Rift’s beta NDA has officially been dropped (I believe alpha testers are still to remain mum), so I can go ahead and say that I was extremely lucky in being randomly invited to both beta weekend events, and then managed to snag two VIP keys for Mr. Randomessa and myself, so that we could play Beta 2 together.
It seems everybody has something to say about Rift, so I’m not sure I have much to add. Since I don’t play WoW, many of the similarities other bloggers noted and commented on were missed by yours truly and Mr. Randomessa; we were more likely to compare Rift to the Warhammer we actually have experience with, with smatterings of EQII and Aion thrown in for variety. About the most damning thing anyone has to say about Rift is that it doesn’t do much that is new, and how damning you find that will completely depend on how new you like your gaming experience to be.
I went into the Beta 1 weekend thinking that I wanted things to be about as different as possible, because the only game that has drawn and kept my attention for years isn’t even on the books as a “real” MMO, but I am also the same person who played the heck out of Warhammer for six months before the population took a nosedive, and farther back from that, played a cleric and healed berserkers back in my text MUD days. It turns out that my “I like different” battle cry shriveled up as soon as I found out that in Rift I could be a chainmail-wearing, hammer-wielding cleric with a pet. Just like I used to in StrangeMUD fifteen years ago! And so it was that I was sold.
Rift’s appeal for Mr. Randomessa and I lays mostly in the little things: in the markings on Kelari faces, in the lazy character running animations (much hated on the forums but charming to me), in the way loot automatically goes into a bag on your UI when you participate in a Rift, so you can always collect even if you die. Rift appealed to us when I opened the map and hollered for Mr. Randomessa to “LOOK at it, LOOK AT THE INVASIONS” and when Mr. Randomessa yelled at me to “LOOK at that TREE, LOOK AT IT!” There was a lot of yelling at Chez Randomessa on Sunday night of Beta 2.
I found myself enjoying healing a group in a chaotic situation long after I thought I’d hung up that hat. I poured hours into leveling in the hopes that I would be able to experience a dungeon, came up short, but got to kill a tree with over 300,000 hit points, and keep people alive while doing it (while Mr. Randomessa crafted in a corner; something he always found disappointing about Warhammer). I got to hang out with a couple hundred people in the same area without a server meltdown, dance with a dwarf, and watch a bit of Rift lore unfold without having had to attain an elite level range or armor rating.
Beta event 3 will take place squarely in the middle of a week in which I have to work, and will end the morning of my only day off, so my story ends here. Mr. Randomessa, on the other hand, has strict instructions to devour everything and take notes. We’re going to need some more information if we’re to make this our new home, after all.