Monday, July 29, 2013

JL 6 - Potions and you

This article was originally published here:

I was sitting here playing a few games over the last few weeks and noticed something usually over looked in MMORPGS. These potions man. In some games I find myself selling them off as trash loot. In others they are precious life sources, and in others just mild life savers and class dependent. Soon I was drifting off into thoughts of how other games all implemented those glass bottles of love in games. Let's chat about this!

The Logic: I do not want to get lost in the ancient lore of when dragons flew above the land and mighty heroes were given magical concoctions to help them heal and gain magical points to ward off the dragons...based on, Dungeons and Dragons? Books? Middle Age manuscripts? I do not know. Feel free to chat about potion history below in the comments. What I do know, for my MMORPG gaming world, I was introduced to potions and their importance around the time I started playing World of War Craft so many years back. The potion was might gift to have linked to the hot bar. For all classes back then it was a life saver. As one of my first MMORPGS, this was introduced as a drop from mobs. 

As I opened the corpse to loot there was some tatered rags, perhaps an apple, and low HP pot. OOOhh what is this? Hovering the mouse wheel over we learn it is HP and MP regeneration that can be used instantly in battle! Not like food that needs to be consumed outside battle. A bottled glass potion. Awesome idea! Hello hot bar! Now I had the courage to take on some higher end mobs and or a boss. Last time I fought that said boss, he took me down, but not before I had hip to 19HP, if only I had a health boost, and HERE IT IS, HELLO HOT BAR! And that is how I met these wonderful glass concoctions.
It would not be until later I would find it a little silly that in the middle of fighting with a sword I have the time to "woah woah monster, let me take a drinketh from thine Goblet" and end up spamming a potion to boost my HP up. A little illogical if you will. But playable...I can live with it. Besides, the entire idea of keeping armor and weapons in a BAG strapped to you was a little silly. So hey, I can live with putting strange glass drinks next to those swords, arrows, and rocks in the bag as well...
I did notice also in wow the strength of the potion scaled your level progression. That is, the design to give out potions seemed to be intelligently following your level progression and they did not want you recovering TO much HP and MP. There would be a level cap as well to prevent you from getting OP potions. And if you wanted from anything superior, you usually had to craft a great potion instead of buying one. These rarities were so sought after, you were a commerce king if you crafted a good potion and put it on the auction house back in the Vanilla days. At least the crafting logic made sense. Go alchemy, profit with a great in game product.
One illogical feature also was over drinking. I have ran into "you are full and cannot cosume more" in food items in mmorpgs, but never on potions. Apparently all mmorpg characters are Potion-o-holics. We have no logicial limit to how much to consume .

The Diversity: With all the new titles launched over the years, the use of potions is quite interesting. There seem to be 3 major model types, correct me if I am wrong, we have the WoW clonage type of a sort of useful tool in the bag. Then we have the DIablo kind of "must spam them furiously" and then the "doesn't matter, just there to dress up". Let's discuss.
The wow clonage type can fall into 3 sub types. Some that use it exactly like wow where you will find yourself fumbling for the potion button in a desperate scenario. Even as a healer you may want to have at least a good stop of 50 pots in the bag in case your HP And MP sink. This is up to the game design of course. How the class is designed. Does the class use more MP than HP, when and how? etc.. For example, it is just known most boss fights or tougher mobs will be using your hp and mp bar more than typical questing. Even as a class that has heals and "MP" boost as passive skills, it is still a good idea during the hard fights. Some dungeons cannot even be run unless you prepared properly. I sort of like this model as it makes one feel like they really are going on an adventure beyond the typical mob and questing. "Bandages, check, pots, check, new pair of under ware...who needs it". That sort of bag check, and item check before going in made it seem more "real" to me.

