Finally! I can discuss with all of you my experience in the beta events of Rift. This game has been a long time coming for me. I have been hoping it was everything the blogger-created hype made it out to be. Ideas of a new game world that changed as you played and a class system that was unique to many MMOs had me seeing sparkles.

From minute 1…
My first experience with Rift was the Rise of the Defiant closed beta event. Character creation took quite a long time. Not because I had trouble, but because there was so much customization to play with! I finally settled on a character and entered the world.

Fortunately, the promises of a gorgeous game has been carried out. Trion’s art design team did an amazing job in every detail of Rift. The dark and dreary feel of the Defiant’s beginning area sets the tone for this faction and really creates the reality of what the world has become.

Questing at the beginning is what one would expect. A few collection and errand quests are finished while you learn how to work with the souls which is Rift’s unique multi-class sytem. I did find myself a bit ho-hum over the starting quests, but the interaction with NPCs and learning some new mechanics were enough to keep me plugging along.

As you finish your starting zone, your character already is being made to feel like quite the hero. You begin to aide your faction against some pretty formidable baddies in order to save the world. Yes, I am being vague because I don’t want to spoil it! Regardless of the “typical” questing, you do get a great story line to run with.

Souls
Let’s quickly look over how souls work. At the beginning you choose one of three souls which go along with the main class archetype you chose – Mage, Cleric, Warrior and Rogue. Around level 5-ish, you get to choose the second soul which is another “class” and equip that soul. Then, you can begin to level through two classes. Later on, you receive a third and so on. At any given time, you can multi-class and tweak points to your heart’s content.

I was already creating class combinations in my head while I downloaded the beta client. My first choice was a Mage where I eagerly awaited creating a combination of Elementalist and Stormcaller later on. Why? Well, it sounds pretty awesome. Throwing lightning and earth and water all over the place with the whole “I can conjure up a storm on you, bad guy!” is appealing to me.

Though the system is awesome, I fear it may also become a problem. Think about it. Hundreds of combinations and skill points to place…theorycraft session, anyone? Eventually, all of this point placing and crafting your class combination could become a chunk of time that you would rather spend playing the actual game…or doing something else.

Rifts and the changing world
The dynamic world is what really pulled me to not only Rift but also Guild Wars 2. Both are very promising and appealing to many players. Trion World’s design team once again delivered with an amazing world that never seems to be exactly the same. Things change. They move. They feel a little more organic than other games where you know what happens when you go back into an area you already visited.

The rifts were/are the big thing that is supposed to hit this game out of the ballpark. During the first closed beta event, it was simply “OK” but nothing more. Too many people were around to really enjoy it and the area was swarmed with players. However, they are tweaking some things as the beta continues.

Will it be the game of 2011?
Here is the question people are asking. Is this the game we’re waiting for? I don’t know. In it’s current state, no. As the game continues through it’s beta events and the team continues to tweak the game, it very well could be.

Another thing people want to know is if I can “compare it to WoW”. I think I agree with Justin Olivetti, compare it to WAR, not WoW. Yes, there are some definite similarities. Questing, mechanics etc are fairly straightforward for any fantasy MMO player.

Rift has a lot of potential. It is a beautiful game world that seems “alive”. The unique class system I’m not completely sold on. It could be a blessing or a bane. Based on my first impressions, it remains a “we shall see what happens”.