I wanted to take a moment and discuss why I will continue to keep my subscription to Rift.
I could do the whole rundown most review sites do. But, hey, they have already done all this. What I want to give you is how I have been playing and what I feel as I play. So, my language may be too familiar with Rift, and could turn away some readers. Hope you can follow along as this stream of consciousness only happens to me in a blue moon now!!
First off, I have made sure to try each calling (general class) in the game. I have a Mage, Warrior, Cleric, Rogue. I then attempted to fit those characters into my playstyle of being the Healer. Thanks to the "Family who MMO's", I have built up this persona of being main heals, or having classes who heal. From Reaver/Paladin for Warrior, Bard in the Rogue calling, Chloromancer in Mage and of course Sentinel/Warden in Cleric...they all work. This was a great experiment, and led me to enjoying the "Soul" system of Rift.
This was my first clue I would stick this out. All classes have proven to be enjoyable, thus having four alts really helps create an environment for me to play in and stay interested. I have my main grouping class with my Cleric, my alt who hunts and resources (Rogue solo Bard is just plain fun), and my damager...Chloro with Warlock and DOT's is fantastic, and will eventually play with groups. The only class that trails the others in likability is the Warrior calling. But, that is ok, as I have never really been much of a Warrior player.
So, with classes playing a major role in my happiness, what then about the game experience.
The tutorial areas really are not entertaining. Once through and I am good. But, to get each calling out of that zone was truly difficult. The game suffers in this way of forcing this tutorial area on you. Of course, each calling got easier...as I could run through and be done in less than an hour. But I could not enjoy the little things the game offers (searching for books, collectibles, etc), as I wanted to leave that beginning.
Once I am out, then the true playing begins.
Questing in Rift is too standardized. Lets get that straight. Do not get me wrong...there are quite a few fun little quests, but a majority of the time I keep thinking "Been there, done that". Thus, as I played, I started to avoid this requirement. I would start chasing Rifts as much as possible. I would drop green or gray quests. But, I tried my best to at least head to the area where questing was taking place, and play how I wanted. If a quest was completed, then awesome.
When I started in Rift, the quests were the main goal, as it seemed this is what we always do in our MMO's. Luckily, Rift offered a way out, by metagaming outside that norm..searching for "sparklies" (those little artifacts), spelunking and mountain climbing and a sense of wandering and exploring led to a new way to play. Yes, I may not level as fast, but of course, when I am ready to ding, I will just go back, finish a quest or two and do some turn ins.
Honestly, the Rifts are where the fun is at for me though. When I played in Warhammer Online, I attempted all of the Public Quests, and that to me was more fun than the standard form of "kill me those rats boy-ee". The Rift's are fun in certain aspects of figuring out how to approach them. Some had certain ways to finish them quickly, while others were a race to find the mobs and get done before the timer expired. Almost like a mini-game within the game. And of course, getting to the Rifts was its own mini-game.
My Bard is currently in his 30's, and has been working his way through Scarlet Gorge and Scarwood Reach. I love the way these zones look (I guess I should finally add at this time..I am Guardian BTW). KillTenRats notes "Still, I am thankful to go. Scarlet Gorge seems like an experiment gone wrong...I have to say, the zone feels poorly designed for a mid-level zone." I could not disagree more. But, maybe it has to do with being able to do the "quest avoidance" that I have been working on. I keep my Bard at rested XP through his adventures. I then work my way through various mines, mountains and resources along the way. I create this little adventure for myself as I travel in search of new areas to explore. Of course, invasions and Rifts are not as plentiful, and this could be KTR's issue. I do miss them.
My Cleric, also in his 30's works with a small group in this zone, and we will do the basic quests, and they are done quickly and efficiently. This could be how Rift was meant to be played. Trion made every effort to build in a social tool like the Public Groups. Thus, I feel when Rift is played with others, it works much better than solo'ing through quests...which can become a bore. This team also works on dungeons and invasions if there, but we do not Rift chase. This group is all about heading to endgame.
My Cleric has hit the dungeons for each zone. Realm of the Fae, Darkening Deeps, Foul Cascade. Each have the basics of dungeons that we expect. Luckily, they are not easy. They have proven to be a challenge with how to avoid patrols, boss fights....and thats what we enjoy in our MMO's...right?
Basically, you can see that I am not deterred by the "same ole, same ole" that most people attribute to Rift. Maybe it is because I have strayed so much from that norm in my MMO stable (just never really got into World of Warcraft...and there you have it; the mention of the game most everyone mentions...just did it to get a rise out of ya).
Overall, Rift is a good stable game, and plays well.
Combat feels like it connects, mobs are not pushovers, spawn rates are quick and traveling is dangerous. Many a time I need to catch my breath as I have swamped through massive amounts of critters and humanoids, cutting a swathe through their entrails as I look to get to my next point. Some have complained about the spawn rates or their proximity to each other. I say too bad. Suck it up, as danger should be the criteria for my play world.
Crafting feels useful (finally, an MMO that gets it) yet, not exciting. Creating mats and repetitious creation of the items to level is annoying. Luckily, gathering is it's own mini quest for materials needed, collecting shinies while doing this is its own amusing past time.
Guilds add a special reason to complete objectives in game, as you will add special bonuses to various items. Combat, crafting, Rifting all can be enhanced due to "perks". But, honestly, the PvE based leveling of the guilds is slow and cumbersome, while PvP'ing is fast...and for a straight PvE guild, that gets annoying. But, when you are as casual as we are in our guild, we are not that worried about it. (But, hey, it could be improved Trion).
I like these features about Rift.
Do not get me wrong, Rift is not without it's faults (the latest being a massive lag spike weekend...but, come to find out was a router issue in Texas). But, that is not much in the way of problems, and has not taken me out of the game due to concerns of questing or broken gameplay. If anything, I can play on a regular basis without a hiccup, and enjoy each login.
Rift feels like a game I want to get to endgame with. Trion is making a major effort to keep this game intact and running great. It runs well on my hardware. It looks beautiful. Updates come fast and quick. Bugginess is minimal or non-existent at times. The new content after 30 days is a boon. How can that be a bad thing? Oh yes, the inevitable nerf, which I had hoped would not happen. But, at the same time, buffs are going in. We will see how that goes. But, at least I can say...I hope they can keep this momentum.
I guess if we need to complain, it is to the fact that the "cloned" feeling we get is there. The game is familiar to our standard MMO, but is helped with a great system of non-structure. Busy work and off the beaten path adventuring lends a hand in making the game fun. Add more fluff, like cosmetic changes, housing, achievements, and you will have a happy, busy household like mine still playing.
Thus, dedication by a great developer, awesome gameplay styles, great combat, and gorgeous looking graphics have all led to me sticking it out for the next six months. Really, what else could I be doing? Playing those other games with their low populations? Buggy gameplay and broken systems? Or the game with no name?
Lets see how this goes instead, eh?