The second type, Diablo style. I have noticed this pertains not only to Diablo like games (Path of Exile) but also to other typical mmorpgs. Rosh Online and the now closed 7 Core are examples. Those both heavily relied that the potions you have are spammable and hot bar slotted starting level 1. I see the result. It makes the monsters feel "tough". If you will. There is a chance you die on level one mobs if you are not drinking fast enough. This sort of gave the world a "challenge" feel to it. This is not my thing though. I liked Diablo, but the idea of those two Red and Blue balls always being the survival factor of the game was a little annoying and falls back on the logic part of it all. Really, I need to drink all this to get past all that and not even pee once???
I never really heard or read a developer explain this sort of design in game. I think Diablo just wanted to do something different, and "spammable" to make a sort of sub game. It's popularity was so shocking that we are seeing the potion drinking aspect of it a sort of TRADEMARK to it's genre. So much so that if any one made a game directly after it's release like it, it would probably be a legal issue. That could be the reason why we are JUST NOW seeing other games no start to clone it a little, because the implications of "cloning" are a basic mmorpg standard that, hey, why not? The people want potion popping fun! Give it to them! 7 core did a direct 3D mmorpg style game with potion popping. It made some fghts feel hectic, but only in that "wtf, why..oh, lame, better run back and buy 100 more of these". That at least was my feel of it. It did not enhance battles, or make the game feel "tougher", to me, it just felt like an excuse to stay focused and glued on a single tab targeting system...If you are gonna spam in frantic battle, at least keep it action oriented (like in DIablo, etc). But that is just me.
  Forsaken World had a patch that introduced Automatic AFK potioning...YUP. You set the rules, at 50% HP, use X HP pot. And go auto attack and leave the computer...You sit there and auto HP. It was the fuel for AFK gaming. 

Last but not least, the no need to have them other than decoration aspect. This has been the case for me in ALLOT of new mmorpgs. It is like they have the potions in game just to say "see we are fantasy, we have potions". So many titles I have gone through and all these 50hp, 150 HP over 15 seconds, all this...garbage. No need. Will never need. Now this breaks down into two other catagories: The need at end game for good potions and class specific.
Allot of games I have ran through have no need for potions in the noob and mid game stage, but end game they are great to have for end game content. 
The other aspect is class specific needs. Some classes, like healer based classes, usually do not have a huge need for potions unless designed for MP burns. Most other classes will need them to get through the mid levels. Rouges, mages, etc. some games alos introduce this as a sitting out factor. Sure, potions exist, and sure you do not need them, but to get HP we will make HP and MP regen so slow after every battle, your best bet is to use the potions (replacing food usually).

The exploits: In the F2P market, with all these well hearted publishers (sarcasm) thinking about their precious gaming community and how they can help us (help them in cash), the rovel over all the possible things in game to manage, and potions can take quite the exploiting.
One game comes to mind is the Perfect World and their "charms" that refill hp and mp at the 50% mark to 100%, draining them until you need to cash shop a new one. Well, a charm sure does seem like a bottled potion to me...In fact I have played other games where you are teased with mild potions that will get you just far enough, but the goods of the game require higher level potion, or potion making that only comes through the cash shop. UGhhh. Oh that sweet nectar of life! He who controls the life source, controls the game! Or is it, he who controls the game, controls the life force, controls all! GASP!

This can also work in monetary terms of grind. Some potions being not in the cash shop but in the vendors at high prices. To pay them you need gold, to get gold you need to farm X long enough, then buy the potions, then take your one chance to use them in a map or dungeon push. If you fail, back to money grinding.

Pay 2 potion...don't quote me on that :) 

The Size, types, utility and bars: POtion size is a funny thing. Both physically and non physically. As potions get more potent, usually the icons get larger...and larger, until the get SUPER good and then they glow! or bubble, or whatever happens to be in the icon pool of the developers kit. Funny stuff. Some keep it "real" and just always shop a red cup and the stats are something you just read. 

So many types exist also. Some games have crystals and other consumables to boost strength etc. But allot stick to the potion set up. How many kinds of potions do you link to your hot bar? I think the worst is when developers try to mask potions as other things. The horrible example of 7 Core bothered me ALLOT. In 7 core the spammable potions were SODA and HAMBURGERS! YUP! The same text for HP And MP potions where there, the same red and blue bar under your profile, but the icons and description were changed to soda, hamburgers. YOu progressed to beer and hot dogs later on...In a fantasy themed game that called itself steam punk in a land with elves and felt off, odd, and just stupid. It added a very child like feel to it's possibly adult like world. UGhh, but that game shut down...I blame the hot dogs.

