Welcome back to Free-to-Play Finder! This time around, I’m going to take a peek at the RIFT free-to-play experience and see how much of this MMORPG is available to new arrivals.
You’re perhaps intrigued by RIFT on the strength of the upcoming Starfall Prophecy expansion. That’s what prompted my time in-game as well, to be honest. I played RIFT at launch when it was a subscription-only title and had a great deal of fun but for whatever reason, I simply stopped playing.
Years later, Starfall Prophecy’s coming has dredged up all of those old memories of charging around with large public groups and sealing Rifts, so this will be a nostalgia trip as much as it will be research.
RIFT came out in 2011 as one of many MMOs that would attempt to directly take on WoW, famously even going so far as to call them out in their advertising. Five years and a free-to-play conversion later, RIFT is still standing upright and feels even more active than ever before. At least during Instant Adventures.
Myriad new systems have arrived in my time away, but each one has been clearly explained and added on at appropriate times. IAs are easily one of my favorite features, but the new Wardrobe system, the guided Soul Tree system, and Dimensions are definitely things that are worth mentioning. As far as content goes, RIFT absolutely provides the free-to-player with a whole lot of neat stuff to do.
Of course, the titular Rifts are still in play and pretty active, though not as much as they were during the game’s starting months. The ability to build up your own class from one of several different Callings is also open, if you’re so inclined. The base game is just as rich as I remember it, with even a few new things added on.
RIFT is classic tab-target multi-hotbar MMO gaming with an interesting world and a storyline that is entertaining enough. At least if you’re a Defiant. If you’d like to read up more about the game, check out this review here.
Just as before, I’m grading RIFT by four different criteria: Account Limitations, Store Interruption, Store Offerings and Store Reliance. Each point will be rated on three different scales: Minimal, Acceptable, and Oppressive. I’ll also further explain why I came to each rating for each criteria and finally offer my overall feelings. Just remember, this wrap-up isn’t an aggregate score, just an overall assessment of the game. as a free-to-play title.
What sorts of things can a new F2P arrival expect from RIFT? Here’s what I’ve found.
Account Limitations: Acceptable
What are Account Limitations? Anything that locks content away from you, from character or class choices to hotbars to access to dungeons or endgame. These are things that flag you as one of the “freeloaders” and restricts your play
The base RIFT game, as I’ve mentioned before, has a lot of things to do and plenty of Soul combinations at the start, though not some of the more diverse and interesting ones. In my opinion, starting the game off with one of the more “vanilla” combinations is advised until you become familiar with how the game works. You can pay to open up some of the more unique Souls, but there seems to be just enough variety in what’s offered to not demand it.
Later expansion content is locked up behind paywalls as well, including Storm Legion and onward. However, most of this content won’t matter to you at all and you’ll likely have made up your mind whether you want to pay to see more by the time you’re nearing cap.
There are a lot of things being stuffed behind gates, but there’s a lot more open to you in the interim as well. It all toes the line between understandable and overbearing, and if the game didn’t have so much to offer new arrivals this would have been much more negative.
Store Interruption: Oppressive
Store Interruption is based on how frequently you’re reminded of the in-game store during play. This either occurs through pop-up reminders that dominate your screen or buttons that redirect you to items offered in the store.
As okay-ish as I am with the account limitations of RIFT, I am certainly not okay with redirects to the in-game store. Right from the very jump at character creation, you’re assaulted with fingers pointing at all of the neat stuff you can’t have unless you buy it. Care to see how a Warrior heals or a Mage tanks? Pay up.
The interruptions continue onwards beyond character creation as well. There are a couple of quests that you get which steer you towards the store. Even interacting with NPC shops is handled by the in-game store. I’m surprised I didn’t loot advertisements for specials off of dead enemies!
RIFT panhandles at almost every golden opportunity and it becomes very annoying in very short order.
Store Offerings: Acceptable
The Store Offerings section is a quick look at what the store has to offer. From selection to variety of items, this is your at-a-glance idea of whether the store is interesting and if prices seem to be fair.
The RIFT in-game store has an absolutely impressive selection of stuff to buy, and overall the prices being asked seemed fair. I’m not incredibly in love with the store’s layout, but overall I was pretty accepting of the whole thing.
That’s not to say that everything is rosy, as the next section will illustrate, but on the broad-stroke metric of offerings, RIFT delivers a lot at an acceptable price point. The game currency is priced the way I anticipated, and the actual cosmetic stuff is truly compelling and interesting.
In fact, I was tempted to buy something, but there’s just one itty bitty section that sours the whole thing…
Store Reliance: Oppressive
This is an overall score of whether a game enters the “pay-to-win” realm with its offerings. Does the in-game store have an abundance of boosts? Does the leveling curve feel like you need to buy pots in order to progress? That’s what Store Reliance measures.
The in-game store as a LOT of neat stuff, but this one gets a negative mark purely by the inclusion of equipment. I’m not talking cosmetic equipment, I’m talking literal gear you can buy with money in order to power up. It is, by definition, pay-for-power and I am not a fan.
Of course, it would be completely easy to ignore this sort of thing and just take what the game’s quests give me, but during one point I was automagically made a Patron, which granted me a Patron lockbox that opened up every 10 levels. What did I get at level 10? A purple chestplate and sword. As much of a “filthy casual” as I’m accused of being, I’m not big on being simply handed high-tier equipment.
Despite the in-game store carrying actual cosmetics, a huge assortment of mounts and the expected assortment of boost potions, I couldn’t really bring myself to peruse them fully because of my displeasure at the Equipment section. Yes, the gear in question can also be bought with in-game currency, but it can be bought with paid currency and that is a sour point.
RIFT dances between being a wonderful F2P experience and an ugly one. The game itself plays well, looks good and is a worthy download for fans of classic MMO gaming, but some of the things the store does is definitely a turn-off for me.
Perhaps there’s some wistfulness at play in feeling this way, but RIFT feels a bit like a burn. It’s a solid and likable MMO that’s been lashed to a burdensome in-game store that can easily be used as an example of the F2P model implemented wrong. Still, if you’re better than I am at ignoring those complaints, you’re bound to find a lot to do and enjoy in free-to-play Telara.
Do you have a F2P MMO you’d like to see covered here? Be sure to share your ideas with me below in the comments. I want to help you make a decision on your MMO gaming time, and I’m always open to your suggestions. Until next time, remember: you’re not cheap, you’re thrifty.Related: Column, F2P, Free-to-Play Finder, MMORPG, Rift, Trion Worlds