13 March 2012

Telara 2.0, RIFT Redux, Trion Tangents

Ok so the third alliteration there was a bit of a stretch, but the first two work.  So I've been back in RIFT for about a week now, and I thought I would give you some of my observations after coming back to the game after a six month hiatus.  As I said before, this is the first time I've come back to a major MMO after having left.  I never returned to World of Warcraft and never intend to.  And while I have flirted with the idea of firing up Guild Wars again, the idea never intrigues me enough to re-download the client and try it.  I left GW before even the first expansion so I would have a lot of catching up to do, more than I am interested in at this point.  But I digress.  So what did I find upon my return to Telara?

I have said before in this blog, and I stand by the statement now, that RIFT is the best overall "themepark" MMO on the market currently.  It does not do everything well and it is far from perfect.  But when you factor in all the things one looks for in a game of this type, RIFT is the best "total package" out there.  This past week I have spent in the game has only reaffirmed that belief in my mind.  From the technical end, it is better looking by far than WoW or Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Neither of those are "bad" looking games, but I really prefer RIFT's graphics and style.  And even if you enjoy WoW's "cartooniness," you have to admit that game is really starting to look long in the tooth at this juncture.  RIFT certainly beats SW:TOR in terms of client stability, but WoW does top them both in that category.

But what makes RIFT a better game?  Well if you'll recall one of my big complaints about SW:TOR was clunky and unresponsive combat.  RIFT combat feels good... quick, responsive, and smooth.  I never have any of the feelings of awkwardness that I did playing SW:TORRIFT also has the best "out of the box" UI of any major MMO I have played.  Yes they now also have addon support, but even without that, the "stock" UI is perfectly functional, flexible, and easy to use.  All the components are scalable, moveable, and adjustable... all the things that SW:TOR's was not, and many things that even WoW's UI cannot do without addons.  So the combat is fun and the UI doesn't make you want to kick a puppy every five seconds.  These little "quality of life" features go a long way with me to making a game fun.

But what is there to do in the game?  Well in my opinion, RIFT beats out both WoW and SW:TOR in terms of "things to do," even for unguilded, casual level players as myself.  You have a "Looking for Dungeon" feature, which while we can debate the merits of from now till the end of time, it is there and it works.  But RIFT also has "Instant Adventures," which are sort of like... quest chains that scale depending on the number of people involved.  You can start and stop these any time, although the biggest rewards only come for finishing the entire "chain."  And then you have "Chronicles."  These are RIFT's solution to WoW's "Looking for Raid" and SW:TOR's "Story mode Operations."  These are small solo or duo instances that allow you to experience the story behind RIFT's raid instances without having to actually raid.  Frankly I find this a more enjoyable and "honest" take on the problem.  Let the raids remain raids.  No need to nerf them into the ground.  Just create a separate "place" where others can still follow the story.

And there is always more coming down the pipe.  Trion is relentless in terms of releasing new content into the game.  Take the Ember Isle, for instance.  When I heard about this zone while playing SW:TOR, I assumed it would be something akin to the Isle of Quel'Danas in WoW, a small hub for some new daily quests.  And while it is home to a new faction and new dailies, it is much more than that.  It is a very large area by MMO zone standards and contains its own entire story based quest chain.  This alone is more than WoW has ever added to its game mid-expansion and that isn't counting all the other additions Trion has made in the past year.  And oh yeah, they are already talking about their next patch and associated raid.  So if you ever do get really bored with RIFT, just wait a week.  Something new will pop up.

RIFT does have warts, and I am not ignoring them.  But that is a topic for another time.

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