RIFT Makes Me Appreciate WoWs Class Design More
I’m starting to warm to RIFT’s soul system. A lot. There’s something quite elegant and sublime about being able to change class on nothing more than a whim. I love being able to solo with my Champion and hack my opponents to pieces with my gigantic two-handed sword then quickly switch into a holy, shield-throwing Captain American wannabe Paladin to tackle some sudden rifts or tank for a group. And I haven’t even mentioned the options of exploring other diverse roles such as the animal loving (platonically) Beastmaster or the magic wielding Riftblade. Yes indeed, it’s a very flexible class system that fills me the comforting knowledge and sense that I will be satisfied with my Warrior for a long time to come yet. But I think I prefer WoWs class design more.
As much as I admire and appreciate the soul system in RIFT it has two attributes which are ultimately a little clunky and make me acknowledge and appreciate the lengths to which Blizzard have gone to in order to strive for simplistic, usable elegance. I don’t like the multi-soul combination system RIFT and I think it takes too long to fully reveal and explore each class. There I said it.
Maybe my feelings will change with time but right now I’m level 24, half way to the level cap, with easily over 20 hours invested in my character and now, only just now, am I starting to discover what the Champion and Paladin are all about it. I’ve had to gain a lot of levels and advance far up the soul trees in order to unlock enough abilities to truly get a feel for each class and that, in my eyes, is a shame. I don’t want to wait to 20 hours or 10 hours or even 5 hours to appreciate the unique flavour of the class I’ve picked, I want it as soon as I start playing. I mean, isn’t the first hour of a MMO just as valuable as the 500th?
I also, as I said, don’t like the ability to combine souls. Yeah, it’s kinda neat, but it’s also distracting and, again, for the majority of the lower levels it’s completely and utterly pointless. With 24 points invested in my “main” soul, I’ve only got something like seven left to invest between the other two and that’s practically worthless right now. Yes, I appreciate the fact that I could spread them more evenly and that it will all change as I gain more levels but I’d refer you to my previous point about feeling a character and a role right from the first moment. I mean, c’mon, you’d be pretty peeved if you bought a Batman game and couldn’t actually play as the Caped Crusader himself for the first 10 or 20 hours, wouldn’t you?
And that’s why I like WoWs class and talent system so much. Not only does each class and talent tree have absolutely unique flavour to it but the new talent system that came out with Cataclysm ensures that you immediately get a fe felor your chosen class and spec from a very early stage (personally I’d prefer it if talents were available from level 5, not 10). I know there were many complaints that a lot of the Cataclysm class and talent changes made the game less flexible and, to be fair, they are perfectly correct and justified but that’s part of the point.
Of course WoW is utterly constrained and inflexible and that’s the beauty of it. It reduces complexity by reducing choice and making each action so seamless and effortless that you get caught up in the desire to make the next one rather than the decisions involved in the current one. In many ways Blizzard is like the Apple or Google of the MMORPG world: appealing to the mainstream by enhancing usability through limiting choice and reducing uncomfortable decisions.
RIFT is still a fantastic game and I think one that has a lot of deep potential that I look forward to exploring. I can imagine that the soul system is a lot of fun when you’re level 50 and have several dozens of points to play with and the time to experiment. My issue is only with the time it takes to get to that point and lack of immediacy in enjoying and experiencing each class fully and I think there WoW triumphs. Still, Blizzard have had six years to get there so one wouldn’t expect any less.