Hello, once more, avid gamers.
There are times, talking about MMOs, when you feel something big is coming, and that’s exactly what is happening to me by the end of this year. 2010 is the year when we’re seeing so many major MMOs being developed, aimed to launch in 2011, in some cases, others we don’t know. Anyway, it’s been an exciting year for us bloggers, staring at the huge MMO tsunami coming to gaming shores and, maybe, changing things deeply.
One of the AAA MMOs coming, is Rift: Planes of Telara, a fantasy game with a twist (as ‘Dead’ Simon once said.) We’ve been talking about this game for months, but finally we had the opportunity to play it, enjoy it and think of it, during the Closed Beta private events, starting on December 2010. “Rise of the Defiant and “Guardians of the Vigil” were the first, with “Enter the Rift” coming next December 28th and the time has come for me to tell you all my first impressions of Rift: Planes of Telara Beta.
Once you install the game and click the icon to start it, the first thing you always see is the launcher. I always have a look at it, because it gives me a glimpse of the visual design used. RIFT has a good launcher, where you have access to support and settings buttons and you can configure which region you play, (North America or Europe) your language and windowed or full screen mode. There are two other option buttons, named “account” and “manual”, apparently for the future final launch.
Once you start the game, you get to server picking and character creation. Creating characters on RIFT is awesome. There are lots of options for you to personalize your characters, making (if you want to spend the time) quite a unique and appealing character. From hair to face markings, eye colors, chin width, mouth and so on, everything is customizable and that’s a great feature I like a lot. Every MMO should have that.
There are many classes to choose from, spellcasters and meleers, all interesting and inspiring, so you can pick the one you prefer, completing all the playing styles and roles you can hope for in a good MMO. All classes are well presented and explained, for you to better understand the basics of each class and so you don’t have to choose blindly.
You get into Telara, with your brand new character, and you find yourself in a played introduction to the game. There you’ll learn the basics of movement, UI, NPC, world interaction, etc., while you get used to the game. This introduction takes you by the hand and leads you through several missions, telling you of Telara and its current situation. You are an Ascended, one resurrected by the gods to face the terrible fate Regulos wants for the world. You, among other heroes, are to save Telara from the devastating Rifts that are bringing all kind of monsters from other planes. Once you finish playing the introduction, you’ll be directly forwarded to the normal starting zone: Silverwood or Freemarch, where the real game begins.
As an Ascended, you’ll be attuning souls (character classes) developing your powers and skills. You can attune up to three souls, so you can be a complex multiclass character, whenever you want. The game itself, recommends which souls are compatible, but you are free to combine them, with your own multiclass result. My choice was a Bladedancer soul, later combined with a Riftstalker, resulting on a dangerous melee rogue, capable of some pretty decent damage dealing.
Once in your starting area, you find lots of quests and all kind of NPCs, giving you all the information you need to know and offering the usual services in these kind of games: vendors, trainers, advisors, etc.. One thing that caught my attention was the fact that almost every NPC will tell you something that helps the game “come to life”. Some of them tell you things of common knowledge in Telara, some give you advice and some, even when they don’t give any quests, tell you what they’re doing or why they’re there. That’s so cool.
After getting used to everything, I went to explore and quest a lot, exploring what RIFT has to offer. But suddenly, I found myself sending more and more feedback, telling the devs lots of things I liked and some bugs I suffered while I was going further into the first zone. I’ve found literally dozens of quests to do and a lot of lore to read from NPCs. You all know the world is in danger because of the Rifts, well it truly is. Many Rifts appeared during my playing sessions, attacking everything, corrupting the soil, destroying things and devastating solo players. After fighting lots of Rifts invasions, I can tell you it’s fun, though a bit chaotic and you’ll get good rewards for it depending on what you do. I’ve found if you fight the invasion, doing damage to the enemies or healing other players engaged in combat, you’ll raise up a meter bar. The higher you raise it, the better rewards you’ll get. You’ll get some gems, tradable at certain merchants, so you can get nice gear to equip. But you can also get nice and rare objects (like weapons or armor) directly after the Rift invasion is defeated.
In addition to the outer planes invasions, you can also fight attacks from the opposing enemy faction, whether you’re a Defiant or a Guardian. The system works the same than with Rift invasions. So you have to keep your eyes open and pay attention to everything surrounding you. If you miss the warnings you’ll end up smashed by an invasion, for sure.
A very cool thing was the faction representatives, shouting and encouraging players to face their enemies during invasions and localized attacks. The first time, I felt my courage bolster when I saw about 100 players rushing against a Fire Rift invasion, while an NPC general was encouraging us. These type of “public cooperative missions”, though not original, (as you can experience quite the same on WAR) are very well designed and you can even see how the soil changes, depending on the type of invasion coming.
