Rift: First Impressions

Rift was finally launched in Europe yesterday and I was there right from the beginning. Luckily I had none of the queue problems I’ve heard so much about, although there were a few hours in the middle of the day where all shards (servers) in EU and USA were down for a patch. Other than that, the game ran perfectly. No bugs, crashes or anything of the sort. It felt like I was playing an old, settled MMORPG that had been around for months already. Impressive.

I started out by creating a Guardian Dwarf Cleric. I heard from various blogs that this should be one of the better choices. Ironically I’m usually the type of guy to make different choices in these sort of games, but this time I really wanted to make it easy for myself. So a cleric it was. The souls I chose to begin with were Sentinel, Purifier and Warden. This gave me a good array of healing spells aside from damage spells, and I reached level 10 without any hiccups.

Divine Landing

Although great fun, there’s no question that the influences from World of Warcraft is so great that it’s almost absurd at times. Most MMORPG use a rainbow color code for the titles of enemies to indicate their difficulty, and when you’ve out-leveled them they turn gray and won’t attack anymore. World of Warcraft is unique with its yellow (for non-aggressive) and red (for aggressive) titles for enemies. Rift? Exactly the same title system as in World of Warcraft.

Still, the game did feel unique enough to fill me with the joy of exploring a new game and its world in spite of the heavy influences and loans from various other MMORPG. One of the reasons is that the starting zone for Guardians immediately puts you in a war zone with bombardments and a tangible sense of danger, instead of just holding your hand in a field of flowers like in so many other MMORPG.

Also the graphics makes a big difference. Apart from looking a lot better than in World of Warcraft (I’ve really grown tired of the cartoon graphics and the low polygon count), the models, buildings and other surroundings also have their own style. Trion Worlds may have cloned a lot of game play, but the art department seems to hold their own.

I wrote down a lot of notes while playing this first day and I thought I’d put them in a bullet list as they’re quite diverse. So here we go.

  • I took a look at the map in the box, and I immediately saw that the zone Freemarch is almost a true copy of Australia. Also Silverwood above it gives me a few India vibes. Seems the world creators at Trion may have been looking at planet Earth.
  • The web pages for creating a subscription were simple and sensible, but why am I not allowed to paste the card number? I usually have the card number in a separate document (probably not safe, I know) yet I was forced to type it anyway. They probably prohibited pasting to avoid hacking, but it’s still annoying nonetheless.
  • In World of Warcraft, you can’t move most of the windows. In Lord of the Rings Online you can, but not outside the edge of the screen. In Rift, you can move all windows and also way past the edge of the screen. There. That’s the way it should always be.
  • I couldn’t find a way to change the minimap clock to 24h format. Fail.
  • Oh, I must say I really like the UI windows in general. They look slick, no-nonsense, and rarely overwhelming because of a nice use of a tree structure in the left side of certain windows. Really an ace job there.
  • There’s a lot of bump mapping going on, especially on walls and cliffs. I love bump mapping. I’m one of those guys that liked the way it was exaggerated in Thief 3. Can’t ever get enough of bump mapping.
  • Ah, there’s a PVP auto flag option, which I immediately turned off. As an anti-PVP guy, I always hated being flagged automatically in World of Warcraft. But does it work in all situations? No exceptions?
  • I didn’t die once on my way to level 10 and it felt easy enough, but I was close once and often the enemies could get me to down to almost 50% health before I killed them off. If not for my healing spells I would surely have died.
  • Even though it was a low population server and there was no queue, I still saw a lot of players running around. I threw an endurance buff on a lot of them here and there. I never got any thanks for it. People minded their own business.
  • I turned on the full spell queue in the options to have almost the same queue system as in Lord of the Rings Online. I thought it worked really well.
  • No durability on items? No repairing? Really? Maybe it pops up later, but if it doesn’t, I certainly won’t miss it.
  • And speaking of things missing, is it me or is it always daylight? I played almost all day and never saw night. I actually never quite liked night in MMORPG (it was especially annoying in Lord of the Rings Online) so I wouldn’t miss that either. But I’d understand if other players would be concerned about it.
  • I like how the overlay world map goes transparent when you run around with it turned on (Doom-style). It’s more useful than I first thought it would be.
  • I must say I’m disappointed by the background music composed by Inon Zur. Often it’s no more than a few trumpet squeaks and small symphonic pieces creating a sense of danger. It works on the level of not distracting you, but I’d rather have a piece of music with a memorable melody.
  • After hitting level 9 or 10 I arrived at a bigger town with students (Quicksilver College). Some of the students have an elemental pet. Make sure you check out the pet called “Bound Wind” – it has a silly animation, almost hilarious. A good laugh.

I tried a few rifts as well. I was surprised that I actually had to run so far to get to them – after reading about them I had the impression that they would literally spawn almost right next to you. But you actually have to check your world map and plan a small trip. It’s worth it, though, as they’re often fun to do with a lot of strangers and is a great diversion from the standard questing.

First Rift
There's usually a lot of colorful effects when doing rifts.

One thing I thought was a little annoying, however, was the zone rifts that started a major event automatically accepted as a new quest, but because you haven’t uncovered all of the zone yet, you can’t always figure out what’s going on and whether you should bother. I hope it gets clearer when all of the zone (Silverwood) is uncovered.

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