Prompted by Tobold (its Thursday blog noob, not Friday), let’s talk about Rift 6 months after release.
Pre-release, Trion was hyping Rift with “You’re not in Azeroth anymore”. Yes, Rift was never pitched as more than yet another fantasy themepark, but themepark does not always equal solo-hero shiny-vacuum ala current-day WoW.
And in beta, Rift was certainly not Azeroth. Most of the content focus was around open zones rather than closed-off instances, balance was aimed at allowing anyone to group with anyone to succeed, and the general lore was around two factions that had a common enemy but conflicted about how to deal with it. Actually, it was very much Azeroth, just circa 2004. You had group quests, elite mobs in zones, quest chains of increasing difficulty, etc. The game was in no way ‘hard’, but it was not a faceroll either.
Right at release, zone events were nerfed, and lost most of the impact they had in beta. They could now be easily ignored, and a zone would no longer feel ‘dangerous’ during an invasion. They in effect became a side-option rather than a focus.
The first world event was a dud. From a design standpoint it had some major flaws, the game could not handle it technically, and worst of all most players came away feeling very ‘meh’ about the whole thing. The second world event was more of the same, minus the initial novelty of “hey it’s the first world event!”
Patch 1.2 was a massive nerf to the games overall difficulty; buffing now easily-acquirable gear while at the same time nerfing mob difficulty will do that. The justification for this nerf was that random PUG groups collected with the very-2011-Azeroth dungeon finder were lower skilled, and in order to ensure everyone walked away with a shiny, the bar had to be lowered. Later patches continued this trend, nerfing any reasonable difficult quests, rifts, or events.
The game pitched as “not Azeroth” very quickly started to mirror exactly that, with a focus on random PUG groups, collecting tokens, and getting to the cap so you could queue up for instanced whatever.
Rift does have a few quality features, ones that will no doubt be cloned going forward much like WAR’s PQs have been cloned. The soul system is a solid progression of the talent-tree setup, and makes the old “one way up” style feel very dated. Trion should also be commended on their rate of updates; as of this date they have been steadily delivering new content and changes, along with being very active on their forums. Like the game or not, it’s hard not to admire Trion in this area, and hopefully it continues going forward and pressures other studios to try and keep up.
Right now, Rift is doing exactly what Trion wants it to do; offer a similar experience to WoW players who are tired of waiting on Blizzard. It’s not hard to see where most of those million+ subs from WoW have gone. It’s not the sales pitch they were promoting pre-release, but with a million “customers”, so far it seems to be working out for them.