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Hands-on: Rift: Planes of Telara

8:46 PM on 10.24.2010 // Chris Morris
  @Azereki

I've become an extremely jaded MMO player over the years. With so many games in the genre being derivative and unoriginal, it's tough not to be cynical. With that said, we recently had the opportunity to head out to Trion Studio in Redwood Shores to get hands-on with their upcoming MMORPG, Rift: Planes of Telara.

The build we sat down with was still only in alpha, but it was apparent how much effort had already gone into polishing many aspects of the game. It looked great, controlled well, and surprisingly enough, was free of any blatantly obvious bugs. Anyone who has played an MMO at launch should agree that most, if not all, should have never left beta in the first place. With Rift, I think Trion could certainly be on track to deliver one of the better MMO releases in recent memory.

I've become an extremely jaded MMO player over the years. With so many games in the genre being derivative and unoriginal, it's tough not to be cynical. With that said, we recently had the opportunity to head out to Trion Studio in Redwood Shores to get hands-on with their upcoming MMORPG, Rift: Planes of Telara.

The build we sat down with was still only in alpha, but it was apparent how much effort had already gone into polishing many aspects of the game. It looked great, controlled well, and surprisingly enough, was free of any blatantly obvious bugs. Anyone who has played an MMO at launch should agree that most, if not all, should have never left beta in the first place. With Rift, I think Trion could certainly be on track to deliver one of the better MMO releases in recent memory.

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Rift: Planes of Telara
Developer: Trion Studio (Redwood Shores)
Publisher: Trion Worlds
To be released: TBA

Upon starting the game, the first thing I noticed was the art direction. The overall aesthetic seems to be comfortably nestled somewhere between Lord of the Rings and The Forgotten RealmsRift is able to offer quite a bit of diversity in regards to environments, creatures, and characters, while still maintaining a look that feels more "realistic" than cartoony. Of course, you can always check out the screenshots and decide for yourself.

Certainly, even the best looking game in the world would be nothing without first being fun and intuitive. The great thing about Rift is that they are not redesigning the wheel here. Everything from the basic controls, interface design, and combat mechanics, will all be immediately familiar to anyone who has played an MMO before.

All the standard gameplay elements are still here: party play, factions, archetypal class roles, instanced dungeons, quests, gear, etc. It's easy to tell that Rift has been designed from the ground up, to be essentially like "riding a bike" for many players. The learning curve, even for a newbie player, is going to be relatively small.

Although tanking is certainly one of the more difficult aspects of group play in any MMO, I was able to draw from my previous experience and had most of the mechanics figured out fairly quickly. Many players should hopefully be pleased by  the fact that there are no overwhelming barriers to just hopping in and enjoying the game.

For the sake of argument, let's compare Rift to WoW for a moment. Take the Warrior class in WoW for example. You have three talent trees, ranging from tanking to DPS skills. While you can spend points in those trees however you like, for all intents and purposes you are stuck with playing your original class.

Rift, on the other hand, allows you to customize each of your three talent trees. Although the basic archetypes still exist: Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, and Mage, players will now have access to various "classes" within those. Imagine being able to take a Death Knight, Paladin, and Warrior tree, all within the same character. Essentially, Rift will allow you to multi-class within your chosen archetype.

The archetypes and their various classes have not yet been finalized, but all of the min-maxers out there (or, people that just like to try everything) should have a ton of freedom in deciding exactly to build out your character. Best of all, respec'ing won't cost you an arm and a leg, so experiment to your heart’s content!

You may still be wondering, "Why do I care?" I can't say I blame you, MMO's have practically saturated the PC market and most of them are terrible! In my opinion, the ace up the sleeve for Rift is the return of non-instanced group content. Better yet, it is being implemented in a way that is completely dynamic and quite fun to boot.

All over the world, Rifts to the Planes of Telara (cwut i did thar?) will be opening up, spewing forth various monsters and assorted baddies. These monsters are on a mission to take over towns, open up additional rifts, and cause mayhem. 

It will be up to players (and NPC's alike) to band together and close down these rifts, fighting back enemy hordes until the rift is destroyed or town is retaken. None of the grouping is forced, however, but the mechanic does encourage players to work together to succeed. As such, the effort and contribution of each player to any given event is tracked and rewarded accordingly.

No longer will you have to simply grind away at random quests, moving from one zone to the next. Sitting around waiting for an instance group to open up is a thing of the past, you can actually get decent gear and experience from rifts as well. Rifts should hopefully take some of the mind-numbing tedium out of questing and add a bit of flavor to the world.

It's hard to sample everything that that makes up an MMO in one sitting. Still, I saw enough of Rift to know that it’s a title worth watching out for. For any that might be interested in check this out, they should be doing a beta at some point in the near future!



Chris Morris,
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