It has definitely been a meh for me. Of all that I saw in Rift so far I was most impressed with the one trivial detail they nailed; price per unit in the auction house.
The visuals were ok, not stunning. The world really didn’t capture me and the characters seemed uniformly bland. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by LotRO (for environment) and Aion (for characters).
The two defining features of the game are also the two I think are the biggest distraction. Rifts and souls. Both ideas are great but the implementations are lackluster.
With rifts it feels like little more than the wandering boss-mob of old. Of really old. Like of EQ newbie zone old. Each EQ newbie zone had a boss mob that would just destroy any newb that wasn’t paying attention. I remember being in the zones and people calling out that the boss mob had spawned. Once spawned they would follow some path and attack anyone in their way.
Rifts have a static spawn. At regular intervals they spawn a patrol which picks one of a few end points (normally quest hubs) and follows a path there, attacking anyone in their way and often, if that person is solo, destroy them.
Sure, its a pat of multiple mobs spawned from an area that you can shut down, there are special loot mechanics and some nice graphics (love how the ground turns black as they move!) but by-and-large it’s just the ol’ boss mob mechanic gussied up. The problem is most people tended to avoid the boss-mobs in the original MMOs and I feel the same will happen here. The rifts are too common to feel special. They feel like a chore and will be avoided as such.
As for the souls my problem with it is right at its core. Powers are opened up by spending points in each tree. Each tree generally limits you to spending points in powers you already have. Each tree needs to be viable in its own right. Given those three constraints we end up with a ton of duplicate powers that people just aren’t going to use.
For example I took a Warlock/Necromancer for a spin. Each soul had a ranged bolt attack, an AoE and a self-heal all front loaded. Each power’s improvement gave synergy with other powers in the same soul. So improving my Warlock powers didn’t help advance my Necromancer powers at all. The reverse was also true. At the same time while I might like stacking AoEs having two different bolts that are functionally identical with a quick cooldown but slightly different secondary effects is pointless. So unlocking higher powers in a secondary or tertiary soul is simply an exercise in wasting points early on.
To be honest, Champions Online did it much better. Sure, they were called frameworks instead of souls but the concept is identical. Each framework has to be viable early on. Each one has synergy effects. But the synergy effects are often generalized to work across frameworks. Also the higher powers in each framework were gated not only on how much was spent in the current framework but how much was spent on all frameworks. So while someone could get bigger powers in the same framework sooner they can get the bigger powers in other frameworks in time without investing in the starter powers in those frameworks. So in Rift terms that means the useless bolt and many AoE issue melts away in time.
Darn it MGC, you make me step up on the soapbox too much. That and you actually made me say something positive about Champions Online. o.O