Back when RIFT originally hit the Internet, a lot of people were talking about how it had the potential to be the game that finally killed World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, like so many titles before it, RIFT failed to live up to everyone’s lofty expectations. It simply wasn’t engaging enough to stick up to the reigning champion, nor did Trion have the chops as a developer to oust Blizzard from their throne. That isn’t to say RIFT wasn’t a good game – it was quite possibly one of the best MMORPGs released in 2011, with an interesting story, a great world, and awesome dungeons/world invasions.

The most unique aspect of RIFT was without a doubt the Rift mechanic. Across the realm of Telara, areas of elemental instability have a tendency to crop up. Once these unstable portals open up, they begin to spawn monsters that will march forward on the map. left unchecked, these monsters will eventually conquer entire areas of the world map, killing NPCs and players alike and effectively making zones inaccessible until the rift is sealed.  In a similar style to Guild Wars 2’s public quests, players entering a Rift Zone will be prompted to join a public group to take down the rift, co-operating with others to seal off the instability and protect their realm.

Aside from that – and I’m sure I’ll catch a bit of flak for this one – RIFTS essentially plays like World of Warcraft, albeit slightly re-tooled. Any veteran of WoW or similar games will find the mechanics and controls immediately familiar and accessible, though the depth of class customization might be slightly bracing, at first. Players can choose one of four different callings at character creation: Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, or Mage. Each of these callings has eight different subsets, or “souls,” the progession of which is fully customizable: a player is able to choose up to three souls from their calling to access.

Unfortunately, the similarities shared between RIFTS and World of Warcraft ultimately proved to be its downfall, and in June of last year, Trion Worlds finally decided to make the leap from a subscription-based model to a free-to-play system. Thankfully, Trion’s done a fairly good job of implementing its cash shop, and it’s more or less a carbon copy of the system in place in EverQuest. Although it does allow you to purchase in-game equipment, none of these items are impossible to earn for non-paying players.

RIFT might not have killed World of Warcraft, but it certainly proved itself a worthy competitor. If you’ve a few hours to kill, why not download it for yourself? Who knows – you might enjoy it. Besides, you don’t really have anything to lose, right? It IS free, after all.

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