How util are these potions when forced to use them? I personally keep USually 2 slots on the bar for potions. One red, one blue, one just my level range. Ill keep OP potions in the bag thinking: "I will open the bag and use a big potion if the need be" That never moment never arrives...I usually just die. I have seen, and I probably should follow their example, people use en entire hot bar to the side for all the potion types, and sizes and manage them accordingly. Instead of vending the under powered potions, like I do, they use them in conjunction with heals, giving that heal that leading edge...I prefer a few copper than that extra self hp.
Also, some games require drag n drop heal, right click, left click, and some just suck altogether. RIFT comes to mind in sucky potions. I Was playing ecently and all the heal potions I had, I would link and spam them and nothing would happen. I double check to see if it is my level (which they control by level very strictly) and yes, it is, but wtf? I guess it is mostly out of battle hp you get (which is fine, they usually always have a healing alternative, healing fairy, spell, etc). Pretty soon we will have Google Glasses MMORPG where we have to reach down, open imaginary bag, look in, find the bottle, open it, lift it to mouth and POOF, HP boost...or they will keep it lazy and just have flaoting buttons to push...

Another entertaining aspect is the introduction of bars. Bars are the places you can buy the same drinks but with alcoholic of other beverage names. 150 hp in this beer. Well heck, I prefer beer than some red portion. But then games go the extra mile to make you drunk if you drink to much alcohol...but potions, again, are fine to abuse XD. Do you use the bar as your potion replacement?
Conclusion: Love it, hate it, we seem to be stuck with it. I am still awaiting a sandbox mmorpg where potion sickness exists and you can throw the glass bottles at people...or use it as other crafting items like smeting them down for making a window for a hosue...See how small details can turn into big game changing aspects? That is called creativity people. Take the time to enjoy the little things and you can really see why, perhaps, people are liking less and less the mmorpg field. It is not because we are missing things, it is because we have everything we need. But how it is being exploited could be the thing turning people off the this genre of gaming.

Also, it is entertainment. Beer, potions, etc... All of this usually has been exploited in the real life with gamer's potion energy drinks etc... The point is, keep it fun and we will be thirsting for more!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

JL 5 - Recap, news, state of the blog

Well it has been almost 3 months since I started this blog. I am mostly writing to myself because I enjoy writing to myself. I have 0 followers here but since I started writing for Mmosite I gained personal followers and about 800+ hits an article...not bad.

This month I reviewed RIFT while on vacation in a 2 part review up to level 20. A noob review if you will. I was not thrilled nor completely let down. Just mildly disappointed. I see a water themed content update. And since drowning is possible in this game (you have a breath meter)...I suspect ALLOT of drowning ahead. I do appreciate that each map seems to take a player up and down towers, hills and forests to make up for its linear progression. The water map seems to have this layered playing field. Seems interesting. I may not touch it though as I have stopped RIFT since the review and have 0 desire to get back in. That said, I can not bring myself to remove it from my PC as nothing on the market seems good enough to replace it...:"(

TERA I play actively still and hitting a bit of a grind wall, but it is still enjoyable and the scenery changes often enough to enjoy.

I did a Superman Movie review here, and I did a AFter Earth review on another site. I wanted to do a PAcific Rim review but no energy. It was not bad. It both offended me and pleased me. It offended in that it rips off Neon Genesis ALLOT. and Pleases in that it rips of Neon Genesis ALLOT.

I do not have allot of screen shots to post. I may come short of my 10 post a month rule. Life is getting busy so I my time is going to be limited to 5 posts a month. I might be sneaking in 1 more review this month. I have so many games to write about, not sure which...See ya next month!

FAQ for the Shutdown of RaiderZ

Question: When will the RaiderZ service close?
Answer: We will be turning the servers off on 30.08.2013 at 12 o’clock.

Question: Why will the RaiderZ service be closed?
Answer: The success of RaiderZ did not meet our expectations and as we saw no other potential alternatives to the discontinuation of the services, unfortunately we were left with no other alternative than to take this step.

Question: Is there any way to continue playing RaiderZ on another service?
Answer: Not straight away. For those of you that wish to continue playing RaiderZ, there is only the option to switch to another RaiderZ publisher. There you will however have to start from scratch again. 

