Rift PvP is bad. I don’t know if it’s historically “all time” bad, but it’s at least close. It has, more or less, nothing going for it. The warfronts are meh, the balance is off, and the entire end-game aspect of it is just terrible. Why games so focused on PvE continue to tack on PvP is beyond me, but with Rift it really is a total waste of dev time.
The warfronts: For starters, you get a grand total of four maps. Four. Warhammer launched with what, 20+? And that game was rushed out the door… Four is a low number, but if those four are great, it’s not that big an issue. The four in Rift are overall bad.
Black Gardens is, IMO, the best one, and it’s a very simple and straightforward map. Nothing super memorable, but nothing that screams terrible (really high bar we are working with here, huh).
The Codex: This one comes close, but the variables turn it into a formulaic map with basically one way to win. That the top point is worth more than the others means everyone rushing for it, and whoever controls it wins the vast majority of the time. While the actual fights around the points can be interesting due to the terrain, they play out too similar each battle, and come-from-behind wins are very rare due to how the points are balanced.
Whitefall Steepes: Remember how in WoW the most annoying thing about WSG was that it was a standstill and encouraged people to do stupid stuff like going in 1v10? Hey lets re-create that! Bonus points for making the middle ground larger to give the halfwits extra time to fight pointlessly in the middle. At least the match ends in 20 minutes or less, but far too often the map is a total campfest, and the whole design encourages cheesy soul combos just for this one map.
Port Scion: You finally made it to 50 and can now play the final, epic warfront. Surprise, its terribad! I swear Trion must have stolen the worst copy of Alterac Valley from WoW. Just so many things wrong with this map; from the main goal being totally ignored, to the snowball effect of the buffs (now nerfed, but still), to the quests the do more to distract people than encourage them to help out in a win. Port Scion should be used as an example in how NOT to design PvP, it’s that bad.
Bad maps are just the beginning though. If Rift nailed everything else, you would be left with two decent maps and could ignore the other two. MMOs have done worse.
You know what MMO history says about crowd control when it comes to PvP? It sucks. No one likes to get stunned, mezzed, disarmed, or whatever you want to call the effect of not being able to play your character. Not playing is not fun, shocker! Double suck kicks in when you get to watch yourself die when not playing. Yay. So hey, let’s release our game with a 12 second sheep, that someone can spam-cast. I’m sure that will be TONS OF FUN! Then go on to give most souls (but not all…) AoE CC in bunches, long-lasting single-target stuff, and massively inefficient anti-CC.
And the worst part of that? Even your own team hates you sheeping, because if they break it they feel bad, you get pissed, and now both sides are not having fun. Design 101 fail.
So we have rampant CC from specific souls, and since CC rules PvP, that’s how people spec. Now change it up and make CC worthless, but don’t change those souls, and watch as everyone suddenly turns super happy. Oh wait.
Let’s go for the bad design hat trick and introduce a specific stat for PvP that makes WoW look like 97 UO in terms of PvP. The way Valor is designed is staggeringly bad, in that it not only creates a massive gap between those with and those without, but turns those with into uber-tanks. Nothing says “I’m having fun now” when your giant axe wielding warrior charges a mage and bounces right off him, and then gets roasted in an AoE due to the damage amp and from the lack of actually being tanky.
Rift PvP is actually half-decent pre-50 in small bites, but it’s just terrible at 50 thanks to Valor. The difference is pretty shocking, and just highlights what a major mistake Valor really is.
I’d mention world PvP, but um… well this has been negative enough already.
At the end of the day though PvP in Rift is a total afterthought, and I doubt many would leave if it was completely removed. Which it should be, because continuing to try and bandage it together is just a waste of time, and I’m sure Rift players would much rather that time be spent on releasing PvE updates faster, or tuning souls with PvE in mind.
Trion has done a lot of things right, and created a very solid themepark MMO, which is perhaps why this total miss on PvP is so surprising.