Rift review

  • Dynamic rift and invasion raids
  • Robust class and talent system
  • Stable, bug-free gameplay
  • Repetitive rifts and invasions
  • Surprisingly weak audio
  • A little too derivative

Above all, the constant rifts and invasions ensure that no two visits to a particular zone ever seem the same, and this may spell success for Rift once most of its initial players reach the level cap in the coming days. Yet while closing your first rift with a bunch of other players counts as one of the few truly awesome MMO experiences these days, the experience quickly gets repetitive and downright boring after only a few times. By Level 30, we found ourselves getting annoyed by all the rifts in one zone, particularly when no one rushed to close them and the rift stood right on top of our questing spot. And since quest progression is often brutally linear, this could stop you in your tracks until the rifts despawn or some buddies help you close it.

Above: Not your average five-man dungeon scenery

In our experience, the instanced dungeons are beautiful if a bit easy. As Guardians, we started off with the Realm of the Fae dungeon, which kicks off in a forest but surprisingly ends atop a snowy peak. In the next, the Darkening Deep, we raced through an underground goblin city and faced off against a werewolf and a gigantic spider. The problem? None of the instances seemed particularly challenging. Even with random players, we never once really talked about strategy with the groups we were in, and we usually adjusted to unexpected strategies on the fly. It doesn't look like it'll improve much at endgame aside from some spikes in challenge. Case in point: You get a chance to partake in two tiers of "expert" dungeons (read: heroic) at Level 50, but most of these are mere repeats of the same instances you played through at earlier levels.

PVP is fun, if a little predictable. As the game stands, you never know what kind of build enemy players will have thanks to the huge variability of the class/soul system, and this diversity alone makes PVP fairly balanced for now. Unfortunately, Rift completely missed the chance to make its PVP "warfronts" truly innovative by using something like its rift concept; instead it slavishly lifts ideas from World of Warcraft's battlegrounds. Again, it does this well, but here the borrowings sting most of all. The Level 50 warfront Port Scion seems like an early version of WoW's Alterac Valley; the Codex bears striking similarities to Arathi Basin, a king-of-the-hill type battleground; and the Black Garden is a capture-the-flag affair reminiscent of Warsong Gulch. To be fair, there are flashes of originality here. In Black Garden, for instance, the shard that passes for the "flag" eats health from the carrier (although others will recognize this as an import from Warhammer).

But at least the world looks cool. In fact, Rift's landscapes are often extraordinary. Among the early highlights we encountered on the guardian side were Gloamwood, a Transylvania-style zone complete with dreary villages and a gargantuan Stonehenge-style monument, and Scarlet Gorge, which looks like a mishmash of the Old West and the Lord of the Rings. Even the two faction cities are stunning (if a bit small and confusing), and the immense detail in almost every object radiates on even the lowest settings.

Above: No DD cups? Rift is more innovative than we thought

Yet Rift's presentation isn't perfect. Something about the combat seems a little flat and unsatisfying. Using the auction house is an ordeal, and even the primary game font seems hard to read at times. The audio in particular is weak: while there's nothing wrong with Inon Zur's commendable score (and we especially liked the transitions to "battle music" when we entered combat), sound in general seems strangely muted and sword fights yield almost none of the steel-clanging action that gets our blood going.

Listen, fanboys: Rift is not a WoW-killer. At best it offers some healthy competition that should slam some innovation into Blizzard's overly comfortable development team; at worst it seems a little too derivative even with the undeniable polish. But it's refreshingly stable. Not once did we see a server crash - even at peak hours when rifts and invasions were as thick as protesters in Madison - and server queues have all but disappeared in the days since release. As it stands, Rift is an excellent title for MMO fans seeking a change of scenery while sticking to familiar concepts, even if they only play up to the current level cap of 50. It's fresh, it's new, and it's unburdened by endless strategy guides and add-ons that might as well be called cheats. (In fact, Rift doesn't even allow third-party mods.) Most importantly, it's fun.

Above: Mods? Where we're going, we don't need mods

Above all, Rift needs to prove it can offer far more beyond 50. Trion's baby already shows some promise of being the most successful MMO release since World of Warcraft, but the endgame currently stands as a looming question mark that overshadows everything else. Worse, since so much of it currently seems based on the rifts themselves, we question how long the novelty will survive the brief bouts of irritation we experienced after chasing down the twelfth rift in one zone. For now, though, enjoy the ride. We suggest you use Rift to get your MMO fix while Cataclysm releases yet another patch of regurgitated content and Guild Wars 2 polishes its armor in the far horizon. It might not be the greatest MMO of all time, but it suffices brilliantly.

Mar 11, 2011

More Info

Release date: Mar 01 2011 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Trion Worlds
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Alcohol Reference, Blood, Violence, Mild Language

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  • C0LT4d5 - July 19, 2011 12:50 p.m.

