Seeing friends and commenters talk about RIFT has reminded me of just how many incredible features and qualities this MMO has. Sure, it’s made a lot of missteps and just about nobody really loves the business model, but there is a genuinely good game here that has a feature set that most MMOs could only dream about having on the back of the box.
So whether you’re thinking about returning to RIFT this spring or perhaps taking it up for the first time, here are 10 features from the game that I feel deserve public kudos.
1. Free and instant server transfers
Apart from MMOs with a shared shard (EVE Online, Star Trek Online), all online RPGs have to struggle with a community artificially divided in different realms. Usually, it costs money and takes time for a player to transfer even a single character between servers. With RIFT? You just put in a request at the character selection screen and there you go. Costs nothing. Happens practically instantly. And it has always made me wonder why this sort of practice isn’t standard in the industry.
2. No factional barriers
When the game launched, RIFT lined up with the industry standard by giving us two factions (Defiants and Guardians) that were opposed militarily and philosophically. But after a while, the whole threat of invading hostile planes made factions increasingly silly and irrelevant. Now the line between the two are all but erased. Players can still fight it out in PvP, but now everyone is more or less on the same team and fighting a common enemy.
Apart from WildStar, Star Wars Galaxies, and EverQuest II, I would put RIFT up at the top of any MMO housing list for how well-done and robust it is. Everyone gets these housing dimensions early on and can own many different ones. Heck, even guilds can set up shop and invite members to collaborate! There are scads of decor items, tons of different dimensions, a crafting profession that is devoted to this system, and placement tools that are incredibly easy to use. It’s one of my all-time favorite activities in this game and something that I wish every MMO would copy without a change.
4. Instant Adventures
RIFT has always been great in giving players options in their leveling experience. Sure, you could quest or PvP or dungeon queue, but another viable option is to sign up for instant adventures. These take the concept of public quests and then chain them across entire zones, throwing together groups of players and giving them common tasks to perform. They’re laid back and enjoyable, and I have whiled away many hours relaxing while running around with other players fighting rifts and whaling on bosses.
5. Level scaling
I don’t hear a lot of people mention RIFT’s level scaling tech when the topic comes up, but they really should. RIFT continues its streak of demolishing barriers between friends playing by allowing players to artificially scale their level down to earn XP rewards and not overpower an area — and to scale up for certain content so that they can fight with friends and enjoy high level stuff without waiting days to get there. And as with so many other features in this game, it’s slick as snot to use.
I have gone on the record as saying that I’m not the biggest fan of many armor designs in this game, but at least I have the cosmetic system to choose the exact look I do want. RIFT’s wardrobe automatically memorizes the skins of any gear or weapons you pick up and then gives you the freedom to piece together an outfit, dye it, and wear the weapon you desire. This also made holiday events that much more exciting for all of the unique cosmetics you could attain and keep forever.
7. On-the-fly class adjustments
Probably RIFT’s best-known feature is its mix-and-match soul system that allows players enormous flexibility in customizing a class to fit the playstyle of a person instead of forcing a person to fit the playstyle of the class. What is even better, at least to me, is that this option always remains available. Get tired of your build after 100 hours of invested time? You can reroll on the fly and come up with a completely different build within minutes. It encourages experimentation and keeps a character from growing stale.
8. Zone puzzles
There are a lot of side activities in RIFT, including achievement hunting and artifact collecting. But I’ve always been the most interested in zone puzzles as an optional task. Each zone in the game has a hidden puzzle that can range from mildly tricky to diabolic in nature. They’re really inventive and often come with great rewards, which is why I make a point of seeking them out.
Systems like RIFT’s minions aren’t for everyone, but I really do enjoy cultivating a stable of loyal followers that I can send out on timed missions for various rewards. There’s a little bit of strategy involved, which is appreciated, and getting a heapload of awesome dimension decor when I log in always makes my day.
10. Support roles
It might be a small thing, but I do appreciate the fact that RIFT still sticks up for the idea of support roles in groups. Each dungeon run contains one tank, one healer, two DPS, and one support character (at least in theory). While some players pressure support to just go full DPS, I actually do like buffing, side-tanking, side-healing, and otherwise helping out my team in ways that push the boundaries of the holy trinity. I feel that this has gotten a little lost over the years, but it’s still an option and it plays to RIFT’s strength as a class-flexible title.