Last beta I didn’t get much chance to play. I messed around the character creator and read up on the base classes and logged in. The game informed me that my graphics drivers were out of date and I spent what little time I was in game chugging along in a partial slide show. This past weekend’s beta was much better. I logged in my already created character, I ran through the introduction area, and I made it through the first few quest hubs.
Most of the game is fairly standard, and that’s not a bad thing. The UI is familiar without cloning (it doesn’t look like the World of Warcraft interface even though it mostly functions like it), and the game play follows suit. Others have praised the soul system, and I will too. I really enjoy crafting my character from three parts and controlling how he forms as he advances. To me, the simple genius of it is astounding: you climb up the tree adding passive traits (damage bonuses, spell modifiers, etc) and the number of points spent there determines which active abilities you unlock. It is the best part of a class system melded with the best parts of a skill system. Add in that you can build several specs on a single character and you come very close to what I’ve always wanted in a game: the ability to play a single character in multiple roles without having to resort to creating alts. And even if you did decide to create alts, you really only need to make 4 characters – one of each base: warrior, cleric, mage, rogue.
The public group and rift mechanics are also fantastic. While they can get repetitive if that’s all you do, mixed in with the traditional quest grind it makes the game feel fresh without feeling alien. Last night on Shadefallen, Freemarch came under heavy attack from Death, with foot holds in every town and all the players banding together in groups to beat them back. For soloing, I had been playing a Justicar/Shaman/Druid with a fairly balanced build to focus on making me a better fighter and increasing my 1-on-1 survivability. But once the giant assault began, I bought a second role, used the same souls but spent more points on the Justicar to reduce my threat and utilize my area heals to assist the raid. It worked out pretty well. I spent the bulk of the evening switching between those roles, the solo build for the early waves of any rift and then to the raid build for the later waves. From the builds to the rifts to the raids, it was much more exciting that any other MMO I’ve played. Even my precious EverQuest.
I really enjoy the Justicar and Shaman aspects of what I’ve played so far, the fighting cleric appeals to me in so many ways. If I so buy the game, I can easily see myself playing that for the long haul, though I may ditch the Druid in favor of a different third. The fairy pet annoys me.
Now I just need to convince the wife and all my friends to switch to Rift.