t become my permanent MMO home, it’s definitely worth spending the immediate future in.