Rift…which used to be Rift: Planes of Telara but recently decided that was a silly name and switched to the shorter, more punchy alternative is set to launch at the beginning of March (1st for US, 4th for EU).

 I was invited to participate in the 3rd beta event that took place over the new year and downloaded the client to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised how smooth and apparently polished the game felt although that may just be me expecting far less from an mmo launch these days.  Visually the game is very pretty and the world you play in does a good job of painting the struggle and characters within it.

Now that the NDA has been lifted the world and his wife is talking about the game and they recently had a tv spot poking fun at Blizzards World of Warcraft which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do when your game seems to borrow everything from other games to such a degree that at times I had to remind myself I was playing a new mmo. From the moment you arrive in-game it feels familiar, which usually isn’t a bad thing at all but perhaps being a little too familiar is in this case, it feels exactly like the beginning of WAR with its desperate struggle, warring sides already fighting and you being thrust into the conflict as it takes place around you.  One of the primary features are “rifts” which are again, taken from WARs public quest system almost completely and then given the possibility of spawning in a more random area of the map than a single fixed location.

The class system feels a bit like Runes of Magic, with each player being able to learn three separate classes (two in Runes)  within an archetype so for example you can pick mage, rogue, warrior or cleric and then pick three of six available classes to mix up your own version. In Runes of Magic you have to level the classes separately which is a real chore but in Rift you have one overall archetype level and then you allocate “soul points” to the skill trees and talents in any of the three classes you picked. While there is some wiggle room to vary your gameplay within your archetype if you pick a mage you’re mostly going to be doing caster related things and likewise if you pick a warrior you will mostly be doing tank related things so while the idea is nice it felt to me a little like they could lose some of the classes for each archetype and you wouldn’t really notice.

The UI is decent and familiar and for the most part is intuitive and understandable, my one complaint was as a gamer for over 15 years and as an mmo player for about 10 of those I couldn’t figure out how to change my hotbar key configuration and despite asking for help in local chat it took a good 10 minutes and several more knowledgeable people on the game to explain to me that the hotbars themselves can be clicked when the key bindings configuration window is open…the important issue is that nowhere in the key bindings window does it mention this so if your focus is within that window when you open it like myself, you simply don’t notice the hotbar keys below “light up” as configurable. Its a small niggle and perhaps something only I struggled with but I do feel when something so common isn’t intuitive to experienced gamers that’s an issue, I don’t see why they couldn’t have just added in the hotbar key bindings to the actual key bindings window you need open in order to configure them anyway.

Rift really doesn’t seem to offer anything significant that most mmo gamers haven’t already played a few times. Just as with Aion the hype machine implies the game is going to be groundbreaking and I’m sure the fans will be determined to back that claim up for a few months so If you haven’t reached the limit on fantasy mmos you might find some worthwhile entertainment with Rift, for me however I think I’ll pass on the opportunity to play WAR,WoW and Runes again.