I apologize for the “All Warband All The Time” interruption, but I think this is worth posting about. Massively did a quick impressions piece about Rift, which includes Jef playing it for an hour, and the comments explode with people judging the ‘professionalism’ and ‘journalistic integrity’ of the staff. Its good stuff, in that ‘watch the idiots’ train wreck kind of way.
In a comment here, Drew alerted me to this whole thing, and brought up everyone’s favorite bastion of truth, Eurogamer, as a comparison. The two are black and white here, and I think it’s worthwhile to quickly go over why (especially since I often do EG Style reviews here).
Up front, Jef states he only played for an hour. That right there level sets what you should expect. It’s an opinion from an hour, nothing more, nothing less. It’s also negative, which has SOME value, but it’s up to the reader to decide how much. The first hour of EVE and Darkfall are also somewhat negative for many, but what does that mean? If the first hour is poor because the design for the next 100 demands it to be, that’s one thing. If it’s negative because your first hour is identical to the last 100 you spend in themepark X, that’s another. And, perhaps you see “I’ve played this before” not as an issue, but as a selling point. If you are looking for ‘more of the same’, that’s a damn good sales pitch. If the next MMO to be released has a first hour impression of “Man, this feels exactly like Darkfall, bleh!”, I’m sold (on the first hour).
The clear difference between what Jef did and what EG did is Jef level set everyone up front, and he also did not attempt to break down features and provide ‘facts’ he himself did not experience. The EG issue was never about how long a reviewer SHOULD play, but that EG had multiple factual errors, and when pointed out, stood behind them. Like I said, black/white.
Tobold also has a post about this, although with a slightly different take, one that I somewhat echoed here before: Rift being ‘more of the same’ is not necessarily a bad thing, and I still stand behind the ‘2004 WoW for 2011 is not bad’ statement.
However, having spent some more time now with Rift (10 hours or so?), here is the issue; from what I saw, Rift is NOT 2004 WoW for 2011. 2004 WoW brought a lot of new ideas to the MMO genre at that time. It great improved on EQ1 in a number of areas, and while its core was similar, most of the details were significantly different. Rift is not significantly different. Forget moving the genre forward, it moves it sideways, or even, moves it back a few steps.
The rift system is being called WAR’s PQs version 2.0 (as somewhat of an insult), but as Zubon from KTR correctly stated, where is the 2.0? A whole version forward because they randomly spawn? They still get zerged (without scaling), they will still be forgotten/ignored once you have what you want, and you have indeed seen them all once you have seen two or three (if not one, sadly). That they may or may not temporarily impact the area around them is, for now, a total non-factor if you don’t need the rep/items/whatever from them (and have others who feel the same). Again, a beta is an ideal condition, but come live, things change drastically, and not in a good way. Nothing so far has convinced me that rifts won’t go the way WARs PQs did a few months after release.
The soul system does seem interested, but at a max of 66 points total and 50 to max one tree, how many 50/16/0 builds will be ‘viable’ three months after release? But even if you assume dozens and dozens of different builds are viable, so what? You now have dozens of different builds to… repeat 2004-era quests and grind out the first few parts of a rift? Yay…
I’m being harsh on Rift, perhaps too harsh, but in many ways it feels like a huge opportunity wasted. Rift just does way too many things too safe, and really does feel like ‘more of the same’ in a very bad way. 2004 WoW grabbed you because while feeling familiar, it constantly surprised or impressed with something, be it big or small. So far, each step with Rift has felt very familiar, but without a single surprise. You go around every corner expecting something, and sure enough, it’s right there, just as you predicted. That’s not good, but maybe beyond 10 hours this changes. I’ll likely find out when Aria and I finally sit down to play, but I’m not holding my breath here.