RIFT: A New Adventure

RIFTIf you need a break from reality and TV, movies, music or books aren’t doing it for you, I suggest you take a trip to Telara and enter the world of Rift. This game is amazing. It is visually stunning, highly polished and brimming with more fantasy stuff than you can shake a magic wand at! This is pure escapism at its best.

I’m a big fan of MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and played World of Warcraft for 4 years until I became bored with the same old junk rehashed in an attempt to keep players subscribing. I loved the lore and the story lines but the endless quests for killing 10 beasties for no other reason but for XP started to get very old. In fact the main reason I found it so appealing was due to the friendships forged, a good many hours were spent laughing till my face hurt. Sadly many people have moved on and I’ve lost touch with most of my online WoW pals.

So I stopped playing WoW about 6 months ago after the Cataclysm expansion. There were some new things to do, and exciting places to explore but the fun had gone out of it. I cancelled my subscription and went back to my writing. I keep a keen interest in up coming MMO’s because I love the story lines and sense of adventure.

There are 3 MMO’s I’ve kept my eye on – Star War: The Old Republic, The Secret World, TERA & finally Rift. I’d seen the in-game videos and scree shots but I wasn’t expecting it to be so good. I’m a bit of a fantasy nerd so this suited me just fine with the lore and magic and epic battles, the virtual world is teaming with life unlike other MMO’s I’ve played. I’m so surprised at how much I’m enjoying the game I thought I’d share some good/bad points with you good blog reader types.



Good Points.

Blade Dancer - Rogue CallingStunning visuals. The world is beautiful, well, at least the starting areas are, I haven’t explored beyond those. If your pc is powerful enough it’s well worth putting all the settings on maximum. The textures are detailed, the shadows and lighting are superb and the characters themselves look very well modelled.

Game play. It’s easy to pick up and get going, and the tutorials are simple and effective to get you motivated. You don’t feel lost or bewildered by the information and the hectic scenes that greet you. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied too, crafting stuff, collecting stuff, questing for stuff…just so much stuff to do!

Players. It was very refreshing to log in and find happy people talking in the general chat channel. No morons or folks with bad attitudes, just people enjoying their first steps in the new virtual world. In WoW there was an element of elitism where it was hard to find people to play with unless you had super gear and had achieved a certain score. Rift is different in that when there is a battle going on, which there are many frequent ones, you just click Join Public Group and join in the fun. No need to ask or be judged, just get in there and use your magic!

Quests & story lines. There’s a decent collection of quests with good stories behind them that keep you interested. I genuinely wanted to know what Scotty was up to and where he was going. The quests keep you moving about and entertained, though there are the usual “God kill 10 Fairy Demons because…” but then every MMO will have this kind of quest in it.

Bad Points.

ReaverBig graphics. To truly enjoy the game the way the designers intended you do need quite a good pc to handle the graphics and mass of stuff on the screen. There is a low resolution option but it looks a bit dull. I tried this and the game ran at a cool 65 fps (frames per second) but everything looked flat and lifeless. Having said that I also put all the settings on maximum quality and even though the game ran at 20 fps I didn’t notice any jarring or stuttering.

Rifts. Whilst these are an amazing sight – huge tears in the sky where the bad guys come pouring out, they can become a bit monotonous after a while. You don’t have to take part in these battles but the game is hinged on players taking part to fight back the beasties, which is why they make it easy to participate I guess.

Busy world. The starting areas do a very good job of sucking you into the story line and the reason why your character is there, but after that things can get a bit daunting, especially for someone new to the MMO genre. There are so many aspects to the game that while you concentrate on one thing you get the feeling you’re missing out on something important. It’s not too bad because there’s plenty of seasoned players happy to answer a noob’s questions. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the quests, crafting, looting, group play, lore, class roles, souls, invasions, artefacts, collections….and so on. Best advice is to take things slowly and if you don’t know something just ask – type /1 for general chat.

Calling. This defines what kind of character class you will play. There are 2 sides, the Guardians (good guys) and the Defiant (bad guys) although to be honest they both have good and bad reasons for their plight. Once you decide that you move on to your calling with 4 to choose from, Warrior, Rogue, Mage & Cleric. Don’t let these titles fool you as there are 8 subclasses to these or Souls as the game calls them. And apparently there can be 366 different combinations of any mixture of these. So you can get lucky and find the one you like first time or like me – I needed to play all a whole bunch of different types before I found a couple I liked.

Um, isn’t this a World of Warcraft clone?

Well yeah, but no, but kinda, well….it’s better. When I played AION I thought it was better than WoW to start with but like many other players it quickly becomes very boring. AION was visually amazing, a beautifully crafted game but it was too clean, too nice, too sparkly. And to some degree it didn’t make the cross-over from the Korean market to the European one, there was something not quite right with it, and when you’re paying a monthly subscription…well, the game needs to grab your attention way beyond how good it looks.

