I decided to download and play Rift (since it’s F2P) yesterday. Not because I’m tired of DDO, but sometimes it’s good to switch things up. Plus it helps as a comparison to DDO and why I ultimately prefer it over so many other things. F2P model is good for players; while it might not provide a massive influx of money for the developer, it entices players to try it out first – to dip their toes in the water and get an idea if it’s something for them or not.
What follows will be a blow by blow comparison to DDO, just for my own sake or for anyone that haven’t tried Rift yet.
Graphics and visuals
From character creation to ingame visuals Rift looks better. And it should; it’s built on a newer engine taking advantage of the capabilities of newer graphic cards. It’s not that DDO looks bad; In fact the looks of DDO, although slightly dated is okay. But Rift just looks prettier. You’ll notice that almost right away as you pick out and individualize your toon. From skin tones, size of nose, facial stuff and hair – the choices seems a little bit better than DDO with a slight edge to individualization. I especially like the height feature, making it possible to create ‘tall’ dwarves’ or ‘short’ elves (note they might be called something else in the game but we know what they’re supposed to be). Heck, you can even decide the size and length of ears and it’s tilt.
Some people don’t really care one way or another about that, but when you’re in an MMO and everyone else looks pretty much the same, it’s nice to be ‘different’ no matter how small of a difference that might seem.
That’s not to say DDO is bad – I think Turbine did a phenomenal job with Bladeforged and Half Orcs – they truly managed to make those two ‘races’ distinct from anything else with a truly diverse way of individualization.
In Rift you pick 1 of 2 factions and 1 of 3 races from each faction. And once you do that you pick a type – each type provides a set of soul trees – each soul trees are of the tank, heal, elementalist etc variant, providing a set of abilities closer to the role of that tree. In DDO terms that would be race, class and enhancement tree. The striking difference here is that you don’t pick ability points; that choice is made once you pick race and ‘class’. The rest will be what you invest in, in your trees.
Personally I feel more invested in DDO. Sure, it’s easy for me to say that I prefer it since I know how the system works – and someone coming from Rift and playing DDO would probably feel the same; they know Rift and the DDO system provides choices that might not be intuitive. However that’s the feeling I had when I first started playing DDO – that I didn’t know what all the stuff was, such as ability points, feats and enhancements, but it felt like I was making a personal investment in what I wanted to play.
In Rift that’s not easy to notice; most of the races feels generic with little distinction and the choices impersonal. I tried 2 different toons – 1 that I played more – a mage type. Then I tried a fighter cleric type. With some tanking and healing. Other than two different races and one using ranged vs one being more up front and personal – the choices just didn’t feel distinct. Sure – there’s a mental difference of ranging someone and hitting someone, but I hadn’t invested in a specific background that made that clear.
In DDO you distribute ability points. In DDO you pick a class. In DDO you make an upfront investment into an idea, that is almost clear from the very first step you take. Then you can diversify that by multi-classing and enhancement investments. That should be true with Rift as well; but the impersonal feeling without the upfront investment makes it feel more generic.
I didn’t feel like a battle cleric. It had a ranged magic missile type attack like the mage. It had a two handed mace thingy and you kept hitting the button for some extra attack. With the mage I kept cycling between the missile, the longer casting lighting bolt and some other things. But I didn’t feel like I played extremely diverse classes.
I guess the real reason for that is lack of choice – altho choice is sometimes an artificial one in DDO. I started with the mace or the staff. I started with the setup of spells or close combat stuff. I didn’t pick HOW like with DDO when you do the grotto. And that feeling is hard to shake. And it was made worse when I finally started questing.
Like so many DDO Rift is an open world with quests located in the open world. Most of them are of the collect that, slay this type. It rewards you – sometimes with a choice of several different options, but it does so with everyone else there doing the same. And that removes any form of immersion. Especially since the story is around you being the ONE. Kinda like DDO but not really.
In one faction you’re a reborn by some angel dude. And your job is to do something while following the first outlined quests for the story arch. It’s fairly easy stuff to follow with indicators on the map. But the quests are all trivial and being the ONE in a sea of other ONES makes your thrust into heroism trivial. It gets worse when you more or less ‘line up’ to do the same quest as someone else just finished or started. That throws you even further out of immersion.
