RIFT Beta Impressions-1

I signed up for the RIFT beta, and played a bit during the week. I wasn’t able to play much but it was fun.

I’ve read other bloggers mention how polished the game is. I think calling it polished risks understating how polished it is. It really is just mind bogglingly good.

Take a look at this screenshot:

RIFT Beta
My Guardian-side Cleric

Unfortunately, a mere screenshot doesn’t capture the quality of the UI. For that you’d need to either play or watch a video, and I’m not currently set up to capture video. That is now on my to-do list.

All the icons are clear, even the smaller ones in the lower right. Player skills, in the middle bottom, shine and stand out, and are not dull or flat in appearance. See that little padlock on the left of the player skill bar? That is a quick way to lock/unlock the skill bar, something I would love to have as easy access to in other games, which bury it a few menus into a config dialog.

The text at the top, Ardenburgh Gate, doesn’t just splat onto the screen – it fades into view. Other text such as the level up notification, is drawn with quick animation and after-effect sparkle. This isn’t distractive or overblown, it is just a nice attractive effect.

In the upper right near the minimap, are effect icons. This shows what spell/skill effects are active on your characters, and includes an easily readable duration countdown. Fantastic!

Help boxes are well designed. Many games will help the new player by popping up information the first time, e.g. how you move, how to get and turn in a quest, etc. The RIFT help text appears in attractive dialog boxes, with the text broken into small segments for easy reading, and arrow keys to move back and forth. Sometimes there is a graphic to aid comprehension (displaying highlighted keys or mouse buttons).

RIFT gets about 28-30 fps on my mid-range notebook, and the game is smooth. Other games at that framerate appear a bit… sluggish. It is hard to describe – not jerky or hitchy – but with a deatched slowness. Well it doesn’t matter because a) RIFT feels responsive and smooth even at that framerate, and b) this is the beta, which means the code probably includes debug or log information (framerates will likely be a bit higher for the release version).

Combat animations look great as well. I played a few levels of a warrior soul and a faint red line trail appeared following each sword swing – maybe this was meant to be a “bloody sword” effect tied to the particular soul I chose (sorry I forgot which one specifically) – it looked very sharp. Another character dripped small green droplets from their weapon when in combat.

I was losing a battle, and as my char neared death the screen started to wash out – losing color and becoming progressively grayscale. What a great way to warn the player they are close to dying! I did lose that fight and on character death a popup choice appeared: “soul walk” in the same place in 15s, usable once an hour, or “respawn” at a rez point and then come find your body. Excellent to have the travel-saving insta-rez option immediately!

The best game mechanic I saw involved activating a machine for a quest. One of the early Defiant quests asks you to activate 5 machines. I was running towards one when I spotted another player doing the same thing. They arrive first and activated, so I stood there expecting to wait for the machine to reset. But I looked again and the device still had the sparkly animation indicating it could be activated. I tried it and it worked! Yes, a game that recognizes several players may be doing the same quest, activating or gathering some required resource before you, and DOESN’T REQUIRE YOU TO WAIT AROUND for the resource to become available again! This is great stuff indeed.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The game looks and plays spectacularly, like they kidnapped an Apple UI design team and made them work on the UI for many months.

Anyway, I hope to play a few more hours over the weekend, and get a little further on two characters. I also want to figure out more of the soul system, which is RIFT’s class system. So far I get the calling part, which is the general archtype of a character (e.g. Warrior, Mage, Cleric, Rogue). The souls are choices within the calling, which add further abilities in that soul’s theme, for lack of a better description. How to swap souls, save builds, or any restrictions on how many you can have (any 3 at a time from within a calling?) are unclear to me right now.

Still, thumbs up for the beta so far, definitely check this game out if you can.

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