Versus Mode: RIFT vs. Neverwinter (Getting Started)
Every MMO wants to envelop players as quickly as possible to set them on their way to a fulfilling lifetime of wonder and adventure, making them part of its world.
In the second part of our inaugural Versus Mode, comparing free-to-play MMOs RIFT and Neverwinter, we look at how smooth that process is.
It's a minor thing perhaps, but important nonetheless. How much aggravation is involved in downloading and installing each game?
RIFT is the larger install, at 11.1 GB, but goes about it via a tidy launcher without any fuss. It tries to be clever with a 'playable' state before it's all downloaded, but I found this just led to texture issues and invisible models in the character creator, so I waited until it was all down the pipe.
At under 6GB, Neverwinter is a smaller install, but comes unavoidably packaged with Arc content delivery system - essentially a Steam clone - which I find a little irritating. This forces software bloat, desktop clutter and a series of additional clicks just to get to the Neverwinter game launcher, instantly causing a furrowed brow. It's all very well that I can see Perfect World's other titles, but that's not what I'm here for.
Perfect World's insidious attempt to jam their foot in my door gifts RIFT with an early point.
RIFT 1 - 0 Neverwinter
Setting the Scene
An introductory cinematic sequence, although often not particularly indicative of game quality, can really help to set the scene and whet the player's appetite. Both RIFT and Neverwinter's intros do this well, but with different approaches.
Both contain some excellently choreographed combat (which will undoubtedly never be equalled by the gameplay combat animation) and they each tell a story of a handful of characters who ultimately find themselves facing impossible odds.
RIFT's tale of a pair of outlandish adventurers in pursuit of an adversary keeps it simple and tight with some twists and a revelatory reveal at the end...
Whereas Neverwinter goes straight for the artery of epic whilst still managing to weave in some touching character-driven moments...
It's very much a matter of taste, but for me this is a comfortably won point for Neverwinter.
RIFT 1 - 1 Neverwinter
Getting Into Character
RIFT's character creator presents you with your first choice: choosing between one of the Guardians or siding with the Defiant faction. Without reading up on the lore, at this stage, there's not much clue what this means, but it'll undoubtedly have an impact later on. At this stage, it determines which races are available, with three in each faction and then an assortment of character classes beyond that.
The races are a mix of traditional and unusual, and the art style for each is distinctive and there are plenty of customisation options; hairstyles, tattoos, facial features, build and so on. But the colour palette seems a little bland. Presumably more striking personalisation will come from available kits.
I note there are only two character slots, with more available through premium purchase. This doesn't seem unreasonable; by the time you're creating a third character, paying something for the entertainment seems more than fair.
Neverwinter's characters are presumably all fighting for the same side, as there's notably no faction choice. All the Dungeons & Dragons classics are there: human, elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc, half-elf and also a demonic-looking Tiefling (I thought these were from Planescape).
Despite the competently designed models, I found the faces distractingly malformed. The Sun Elf male looked like someone had tried to sculpt Benedict Cumberbatch out of modelling putty. This can all be tweaked to an unsurprisingly high degree, but I found myself preferring how my RIFT characters looked.
An array of character class options are available, none of which I remember from my AD&D days - whether this is artistic licence on the part of Neverwinter's developers or some new-fangled way the kids are dual-classing these days, I guess I'll never know. I did feel all warm and fuzzy when I saw the classic six stats appear. Suddenly, I felt at home knowing the value of having high Wisdom and exactly how many extra hit points I'll get for having a Constitution of 16.
The D&D licence really shows its strength in the final leg of Neverwinter's character creation process, with a variety of rich and detailed origin and religion affiliations available in accordance with Forgotten Realms' deep lore.
Weighing both systems up, both RIFT and Neverwinter both do enough for me to create a character I can identify with and grow into. On balance, I prefer the artistic style of RIFT's models and Neverwinter's advantage largely comes from work that was done far before the MMO itself was created.
In what could prove a controversial decision, I'm going to go with RIFT here.
RIFT 2 - 1 Neverwinter
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