Doing all those things, your character will level up as expected. You’ll easily improve your gear, (very important) but that’s nothing new. What really got me, were the talent trees. Like many other MMOs, you have talent trees to customize your combat style but, this time, under these trees, you have other Root Talents that will be unlocked, once you get normal talents. The thing is, you don’t know which talents to choose to unlock the Root Talents, so this is a feature that gives you bonuses and additional skills, depending on what you pick in the upper talent tree. I liked that a lot. Every time I leveled and went to spend points on the talent tree I wanted, I was thrilled to see what other Root Talents I would unlock and what they served for. Simply amazing because, in addition, you can attune up to three souls, having three talent trees with their own Root Talents, all waiting for you to level and unlock them.
As you go further, you’ll find the main base of your faction. There you’ll find everything expected in a major MMO: vendors, pets, faction specific items, trainers, missions, etc., all very complete and interesting. You’ll find tons of content to explore and many things to do. I promise you won’t get bored. And this is only a beta, I can’t wait to see the final result, once the game comes out.
The ultimate thing (besides invasions) that the RIFT beta offers, is the dungeons. Here, I must give big applause, as the dungeons I’ve seen are simply gorgeous, fun, thrilling and everything good you can say. Every dungeon has a story and you’ll live it, playing. In addition to killing monsters or enemies, you’ll find a story unfolding, and that’s so good for the lore of the game and for immersive purposes. Though many players tend to ignore these things, I think the roleplaying community will be happy to see a world full of color and details. Dungeons fit perfectly with that philosophy, but you’ll get enough thrilling combat, loot and everything expected as well. Though some bugs need to be fixed (like monster pathing and some unresponsive mobs) dungeons are simply great on RIFT, even on a mid level computer.
My personal preference (what I feel comfortable with) is smart design that allows all kinds of computers to run the MMOs I love to play, decently. RIFT is a next generation MMO with the latest visual technologies, making a stunning game. What I liked most was the light treatment, so good. While I was playing, the sun light was coming through the window and, I promise, sometimes I could barely distinguish if it was the game or the real light what was blinding me. Textures are so good, but so heavy as well, shadows are deep and dynamic, but the overall visuals ask for a good and powerful computer if you want to enjoy the game fully. Anyway, RIFT graphics can be deeply configured, so you get an average 25-30 FPS, keeping a good visuals level.
World design looks good, very detailed, making it look “alive”. I’ve seen NPCs doing things, animals, a lot of flora, nice houses, catapults, little merchant posts. I liked it a lot. The sky is very beautiful, water as well (though the underwater effect is not very good, in my opinion.) Terrain is well shaped and zones are very polished, so much so that I don’t think they need to change anything for final launch. Armor and clothing look very good, showing an excellent design and a tremendous effort to define a unique style. What I didn’t like were the facial expressions and movement while running, too rigid. Combat movements are great, with cool particle effects, making you feel special while you fight.
Dungeon design is simply great and this is so important. All players will spend hundreds of hours playing in dungeons and I can directly say that the dungeons in RIFT are gorgeous. Though only two were shown, all beta testers could have a glimpse of Trion’s intentions with regard to dungeon design. Beautiful, fun, dynamic, simply worth entering them and staring everywhere, enjoying the nice work done. Grats on that, Trion.
Performance is, perhaps, what I didn’t like much, though I must say I’m very “touchy” about that. I’ve played very good MMOs with stunning visuals, going at maximum FPS (frames per second) all the time, lowering down a bit during raids, but keeping a decent rate. That wasn’t what I’ve experienced on RIFT, my gaming computer is quite decent but I had serious problems during invasions and exploring main bases, where graphics cards and processors must give their best. I also didn’t like the very unstable FPS rate changing all the time. I could play with an average 60FPS and low down to 10FPS, depending on the area. RIFT should run better. Anyway, you’ll find a lot of customization options that will help you make RIFT give you the performance you want but, in my opinion, you’d better have a powerful gaming computer if you want to enjoy the game in high visual level configurations.
Regarding stability, I only crashed once and, considering I was playing a beta full of invasions to test the stress of servers, I truly think that’s awesome. The game looks stable and reliable, ready to give you the full non-stop gaming sessions you want.
Rift: Planes of Telara Beta is awesome. It really looks like Trion won’t have to change many things before final release. If you’re looking for a new fantasy MMO, having all the features expected in a AAA game, then this is definitely your game. You’ll find all that you need for enjoyment, from casual playing to hardcore. If the quality standards Trion wants for the beta are what I’ve seen, the final release of the game is going to be one of the most important games in the MMO market. We have to see a lot more to know if RIFT will succeed or not, but Trion seems to be doing good work.
My Rift: Planes of Telara Beta first impressions are good. I can’t wait to Enter the Rift.