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Tried-and-true MMORPG fans: your Rift has come in

I’ve played Rift: Planes Of Telara pretty extensively, participating in two of the six previous beta events.  Me, a repeat MMORPG burnout for whom the current heavyweight, World of Warcraft, only entertained me for about four weeks.  Yet, I've a level 30 Mage in the Rift beta and am suffering from "riftdrawl" for the time between now and the final open beta week that begins on February 15th.

I suspect a significant amount of players will jump on board at release. Why wouldn’t they? As far as games in the lineage of Meridian 59/EverQuest go, Rift is the finest available.  Trion did the exact same thing Blizzard did with World of Warcraft: they disseminated what all the good features were in the greater bulk of MMORPGs that came before it and captured these features in a single, unusually well-polished game.   It's all here:
  • Your World of Warcraft slick combat, death mechanic, simplified crafting, and dungeon instances.
  • Your Warhammer Online public quests, PvP scenarios, and contested zones.
  • Your EverQuest 2 item collections and auction house (okay, auction house is hardly EQ2 unique).
As pertains to this genre of MMORPGs, Rift is literally the state of the art, and plays like it:

But Trion didn’t stop at taking all that’s good from what came before it and putting it one well-polished game, they did innovate in some important fundamentals:
  • They added dynamic content in the form of rift invasions, a form of public quest that genuinely impacts the game world depending on whether or not the players overcome them.  They add a whole extra element of play to the PvE aspect, a much needed sense of context beyond quest grinding.
  • They added a character generation system that retains the appeal of a more structured system while still being exceedingly flexible to customization. 
  • This not an all inclusive list.  I've noticed many numerous smaller features, the type of subtle additions that you quickly forget how you ever played a game without, that are either wholly unique to Rift or so rarely found they may as well be.
Rift is a great game for me, an MMORPG burnout, as it finally provides some solutions to things that long bothered me.  I was often tired of of how little influence players have over the game world, the rift invasions change that.  World of Warcraft's quest focus provided some much needed context, but eventually I got tired of being funneled to a never-ending procession of them: the rift invasions provide activity diversity where it is needed.  I would often resort to altaholicism to stay interested in playing, but Rift's flexible class system grants a considerable amount of flexibility in one any character, at most I'd only need four for the four classes. 

Can I nitpick the game?  Sure:
  • They didn't quite capture that same sense of, "go forth, young newb" that World of Warcraft did, you don't really feel in the zone until somewhere in the level 15-20 range, and I blame the instanced introduction, essentially an elaborate tutorial, as being a vestigial prologue that derails that initial impetus.
  • The character generation system can get overwhelming.  You'll soon have eight seperate souls (subclasses) and several roles (configurations of three subclasses) and a ton of abilities you don't necessarily need anymore.  It's a bit of hassle to get over, but you'll learn and be better for the added depth in the long run.
  • Some people don't like the art style - personally, I prefer it over World of Warcraft's strange pastels or EverQuest 2's strange sense of scale, but beauty is ever in the eye of the beholder. 
Yet, these complaints would seem insubstantial in the face of how the whole game exudes a highly unusual level of MMORPG craftsmanship. Scott Hartsman (formerly of Gemstone, EverQuest 2) really knows his stuff.  Not to put the whole responsibility of such an incredible result on his shoulders alone: to see Rift as it is, the whole Trion office must be filled with these kinds of MMORPG luminaries.

I’m not going to say World of Warcraft fans will defect en masse to Rift, but I will say this: if Rift is anything less than very big then it will be proof positive that technical prowess means nothing in terms of popularity.
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