Before I begin, I'd like to provide a bit of background on myself as it pertains to MMOs. As I'm 29 years of age I've had my fair share of time devoted to MMO gaming and my experience spans over a decade. It began with Ragnarok Online and continues to this day with Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic while also playing World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Final Fantasy XI, Everquest II and Aion in between. Each game I've mentioned, with the lone exception of Star Wars: The Old Republic, obviously, has been played for a minimum of three months while most have been played for quite a bit longer than that. I provide this information only to qualify myself as someone with extensive MMO experience.
With Star Wars: The Old Republic rapidly approaching the one-month mark for those such as myself that were part of early access, I felt the community might enjoy reading one man's perspective regarding my experiences therein as compared against Rift. To be clear, I play both Rift and ToR at present and have no intention of leaving either any time in the near future as both games do certain things very well - well enough that I find each to be very enjoyable. It's my sincere hope that this post sheds some light on this so-called "battle" between these two games (a battle that shouldn't be called as such and needn't exist in the first place mind you).
The format for this post will be as follows:
- I will first provide a category (such as "Dungeons and Raids")
- I will then offer a comparative expression such as "Rift > ToR", "ToR > Rift" or Rift == "ToR". For areas where I feel a difference between the two games is substantial, I'll use an expression such as "Rift >> ToR" or "ToR >> Rift".
Lastly, I present these categories in no particular order. I am typing them as they come to mind and therefore there is no need to read into the order in which they've been offered as it means nothing.
Story and Lore
ToR >> Rift
Even before ToR was released, story was a major concern of mine in Rift. While there is certainly plenty of lore available and lots of content that is loosely based around story, the means of experience such stories are limited and that which does exist doesn't do the stories behind Rift any service. As a lone example, I consistently find myself thinking that the distinctions behind the races of Telara are minimal and that there should be considerably more effort put towards developing this aspect of the game. Who are the Kelari? Where do they come from? Aside from some trivial racial bonuses (that are reused across races), why should I adventure as a Kelari as opposed to a Mathosian or a Bahmi? Where Rift fails in this regard, ToR excels. Indeed it may be the highest point in favor of ToR in that every class, every race, every planet, every quest, every dungeon, heck, even every crafting effort is a well-written story that, if you should allow it to do so, will draw you in and improve your gaming experience.
Dungeons and Raids
Rift > ToR
I refer to this category as such, instead of ambiguously referring to it as "PvE" because PvE itself takes many different forms and I wanted to be more specific. While ToR definitely offers the player plenty of PvE experiences in terms of dungeons and raids, Rift does this aspect of an MMO significantly better. The dungeons and raids within ToR are trivial and even clunky at times. The encounters are straightforward and nothing exciting while Rift's dungeons and raids (particularly the raids) are among the most well done I've experience in any MMO.
Rift = ToR
To their detriment, both Rift and ToR feature an inherent latency when in combat that is most noticeable during PvP while games such as World of Warcraft set the benchmark in this area. In saying this, please note that I am not speaking to class balance or how enjoyable combat is but rather am speaking directly to the "responsiveness", "synchronization" and "fluidity" of combat whether in PvE or PvP. Further note that Rift is "slightly" better in this regard than ToR but both suffer. To date, no MMO has been able to match the responsiveness of WoW's engine but, with that aside, the combat in both Rift and ToR is enjoyable. I spend many a night grinding out Pyraki on Ember Isle towards some achievements or participating in world events for Inscribed Sourcestone - slicing through my enemies with the gutteral sound effects of a Rift Assassin. Likewise, I spend many a night leaping through the air at my enemies with dual lightsabers to collect credits or improve my Bioanalysis crew skill.
ToR > Rift
The PvP in Rift is decent, but that is as far as I can go in its favor. With the aforementioned inherent latency in the game, partnered with 8 souls per class to choose from and thus countless specs to deal with, PvP in Rift at times seems very, very random and skilless. This is not to say that there can't be skillful PvP play in Rift but rather that situations where skill determines the outcome of combat are few and far between given the very nature of the game's PvP. What's more is that the Warfronts are simple mechanics layered overtop of team deathmatch. In one case you have capture the flag. In another you have a fight over a single relic or collection of relics where points are accumulated the longer you hold them. Still in another case you have node control. Only in Port Scion or the new weekend version of Black Garden do we see anything inventive in terms of organized PvP. By contrast, ToR has launched with three "Warzones" that each are among the most fun I've had in group PvP in all my MMO experience. The first is Huttball where there is a ball at center court that two teams fight to control. The objective is simple: get the ball over your opponent's goal line. The implementation, however, is beautiful. You can pass the Huttball up to 30 meters away. Further, there are environmental hazards that can be used to your advantage. Personally, I like to time my Force Leap (which stuns the target for 2 seconds upon impact) for when the ball carrier is attempting to cross over a fire hazard that has temporarily turned off. I then promptly step away and watch then burn to death in front of me. Further, the Huttball arena is not a flat zone but rather has rafters and platforms one can use to your advantage - whether that means raining down ranged destruction on your enemies or passing the ball up to a comrade to get ahead. This is merely one example but I don't wish to belabor it further. I'll simply note that the other two Warzones are a more inventive version of node control and an "Assault" contest (think "Assault" game mode from the Unreal Tournament series where you either defend or attack objectives).