In many ways Rift does look very similar to WoW, everything you’d find in ye olde Warcraft you’ll find in Rift, except it’s better. WoW is an extraordinary game but it’s showing its age now, even with the improvements since the latest expansion. It’s safe to say that almost any online game will eventually feel boring and lack challenge after so many years. Right now Rift beats the visuals in WoW, the interface is polished, the world is superior in many ways and it still has that dirty, gritty feel to it that AION didn’t have.

Obviously I’m basing my opinion on only a weeks game play. I started with the 7 day free trial and liked it enough to buy it from Amazon at a very decent price, £23 I think it was. And that comes with 30 days play time. At the end of that I’ll decide if I want to keep playing, but for that price it’s very good value for money even just for one month. If I cut back on movie rentals or ordering a pizza a couple of times a month then the £9 monthly fee is quite affordable.

I’ve played most evenings for a few hours each time and have thoroughly enjoyed it. And that sense of not wanting to log out is there again, just like when I first played WoW.


Epicness!

The main attraction for me is the epic battles. I can be questing away, lost in a story line, when suddenly the sky goes dark and trumpets sound. A message flashes on the screen saying the area is being invaded. I look on my map and see dozens of markers showing where the invading forces are and where they are heading. Then to my horror I see dozens of rifts opening up. This is a bad one.

All of a sudden people in the chat channel start talking all at once.

We must protect the villages and the magic stone thing’s. Where are the main guys going? Let’s meet up and take them down. Have any of you seen this giant tree monster stomping along the path? We need healers and warriors for a huge battle on the sea front!!

To say that kind of event is exciting is a huge understatement. Players I’ve only chatted with are suddenly stood next to me as magic wooshes all around, the clang of metal against shield is startling and the roar of the beasties and invading forces kinda puts me on edge. When I see one of my pals hit by a huge attack and starts to loose health I wade in to protect them, healing as much as I can to keep everyone alive so we can charge the enemy back into the other plane and close the rift.

Yes, I’m playing a healer again! I played a healer Druid in WoW, and I was very good at it, but with Rift I wanted to play something different. I do have a little Dwarf hunter who I named Stump, he has 2 pets called Stamp and Stomp! He’s a great feller to play. My other character is a healer Cleric. He doesn’t do much damage to the beasties but he’s tough and very hard to kill. And I get a sense of achievement from keeping people from dying.

Beware the MMO Monkey on your back!

MMO’s are one helluva good way to escape into a fantasy world. I love movies and reading, not to mention writing, but I also love a few hours roaming a fantasy world, absorbing the story lines, meeting and chatting with new people and leaving the real world behind for a little while.

There are arguments that these kind of games are addictive and should carry health warnings, and that when people are having a tough time in the real world it’s easy for them to spend more time in a virtual one where it’s relatively easy to obtain a false sense of accomplishment.

Okay, so that’s a bit of a quote from the Big Bang Theory, but it is true for some people who find themselves wrapped up in a virtual world to the point where the real world is considerably less interesting and has little to offer other than problems they can’t handle or find solutions to.

I’m not a counsellor or a head doctor, so I wouldn’t know what to say to anyone addicted to online gaming, well, maybe something like “Hey, get a life, a real one. Did you know the sun rose and set twice and you haven’t moved away from your pc? Oh man, is that a colostomy bag you’re wearing…dude, that’s messed up.”

Thankfully I’m not one of those people.

When I started playing WoW years ago I admit I did spend rather a lot of time sat in front of my screen. I had a perfectly good social life but I also enjoyed the online social aspect of playing with people from all over the world.

Real world benefits from playing an MMO.

Did you know that some employers might be very interested to know if you play online MMO’s? So long as you’re not an addicted nut case who tries to trade virtual gold for items purchased in your local supermarket!

Think about it. You’re applying for a job, or already have one, and the subject of hobbies comes up. You can play it safe and say something like movies, reading, gardening, cycling….blah blah, or you can state (without shame) that you play an MMO. This in itself requires a certain level of skill, from time management, quick thinking, planning and good people skills.

To a non-nerd this might sound a bit silly but I’ve had to deal with a lot of strange stuff playing MMO’s. In WoW I had my own guild, this meant managing a collection of 50+ people, organising events for them like races, picture competitions, lotteries and so on. I had a team of guild officers who helped run these things and it was tricky to find a balance sometimes to satisfy everyone.

Take guild events like organising dungeon runs or raids for example. This is where a bunch of people get together to overcome some of the games more tough areas and beasties in order to obtain highly sought after weapons or items. I had to organise times and dates for 5, 10 or 25 people to be online at the same time. Then everyone had to get ready and go the right area and work together as a team to win in these tough situations.

And then there are the guild disputes. Not everyone is going to get along all the time and when friction arises I had to put aside my own fun play time to sort these out. I remember many evenings I would log in and simply let my character stand in a city whilst I chatted to dozens of people in an effort to solve an argument that had happened whilst I was logged out.

It can be quite a challenge and it takes some skill to manage everything. If you don’t believe me check this link out on the BBC website.

Gaming & Raiding in World of Warcraft.

Anyhow, I’ve ranted on long enough! There are beasties that need slaying, peasants to save, magic to wield and fellow players to heal!

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