January 17, 2011 by Tim

Sheesh, it’s hard to believe last week even happened, I was so busy.

I didn’t end up grabbing DC Universe Online on Tuesday. Not because I don’t think it’s a good game… quite the contrary. I had a lot of fun during the beta, and had planned to buy it on release.

However, then I fell in love with RIFT during the last beta event. Were you to put me in a room and say I could play either DCU or RIFT, I’d choose RIFT. In light of that, and a limited amount of free time, I decided that DCU just wouldn’t get the amount of play time to make its purchase worthwhile.

I am still anxious to see how DCU does, though. As I said, I had a lot of fun leveling characters in the beta. However, that also relates to one of my main concerns about the game. The first day I tried DCU, I got my character to level fourteen… almost halfway to the max of level thirty. True enough, a friend of mine who bought the game has maxxed out his character after only five days… and he works a lot.

So now I’m waiting while my friends play, waiting to see if they remain entertained by whatever endgame DCU has to offer. As I said in a previous newspost, DCU has a fantastic foundation in place. Now I’m just curious to see what’s been built/will be built on it.

RIFT, on the other hand, has left me with little doubt as to wether or not I’ll find stuff to entertain my interests. RIFT is a more traditional, and very familiar style of MMO, drawing many inspirations and best features from tried and true games like WoW and Everquest. And while it makes a lot of very safe choices in a number of areas, it does so with a lot of polish and style, while adding some new fun elements of their own.

The most intriquing system off the bat is easily their class/soul system. Rather than just choose a single class, you choose an archetype. Within this archetype are a number of souls, which are essentially each a class themselves. At any given time you can have three of these souls active, and can be investing talent points into them to gain different abilities.

It’s sort of like WoW’s class/talent tree system, except imagine that as a Paladin in WoW, you could also pull talents from the Warrior or Death Knight talent trees as well. RIFT gives you that sort of flexibility, and it’s really fun.

Take for instance my cleric in the beta. Not knowing what the hell I was doing, I grabbed souls and abilities that sounded cool. So by level 12, my character was a melee 2H hammer battle cleric (Justicar), with some ranged caster DPS (Inquisitor), and a druid pet that healed me and my group (Warden). It wasn’t any kind of cohesive, min/max build, but it was incredibly entertaining.

I also noticed that within the Justicar soul tree, that I could have specced my cleric into tanking if I’d so chosen. I’ve noticed this about some of the other archetypes as well. Warrior does not automatically mean “Tank” in RIFT. A cleric or rogue can spec into tanking and be viable. A mage can spec into healing or support, and be viable. A warrior can be a dps pet class if they choose. A cleric can be ranged DPS. Each archetype seems to have at least one soul that is really geared towards PVP.

It’s all very fluid, and with what appear to be four “spec” slots available, you can have a good variety of options at your fingertips at any given time. You earn these class souls through leveling and questing, chosen in the order you wish, so as you level you unlock more and more available combinations to experiment with.

RIFT also seems to have nailed the “group event” which Warhammer Online sort of introduced. Essentially, as you’re out and about doing your thing, a rift may tear a hole in the sky, allowing creatures from one of the planar dimensions to come flooding in. By being in the area of the rift, you’re participating, and the more you actively participate, the better your rewards are when the rift is closed.

On Saturday evening of the last beta event, I logged in around 9:30pm to a number of warnings on my screen about the areas around me being attacked. Players were scurrying all over the place. I looked at my map and saw no less than twelve fire rifts had torn open in the region. For the next forty minutes or so, instead of questing I ran around with dozens of other players, battling to close these rifts. Not only did I have a blast and get some good loot, but I earned a very respectable amount of experience.

The key to success here was that the game tells you where this stuff is happening. It’s very easy to get involved with these world events happening around you, because the UI is crystal clear about where they are. They aren’t the kind of thing that can be soloed, but never did I see a rift open, or an outpost attacked where I had to wait more than a few minutes for players in the area to converge as a group to battle back the forces of evil. It’s so easy an enjoyable to get involved in, and the rewards are worth it enough that nearly everyone wanted to participate.

Browsing through RIFT’s massive achievement list, I saw that they intend to launch with a number of dungeons, as well as what looks like at least two raids. I didn’t get to do any dungeons that weekend, but having seen videos and talked to some people about it, I’m very anxious to give them a try next time.

PVP also looks promising, as that was the focus of the last beta event. I rolled on a PVP server, but did not see a single Defiant player the entire time I was out questing. However the Warfronts (battlegrounds) were well-populated. The one I played involved grabbing a relic, which basically killed you as you held it. The longer you held it, the faster it killed you.

Your team earned points for holding the relic… more points for holding it near the center of the map, in the open, far fewer points for holding it back near your spawn point (turtling). While there were some flaws with the design that I noted (one team grabbing the relic and then camping the cliff where the other team respawns) overall things seemed pretty well balanced, and I looked forward to participating more with some PVP souls unlocked.

Overall I’ve become really excited about RIFT since playing it. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it seems like a solid MMO that offers a lot of what I look for in a game like this.

To put it into a different perspective, I played that beta weekend, and then turned around and pre-ordered, so sure I was of my enjoyment in the game.

Now the trick is to survive until the next beta event.


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