I got my open beta invite for Rift the other day. I had to call and cuss out my Internet provider to get my damn Net working again before I could download the 8 Gigs I needed to play. Once that happened, I got it all ready to go in anticipation of today, 15 Feb, when I could log in.

I woke up late today because stupid me just had to watch “Earth Girls Are Easy” on Netflix last night. I went from “OMG I haven’t seen this in years!” to “I totally have to watch all of it because Jeff Goldblum is freaking hot!” Needless to say, I didn’t get to sleep until about 5 AM and couldn’t get my tired ass out of bed until after Noon. It worked out because it was after the beta opened at 10 AM PST.

I opened up the program and had to download some more before I could do anything else. With that done, I was sure I would be able to play. Think again. It turns out my DirectX isn’t up to date. The Rift installer tried to help me out but all I got were failure messages. I couldn’t even get past the log in screen so off I went to the Microsoft website to get a new version. It wouldn’t let me. I kept getting error messages after error messages. I restarted my computer – still the same thing happened. I went on the Rift forums and other people are having the same issues I am. Someone posts this long script to “fix” the issue but I’m not a computer nerd at all so I don’t try it – I don’t want to compromise my system because I don’t what I’m doing. I finally get the in browser DirectX to install it but only after getting to the site in Internet Explorer because it just would not work with Firefox.

Ok, here we go. I got my DirectX updated and NOW I can finally play Rift! I log in… and wait… My damn video drivers are out of date now! FFS! I am really about to give up at this point. I’ve been fiddling with it for about an hour and I could have gotten my TB dailies done with WoW by now.

Fine. Drivers are updated and here we go, for reals this time. I log in and wait. The game finally works for me! After over an hour of nerd raging at my stupid Windows Vista machine, I can finally get into this “next gen” MMO.

I pick my race/class combo and get to the character customization screen. My jaw literally hits the floor when I see all of the things I get to play with on my character. I can change just about everything about her. I can make her tall or short. She can have hundreds of hair colors with equally hundreds of highlights. She can have whatever eye color I can imagine and I can change the way her make up looks. I can have a round face or a skinny face. I could have a huge upturned nose or a small, barely there nose. I can have Angelina Jolie lips if I want them. And the list goes on and on. I could have spent hours just at this screen but I didn’t have the time since I had to come to work today. /cry

I watch the little cut scene and off I go into a world that is familiar but different at the same time. Familiar because all of the key bindings are the same as WoW and the questing system is about the same, just “spruced up”.

I’m still only level 5 but there are a few things I really like about it:

The quest rewards are all something I can use, at least at level 5. I don’t get the option of gear for other classes. In WoW you typically have 4 “rewards” and sometimes you can use one. I have a really nice, comfortable looking cloth set going on from just a few quests. And I don’t look like some street walker, either.

The graphics are amazing. I cannot begin to describe how beautifully everything is rendered. I can see individual stitches in the clothing I’m wearing. Yes, I said “clothing” and not “gear”. I can imagine a seamstress hand stitching the robe I’m wearing and it makes the world feel more “lived in” than WoW. The way everything looks is almost photo-real so the immersion is so much more prevalent. I wouldn’t say Rift makes WoW look like Minecraft but the obvious leaps and bounds between WoW’s graphic engine and Rift’s is astounding. Even with in WoW you can tell the difference between a Cataclysm model and an older model. For example, take the rare spawn lion Sambas next to a Nelf hunter – the difference is staggering and it breaks continuity and immersion for me.

I really like the map. You can have the map up and it takes up most of your screen but as you start running, the map goes opaque – allowing you to see where you’re headed and what you’re running into. And there are light gold circles of where your quest mobs are instead of those big numbers in WoW that block that part of the map.

Even at such a low level, I feel like I’m a valuable member of the resistance force. I haven’t been asked to pick up poop yet or go kill 100 boars just to collect 8 livers. WoW NPCs go on and on about how your character is a “hero” in one breath and then in the next you’re off to pick through Talbuk poop or induce defecation in wolves.

You can talk to quest givers a little more than you can in WoW. Once they give you a quest you can ask them about their appearance or more about the area you’re in.

Things I don’t like (right now, anyways):

The talent trees are massive. They may even have “too much” customization. I’m level 5 and already have 10-odd points to spend. The thing where you can absorb 3 souls with different abilities is really, really super cool but it may end up bogging down a play with so many choices.

I don’t have a little pet running around with me. I’m so used to a little critter following me around, I feel lonely especially in a guildless environment where I don’t know anyone. Rift has a few little pets but they are mostly rewards for pre-ordering the game or getting the collector’s edition. So, no pet for me.

Pretty soon I’m sure we will be seeing Jinx shirts saying “I survived low level Rift chat”. If you guys think Trade chat can get downright terrible, try out the low level Rift chat. Mostly it’s the people who are saying “It’s a WoW clone!” and the people who will be happy when the beta runs out so the WoW people leave. Can’t say I really blame them because some of the vilest people I’ve ever encountered have been in WoW.

All in all, I really like it. I’ll play it more when I get home tonight and maybe find another late 80’s-early 90’s era Jeff Goldblum movie to watch. ID4 or Jurassic Park sounds really good right about now.


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