Versus Mode: RIFT vs. Neverwinter

Welcome to the first GameSkinny Versus Mode, an in-depth comparison of two competing video game titles. In this free-to-play MMO edition, Trion Worlds' old school RIFT squares off against the bright young Neverwinter to see whose New Player Experience can make rookies go the distance.
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The massively multiplayer market is crowded and player time is valuable. A good initial experience is vital to capturing the interest of new players. As a long-time MMO player still coming to terms with the brave new world of subscription-free, microtransaction-led online gaming, I wondered how that would translate.

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Should I expect entertainment bottlenecks and paywalls that will frustrate my gameplay and break my immersion, or will I just end up filling my hard drive with countless identikit MMOs–without ever actually settling on one?

After all, we MMO players tend to be a loyal and dedicated bunch, and choosing to embark on a new MMO is a real commitment. We’re not looking for a forgettable, throwaway 5-hour gaming experience – the right choice could lead us to invest hundreds of hours exploring a world, developing a character and taking part in a new community.

The Contenders

Two titles which fit the bill are RIFT and Neverwinter. Both have some potentially attractive qualities, but I’m unlikely to be able to commit to both, so I thought I’d compare the initial game experience.

I went into each with a little prior knowledge, but for me, the key was to let the game do the talking. Which would do a better job of drawing me in, teaching me the ropes and enticing me back for more?

RIFT‘s Planescape-esque twist on the traditional swords and sorcery MMO format has drawn my attention in the past, but I never really took the time to look further into it. First released in March 2011 as a subscription-based game, it joined the free-to-play revolution earlier this year, which Trion Worlds reported as a successful move, resulting in the growth of its “large and loyal fanbase”.

RIFT’s unique angle is its dynamic content, with the eponymous rifts appearing at random throughout the gameworld, spewing forth a host of extra-planar beasts which threaten the existence of the world of Telara.

Neverwinter takes a more classic approach to content, based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons pen-and-paper RPG’s Forgotten Realms universe. Despite the old school backstory, the younger Neverwinter has the benefit of design centered on microtransactions, and it has been marketed heavily on its “more action-focused combat system, moving away from the genre-standard tab-targeting system.”

Both titles combine classic ideas and fresh twists. But how do they really compare as I take my first steps into strange new worlds?

NEXT: Part Two – The Opening Bout

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Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.