Rift: Planes of Telara Preview

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to look at some live gameplay for Trion World's upcoming MMORPG Rift: Planes of Telara on the game's internal alpha servers. At first glance, it looks like World of WarCraft clone with a similar UI, but upon further inspection, it sports a unique art style, better graphics, and some clever new gameplay mechanics.

nope As the player traverses the world, he or she may come upon tears, rifts, or full on invasions by evil forces. These tears and rifts can be opened, which kicks off a Warhammer: Age of Reckoning-style public quest as invading enemies, tied to a particular plane and element, enter the world and attack. Opening one of these events changes the game world to reflect the particular flavor of the baddies. A fire plane rift would turn the ground into lava-blasted rock and cast red hot light on the terrain.

With enough preperation, players and guilds will be able to draw powerful bosses out of these rifts to fight them at the raid or group level. Eventually, raids are planned that take players inside of these rifts and to the planes themselves, though this will not be in for launch. Other dungeons and traditional raids will be available in now-standard 5, 10, and 20-man confirugations. Low-level dungeons may be revisited at later levels, changed by story events and filled with new challenges and enemies.

There are four character "callings"--Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, and Mage--but within each class, players can put points into three "classes" at a time. It is reminiscent of WoW's talent tree system, but it also dictates the main skills granted to characters. At the beginning of the game, players will put points into a single tree, but will eventually unlock the ability to create a loadout combining skills and abilities from three class trees.

nope Then, players will eventually unlock new loadout slots to create even more combinations of skills and abilities. Trion doesn't want players to reroll entire characters to try new classes and much of the end game content will initially be obatining new classes and unlocking more slots to kit out.

I have some concerns about balance with so many customization options open to the player, especially when it comes to player-versus-player content, but I do like the freedom granted to players to fill different combat roles without having to create new characters. Admittedly, I stopped playing World of Warcraft long before dual talent specilization was put in the game.

The dynamic events in the rift and tear systems impressed me, but beyond that it boiled down to standard MMORPG design. You'll get a bar of abilities and mix them in with your auto-attack. There's no telling how much content will be in Rift from this short demo, but it certainly seems to be a more realized world than many other MMORPGs I see before they are released.

If you don't like WoW or other similar games, Rift probably won't bring anything to the table to change that opinion. If you are a fan of the genre, it looks like it could offer some new gameplay and experiences. Time will tell, howver, as it is extremely difficult to judge an MMORPG in a quick preview session.

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Rift: Planes of Telara should be released sometime in 2011 and is currently planned as a subscription-based MMORPG.