PvP in Rift
It's a hard time to enter the MMO space. Actually, it's never been easy, with Ultima, Everquest, and the ubiquitous World of Warcraft holding sway of the gaming masses. Sure, there have been more than a couple successful MMOs against those titans, like Lord of the Rings and City of Heroes, but jumping in with a subscription-based fantasy MMO is risky business. But here we are with Trion's Rift, a fantasy MMO launching on March 1 doing just that.
So yeah, the general fantasy world isn't going to do Rift an favors when competing against WoW. However, it does have a more realistic look to it that seems to walk the line between WoW and Dungeons and Dragons Online, and it does look particularly nice. Past that, it seems like Trion has incorporated some special ideas for how players will play. Generic world aside, Rift has some pretty special mechanics other MMOs should think about implementing.
The first unique way Rift sets itself apart is how characters are customized. It breaks down like this: each race can pick one of the four classes—the mage, the rogue, the warrior and the cleric. These typical and boring classes are actually just the starting point, as underneath these are class trees called souls. Souls are variations of those class types, allowing nearly every class to perform as a tank, a DPS character, support, healing, and more. For example, the Rouge class can be broken down into subclass souls like assassin, blade dance, marksman, ranger, and more. These souls have their own abilities, and are useful for different thing.
Things get complicated when players stack up to three separate souls on top of each other. Say a player rolls a Rogue fusion of blade dance/bard/ marksman, with a maxed out Bard tree, and points spread onto the marksman and blade dancer. This would make for a support character with decent to strong DPS, and maybe even some tanking. Another example would be a Shaman/Druid/Justicar cleric, which would be a cleric with high DPS and some tanking skills, and a with a pet.
A weird way to compare it to is the paradigm shift mechanic of Final Fantasy XIII. Think of each soul as a "type" (like Sentinal, Sabatour, Commando, etc) within a class, and all three types combine to create a unique player character. The best part is players are encouraged to build different soul tree load-outs (kind of like a paradigm shift, but for one single player). Thus, each player will have a load out for tanking, DPS, healing, soloing, traveling, crafting, or whatever. With a level 50 cap, players will have 66 points to spread across the three trees, with hundreds of thousands of ways to customize a character, and thankfully there is a minor respec fee in case someone finds their character not so awesome.
Now, the world of Rift, called Telara, is rife with different factions and groups. When players join up, they have an option to choose one of two factions, Guardians or Defiants. Guardians are people chosen by the gods to impact the world, and they rely upon spiritual and magical actions. Defiants represent the humanist aspect of Telara, a group of people who have come back in time to stop the Guardians and they rely upon technology imbued with magic. Each side has three exclusive races, and while neither side is good nor bad, they represent opposing forces and provide a foundation for PvP (of which there are traditional PvP instances like Capture the Flag).
However, what really sets Rift apart are these crazy huge invasions that happen. Occasionally, every player on a server will be notified that invasions are happening. Players will have the chance to take part in massive, server-wide battles against the invading forces across the map. Watching hundreds of people across the world of Telara is impressive, and these modes offer some of the more interesting loot in addition to the epic scale. Making sure you are a part of these battles will be integral to Rift.
Now apart from the two main player factions, there are six others that will provide options for battles. Based upon traditional elements, representatives of Life, Death, Earth, Air, Water and Fire will battle each other and attempt to invade parts of Telara. These factions will never ally with either the Guardians or the Defiants, but they will not ally with each other, meaning smart players will exploit the aggro and team up to take on a larger threat before stabbing those former comrades in the back.
When on a PvP server, players will be able to for smaller invasions of enemy territories in addition to the traditional PvP instances. When a huge serverwide invasion happens, however, it can change the whole dynamics of the server, changing the authority in an area between the factions and Defiants/Guardians. It's an interesting dynamic I'm curious to see play out, and see how being in these massive battles will shape the world and players of Rift.
Clearly Rift has some interesting and compelling offerings for those tired of World of Warcraft. With the very deep, yet friendly soul system, as well as the massive invasion battles, Rift is certainly different from the other MMOs, fantasy or otherwise. If Trion can keep focus on these areas of the game, this could be an MMO worth paying attention to this March.