JL - 4 Warface Review

This article originally started here:

I connected to the Russian website to play the Open Beta of Warface. It promised next gen graphics with neat MMO features. But can the title really be stand out from the hundreds of FPS titles that already exist? Here is my review:

Graphics: The graphics are top notch. But this was a given as it is a game based on the CryTek Engine. This is not so evident in the character creation menu or customization menu's at the start of the game. But do not be let down, continue on in the game to find lush environments for you to run through. The character animations are very fluid and rewarding to play. Crouching, hoisting buddies up, and sliding are all very well animated and look great on this engine. The gun models and animations are just in line as well. 
The environments are lush and detailed. I have played other games where everything seems to evolve around squares. Square windows, square floor tiles, square square square...But not in Warface. You get a little more diversity and will instantly be figuring out how to shoot through cracks in walls, taking cover behind trucks, rounded edges, crumbling walls..ETC. What I want to say is that your brain will be translating more geometrical pathways and obstacle positioing than the typical "Run to square window, peek around edge, shoot" most FPS have. 
I was able to run this on my 5 year old lap top on Medium / Low settings, and on my table top PC on high end settings without graphical lag and other hiccups. 
The Maps are very small and this might be a boosting factor in performance. Also, there is not allot of character modification available MEaning the system won't be modeling to many different character models. They are all basic and standard. I give Graphics for this FPS a 4/5. I give it a 5/5 for its LAUNCH time, but since other box title FPS have now improved systems, it loses a point for not keeping up..But part of this is launching very late and keeping very quiet about the updates...But that leads us to the next part:

(SIT DOWN, good ol turn the corner spray n pray)

Game Play:
 I played in the Russian version and this is how it was presented: You have to modes to chose from. PvE or PvP. Basically PvE is you vs AI. You can bring buddies with you in a typical FPS way of meeting up in the lobby and launching the theater. The only problem I had here was that everyone was in PvP and PvE groups were rare. The rewards for PvP included farming gear (more on that later) and currency (more on that later). PvE had rewards of unlocking the next map and gaining a PvE currency (later). 
The game play in PvE was about following a path with AI enemies nestled in. You had AI either defending or attacking your position. The path was very linear, but occasionally opened up to a few fork in the roads, but they were not very long or just looped back to the main path. Surprise attacks were the only "fun" factor and working with your team was key. There usually was a boss fight, but very uneventful. The first boss consisted of a big bag sort of robot suit dude chasing you around a circular building. This battle lasted way to long. His HP was to large and it consisted of you hiding behind a trash can and kiting as much as possible. This sort of boring finale could also be why most people just skipped the PvE and played PvP.

PvP is all about traditional FPS modes. Team that kills most wins, last man standing, defuse something before timer runs out, snipers only etc.. The maps are exceptionally short. But there are enough obstacles to keep you pinned down or running or hoisting about to make up for the lack of size. However this does not run parallel with the character classes, and this falls so short that it destroys the game. But more on that later. I like PvE game play because it did away with dolphin diving, and bunny hoppers will not be so lucky. The game is a decent balance between strategic hunting and stalking and twitch based FPS. I am a fan of strategic FPS, and I found myself hooked to this game for several months due to it's ability to please both crowds. There is not much, sadly, to add to this..It is very basic FPS modes and nothing will be very different or refreshing for the people playing FPS already. Here is where the MMO part kicks in:

(The trip bomb. Mans best friend in a zergy game)

Items and Upgrades: The standard kit you have is dependent of your class. Medic has a Shot Gun, engineer a sub machine gun, etc..To get upgrades you can earn in game coin to go shopping, like most FPS. As you rank up, you unlock some items. However, unlike most FPS there is another unlock feature that works like MMO. That is to say, you build EXP to gain something; Before each match, there is a choice between 3 major items. Example, Tri-pod for +10 stabilization - Armor piece (hat, body, etc) for +5 armor - or smoke bomb... You chose one and a bar of EXP appears under it. After each match EXP is automatically given and your are on your way to unlock that item. You can switch items and start to build EXP in one or the other. After it is unlocked it will appear in the coin shop for you to get if you like. So there it is, the catch to log in and play and the "MMO" feature if you will. That is about it. Not allot of other things to say about this game. So now to the VERY IMPORTANT things about this game (Still apart of Game Play Rating):

(X5 knife kill... Welcome to end game)

Class Selection: You have 4 choice. Rifleman - Sniper - Medic Engineer. Each class has a pre set kit and the coin shop unlocks are geared for your class. So Rifleman uses assault guns and nades with 2 perks: Health stim pack and nade upgrade. 
Medic has Shot gun some nades and 2 perks: Health packs to throw out and Revival paddles.
Engineer has Sub Machine gun nades and 2 perks: Armor plating repair and Trip bombs.
Sniper has sniper rifle, nades, and NO PERKS (yes, this is the beginning of the end)

