Last week, Rift had a sale on Steam. The game was just 5 Euros, or 6.25 for the “Digital Collector’s Edition”, which comes with a slow mount and a bigger starting bag for each character (plus some other stuff that I can’t even remember). I sometimes spend multiple times that much on some groceries for a nice dinner on the weekend, plus a good bottle of wine, so I thought “why not?” Especially since it came with a free month of play time. On a side note, are they really that desperate for players at the moment? A sale like this that early in the game’s life feels… interesting.
I had tried Rift in beta, but had not been too terribly impressed. Nevertheless, I wanted to try the game at some point, and had the free trial on the radar for some time now. I just hadn’t had any time yet.
My plan was to level a Guardian and a Defiant through the prologue, and then decide on one for the time being. After playing the Guardian side, I knew I sure didn’t want to do another 40+ levels of that self-righteous zealot bullshit. After I also played the Defiant side, I wasn’t exactly impressed (steam punk time machine armageddon ho!), but it felt better than the Guardians, so I sticked to my Kelari mage.
The game sure has a couple of things going for it. It can look really nice on high settings (though the fan on my still relatively new Ti560 is getting much louder than in any other game!). I like how the rifts integrate into the landscape. I’m still trying to figure out how many types of rifts and invasions there are, and whether the spawn points are static or whether a rift can spawn anywhere on the map. I also like the ease of finding groups.
That, however, leads me to the point I’m still on the fence about. yes, finding groups was as easy as clicking a button, but it didn’t feel all that social most of the time. Sure, it is better than the average WoW pug, which seems to have at least one total jackass 50% of the time. In Rift, you group, and you ungroup, and never say a word. That this is actually an improvement is probably more of a concern about the general state of affairs.
I’m also sitting in decision shock half of the time. There’s so many souls, and soul combinations. And then you spend points in those souls. Which souls to take? How to spend points? I could try out all combinations that seem at least feasible to me, but there are so many, I can’t overlook the solution space. It’s disheartening. It’s like when I’m sitting in a restaurant. If they only have a choice of 3 main courses, it’ll be easy to decide. If they have 30, it will take me 20 minutes and I will still feel like I might not have chosen the right thing. Maybe I’ll make a post about this problem in more detail at a later point.
Which, finally, brings me to the points I don’t like. The first, and most important, one is that wherever I go, I’m seen as a sight to behold. At level 7. “Great sun, an ascended!” First of all, how do you know? I might’ve missed that part of the lore, all of this is still very fuzzy to me, but am I wearing a magic tattoo that everybody but me can see? Besides, I don’t want to be a hero at level 7. I want to be a scrub, and work towards being a hero. Maybe. One day. What fun is it to start out at the top of the food chain already? And how did these people ever get anything done without ascendeds, anyway?
Overall, the whole lore feels dodgy to me. I like the fact that each side shows you an indoctrinated point of view on their truth, but I would’ve preferred if the prologues had talked about the same events at least. It would’ve given the whole thing a “two perspectives, and there’s no black and white” kind of feel. In addition, I would’ve preferred if the back stories had given me the feeling that both sides are kinda right, and have a point. What I actually felt after the introduction was that neither side was very likable, because both were way too stubborn in their ideologies. That bodes ill for immersion and identifying with your faction in the long run. What’s up with two factions anyway? Useless artificial partitioning of your player base. But I digress again. More food for posts.
Finally, the streamlinedness. It feels like I start at quest hub one, do quests. Then get a breadcrumb quest to go to hub two, rinse and repeat. I heard before that Rift is so great for exploration, but I can’t see that yet. Does it get better? Do you get off the rails after the first zone? People might say that I should just go and explore stuff if I want to, but the problem is, a) the streamlined quest content makes it feel like this is actively frowned upon, and b), other games have instilled in me the fear that if I do too much exploring, I will outlevel content and (again, due to the streamline) will have to work through stuff that isn’t exciting at all any more if everything is grey.
So, the bottom line is: there is something about Rift. I like some things about the game. But it feels to me like there’s really fun stuff in there that I’m just not getting.
But don’t fear. I’m a late adopter. Many games take time to grow on me. Most extreme example: I bought Diablo II on release, played it for a week, then let it rot on the shelf for a year or so. Then, I started playing it excessively.
And I still got about 3 weeks of game time. Things might change. Who knows. Maybe I’ll grow to like stuff I don’t yet, or at least ignore some of those things.