I have a confession: I’m a little burned out on WoW. Now, before any my guildies who are reading this hit the panic button, let me assure you that I’m not going anywhere. I’m not quitting. I said a “little” not “totally”. It just means that I’m taking it easy for a bit. Rather than fighting the reality of my indefinable ambiguity or giving up entirely, I’m going with the flow of my momentary disinterest in WoW – watching some movies I’ve missed (I really never watch movies; my apologies to Rafe for saying that on Widescreen Warrior! Ironically, I read a lot of your movie reviews… I just don’t watch many movies), playing in the garden some, and, ahem, trying out a new game. A new MMORPG. Rift, to be precise.
Before I jump too far into this I want to point out something: I will always be loyal to WoW. I’m far too wrapped up in the lore to ever leave, and I tend to be utterly faithful to stories that I love. I have always been an avid reader, inhaling books, haunting libraries and bookstores – my collection is immense. And, like any avid reader, I am addicted to those that let me immerse fully, and am always looking for the next one that will ensnare and enchant my imagination. Yet I revisit my favorites frequently, reading them time and time again, until the bindings are worn and the covers are missing. There are several that I’ve replaced at least once and a few that I’ve owned more than two copies of… not from lending them out and never getting them back, but from wearing them out due to excessive consumption. I’m hard on books, but they are well-loved, my favorites, and I’m completely loyal. World of Warcraft is essentially my ultimate fantasy novel, allowing for far greater immersion than any book ever could and in a much, much broader scope, and, as such, I will stay devoted. Of this I have no doubt.
But lately I need… something. I’m a little bored. Sure, I’m never out of things that I really need to do in WoW – some missed reputation that must be built, some new gear that must be procured to keep up with the raid content, some clever or lovely or epic knick-knack to be hunted down and added to my collection. Unlike those who complain that there’s nothing left to do in the game, to me WoW is just like life… even if it is only in the mundane, there’s always some new corner to turn, there’s always something to do. But lately that something… it has lost some of its sparkle. It feels a little unexciting. Dependable, solid, reliable, and very much like real-life, but… bland.
And then Rift shows up. With its amazing character creation that allows for a level of personalization that is an order of magnitude greater than what WoW offers, and a user interface so customizable that I actually laughed out loud in giddy joy, Rift is like a breath of fresh air. More than that, even, it’s like being handed a ticket to some exotic island retreat. And believe me, I didn’t debate much before packing my bag. Of course, I’ve already explained my devotion to WoW and I will admit that in choosing to play Rift I feel like I’m cheating on a beloved spouse with a sexy lover, but night after night I sneak out anyway and explore exciting new territory.
In April there was a story posted here from a former-WoW addict who had converted to Rift and I agree with several of the points that he mentioned. There is a lot that is very attractive about Rift that is simply lacking in WoW. Better still, Rift is like “WoW, enhanced”. The basic game is virtually identical between the two, however – there are two factions and many heroes and a grand evil to fight. There are talent trees and professions and the quest system is basically the same. The basic UI is the same, though, as mentioned, Rift‘s is far more user-friendly and customizable, which is more than just a convenience – it actually brings a lot of utility and pleasure to the game. There is a large social community and raiding and pvp and even a little roleplay, though, in my admittedly-skimmed first glance, that seems to be even more ridiculed in Rift than it is in WoW. Regardless, the two games are essentially the same entity, at least from the perspective of someone who doesn’t play any other games. Perhaps they’re all like this, I don’t know (I’m not particularly interested in finding out).
But Rift is definitely sexier than WoW. The character models alone are enough to grab and keep attention. WoW toons look like actual paper dolls by comparison, which is a distinct disappointment given that the system was updated (to a minor extent) not too long ago. It wasn’t nearly the update that the WoW community was hoping for, though the druid cat and bear models turned out brilliantly, in my opinion. Furthermore, the Rift UI is, as I mentioned, crow-worthy, due to the intensive editing you can do to it from the moment you log in. Half of my add-ons in WoW are dedicated to customizing my UI so that I have less on my screen and so that what IS there is tidy, pretty, crisp and essential, and yet Rift offers all of this customization natively. What a delight.
The talent tree system is the real clincher. It’s just…. well, it’s damn exciting. So many options! So much diversity! This kind of thing really matters to players. Blizzard overhauled the WoW talent trees last year for balance reasons and while I understand what they were doing and why, I was a bit disappointed – like so many others – that our talent selection is so bare-bones now that there’s really only a single acceptable build for a given spec… at least if you wish to be successful in end-game, whether that is pve or pvp. It almost makes the theorycrafters obsolete, since anyone with a modicum of understanding of their class is going to immediately understand just by reading the tree that X talent is for pve and Y is for pvp and that one doesn’t stack with this one, you HAVE to have that and that and that… and so on. Cookie cutter, indeed. And sure, I could craft theory all day about why this is necessary, but that’s not my point this week; this week I’m talking about feelings. I’m talking about fun. I’m talking about the thrill of adventure and of being a unique individual. Rift offers it in abundance, it seems. WoW? Not so much anymore.
And yet…. there is something missing about this sexy new lover of mine. I can’t even really put my finger on it yet, so it’ll likely be hard for me to describe it to you. But here goes: WoW feels like “life”. There are bigger stories going on – the Burning Legion, the Lich King and the Scourge, Deathwing – but in the background, life goes on. If you don’t want to be a grand hero, you don’t have to be… there’s still plenty of life to live; wolves to be chased out of the village, ore and herbs to be gathered, deliveries to be made. Heck, you can sit in the pub and tell stories with your buddies every week if you like. So far, Rift feels like I need to “beat the game”. Or that’s the purpose of my existence, anyway. Like there’s an end to the story, the same as the old cartridge-and-console games had. And maybe there is “life” in Rift too (except that none of us are actually “alive”???) but it certainly doesn’t feel that way yet. It feels like I’ve been launched straight into the “You’re our HERO! Evil is that way!” part of the game and the inevitable conclusion is for me to beat the Big Bad and watch the credits roll. I never felt this when I began playing WoW. I still don’t.
Regardless, what I’ve discovered is that I’m not actually looking for a new relationship. I don’t want a new lover, no matter how svelte and alluring Rift might be, nor how exciting those heady first weeks may seem. I actually really love WoW and all it has to offer. But it needs a tune-up. Badly. For all that the Cataclysm content is actually very wonderful and rich and dynamic, the game itself is lacking in some vital personalization features that would enhance player experience – not just that of the top 1% who play only for titles and money, but for the rest of us normal mortals, who play for pleasure. There is definitely a sense of blase lately, a general tendency towards disenchantment amongst the populace despite the recent expansion, and that’s something worth taking note of. Personally, I desperately hope that Blizzard watches the rising popularity of Rift and adopts some of these lovely features…. but I’m not going anywhere if they don’t. As I said, I’m devoted. I’ll grow old with WoW.
Of course, I’m not giving up my trysts with this sexy lover anytime soon, either. Who says you can’t have it all?