Sadly, all of that will work AGAINST this game and destroys this game. Everything I will present is in tandem with the map design. Here is how:
The rifle man is a standard class and works great in the map as it forces thinking gameplay. If they only had Rifle mans, this game would be great, but since the other classes easily Over Power the Rifleman, it is not really worth playing. I found it RARE that a PvP match had Riflemen. 
The Medic has a useless shot gun and gets a few lucky up close corner turning 1 shots. His health packs and resurrection paddles, sure, can aide fellow team mates But it is USELESS in a game that has INSTANT RESURRECTION and small maps. How can you give a guy health pack in a game that supports 2 shot kills? As I played, I tried following others to heal them, it was so RARE that a health pack helped because death is FAST, stopping for health is an error. Also, because the maps are so small the zerging creates close encounter fights (it is rare you shoot at distance) as a medic, you are uselessly standing there with a health pack in the hand. You are just an extra kill.
The resurrection paddles are the biggest design flaw in this game. Because you can RESURRECT INSTANTLY and health paddles take 60 SECONDS TO CHARGE. Also, because battles are mostly zerged face to one has time to whip out paddles nad rez the friend. Here is an example: You follow behind your mate to get ready to Rez him. The enemy zergs around the corner, crazy gun fire...If, your friend dies, and you are lucky and alive and the enemy is dead, it is now time to resurrect your friend, but the PROBLEM: 1) When you are dead you can chose to wait in place or "Spawn" instantly...Why would I sit there and wait 60 seconds for the medics paddles to charge when I can SPAWN INSTANTLY, and return to the same place in less than 5 seconds (1 sprint)...You see the math and logic does not fit the class roles or map design. 
2) The health pack works the same, you are useless to whip out health packs in the twitch part of the this games cloe battle fights.
That said, here is the ONLY ROLE a MEDIC is good at...1)Climbing into a sniper nest with a friendly sniper and healing and resurrecting him constantly. But this has flaws: A) The sniper spots are EASY to find and on a small map it offers no element of surprise or good hiding so it is CONSTANTLY nade spammed. However, some noobs do not know this so if you are LUCKY, you can aide a sniper. B) Some snipers have no patience because of INSTANT SPAWN. SO, if they die, they do not wait for you to raise them. They instant spawn, and usually change classes - Because you can change class each death. 
- Something stood out at this point...this game feels like it was designed for a single player FPS experience, then lost funding or dropped the project, and glued the F2P FPS element to it. It feels broken.

Engineer: Has the best main weapon. A Rapid fire sub machine gun. Placed correctly can do long range damange more efficiently than a Rifleman, and is one of the best close range battle (most of the battles) as it spray and prays. This is the most used class as it is easily exploitable. The perk of Trip mines is best used in this game as the maps are small and mines hard to detect. You will learn fast the best defense against zerging is spaming your trip mines. 
The Engineer also has armor repair systems. You have about a 2 hit armor boost to protect against the first few rounds that hit you. JUST LIKE the MEDIC, no one has time for repairs. No one, in a small map zerged game will sit there and wait for you to give them armor. This is a swing or miss feature. IF you HAPPEN to find a friend low on armor and you guys are hiding behind a wall together, sure, use it, otherwise, the next bad guy he sees, he will die in the next 4 shots, so all that hard work is for nothing. It is just better to do what everyone else is doing... Spam the trip mines, zerg the map. 
- I repeat: - Something stood out at this point...this game feels like it was designed for a single player FPS experience, then lost funding or dropped the project, and glued the F2P FPS element to it. It feels broken.

Sniper: If you have not noticed so far the game is broke, let this class be the ultimate proof. The poor sniper starter kit is automatic sniper single bolt...and for a reason. You will be a combat sniper. There are no sniper spots that are advantageous. The sniper has a few spots to hide in, but they are so obvious and everyone knows it, the spots are usually just 2 steps from the spawn site, and naded. For example, when I start certain maps, the first thing I do is Take half sprint, stop, throw all nades over a wall into a tower, and continue. Why? Because I know there are snipers there, only noobs do not know. And yes, I get "kill" for doing so. A sniper is easily picked off in any other area. The only luck a sniper has is to hang back, move slowly ahead, and hope he sees another sniper to pick off, because he will be useless against 99% of the other zergers. He has 0 perks, and feels like a broken class sort of thrown in "just because". RARELY will you see snipers in matches. 90% of PvP maps are mostly engineers. "Oh but this works in PvE". Not really. The same rules exist i PvE, just a little different. The Medic helps a little bit, but over all the rifleman and the engineer are the best bet as it is just he who kills the fastest and quickest. Get in, push in, get out. So I never found that this game was designed to lean on PvE. Especially since it is rarely played. It honestly feels like they were creating a new box Crytek game, dropped it mid production, and desperately slapped on a cheap zergy, small map F2P FPS. I repeat small map because the size really hurts the roles of classes and makes you think "why even have classes"? For those that play this game, imagine if it just had rifleman with weapon upgrades? That would work ALLOT better than this sort of patched together class system.

