Diehard MMO enthusiasts are fans who’ve been cursed by time. There are only 24 hours in a day, after all, and far too many online worlds to explore, level caps to shatter, demons to slay and alien hordes to conquer. So with each new MMO that makes it to market, the question remains, “Is this particular adventure something to which I should devote months, if not years, of my life?” Trion Worlds is poised to release Rift: Planes of Telara in early 2011, and from this sneak peek at the still-in-development title, fans may just have another battle to wage against an encroaching Bloodstorm.
For centuries, the gods have protected the world of Telara from the terrifying effects of the elemental planes – earth, air, fire, water, life and death – but the magical ward that has for so long kept the realms separate is now crumbling. Tears between the universes are cracking the endless sky, seeping fire, raining rubble, tentacles from some other-worldly creature descending into the fields and townships of Telara. You play as either a member of the Guardians – resurrected heroes from Telara’s past, brought back by the gods to hold back the coming invasion – or the Defiants – religious rebels intent on using science to harness the power of the planes against the gods and their earth-bound dragons.
You’ll battle against these rifts, attempting to keep the creatures from each plane from crossing over into Telara. One of the title’s primary features is that these rifts are persistent and can appear anywhere and at any moment, keeping the player in a constant state of suspense and readiness. Leave a rift open too long and your enemies will gain a foothold. Allow a foothold to fester and their presence will soon become a full-on invasion. Should this occur, players will have to fight their way back along the path of the invasion to the initial rift, closing the scar and leaving no enemy alive along the way.
The effects of each rift can significantly change the battlefield. Fire rifts will transform even the most fertile area into a smoldering lava pit; death rifts will fill the world with darkness; life rifts threaten Telara with an overgrowth of fauna. Close a rift and it may still take some time for the world to renew itself. For the moment, we’re told, these rifts are a one-way street. Players will be unable to cross over into the various planes themselves for a closer look at the approaching threat, but it’s certainly not difficult to imagine that such journeys would make a fine expansion pack in the future.
Clearly, the most challenging aspect of Rift thusfar is the class and leveling system, an admittedly complicated affair that’ll no doubt take some time to master. Rather than choosing a class to which you’ll be tethered throughout the entire game, players will choose one of four callings – warriors, mages, clerics or rogues. Each calling contains a series of collectible souls – think sub-specialties – allowing players to mix and match the souls they’ve discovered in literally dozens of combinations to best suit their play-style. In addition, the skills resulting from these various soul combinations can be strengthened and leveled to allow your unique hero to become increasingly more powerful.
Evident from the outset, however, is the unique visual design of Telara. The folks at Trion have obviously put a great deal of effort into creating a vast, epic universe that compromises nothing with regard to the graphics. The map is sprawling, boasting a wide array of carefully designed regions, and when you factor in the transformative power of the rifts, the game consistently offers some new spectacle at which to marvel. Clearly, Trion has made the choice to aim for a more “realistic” fantasy setting, avoiding the stylized presentation of other MMO’s such as EverQuest or Warcraft.
A sprawling fantasy, Rift: Planes of Telara aims to provide hardcore MMO players with a new and innovative online experience. While it remains to be seen whether they can deliver, Trion’s ambition is clearly on display. Now let’s just see if they can punch from one universe into another…