Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rift: First Impressions

I took a look at the Rift Open Beta yesterday. Here are my impressions. I didn't get very far, only to about level 7 or so.

Rift is very similar to World of Warcraft and similar quest-driven fantasy MMOs. Trion has deliberately made the interface very familar to WoW players, using much the same hotkeys and layout. This is a positive, in my view.

Class System

Rift's major innovation is its class system. You start by picking a fundamental archetype: Warrior, Cleric, Mage, or Rogue. Then you pick up to three sub-classes, called souls, which focus on different aspects of the base archetype.

It's an interesting system, and in a lot of ways is opposite to the direction that WoW has taken. WoW characters focus on a specific specialization: Holy Paladin versus Retribution Paladin. In contrast, Rift is aiming at the combination of souls taken.

We will see how successful they are. WoW's drive for specialization was driven by the playerbase, because it produced optimal results.

I created a Malthusian (human) Warrior. I choose the Paladin/Warlord/Void Knight souls, pretty much creating a sword-and-shield tank.


Gaining abilities in Rift depends on your souls. Each soul is like a talent tree you can invest talent points in. But each talent tree also has a "root" line of abilities. As you invest points in the talent tree, new abilities are unlocked along the root line. So if you put more points in the Paladin tree than the Warlord tree, you unlock more Paladin abilities than Warlord abilities.

Abilities themselves are pretty standard MMO fare so far. Some have cooldowns, debuffs, buffs, reactive abilities etc. Warrior use a combo-point system with generators and finishers.

All in all, it's a very clean system. However, there are a few issues. First, you still have to buy ranks in each ability, so you have to go to a trainer every so often. It seems like this is just extra complexity. Unlocking abilities through talent points was enough, and I think it would work better if your abilities just automatically scaled with your level.

Second, there's a lot of front-loaded complexity. Each soul comes with starter abilities. For example, I have 3 different basic combo-point generator at level 7, and about 5 different buffs. I'm using the Warlord generator and a paladin finisher, and just dropped the other two off my bars. But the sheer number of buttons available at level 7 is a bit overwhelming.

Finally, warriors theoretically have a resource bar, called Power. But so far, Power seems to regenerate faster than I can spend it, so you're really limited by the global cooldown and ability cooldowns. The resource doesn't seem to matter.


First, the game is very responsive. No input lag or discontinuity between pressing buttons and results. Animations are solid and fun to watch.

The graphics are pretty decent, but they draw from the green/brown/gray "realistic" palette and thus are not very vibrant or crisp.

As well, apparently Trion belongs to the camp that believes that female plate armor does not need to cover vital areas like the chest or stomach. At least they aren't in high heels, though.

In-game, the performance is very good. I'm not 100% certain that I have the graphics set right, but I set them to Good and everything plays well with a decent framerate.

Oddly though, my system can't seem to handle the cutscenes. I get massive framerate stutters during cutscenes. It's really weird considering that in-game performance is excellent.


Rift seems like a pretty decent game. It's pretty polished and plays well so far. I haven't really gotten into the Rifts part, which seem to be like Warhammer's public quests, or instancing or anything really advanced.

If you're looking for something majorly different than WoW, than Rift is probably not for you. But personally, I'm a fan of choosing one thing to change and then doing a great job with that single change, and that is what Trion is aiming for with their class system.


  1. That was an excellent introduction to Rift for me.

    I haven't read anything much about the game at all yet, and after reading your take, i feel like I've got a pretty reasonable idea what to expect... and if I'd like to try it.

    bravo, my friend. Please, share more of these.

  2. I've started puttering around with the Beta, and I wonder if the talent points will be set up that you'd be best off spending your points in one tree. If that's the case, the theorycrafters will try to find the optimal build regardless of the changeable environment.

  3. Redbeard, I think it will more end up like older WoW PvP builds.

    There will be a great ability at, say, Warlord 21 points and another great ability at Paladin 30 points, so the "optimal" builds will emphasize putting enough points into each soul to get the "required" abilities.

    That's my theory, anyways.

    For WoW, Blizzard really did not like people skipping the top end talents, which is why we ended up where are. But Rift seems to encourage more "balanced" soul builds, so I'm not sure it will be an issue.

  4. The trees go up to 31 points and you have 76 (I think?) points by the time you get to max level.

    But, root abilities for the trees go all the way up to 51, and the later ones tend to be very powerful. So you can fully max out a single tree at the cost of not being able to get to the top of any other.

    I don't doubt that there will be cookie cutter specs once people have tried everything, but right now it feels like there's a lot of possibilities to explore!

    (but yes, while you're levelling, definitely spend your points in one tree)

  5. I had a go with the beta for an hr earlier. The talent tree/soul thing looks interesting. Plenty of scope for variation but otherwise its wow all over again.

  6. Been playing Rift since the 3rd Beta, mostly Warrior tank specs.

    Power does become something that you run out of later on, as skills cost more and fights go longer. So at first it's not a big deal, because you don't have a lot to use. But later it will get to the point you are waiting for it to refill or can't use an expensive skill when you want, because you don't have enough power.

    There are already theory-craft builds, where they say "get 21 points in this tree and 7 in this" to get certain abilities.

    There's still a lot of balancing that needs to be done, but that can take forever, as it's a constant job for developers. I don't think any MMO has ever been balanced with their classes.

    If you listen/read developer interviews, they really seem to be smart about avoiding a lot of mistakes WoW made.

    I do agree though, buying upgrades for skills is dumb. Just have them scale with a players level. I've always felt that way in games, just auto-scale.

  7. Rift puts the first "M" firmly back into "MMORPG", at least while leveling. I can't remember fighting raid bosses in WoW at level 14. I fought three of them yesterday in Rift. Man, that was fun.

  8. I have been playing in the latest Rift beta. I actually have the same build as you do. I find it kind of funny that when specced for tanking that there isn’t much use for you below level 10, actually compared to my wife who is running dps or dps/healer souls her leveling has been much easier. Not having a ranged pull at the low levels really hurts in my opinion.

    A few things to note. You actually can’t level by putting all of your points into one tree. I’m not sure when that went in, but at about level 8 you have more points than the game allows you to toss into your main tree. Since the void knight is mainly anti-caster, I’ve tossed points into warlock for the static +dodge and +armor, since there is already a lot of ability juggling. It’s taken me a while to set my bars up, and I’ll probably change it all again when I get home.

    I mentioned the same thing about not having abilities scale and having to buy new ones, esp without being told that buying new ones is required (you never actually get told this, they just kind of show up when you train and you’re like well crap, I should grab those). There really aren’t many money sinks in the game. Yes you can save for the mount(s) when they become available, and play the money making game (haven’t looked into it, just started crafting last night), but that’s about it. Aside from things you can or want to use there isn’t much purpose for having gold just yet. So until something like that comes around I’d expect to continue paying for abilities.

  9. "I'm a fan of choosing one thing to change and then doing a great job with that single change, and that is what Trion is aiming for with their class system."

    Actually I would say the rift class system is the most Wow-like aspect of the game. Its got to be argued that encounter dynamics are the "big" changing they are making with the game focused on rift encounters and their consequences. The Rift class system is borrowed from Ashrons call 2 or maybe early everquest 2..its not really that different than Wow's pre-cata spec system with spells at like 21 and 31..its just displayed differently.

    Here is my rift review from beta 4-5 if your interested