With DDO you have instances. Whether you solo or group it’s just you or your group. Sure, you can see people running around in public, but you or your group are the only ones entering a quest or wilderness. And that makes it feel more personal. YOU are doing it. YOUR group is saving whatever you’re saving. Plus the quests don’t feel entirely trivial. You’re not collecting a bunch of swords or killing x amount of whatever that is. And they don’t respawn unless we’re talking about a quest that function that way.
Here, like in LOTRO and other MMOs the environment respawns in front of your eyes. That way the goblin or whatever that is in Rift respawns if you stick around making your battle appear inconsequential. You could essentially stay in the same spot for however long and pick the same carcass over and over and you’d feel like a farmer, not the ONE.
Combat is really the meat and potatoes of a good system. And in Rift and in games like LOTRO combat is mostly a click to hit type of game. You don’t really interact. You move up, click, click some more, click another attack etc. You don’t really disengage. Running backwards is slower in Rift as it probably is elsewhere but the clicking just makes me feel like I’m playing the cool down cycle game and it makes combat feel weird. And it’s the same feeling I have with other similar games. You’re not really reacting to the situation – you’re targeting and clicking buttons. It doesn’t feel fluid at all. And it’s the same with unlimited SP and HP. You get it, take damage and once combat is over you slow heal or slow regain SP.
I don’t feel like I’m overcoming a particular encounter or having to household my resources that way. It feels almost like a mix between diablo and turn based, with slow combat and then maybe drinking a potion to regain HP or SP but when the combat is over it’s just a matter of time before I regain it.
In DDO you can also drink potions and SP, but apart from that resources matter. Battle matters. Attrition matters. And also the ability to household, save and learn how to extend your resources matter. That makes items that much more important or knowing what’s going on. Not only because DDOs combat system is more interactive, but all choices feels vital including householding resources. I can’t say I ever felt the same with Rift or LOTRO.
It’s a clear delay between combat in Rift compared to DDO – it just feels like you’re swinging the axe compared to click and wait for the hit on the other side. Same with spell casting – it feels like you’re smacking away with spells with the downside of drain on your resources. I never felt that concern with Rift. After each battle I had full health and SP – while that will change it feels indifferent.
‘Feeling’ like fantasy is about story, surrounding and the roll you feel you play. That is perhaps the most important part of any good, regardless of how pretty the game is. Not even the most spectacular graphics can save a game that can’t tell a story and put you in it. MMOs are slightly different tho – MMO is not just about story – it’s about social interaction, resource gathering and other things like crafting. That makes MMOs extra vulnerable to loss of immersion since it’s trying to tell a story but there are so many mechanics that can push you out of it.
That’s telling in RIFT and similar MMOs – the quests lacks any imagination and ‘reason’ for doing the things you do. But they’re a gimmick simply because adding hundreds of small quests would require a tremendous amount of thought. On the other hand it falls in that ‘why am I doing this nonsense?’ territory. For DDO it’s easier. The quests ‘makes sense’ in sofar that someone want you to investigate X or the bread crumbs leads you to Y – seldom are you simply gather first some soul orbs (never mind – there are those mechanics too but usually as part of unlocking a portal or something.
Taken as a whole you could say that all these small mini quests makes for a larger DDO quest, but what destroys that feeling is that it’s not exclusive to you. While I was doing some quest that had me sucking up the soul of these guardians (4 needed I think) I noticed how that lead to a fight with this badarse looking dude. So while I was doing this, 2-3 other people did that fight before me. Then it was my turn.
Considering that I was the ONE that would save everyone I felt cheated of that exclusive feeling. Later on another quest was killing this undead and sucking up its soul and I was but one waiting to do it. Again – as each part lead to a fight with a bad guy in another, we more or less stood in line waiting for our turn.
Personally instances are far better than anything else. It’s an exclusive experience to you. And it removes all the distractions that would make you feel otherwise. It’s not perfect, but it adds to the over all experience.
Now there’s some cool stuff that is unique for Rift and that I wish you could see in DDO somehow. Rifts – these are portals to different planes, such as fire. Out of it comes creatures from whatever plane they’re from. If no one stops them it can spread and start attacking the environment around you – sometimes this is part of large scale invasions. So in a way these are random impromptu invasions that can grow in scale and require for people to get together (in fact it provides simple ways to group up for it) so people can beat and win. I guess these random events can provide some nice stuff so there’s a carrot in working on these.
Plus there are also official raids. I don’t know how they work but it’s in addition to all the other things. So if you overlook the things I mention and just want to level up, gather resources and get stuff done, there’s plenty of built in options for it.