originals\ Sep 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm

RIFT vs Star Wars: The Old Republic


No genre has been as unpredictable in recent years as the MMO. We saw the meteoric rise and fall of Aion and Champions Online, Turbine's reinvention of free-to-play, and the surprising growth of underdogs like Fallen Earth and EVE Online. Oh, and let's not forget the best-selling expansion for a little game called World of Warcraft.

MMOs are high-risk ventures, but the potential for massive profits continues to attract brave developers. Numerous games lie on the horizon, but two have muscled their way into the limelight – RIFT and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Character Progression RIFT and Star Wars are extremely similar in how they handle classes, and, not surprisingly, neither method is very original. At the core level, both games have four initial classes. Those classes can then be diversified further through specializations and the distribution of points to beef up particular abilities. If you've played World of Warcraft or Age of Conan, you know the drill. Star Wars takes it a small step further with the addition of light and dark side points, which can offer abilities unique to your moral alignment.

Little is known about the other activities and character customizations available in RIFT, but it will have a tough act to follow. Star Wars offers NPC companions with their own skills and quests that travel by your side. You can even send them out to perform missions on your behalf or have them stay back at the ship to craft.

Graphics RIFT is shaping up to be a beautiful game with dazzling lighting effects and immaculate textures, and it does so without straining your PC. On the other hand, RIFT's realistic image doesn't help distinguish it from the likes of Final Fantasy XIV, Warhammer, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, or Vanguard. RIFT is pretty, but it's also 'safe.'

Star Wars is pursuing the opposite approach with more emphasis on style than technical prowess, although bland might better describe many of the environments and characters we have seen thus far. They aren't bad, but they have no spark to grab at your emotions. It looks like Star Wars, but needs more life to make us 'feel' that it's Star Wars.

Growth and Support Two years ago, RIFT seemed doomed – another medieval fantasy from a no-name company. Although RIFT is quickly proving itself in beta, the path after launch is still hazy. Can RIFT draw the medieval-fantasy crowd from their current games? If RIFT isn't an instant success, will Trion Worlds have the resources left to continue supporting the game, and for how long? These are two difficult questions that remain unanswered, and will surely have many people hesitant about purchasing.

Star Wars: The Old Republic had a massive fanbase before the first rumor was validated. You can count on thousands of fellow adventurers from day one, which means that BioWare will have the funds and the cause to keep players happy with regular updates and new content. Let's not forget BioWare's prestigious reputation for crafting the finest RPGs around, nor the immense financial backing of EA.

Decisions, Decisions… As different as they are in style and setting, RIFT and Star Wars: The Old Republic will be battling for many of the same players. Although most of my colleagues are likely to slap me for saying this, I don't understand the appeal of the Star Wars universe. Even so, I find myself tempted by The Old Republic for one reason; population. I've played far too many failing MMOs to willingly do it again. I am done wasting my time and money, and so I am willing to play a less-than-ideal game if it means that I will have plenty of people to play with and well-maintained gameplay.

RIFT is a typical medieval-fantasy MMO with more random encounters. The few hours spent in beta imply a quality game, but one that rarely strays from expectations. Oddly enough, that might be RIFT's greatest strength. As players tire of old games they often look for new games so they can get in on the ground floor, instead of hopping into established titles and playing catch-up. If Trion Worlds can catch a lull in the scene for launch-day, RIFT could become one of the major players.

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