World of Warcraft was a big part of my life for nearly six years. I played before any of the expansions came out and continued on into the current expansion, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. WoW was my first, and really only MMORPG I played significantly. I dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, Aion and tried the Star Trek Online Beta but nothing ever really struck a cord with me. So in terms of online gaming, Warcraft was it; the end-all be-all.
I was highly anticipating Cataclysm. I even had to defend Blizzard’s choices to many people up until launch and even afterward. Sadly though, after a few months of play and several of my characters reaching level cap I had to come clean with myself: I was completely bored. After all the daily quests, daily dungeons, achievements, and even the raiding, it just felt too much like what came before with no originality. This felt like a speed bump rather than a true expansion, but to what end? Was Blizzard biding their time before they brought out a more fully formed expansion? To be honest though, this boredom wasn’t just from Cataclysm. It actually started before the expansion, when Icecrown Citadel came out – the main raid we had for a full year. Sure Ruby Sanctum came out also, but that always felt like an afterthought, a one boss raid always felt like a cop out. With all this being said I did something I hadn’t done since I first starting playing Warcraft: I unsubscribed with no intent on going back.
In the meantime I started to beta test a new game from Trion Worlds called Rift. I had been through this before, trying out a new game only to decide it wasn’t for me, and I kept anticipating that realization again. After the beta ended I figured that was it for me and Rift. It was fun to toy around with, but would it be something I’d really buy and pay a monthly fee for? Then the day of release came and I found myself buying the digital collector’s edition and jumping back into the world of Telara. The amount I had to learn was definitely daunting. One reason WoW was so nice is because I knew it like the back of my hand, so to step into something so new and be on the ground floor again was both frightening and exciting. I have now become fully invested into this game, purchasing the “Founder’s” subscription for the next six months at a reduced rate.
How did Rift steal me away from WoW when no other game could? How much of it was disappointment with Cataclysm and how much of it was Rift’s successes? The answer is it was both. It was Cataclysm’s failure that made me leave WoW and knock on Rift’s door, but it was Rift’s strengths that made me step inside and make myself at home. I am sure many are wondering, “What strengths are these?” especially those longing for a new an original game to play these days. Here are five reasons, in no particular order, why Rift is better than WoW.
1. The world of Telara.
The story of Rift centers around Regulos the Destroyer who wants to take over Telara, which is a world surrounded by many planes of reality which also make up its existence (Elements such as Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Life and Death). Regulos is using banished gods from these elemental planes to break through to Telara via “Rifts” which are essentially portals for invasions from these different planes to rain down destruction and eventually overtake Telara. It’s up to two factions to put an end to his evil but also to shape Telara in their image. The Guardians and Defiant offer very unique perspectives on the events occurring in Telara, but these are done is such a way by the developers that there is no “bad guy” race. Both have their beliefs and motivations. The Guardians are about faith and belief in their gods and the Defiant believe in only themselves and the science of their machines.
The game looks beautiful, a far cry from what I was used to from WoW which now completely feels antiquated. Every corner you turn presents a new view of this beauty: the sun beaming through trees, over a massive mountain or above the pillars of gorgeous cities that rival anything from the Lord of the Rings movies. While all that is well and good, a lot of games look nice but there is no true substance, no content or heart to keep me coming back for more.
2. The Rifts and “Dynamic Content”
As I stated above, Rifts are rips and tears into the plane of Telara from the other elemental planes. These can occur at any place and any time. This creates “Dynamic Content”, meaning the content is ever-changing and is not predictable. You can be questing in a zone and have a rift open up right above your head. Trust me, I know, as it has happened to me many times. It is then up to you and your fellow players to decide whether to engage it and its enemies in an attempt to seal the rift, or to ignore it. However, let it be known that, if the rifts are ignored, they increase to the point they send out invasion forces and you could easily see a large section of your zone covered in rifts and enemies. This makes for very fun and unique game play as it breaks up the monotony of questing, and you get decent experience points and unique currency which you can spend on various items, like gear for your level range. This world feels alive and with a real purpose to go out and fight for you faction, it doesn’t have a “static” or boring feel.
3. The classes and Soul System
There are “only” four classes in Rift: Warrior, Mage, Rogue and Cleric. Seems pretty simple and this may even seem too trivial for most players, especially from WoW, where you have ten different classes. But the key here is that within each class in Rift you have have eight different specializations, or “Souls” (as they are referred to). WoW has the same thing, but each class only has three specializations to choose from. So lets do the math. WoW has thirty specs you can choose from, Rift has thirty-two (which doesn’t include that each class has a special Player versus Player (PvP) soul you can purchase, bringing the total to thirty-six specs).
