am currently playing two MMOs, WoW for the raiding bits and the occasional heroic, and Rift, for leisurely leveling and exploring. I am a huge advocate of Rift. I know that its critics find it’s too much of a WoW clone, and sometimes I am astounded how much they really snipped out from the juggernaut. When I explain how my Riftstalker works, it usually goes like this: “Imagine you could tank as a rogue, and you can use Shadowstep to get AoE threat on mobs, and you have like Mage Blink, and if you are a Bahmi you have something like Warrior Heroic Leap, and then you can set a marker and have the Warlock Teleport, how’s that for mobility?” So, it’s all stuff that has been done before, but packed together into a fun mix that I enjoy playing. Seriously, Riftstalkers make WoW prot warrior mobility seem like a joke. You can be everywhere and just zoom around. Fun!
Initially, my favorite part of Rift were the public groups for invasion and rift content. When you are used to playing WoW, where you can solo from 1-85 without ever actually seeing another person outside of Orgrimmar, it seemed breathtaking to me that you can suddenly end up in a 40-man raid full of level 12 characters, taking down a zone boss. I am now in the dreaded mid-level zones, and rifts are still fun, but seem a bit more small scale now. Still, good stuff, but not my absolutely favorite part of Rift anymore.
My favorite is that Rift rewards exploration. I can’t even remember when I last explored in WoW. The on rails experience really doesn’t offer much exploration potential, outside of discovering all spots on the zone map to get the zone achievements. Rift has those as well, of course, but they have more, beyond that. I’ve only worked on the first four zones so far, but so far I have found achievements that are truly for the adventurous. So far I have gotten two basejump achievements, one for jumping down a very high waterfall into a very shallow pool below. That took a while, I tell you. I have discovered weird pilgrim spots where squirrels dance, and you can join in with them. I have found underwater lamps you have to light without drowning, to unearth treasures. The latter was part of the zone puzzles. Every zone has a puzzle you can solve, and completing them will reward you with a chest with a scaling reward of either rare or epic quality for your class.
Speaking of rewards, diving around in lakes or scaling particularly high mountains offers a chance of finding so called ‘Ancient Cairns’. These also contain rewards for your current level or close to, and are well worth finding.
As further incentive, the mountaintops and any remote areas that are hard to get to seem to be teeming with artifact spawns. Artifacts are what WoW’s archaelogy probably should have been. I tried archaeology and found it was a pretty horrifying grind. Artifacts are sparkly bits that you put into collections, much like you might know from Zynga games. Don’t run screaming now, it’s actually fun. You pick them up as you play through zones. Completing collections scores you a currency to buy fun stuff, like cosmetic hats or non-combat pets. For some collections you also get books full of game lore for the zones. They all have some thematic impact on your quest zones, and of course there’s more achievements for them. Nothing makes me happier than scaling steep mountains and finding tons of sparklies up there. I was so proud the first time I made the climb from Freemarch to Stonefield across the mountains. You get great views too.
It’s a bit of a return of that sense of wonder, where nothing is as eerily familiar as stuff is in WoW. When the Cataclysm patch dropped, I went exploring as well, and it was fun, but it really didn’t last very long. Seeing all the changes was awesome, but now it’s gone back to feeling lifeless, static. WoW could definitely learn to create more world events, so that people get incentive to roam. So far, in Rift it lasts for me. Especially as I have many zones to go still. Lots of stuff to do. And that’s why I currently love playing Rift.