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Rift: Collector's Edition

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Developer: Trion Worlds
Media: DVD/1
Players: Online Massively Multiplayer
Genre: MMORPG/ Free-Roaming/ Online


Graphics & Sound:

I was quite taken aback by the beauty of the environments in Rift. While my graphics card isn't powerful enough to turn the graphics all the way up, I have recently upgraded, and with the settings above average, the environments presented lush and serene beauty as far as... well, as far as the game can render, as J.R. Nip's little brother put it. While playing as Bulleigh, my female dwarven rogue (and my favorite character), I found that I would trek to the top of the mountains of Silverwood - merely to admire the view. You can see forests and plains for what must be miles into the distance.

The music in the Character Selection Screen can get a bit tedious if you leave it up (but why would you?), but the music elsewhere in the game is context-sensitive, sets the mood nicely and is pleasant enough that I could listen to it while doing other things, as well. Things such as... writing this review, as an example. Or, if you get the Collectors' Edition, doing anything from working out to reading or going for a drive, with the included soundtrack CD. The music is a moving orchestral / vocal, very cinematic-feeling score, which does a good job of building up the heavy action with emotional overtones.

In addition to the game itself, Rift: Collectors' Edition also includes the above mentioned soundtrack CD, a Quick Start Guide with Key Reference Card, a full-color foldout which is a Rift poster on one side and a map of Telara on the other, a rubber-backed cloth mousepad, a 128 page full-color hardcover comic book with foil "Rift" title on the front cover and a full-color book cover, a 8 GB Flash Drive (empty, but branded with the Rift logo), and an attractive and sturdy collector's box. You also get three in-game extras, including an Ancient Tartagon mount that increases your speed 60% and is normally available at level 20, a Bogling Wastrel as a companion (which doesn't really do anything, but travels around with you and sets you apart a bit, as it is exclusive to Rift: Collector's Edition) and an upgrade from your primary backpack to a 24 slot Collector's Satchel, which I couldn't imagine doing without, since it's not difficult to run low on storage when you're involved in multiple quests and picking up loot and artifacts as you're running around.


Gameplay:

Most of the gameplay in Rift revolves around quests. While a lot of these quests include killing a certain number of a certain creature, the quests are backed by reasonable stories, and they never seemed to feel like rat-killing quests. Perhaps it was merely that there are enough quests that have some variety to them that the rat-quests weren't so noticeable. I've had quests that involve activating (or deactivating) pieces of equipment, using magical items to see what their effect would be, assisting an NPC character in some tasks, and even escorting soldiers. These keep you from feeling like you're grinding your way to the top.

One unique aspect of Rift, however, is the planar rifts for which the game is named. You are in a world in turmoil - literally being torn apart, in fact. Due to the instability, planar rifts are forming across the countryside and things from other planes, such as demons and fae, are breaking through and trying to claim your homeland for themselves. It's up to you and any other players who respond to the rift event (which is visible on your map) to defeat the invaders and destroy any foothold they construct. The interesting thing about these events is they can occur nearly anywhere. I haven't seen one occur inside of a city, but they will take over and shut down an outpost and a vital NPC you need to interact with to complete your quest may make them self scarce during the attack. Approach a rift and you will have a quest thrust upon you which tells you what your overall goal is and how long you have to close the rift(s) and you will be invited to join a group which is already engaged in this quest. Closing the rift will earn you experience, loot, fame and planar shards, which are used for some quests or abilities.

Rather than referring to character types as "Classes," Rift refers to them as "Callings." There are but four basic Callings: Warrior, Mage, Rogue and Cleric. However, for each Calling, there are eight subtypes, or specialties. Clerics, for example, have: Cabalists, which manipulate fear, Justicars, which are essentially warrior priests, Sentinals which are the closest to a textbook healer character, Wardens, which have water-based healing powers that work slowly over periods of time - making them good support for long fights, Inquisitors, who manipulate pain, Purifiers, who manipulate life essences, Shamans, which manipulate elemental forces and Druids, which gain their power through nature and the remaining non-corrupted fae.

Mages have: Archons, which are support specialists that transfer power from enemies to friends, Elementalists, who can manipulate raw planar energy, Chloromancers who are gain their power from plants and can rob power from destructive magic to heal their allies, Pyromancers (Fire! Fire!), Warlocks which can harness the power of entropy and death, Neuromancers, who reanimate the dead to do their bidding, Dominators, who use fear as a weapon and Stormcallers, who wield the destructive power of the weather.

Warriors are spread somewhat evenly across Offensive, Defensive and Support. Beastmaster, Champion, Paragon (quick, dual-wielding powerhouses) and Riftblades (with melee and elemental energy attacks) are all offensive warriors, while Paladins (think big shields and divine power), Reavers (manipulate entropy and death) and Void Knights (think anti-mage warriors) are defensive warriors. Warlords are the sole warrior which fits best into the "support" role, as Warlords command the battlefield, drawing on the military experience of their past life.

Rogues are mostly offensive sorts: Assassins, Bladedancer, Marksman, Nightblade, Ranger, and Saboteur. The Riftstalker is the only rogue built for strong defense, while the Bard is (as would be expected) a supporting role.

And, speaking of "Roles," that term has a very specific meaning in Rift. As I mentioned above, after you've selected your Calling, you can collect up to three souls (specializations). Well, these three souls populate a "Role." You can even give these Roles a name, if you like. You can purchase additional Roles, and then use a different combination of up to three souls that you've collected in the new Role(s). These new Roles can be one to three completely different souls or you can re-use a soul that's being used in one of your other Roles. This is an interesting and unique aspect of Rift that lets you develop your character how you like... well, as long as your character is of a single Calling. Rift doesn't support true multi-classing (think Rogue-Mage), but some of the specialties do a pretty decent job of covering those areas, really.


