It’s just dull
March 25, 2011 13 Comments
I’ve given Rift what I think is a fair attempt at grabbing me, but it has failed to do so. Unlike some bloggers, I am completely burned out on the themepark design. Whereas long ago I talked about how I was done with PvE games, I think now it has evolved into just being done with themeparks (no, really?). I could maybe play a PvE game in a sandbox, but would probably find it more difficult without the freedom of attacking another player – because at this point the artificial restriction would feel jarring in what should be an open world. I’m not in any way regretting my purchase, because I feel like the money I gave to Trion helped to reinforce what they did right, and what the entire genre should emulate – functionality and stability. It’s not the studio’s fault that I find their design choice to be less entertaining than a presentation on the various methods of mixing paint.
Really, I just find the paradigm, well, dull. So much so, that at this point, I’m having a hard time remembering what it is I like about the set-up to begin with.
In the early days, there was EQ (and now again in the new-days). I found that entertaining, and the progression server shows that I still do. Some say the world is more sandbox than themepark, I say it falls in an “in-between” place. It’s clearly a linear progression game, with levels, spells, skills and improvements all focused around advancement in levels. The “goal” is to go from A to B and get more powerful. However, it’s placed in a full world. There are a plethora of options to do that trek, and the areas for newbies often have dangers and sidebits for veterans. Intermingled content helps to give the game a greater immersion. In Rift, there are very clear delineations between the level brackets and the zones, just as in most other themepark games.
Of course, at the time of the original EQ choices were slim, but I was young, so other interests took up more time. So when EQ2 came out, I dove into that fiercely. I loved the original EQ2 of exploring the game, finding groups and doing dungeon crawls through Runneyeye. Finding competent players to go deep into the bowls of a shared dungeon was fun. Other players presence provided a kind of competition, as well as made the location feel inhabited. Where EQ2 started was, compared to the original EQ, more themepark, less sandbox – and sadly that split has increased further as time has progressed. But at least there’s housing. Then there is WoW, that refined the themepark, point A to B, hand-holding each step of the way, style of gameplay. I was so averse to it when I first tried it, that I stayed away from it. (EDIT: of course, until my RL friends conned me into playing with them)
Of course, I played WAR for a couple of years as well. What was interesting about WAR was that, while the leveling aspect adhered to the traditional questing tropes, the main activity of the game was very new and different. WAR is largely what introduced me to PvP in MMOs. So, while it followed the “standard” for the leveling game, what the aim of the gameplay was supposed to be, was far more dynamic, and fell more into the “in-between” place similar to EQ. So, while the game was directed in an overarching sense, the reality of the gameplay was dynamic and unscripted due to the live nature of PvP play.
So, that’s a lot of preamble and over-explaining on my part to say that when I play Rift. I’m just bored. I can sit down in my computer chair, unlock the pivot, lean way back, and mindlessly make my way through the levels and zones of the game. Sometimes needing to use nothing other than my N52te, “Look ma! One hand!”. To some people, that sounds amazing. What they seek in their MMO is maybe some social interaction, and mindless gameplay. Chugging through rifts and quests with little planning or forethought in it. Quickly jumping into the game and just doing.
Which leads me to a second complaint that is specific to Rift. The soul system. I LOVE the concept. I applaud the diversity and inter-mutable shifting of what you can do and how you do it depending on how many points you put towards each soul. The root/tree division was brilliant. However, as far as the leveling game goes, it doesn’t seem to matter what choice I make. Play a Reaver/Champion felt a lot like playing a Paladin/Riftblade. Time to kill, and difficulty of completion was about exactly the same. Some of the styles of finishing them felt somewhat different, but overall, there was little shift in playstyle.
The game is undeniably smooth, polished, pretty, functional, and stable. It’s what EVERY game should be on release. But it doesn’t entertain me, and that’s the most important thing.