(She is already spawned and running back, aint no one got time to get rezed!)

Another issue. The HOIST system. This game, before and durring launch tried it's hardest to show off it's videos of "co-op" game play by the fact you can hoist your friend over walls etc! That is a cool and new feature! It worked a little in game...especially in PvE...but here is where it is broke: ALL IT DOES IS REPLACE LADDERS! You can not hug and climb any wall. You can only use this feature on BIG GLOWING GREEN ARROWS on the it is limited and REPLACES what ladders do in most FPS...STUPID! Ughh, I was so dissapointed on this fact. You will feel how stupid this is when you and a buddy cna hoist up a second stage building where it tells you to do, but you cannot help jump small walls that block strategic points... Ummm this looks, feels, illogical and broken. Again, just horrible design. No amout of good looking graphics can save this kind of design fail.

Another issue: The end game. If you had the interest to stick it out to the end, you will find that you have a sort of build going on. That is, what items did you decide to unlock and what feature to use? You have the weapons damage builds, tank builds, and speed builds. However, end game comes down to one thing and one thing only (if you are smart). BUILD AN ENGINEERING TANK! Why? Because of the one feature I have not talked about...Sliding. This game also tried to show off videos of people sliding on the ground. Yes, it is nice FPS feature to add "realism"...until it is exploited and not real at all. I abused it once I found out about it. I would slide out in the open, shoot people down, and slide back into safety. It is not a 100% god mode, but close enough to ruin the game. As you move to end game, the best items to unlock are armor. Build that tank, because Zerging is the name of the game. And not just sprint zerging, but slide zerging. To take this to the next level, use the KNIFE! This ishow the game looks end game (in general, and in my Russian experience):
In a small map, top ranked players run and slide around every corner spamming the knife. Why? Because if you shoot at them, the armor is built to take the first round of your clip and they survive the encounter and 1 ill knife you. It is comical! I was against an entire team of troops SLIDING AROUND THE MAP! Sounds silly??? It is SILLY! but it works, aim, shoot, nothing happens, kinfed! There are exceptions, if you see them early, you can gun em down, but the nature of small maps and turning and shooting means just forget the FPS norms and slide n knife. You do not even to buy weapon upgrades since the slide and knife is best. Engineer offers a great standard spray weapon to kill any one your knife misses...I was turned off by end game and it is around this time I uninstalled this game. I like how it is presented, but just cannot support this horrible execution. I hive Game Play
2/5 - Good ides in ITems, Ok PvE, but not enough to hold it all together and I have played better and balanced FPS.
(The best weapon in the entire game)

Currency: The item shop had a decent, but very small, selection of upgrades as you ranked up. There were permanentpurchases with other versions (usually cosmetic) with real cash. There also was a coin gained in PvE that purchased certain items. So to get those potentially interesting items, you would need some PvE time. But hey, slide and knife is better than anything you will find in the cash shop. Armor purchases to build that slide n knife tank were the top purchases.
Cash shop was fair but small : 3/5
(Best cash shop based weapon)

Closing points: I installed the Western version through Gface. It was, sadly, worse. First, Gface prefers that you use their game interface client...It works and looks allot like Google Plus social network. Including friends feature called "circles". Providing the game like this I experienced lag (surprising more lag than in RU...), some reason worse graphical models, the cash shop had rentals, not permanent, I could not stand it longer than a few weeks before removing it. 
The game is such a published mess it is confusing to find out the Western progress. Russia still has the better product. The only difference is just a small language file.PAK. In fact, I was able to play the Russian version because some one made a simple translation english pak to remove the Russian text and insert the english text. All the game design is in english, the only reason it is in RU release is because they are the TEST MARKET. Not because the Russian created it. Any ways, that point is, I feel this is CRYTEK abandon ware left to test markets and publishers to make some cash. It is not a complete failure, but there are enough bad points in the game that besides the graphics, I did not have enough to take me away from other FPS titles. In addition, and on a smaller point, here is how messy their sebsite set up is:

1) The good RU site:

2) The Gface site (not updated in about a year) Google search will show this link called BLA BLA does not seem like the official site...but it is XD

3) The typical Google result, but does not have the game XD

Perhaps this is your cup of tea and you are having a blast. For all others, DO NOT BELIEVE ME, PLAY THE GAME and tell us what you think. :)

I give this game a total score of 3/5 - Almost there, needs some love...perhaps a complete rehaul...or make bigger maps with more strategical use of classes.

