As my frequent readers know by now I have a real thing for roleplaying games. RPG’s are my prefered form of escapism, at least when there isn’t an exceptional first person shooter waiting in its box to be played. What other type of game can give you hours of immersion in another world? Allow you to make new friends? Plot out strategies? And then go out and conquer all the trials before you? That’s right RPG’s are where the futures global dictators meet up and plot together. So it was with joy that I received from my Best Male Friend a copy of Rift. The latest big budget Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game to hit the internet.
A little of the game’s plot would be in order now. Essentially the god of death is trying to break into your world. The other four gods have become some kind of godhead named The Vigil. The walls of reality are falling apart, triggering the formation of rifts into the various planes, Fire, Life and Death being just a few examples. So in order to save the day, and probably their own collective ass, The Vigil creates the ascended. People who were great heroes from a previous age, now brought back from the dead to kick even more ass. And so far that’s the story in a nutshell.
First off let me say I love this game. I want to have bastard semi-human semi-digital babies with it. I want to go for long hand in hand, moonlit walks with it. I want to…well you get the picture. It’s wonderfully thought out, in fact it reminds me of World of Warcraft back in the vanilla and Burning Crusade days. Challenging, story driven, and engaging. But it does have a serious flaw.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Rift has serious, and I mean serious, issues working with ATI Radeon graphics cards. I use a top of the range 4000 series card. With it I have successfully run WOW, Crysis, Mass Effect and many other games with the graphic quality at maximum, had no problems what so ever, and no need to overclock. Despite my system as a whole more than meeting the minimum requirements to play Rift, I have had to overclock my card to play it just at the minimum settings. Even so I have random crashes, lock ups, screen freezes, my character getting stuck, and even a few blue screens. That’s how badly Rift runs with an ATI graphics card. Now there are reports of many ATI users having these same problems, and so far little or no response from the developers.
So yes that sucks. It takes a great deal from the game. But the good news is that eventually it will be fixed. Why? Because graphic cards are the PC worlds equivalent of cola drinks. You have your brand and if you build your own PC’s you will tend to stick by it come what may. So unless Trion want to lose a lot of paying customers they will fix it. Even if it does take a while.
Now for the good news. This game (graphic problems aside) is absolutely brilliant. A lot of it is of course standard MMORPG faire. You kill monsters for experience points, and loot. You complete quests to progress through the story. You take up a few trade skills to pay the bills, and buy a huge variety of mounts. Where it differs is in the tone of the gameplay, the challenge aspect, and especially in the way the rifts alter day-to-day play.
The tone of Rift is a lot darker than WOW, or even EVE Online, well to my eyes at least. You’re fighting in a world that’s literally coming apart at the seams. And unlike in many other MMORPG’s there’s a real sense that what you personally do in the game has a real impact, no matter how small, on the end result for the world as a whole. In fact that is apparently one of the selling points of this game, that what you do will impact on the development of the entire world. I hope that’s true. One nice, though small, aspect that makes for a more immersive game is the fact that your characters features are a lot more adjustable than in many MMORPG’s. There are a large number of permutations on hair style, eye shape, colors, body size, even the rotation of your eyes, or size of your nose. It helps to make your character, yours. That fact alone makes you value them a little more, which then makes your victories a little sweeter. Or perhaps that’s just me.
The tone of the game is also effected in a large way by the challenge side of things. If I had one complaint about WOW it’s that it’s become too simple. That is not an accusation which could ever be levelled at Rift. You have to actually think when you play it. For example. when you level up you get a single skill point to spend in your talent trees. You need to actually think out how to spend that point so that it has the best effect on the way you play your character. Add in the fact that you can have up to three active talent trees at the one time, all effecting how your character works, and just building an effective character becomes a real challenge in itself. On top of that there’s a vibrant Player Versus Player element. Collections of items to find and turn in for cool prizes. And more than a few very tricky quests to complete. Hell after a single day of play I doubt I’ve even scratched the surface on challenges that will have me coming back for months, perhaps even years to come.
Finally we come to my favourite aspect of Rifts, the rifts themselves. These are places where the fabric of reality is coming apart. Your job as an ascended is to kill anything that comes through, and then reseal them. Sounds simple right? Let me tell you a little story.
So there I stood alone, facing down a Rift. And I’d only been playing for about 45 minutes. I’d been transported from the starting zone about 2 minutes before. The first thing I saw in the distance were several tentacles coming down from the sky.
Aha, I thought, that looks interesting, I’ll go closer and have a good look.
I arrived there only to realise I was going to die. Monsters everywhere. All of them higher level than myself. And all of them looked hungry. But not being the type to run from a fight I used one of the few scrolls in my pack and got ready to get my ass kicked so hard that I wouldn’t need earmuffs this winter.
In seconds I was nearly dead. Aww well, this sort of thing happens. When out of nowhere half a dozen other characters show up. A healer brings me back to full health, a warrior type takes all the monster aggression I had gathered to myself, and in short order we had eliminated my first rift.
The rifts are a chance for everyone who plays this game to feel like a hero for a while. You wade in with a group made up of who ever happens to be both nearby and in need of causing some pain. Then if you’re lucky, and the others in your party are good you wade out the other side with some nice rewards for your heroism, and the feeling that you have just achieved something.
So do I recommend Rift? If you use non-ATI hardware, absolutely. If you do use ATI hardware, yes but don’t be surprised if for the time being you have to play it with all the pretty settings switched off. If you like truly immersive MMORPG’s definitely. If you liked WOW back in the early days, go for it you won’t be sorry. So basically yes. Right now it’s just about the most challenging and funnest MMORPG out there. And well worth a look.