I’ve been back in RIFT for a good week or so now, rocketing up through the first 30 levels. While the first day back was kind of “meh,” it’s quickly returned to my favorites list — as in, I can’t wait to log in the next time. So what have I loved about this return so far?
1. It’s still a very pretty game. Sometimes I hear some hate on RIFT’s visuals for being bland, which puzzles me. I’ve always thought of it as a good-looking game world that’s fun to poke around in. The enemy models are especially notable for their details and animations, and every once in a while I can’t help but stop and take screenshots of the local scenery.
2. Fiddling with soul builds is a terrific ongoing minigame. What the soul system loses in terms of identity and class permanence, it more than makes up for with flexibility and a friendly, welcome attitude toward those who just want to endlessly tinker with new builds and ideas. Finding little synergies that work and being able to create a build that caters to your playstyle (versus having to adjust your playstyle to a class) are the moments that make me the happiest.
3. The new Rogue Physician soul is terrific. Now that all of the callings have souls for all roles, you can now do it all. Rogues have a great healing soul with the Physician, but I like it more for how it complements solo PvE play. At zero points, you get a fairly potent heal, which is great for pretty much any build. Then the soul has access to all sorts of heal-over-times and absorb shields (the first of which you get at 4 points). My Tactician/Riftstalker/Physician build feels incredibly durable as a result.
4. I missed tab-target combat. With the exception of LOTRO, all of the other MMOs I’ve been playing lately have skewed to the action combat side of things. I’ve gotten used to it (and Guild Wars 2 remains the gold standard for balancing the old and new types of combat), but going back to RIFT showed me how much value the old tab-targeting combat was. It’s so much less stressful, especially for when I just want to quest without having to run around like a crazy person for each and every combat encounter.
5. Dimensions are pretty great. I’ve been working on my dimension a little here and there, and while WildStar gets the edge for housing looks and functionality, RIFT definitely has more user friendly placement tools. Plus, I’m getting a lot of housing items as normal loot, including a blue-quality Gloomwood house… to put next to my other house. Didn’t know houses could drop. That’s kind of cool.
6. There’s always a variety of activities to do. Mostly I’m just questing, because I do like the zone stories and completing everything, but I have a lot of leeway to take breaks for other activities. Instant adventures are low-stress group activities, dungeon running is still awesome (I do one or two a night), and I even do pretty much every rift that I encounter. I forgot about the mentoring system too, which eliminates the worry that I might out-level zone content before I’m ready to leave.