Difficulty:

As in most modern role-playing games, the difficulty of killing enemies or completing quests increases with their experience, as does the reward received for being victorious. As you progress, however, it will take more and more experience to reach the next level. In Rift, this means you'll spend more time in higher levels before advancing to the next. For example, your character might go from first level to second level after two or three really small quests, while going from level eighteen to level nineteen might take ten or so quests, along with a good bit of killing creatures in between.

There are no settings to tweak the difficulty settings directly, but there are lots of things you can do to affect how hard or easy the game is for you. The first thing would be to choose an appropriate server; Servers marked "PVE" are Player-versus-Environment and only allow players to attack each other under very specific conditions, in special arena-like areas, while servers marked "PVP" are Player-versus-Player servers, where survival of the fittest is the name of the game. The next thing would be to select a character that matches your gaming style. If you like stealthily moving around, picking off enemies one at a time, then a Rogue might be a nice fit... whereas, if you like running right into the thick of things and knocking heads together, a Warrior might be more your speed. Spend the time to read through the descriptions of the different classes (Callings) and their different specialties (souls). When you go to select a soul, you can right-click on them to preview the abilities you would start with, as well as which ones you would pick up as you level. Unless you're dead set on a specific soul, this is a good place to contrast and compare souls or even build up a strategy for your eventual selection of up to three of them and how they would work together.

Another thing you'll want to do is get quests whenever you can; while some of the quests are quite unique and interesting, others involve killing a certain number of a certain creature, and even if you slay a thousand of them prior to getting the quest, your counter won't start for the quest until you've accepted the quest. Then, kill the required number and return and you'll get rewarded for completing the quest. That's just sort of how things go in MMORPGs, but since players don't seem to have a limit to the number of quests they can accept at one time, and the interface for selecting a specific quest to (intentionally) work on is pretty decent, I would suggest accepting quests any time you get a chance.

Finally, one factor that is definitely worth keeping in mind is that the game is constantly being patched. Expect to have a patch every day; it might not be the case, but then you can just be happy you didn't have to wait. These patches can take a few minutes to install (for larger ones), but it's actually a good thing, as the game is constantly evolving and bugs are getting fixed. However, just before I wrote this review, there was a patch that addressed the overall difficulty of PVE quests and enemies. Specifically, the difficulty was dropped a bit. The result is that it's much easier to go up against enemies of the same level as your character. Previously, my rogue would skulk around in the darkness and attack things a level lower than herself, unless she happened not to be alone. Now, you can take on most creatures of the same level and fair pretty well in a one-on-one face-off... even if you make a mistake or two. This has made leveling quicker and a bit less frustrating.


Game Mechanics:

It's quickly apparent, upon looking around in Rift and poking around in the settings, that the development team is composed of people who love MMORPGs. In addition to the beauty of the game and the depth of the story, there are also summaries for the story text, in case you're not a big "story" person. There is also, of course, a whole slew of adjustments that you can make to the video, from particle effects to shadow map resolution and lighting and particle quality. There are 24 different settings you can tweak to get the video the way you want it, if you're into tweaking, and a slider with five preset quality levels that will control 19 of them, if you're not.

One thing that detracted from my experience was how Rift handles full servers. I haven't played World of Warcraft, but I've played other MMORPGS, such as AD&D Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and I've seen servers that were full or nearly full when I was trying to create a character; I've simply chosen a different server and that was that. Once I had created a character on a server, I never had a problem getting on that server (other than server issues). In Rift, I once went to play with one of my characters only to find that the server was full and I would be queued up for my turn to play. What? I don't know if the other games worked the same way, but I was assuming there were a certain number of players that a server could handle and that's how many "tickets" were given out to characters. If the server can handle a thousand players and a thousand players already had characters on that server, then you couldn't create a new character for that server, but none of the existing characters would be turned away. It seems that Rift has no "assigned seating" for their shards, so it's first-come-first-serve, and when the venue's full, the bouncers won't let anyone in until somebody leaves. Again, maybe this is how other games have handled it, but I've never been turned away prior to this. So, either Rift is trying something new out with this first-come-first-serve-sorry-you're-character-will-have-to-wait approach, or I've just been really lucky up until now in not having to wait in other MMORPGs. Either way, I only had one time that I was asked to wait and I simply selected a different shard and rolled a new character, so it didn't bother me too much; your results may vary.

So, what's the verdict? Well, I've played Rift enough to at least slightly annoy my wife, I've reached the point of writing my review, I've got Dragon Age II sitting in my inbox (as of today) and I still want to play Rift some more. Which really is saying a lot for a game reviewer... It will say even more if I actually am able to make the time to keep playing.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP, Vista, or 7, Dual Core 2.0 GHz or better processor, 2 GB memory, 15.0 GB available hard drive space, Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 or ATI/AMD Radeon X300 or Intel GMA X4500 or better graphics card, DirectX 8.1 compliant sound card, DirectX 9.0c (June 2010 update), Broadband internet connection (DSL, cable modem, or other high speed connection)

Recommended System Specifications:
Windows XP, Vista, or 7, Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz or better processor, 4 GB memory, 15.0 GB available hard drive space, Nvidia GTS 250 or better graphics card for desktop / Nvidia GTX 200M series or better graphics card for laptop. DirectX 8.1 compliant sound card, DirectX 9.0c (June 2010 update)

 

Test System:



MS Windows XP Home Edition, AMD Dual-Core, 3.11 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG, Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI Monitor, Sony SDM-HS73 Monitor, ATI Radeon HD 2400 (256 MB) , A30 Gaming Headset, Realtek HD Audio, Creative SB X-Fi, 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, Sony DVD RW, Cable Modem, Logitech Wireless Gaming Mouse G700

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