Friday, July 19, 2013

JL - 3 Star Trek Online Review

This article was originally posted here:

This is one of those titles I joined way late into the F2P conversion. It will be one of those titles I end up uninstalling and then some years later, re-installing. It is currently on my hard drive and updated. Here is my review of Star Trek Online (STO).

I remember when this game launched because of the Taco Bell advertisements (giant size cups with STO on them). I was subbing to an MMORPG and flirting with the F2P title Perfect World (had a family member drag me in to check it ou). So I was pretty familiar with PWE titles back then. 

I stayed out for a long time because of my impression of both Perfect World Online, Forsaken World, and other titles I tried out and did not really like. I already was turned off to the fact I could not Forum post on the STO forums unless I invested my time in game for a long time... But I can post whatever in any other PWE forum board...what was this nonesense? It turned me off ALONGGG time as it reeked of PWE corruption...but, reviews kept popping up that it was not "P2W" and a great game minus some smaller snags...I was itching..I was itching...ahh hell I will scratch. I was used to the PWE installation process so it was no big to me (some times new client installs bug me as they install sneak things in the background). I also read it had lack luster ground combat and ran into a farm wall (typical of PWE games). But I got in and liked what I was playing up to a point. Then I stopped, uninstalled, and forgot about it. Then a friend of mine, trek fan, got me into the old episodes. He never played MMORPGS before and I showed him STO...He was hooked immediately and we passed some epic times in game together. This brought about a new look to the game for me (to play with a friend new to the gaming community) and it also was perfect timing as allot of patches had passed to update the game. Recently the Romulus expansion has released and I will not be covering that in to much depth as I have not had time to play that faction, but I will note on some of the changes. But first:

1) Graphics: They are great and generally can run on any modern system. They can be cranked up depending on your system to really stand out. I can run in on my 5 year old ASUS laptop and it looks great (where these screen shots are coming from). I can not max out on the lap top but on the home system the game looks beautiful full settings with sun reflections glittering off the ship. etc.
Planets and environments are rich and really feel "Star Trekkie". Not like some one had a spare SCI FI mmorpg kit and slapped together the game (like most mmorpgs I see). The detail put into costumes and how you can modify them are one of the best parts of the game. The effects are great! Not over the top sparkely fairy urine, but gritty combat enough mixed with the neon-esque perks of the sci-fi world of Star Trek.
Every screen shot I take, even on my low end system, seems like a perfect backdrop for my PC. All this, for a game that is pretty dated.
If I could say something negative it would just be sometimes they could have rendered something a little more thoughtful. I have seen alien housing on explore missions where it just looked like a grey box. Perhaps liven it up a bit. Other than that, it delivers on what it is supposed to. No more, no less.

The menus can be confusing, especially since 2 buttons take you to the same sub menu and vice versa, but once you see how it is all mapped out, it is easy. The key word, "it all does the same thing". Usually there are 4 primary sub menus to worry about, ship, crew, missions, tasks. EVerything else falls into place easily. But it can be frustrating to discover something later down the line. I discovered I can customize and give names etc to my crew later on and although not big of a deal, I freaked out and was wondering; "what else did I miss??".

