Trion Worlds is slowly unleashing its new MMO, RIFT, onto the world and it’s shaping up to be quite a worthy experience. The third round of limited beta concluded on the December 31, and fans have been able to play as both the Defiant and as the Guardians. There is a new contender in town. World of Warcraft might have to watch its back.

RIFT takes place in the world of Telara, where the Defiant and the Guardians are at war with not only themselves, but the otherworldly rifts that tear open the sky and unleash its hordes upon unsuspecting victims. Though the Defiant is generally portrayed as bad, and the Guardians as good, no side is inherently good or evil, as their motives are both sound, and both fight for what they believe in. You take on the role of a created Ascended, and are whisked away back in time (after a few tutorial quests) to prevent the future calamities that are threatening the very destruction of your world.

One thing you will come across very early on is the ability to multiclass. Starting out from four Callings, the Warrior, Mage, Cleric and Rogue, you are able to pick three out of eight available souls for each class. For instance, the Warrior is able to pick from the Champion, Reaver, Paladin, Warlord, Paragon, Riftblade, Beastmaster and Void Knight souls, and form a new hybrid class that uses skills from each soul. There are never enough points to max out all skills, so number crunchers can rest assured that they can put their skill-calculators to good use and carefully plan out their trees.

I chose the Warrior calling and found myself drawn to the Beastmaster soul, as I wanted to focus on damage as well as have a pet to help me out in battle. As my second soul, I chose the Void Knight, who specializes in anti-magic abilities and pacts and plays a more defensive role. The third soul was the Champion, the all out offensive DPS class that specializes in 2-handed weapons. Through this combination of souls, I was able to create a class that’s unique to me and my play-style.

One of the main draws are the titular rifts that can and will spawn at any moment and at any place. An outpost you might think is safe can turn into a fiery battlezone as a fire rift tears open the sky and pours demons and monsters upon unsuspecting victims. It’s then up to you and a handful of nearby players to slay the monsters and close the rift back up. These random and unscheduled events bring a sense of uncertainty, yet are incredibly fun, assuming you have players around who are willing to help you out, as these mobs tend to be quite powerful.

Every MMO faces concerns over grinding and fetch quests. Though there is no shortage of quests to take on, they all feel fresh and engaging. Whether it’s to escort an NPC through a dangerous zone, or turn lazy students into animals to teach them a lesson, I never felt bored. So far I have not encountered a need to grind at all, as quests more than compensated me with enough XP. Dying is handled similarly to WoW. If you die, you have an option to resurrect at the graveyard or run to your body and resurrect there. Once every hour, you’re also able to Soul Walk, which let’s you come back to life right on the spot.

One glance at RIFT and you’ll see that the game is absolutely stunning, provided you have the rig to maximize your graphic settings. It might not be the most original when it comes to control and overall user interface, but I think that’s what Trion is trying to capitalize on. Rather than completely reworking their own UI, RIFT plays a lot like World of Warcraft, and other similar MMOs. Though this might come across as a cop-out, it ensures that you’ll be able to jump into RIFT and feel right at home, if you’re already an established veteran of MMOs.

Small touches show the developer’s expertise in the genre. For example: I am a great offender of Alt+Tabbing to other programs during other MMOs, so I often click back to find myself being attacked or already dead. If you minimize RIFT and get attacked, the tab on your Start bar starts to flash, alerting you to maximize the window and defend yourself. It’s a feature overlooked by other MMOs, and one that will almost certainly become standard after RIFT’s release.

Trion’s promise to release a “complete and finished” MMO on launch looks like it’s slowly coming true. Even in beta, where there are bugs to be encountered, the game already plays like a charm and has me itching to go back and join my fellow Telarians.