Monday 7 March 2011

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.

Rift. A curiously apt name considering that the game has caused such a schism in my MMO playing personality: I really am having trouble knowing how I feel about it, which is a new sensation to me. It’s as though a rift from the Vacillation dimension has torn its way into the plane of my mind and started to spew forth all manner of invaders. These invaders form two separate warring factions however, and their internecine dispute makes it impossible for my mind to form an adequate defence against the destructive indecision which they both spread. Sometimes I’m in support of the group that thinks Rift is a brilliant breath of fresh air – as evidenced by the many hours I spent playing it over the weekend – but just as quickly my mind finds itself backing the rebel faction, who claim that at level twenty the game has already shown me all that it has to offer. Sure, I will continue to have fun up to the cap at level fifty, but after that I will, in all likelihood, rapidly run out of steam and return to my mature mistress.

“Yet always LotRO is there to welcome me back from my folly, she opens her arms wide and cradles me against her voluminous content, hushes my blubbered apologies, reminds me of the intimate little details that made me love her and make me love her still. She is the mature mistress, secure in the knowledge of her own worth, happy to welcome and entertain the experienced and inexperienced alike, and I remain there in her embrace, comfortable and content. Until I catch a glimpse of the next porcelain and lace doe peering out from behind the curtain of MMO news, fluttering her eyelids innocently, her shy yet coquettish demeanour promising a life of long term commitment and happiness, and delivering yet another sharp blow to the head and dent to the wallet.”

And if I’m going to inevitably return to her, then why not stay with her now and continue playing the rather enjoyable alt that I’ve recently gushed about? At which point the pro-Rift faction rallies its troops and gives a big push, dropping propaganda leaflets extolling the virtues of the flexible class system, the attractiveness of the game’s graphics, and the efficient (if impersonal) effectiveness of the public group system.

The game tears at me, and I can’t remember the last time that I experienced a game where I had a constant nagging feeling that I should be liking it more than I actually do. I do like the game, I honestly do, but at the same time I find it hard to get enthusiastic about it. It’s a game where, when I picture myself trying to explain to others why I enjoy it, I find myself struggling to give a convincing reason. It’s like trying to explain the flavour of saffron. Like trying to explain smaragdine without reference to other colours: every explanation I begin necessarily starts with “Well it’s like that mechanic in MMO X, but tidied up and streamlined”.

So it’s a game that is greater than the sum of its parts, but where those parts are all the refined result of familiar elements from other games. This is, perhaps, where the seemingly strange split in the game’s personality stems from.

Unless you live under a rock you will already have had the broad picture of Rift painted for you by other blogs, so in the next post I’ll simply try to add a few of my own highlights and lowlights, hopefully helping to add further definition to the general impression. I’m not sure if the picture can even be completed yet, however; the game needs time to bed and then blossom, and trying to paint a true picture of the game at this early a stage would be like trying to paint an accurate representation of a flowerbed in full bloom by observing during winter the soil in which the seeds were planted.

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