For example, if you play a Rogue, it can be your typical assassin who uses stealth and destroys players with daggers, or you can take them the marksman route and use bows and guns along with your pet to make them more like a typical Hunter class. Couple this with being able to have up to four total specs at any time, where as WoW only has two specs available, and you can have countless roles at your fingertips at any time. For someone like myself who likes alts, it is very nice to know I can level only four different characters and have every role and spec available to me in the game. I also wanted the same thing in WoW and of course the only way was to level all ten classes, which obviously is very time consuming.
To me this is where the game really shines, as there are no “correct” ways to spec your character. There are good and better builds but it really depends on your play style. There are no “cookie cutter” builds in this game, unlike WoW where you pretty much have people specced the same way due to limitations of the talent trees. A prime example of all of this is my class of choice, the Cleric, which is very similar to the Druid in WoW in terms of being a hybrid class with the ability to fill all three major roles in the game of healer, damage, and tank. The great thing here is that, unlike in Wow, in theory I don’t have to carry tons of extra gear for me to go from healing to tanking (though you might want some different pieces for more health, etc). When you play the “Justicar” soul for tanking on a cleric, you get a passive talent called “Faith in action” which, “Increases the Cleric’s Attack Power by their Spell Power, their Physical Crit by their Spell Crit, and their Melee Hit by their Spell Focus.” So you see you can have all that spell power and spell crit gear on, and it transfers over to more tank like stats of attack power and physical crit. It’s little things like this that makes Rift feel like its on the cutting edge and WoW is woefully lacking.
4. UI Customization and lack of add-ons.
Anyone that played WoW for any amount of time knows add-ons are nearly essential for game play, even if you limited them to a couple you had to have them. At this point in time, and I hope it stays this way, there are no add-ons being allowed for Rift. Instead Trion Worlds is making their game and UI so customizable that you don’t need add-ons, since it comes all in the initial package.
Let’s look at the user interface (UI) for example: Everything is able to be moved and placed where it’s most comfortable for you. The mini map, the action bars, the casting bars, the character frames, all of it can be removed or re-sized to make the whole UI uniquely yours. Sure you can do the same thing in WoW to a degree, but you would need at least three add-ons I can think of off the top of my head to perform anything even close to this. The result is clean game play with little slow down due to the amount of memory those add-ons take up. Also, if you like your UI setup on one character on that server and want the same one an another, you don’t have to sit there and change it all manually again. Simply select “import” and the character’s UI you want and it instantly changes to match it. Also if you want to send any achievements you get in the game to Twitter you can easily do that with the UI’s interface. How about making a video of in game footage and sending it to YouTube? There is an interface for that also! Video is limited to 10 minutes recording in HD all the way up to 720p. Just more innovations Trion has made where Blizzard seems completely stagnant.
5. Community and improved player base
When you play on a server, or “Shard,” as they are called in Rift, that is your home and your community. Everything you do, everyone you meet and run with will be from there. This really builds a sense of community, much like WoW had before their random dungeon finder was introduced. No longer were people held accountable for their behavior in WoW, they could act out in groups with no repercussion because of cross-server game play. I can’t tell you how many times I ran a random in WoW and got a tank with a horrible attitude simply because they got instant queues, or the Mage I ran into that was wearing strength and agility gear, simply so he could have the item level to do heroics. As of now, there is no “looking for dungeon” mechanic, though it may change in the future. If it does change, I would request it stay server only or have the option to do so. The main thing I enjoy about MMO’s is the social aspect: meeting someone at random for a group quest or what have you and building a friendship that lasts for a long time to come. So far Rift has this in spades and I truly hope they cherish it and don’t water the social aspects down like I feel WoW did.
Although those are five major differences, you also have what I call the little things: Being able to use a mount at early levels, in-game mail being instant to anyone you send it to, and instant travel like teleportation (so no 10 minute flight times). If you quest with someone and a mob drops a quest item, you both can loot it, cutting down questing time immensely. Character customization is amazing, from hair color to types of eyebrows, everything is customizable. I never enjoyed PvP in MMOs before, but I really enjoy it in Rift. It doesn’t seem separate from the rest of the game, since all the abilities you use in Player versus Environment (PvE) are used the same way in PvP. To top it all off, I believe Trion Worlds listens to their player base and actually takes action to give them what they want in Rift. They are updating, patching and hotfixing all the time to make the game players experience better. Just a month into the release we already have a major new patch which introduces a world event and a whole new raid!
Trion has built an MMO I want to be a part of for a long time. It reminds me of what WoW used to be before it became so large and watered down. Nothing can last forever, but I truly hope Rift never forgets its roots and always tries to remain as it is now.