    I played WoW for 5 years. I got burnt out having to try and bring char to 85. I tried Rift and I will never go back to WoW. Rift truly can rival WoW, and I dont use that lightly. try it yourself here
  • JohnEP - March 20, 2011 4:23 p.m.

    I got a feeling... that the Rifts are going to suck big time in a very short while. WoW had something very similar just before Cataclysm opened up. there would be this huge invasion of major faction cities and everyone could jump in and play whack-a-mole. There was no loot but the fights were interesting until about the 10th or 12th or 15th time. The city was useless during a "rift" and if no one bothered to kill the mobs, I would have to go somewhere else. Rift can do this right smack in the middle of your questing and if no one bothers to fight, you are stuck till it eventually goes away. That will be a REAL pain. Bad enough to have your assets smoked by Blackwing for 10 minutes and the NPCs dead for bit, but to close down the zone for any length of time? No thanks...
  • MaelstromKING - March 15, 2011 2:59 p.m.

    My favorite thing about Rift that I feel like a lot of people don't know is that you actually level faster with a group in this game. I personally love this because generally in other games grouping makes leveling slower these days, and I can sit down and play with my brothers without being told by the game that it's wrong. And the open grouping thing is awesome!
  • malania - March 15, 2011 8:21 a.m.

    Rift has been good, its not really a bad game. And obviously its now a wow competitor. I have been playing a healing cleric and so far so good. I like the game play, graphics and all. Probably those who haven't touched wow, they would like Rift. More over, I like it enough that I'm following awesome Rift guides at . But yeah, must say, its not a wow killer, that's all >.<
  • karnidge - March 14, 2011 6:47 p.m.

    I played several MMOs over the years, starting with the grandfather of MMOs, Ultima Online (UO). I spent most of my time playing WoW and I must say that I have been looking for something else for quite some time. I think WoW is a great MMO and they have a very polished game. I played AoC for a while hoping it would be the game to get me out of my WoW funk, but it was too buggy and the classes were not balanced. I ran across RIFT and after researching it a bit I decided to check it out. I think RIFT is a lot of fun. It is stable, looks nice, it's familiar but not a "clone", it has a lot of good qualities and has been very entertaining so far. All MMOs in nature are repetative to some extent. They are intended to be time sinks. What I like about RIFT is that they break up the typical level grind with RIFTs and invasions that force players to come together to defeat them. It doesn't take long to complete one and you can go on your merry way if you wish. However, you can also stay in the raid and do several of them in a row as well. If you ignore the RIFTs for too long, the creatures run wild and end up attacking your quest hubs and cities. I think this is a petty cool and interesting twist that I have not seen before. I think RIFT is an excellent game and seems very polished, like WoW. It is certainly a good alternative if you are looking for something else outside Blizzard's digital playground.
  • Smashez - March 12, 2011 7:49 p.m.

    I am really enjoying this game at the moment lvl 29 cleric, its my fav mmorpg so far.
  • tuomotaivainen - March 12, 2011 4:48 p.m.

    @aahz What he could be meaning is that what Trion plans for endgame content is unknown. Plus at this point it'd be hard to fully play endgame since it just recently came out.
  • aahz - March 12, 2011 1:24 p.m.

    "the endgame currently stands as a looming question mark that overshadows everything else." So why didn't you write your review after you'd played the endgame?
  • moncealyo - March 12, 2011 8:41 a.m.

    I played the beta and got bored. I'm having a lot more fun playing dragon age 2.
  • Eliath - March 12, 2011 6:07 a.m.

    The Madison reference might go over the heads of some folks, but I appreciated it. I really enjoyed this review, but I think I will hold out for Guild Wars 2.
  • FALLINGINFIRE - March 12, 2011 4:40 a.m.

    I actually got to do beta on this. I didn't like it
  • waffman11 - March 12, 2011 2:36 a.m.

    My friend and I talked a bit about this game a while back. It sounds pretty cool and the concept is still really solid, but I have one huge problem with it: it's an MMO. The concept could stand in a few other genres and might very well find a good foothold. Not saying the game doesn't look and sound good. My rather addictive personality forces me to stay away from MMOs and the like, as even the simplest RPG can suck me in for over a hunderd hours over the space of a month or two.
  • DoctorCrazy - March 12, 2011 1:48 a.m.

    I wish I had time to play MMO's. Sigh...
  • Blasto - March 12, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    Seems pretty cool for an mmo. If i had the money I would totally pick this up.
  • razorwiretensho - March 12, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    I played it, and it just felt like WoW, but not quite as good. You know, like if you were to start a new character, on a new server where you didn't know anyone. That's what Rift feels like to me. It's okay, but if I want a game that feels like WoW, I'll just play WoW. Blizz does it better.