We’re not in Azeroth anymore…
From Half man, half amazing…
Like a bunch of my WoW buddies, I picked up Rift when it launched this past week and am currently stumbling through my free month of play time. The free month is a crucial time for any MMO – they basically have four weeks to present enough interesting content to you to make you want to slap down 15 bucks a month after that to keep playing.
For most people, this translates to whether or not they have an enjoyable experience leveling a new character to max level and maybe getting a brief look at some PvP along the way.
The tagline I saw in all the commercials for the game was “We’re not in Azeroth anymore” – an obvious “fuck you” to Blizzard and World of Warcraft. They threw down the gauntlet against a record-setting MMO juggernaut, but do they have the content to back it up?
What Trion has built to distinguish their game from WoW is also it’s namesake – the rifts. Rifts randomly tear open in the sky in every zone in the game, invaders pouring out of them in waves which must be defeated by large groups of players. If left to their own devices, more and more invasion waves will spawn out of each Rift and eventually overrun the various towns and quest hubs in the zone.
They smartly made the rifts a big part of the game right from the beginning. Once you hit level 6 or so, you enter the first “real” zone of the game where you’ll regularly encounter death and water rifts. They pop up all over the place, there are tons of people around, and its really a lot of fun banding together, kicking the shit out of mobs, and getting some shiny loot for your efforts.
The problem, though, is that everything just kinda goes to shit once you leave that first zone.
I’ve leveled up now to the point where I have seen all of the first three zones in the game and have just entered the fourth. Past the first zone, where everybody was completely gung-ho to tackle the rifts, they are largely ignored. The only time I see anyone actively battling the open rifts in these later zones is when the game forces you to do so with a “full scale invasion” which basically spawns 20 of them at once so they are impossible to avoid.
It’s a really neat concept but basically you are just tired of it by the time you reach level 20 – and that’s not even halfway through the game.
Aside from the rifts, the game is virtually indistinguishable from World of Warcraft. The UI is so incredibly similar I almost didn’t believe it. You might think this is a good thing because it would be easier to adjust to, but then you’ll remember anybody worth a shit in WoW has a custom UI anyway. Basically they are copying the UI to make it easy for the masses of drones they hope will migrate from WoW, except they won’t, because it’s WoW.
The questing system, the talent trees, the crafting skills, achievements, guild perks – it’s all taken directly from the design of WoW. The combat mechanics are actually more simplified, as everything either uses mana or energy/combo-points – no rage or runes here. There are four classes which each have eight talent trees, which lets you fill more roles with one character, but makes it largely pointless to play an alt. It’s easy to pick up but less varied, and therefore less interesting in the long run.
The game actually even manages to suffer by not copying a few things WoW has – and I feel like if you’re going to clone the game you should at least clone all the good stuff and leave out the dumb shit like archaeology (which they didn’t).
- There is one flight-path per zone. That’s it. You run all over aside from that. WoW used to be closer to this, but never this bad.
- There is no LFG system or dungeon finder – good luck getting a group unless you are a tank, healer, or bard.
- There is no incentive to level professions because you can never craft anything better than you’ll get via questing. There are patterns to make better stuff but they require reputations to purchase that you won’t have raised high enough until the items are no longer useful.
- It’s impossible to discern anyones role without just asking them. All you see is “Warrior”, “Cleric, “Rogue”, or “Mage”. Kinda dumb when any class can be one of eight specs and fill multiple rolls - why wouldn’t it just be in the tooltip!
I guess overall what I’m getting at is that, while I’m enjoying Rift for the most part, I constantly feel like I might as well be playing WoW. They are similar enough in structure that there’s really no incentive for me to abandon all the years of effort I’ve put into WoW in favor of starting fresh in Rift. The one distinguishable feature seems to be largely ignored by the playerbase after their first few hours in the game, which doesn’t make for a very good reason to rush to level 50 when all the raid content is just more Rifts.
I’ll enjoy my free month and then probably head back to WoW. Because while in Rift you might not be in Azeroth anymore, you may as well be.