Graphics and Sound Effects
Rift > ToR
To date, Rift's graphics are among the most beautiful of any MMO I've played. This is especially the case in Ember Isle where it is clear that Trion paid extra attention to detail. The water near Ember Watch is amazingly done. The sound it makes as it glides over the cliff nearby is entrancing and the ambient sounds to be found through the game are extremely well done. Whether it's the rains of Stonefield or the sandstorms of Droughtlands, Rift excels in terms of both graphical presentation and sounds. This is all not to say, however, that ToR is a slouch in this department - just that Rift does things a bit better. The graphics in ToR are sorely underrated. Prior to ever playing the game I was fed horror stories from beta testers stating that the graphics in ToR were a step backwards from WoW only to find, once logging into the game myself, that nothing could be farther from the truth. At maximum settings (I play both Rift and ToR maxed), the game is very beautiful but in a different way. The models are mildly cartoonish yet they have a hint of realism and that I find enjoyable. The zones are vast and highly-detailed. As far as the sound effects are concerned, however, Rift has a definite edge over ToR. While some effects are done well, such as the sound of lightsabers or the sound of boots upon metal surfaces, others leave you wondering if a bug has gone overlooked such as running over puddles in Dromand Kaas only to hear nothing in the form of a splash.
ToR > Rift
Rift's music is very good - when you get to actually hear it. Rift suffers from a musical fragmentation that regularly has be scratching my head regardless of what zone I'm in. I remember when I first arrived on Ember Isle, I heard the entrance theme to the zone and immediately felt immersed in the environment - only to have the track "complete" after about 15 seconds leaving me with nothing. This is par for the proverbial course in Rift and, quite honestly, is a point of frustration for me. While ToR does obviously benefit from much of a musical score having already existed prior to the game ever was conceived, the implementation was well done. The music is engaging and definitely places you in a Star Wars universe. For more information around what I mean when I refer to Rift's music, please see my thread at the following location: http://forums.riftgame.com/rift-gene...back-long.html
Rift == ToR
There's not much to say here other than pointing out that Rift and ToR have been two of the most seamless and successful MMO launches I've ever been a part of. Both games launched without much of a hiccup and both maintain quality servers to this very day (obviously ToR is much younger).
ToR >> Rift
I have two level 50 characters in Rift - a Rogue and a Mage. On my Rogue, I chose to go with three gathering professions as, at the time, I felt it would be highly lucrative. Even with gathering professions, however, there comes some crafting of sorts and, after experience what little crafting there is having Butchering, Foraging and Mining as professions, I opted to not level professions at all on my Mage as I the system was bland, uninviting and, to me, ultimately pointless. Rift's professions are standard MMO fare and little more. Here's a list of ingredients - have them in your inventory and click to craft it. By contrast, the crafting in ToR is substantially different and MUCH more enjoyable. In ToR, you send your companions to level your professions for you. Each gathering profession is broken down into missions that you can send a companion on for you - upon the conclusion of which they will announce their return and the spoils of their mission are immediately present in your inventory. For actual crafting, your companions can take care of this to. What's more is that you can queue up jobs. For example, I can queue up one of my companions to complete five Bioanalysis missions to replenish my stock of compounds, samples and medical supplies while I queue up another companion to craft five different stims. The companions can work off of any materials in your personal inventory as well as any materials stored in your ship's storage. Additionally, there are substantially more professions in ToR and each provides unique benefits. Just to name a few (although there are many more than this), you have Underworld Trading, Slicing, Bioanalysis, Cybertech, Armstech, Diplomacy, Treasure Hunting and Synthweaving. Now if only ToR would follow Rift's example in creating a mobile, but have that mobile app allow deployment of your companions on missions!
Rift > ToR
Fluff is everything from giant candy canes, to costumes, to different types of mounts and much more. ToR is still quite young so this aspect of the game may yet come around but, for now, Rift has a substantial advantage in this regard. Of note in ToR are the many different speeders (mounts) that are already available. Further, once you receive your own personal starship, there are quite a few customizations that can be made to it. Even still, Rift is much further along in this regard and should stay as such for quite some time unless Bioware decides to dedicate considerable resources to this cause - which I doubt will happen any time soon.
Rift > ToR
Given the sheer amount of dynamic content in Rift, it's hard to knock it in terms of replayability. Now I understand that, with the holidays and the release of ToR, Rift seems a bit stagnant at the moment but this can't possibly belittle the immense amount of content Trion pushed into its game in such a short amount of time. Ultimately what has me playing ToR at the moment is that it is a high quality game that is new and thus fresh and "shiny". To keep my attention for the long run, it will obviously need quality updates just as any MMO does. While I've the utmost confidence in Bioware's ability to deliver on this, at this time, I have to give the nod for this category to Rift by technicality.