I give this 4/5,

2) Character Creation: I know this game is CRYPTIC at core, but since it merged with PWE,I have to say it is now one the top customization character creators competing in the top 3! Perfect World still being on of my favorites (even though I do not like the game itself), AION and STO being runners up. STO asks you to chose a faction at start. Federation or Klingon or Romulan. I have created both Klingon and Federation. Starting with Federation, there are pre-set designs. Along with these designs you can chose your traits. So you have the typical "Volcan" look with science and intelligence traits assigned. You can modify a little, redo entirely or keep. You chose the sex and look to the T. Nose, head size, stance (relaxed, military, haighty, etc.), eye size, posture (twitchy, hunched over, elongated, etc), the list goes on. As a bonus you can even chose "ALIEN" this allows you to not be boxed in by the Star Trek guide lines and create your own new alien to enter in the Star Trek Universe. And although you are using templates for some of the other presets, you can really get original! This is a small detail, but a detail that is very important in my oppinion.
This is like playing Star Wars, seeing "Wookie, Human, and Ewok" as a race. No imagine if you were given: "Other" as a rave and the entire graphics board to piece together your new alien. THAT is STO! That, in my oppinion, is pretty darn cool! And it is FREE (not a VIP thing). I have seen some interesting players in game, RARELY do you run across your clone, the choices are so open ended! I have seen giant space babes, tiger like race, weird fish head races, hunched over elongated fingers and twitchy aliens all porting the Star Fleet uniforms (or something they modified) running around Federal Space Stations...pretty cool!
The clothing is the next perk. You have a generous list of costumes and uniforms to wear, all with color pallets to compliment! You can mix and match and change the colors down to the stitching! Like I said, it will be VERY rare that you run across your clone in this game.
On the Klingon side, I made a hideous alien amphibian like creature. I can chose fins and gills, and put them anywhere on the head, and use a rotater to position them in any direction...Pulsating tendrils are an option...It is just fun to play around in! This game is very underrated and over looked when it comes to character creation.
I give it a 5/5!
Game play: This is normally the meat and potatoes of most games. But this is not like most games, this offers rice, bread, and wine! Romulan Ale at that! I will hope right into the negative. The start of the game get's you used to the controls etc. It is a bit of a theme park launch. The game has two elements of game play. Ground based missions and content to dive into and Space. There is a perfect balance. You will usually be using space ports and Planets as a place to do daily transactions from simple quests to ship updates. As Federation I was taking quests from the Earth Space Dock right away. This Dock is orbiting Earth. At any time I can press my communications button to request a beam between my ship, planet, or dock. This includes the animation of your pressing your Com button on your shirt like in the show /movies, and dissolving into particles. I like this. Little details like this make up for allot of the errors one encounters. It is the CHARM of the game. Another overlooked piece to this game. The built in voice chat, if you use it, when you begin to the actual mouth on the CHARACTER MOVES with the voice recognition. I never noticed this until a friend pointed it out and we tested it together...Woah! 
I am getting a little off topic, back to the ground game play. On most ground elements, you will have your Auction house, bank, ship modification station, etc.. all located at base. The ground missions usually are woven in directly with space missions, allot of them require shooting your way through bad guys and talking, scanning, and minor interacting. Before, this felt half fulfilled. This game suffers from dull "stand there and shoot" action and limited interaction. The second time I installed this game and got into it. I noticed we now have free aim shooting (for FPS fans that want to use NON TAB TARGETING). Rolling, diving, and other dynamic moves to get you behind cover and forcing enemies to hunt you out. I was for sure moving ALLOT more in combat and it felt more "real / Fluid"...but then hey...if you ever watched the series...none of that was Rambo jumping though aliens was kirk...slowly punching lizards in the face and a few red shirts taking direct hits my a PEWWWW... that sums up the TV series. It was not PEW pew pew, but PEWWWWWWW... The game, after several patches, is actually more action packed than the series, but for the better. You will be forced to skillfully place yourself, and use your skills. A good healer with a good damage dealer and you are having a BLAST of managing your team and mission. 
There is a difficulty setting to be set before starting missions, you can set this to low, med, high, and each setting offers better loot. Soooo. that is a bit of game changer for ground combat If you thought it was to easy, it is now essentially hard if cranked up, but equally rewarding. 
The dialog has been tweaked to be more "jump outish" with a few added voice dialogs, and personalized animated frames. The Story and game missions are epic. I found myself edge of my seat sometimes thinking, "that is epic!" or "that is corney...but Trekkily epic!". One example is when you are used to the daily grind of ship and planet combat, but are assured you always are safe with a good team and unbeatable...then there is a story quest that removes you of all you have and you are taken prisoner and forced to break out! This story is so well done! I felt desperate, I was thinking "crap crap! have no chasers, my team is separated, we are lost in time space, and prisoners on an alien dimension...will I Really lose my ship? IS this really happening???" Ends up I get saved after sabotaging the bridge of the prison mining ship, and the captain is from the FUTURE FUTURE and saves me and returns me back in time because "I have epic things to do in my life time"...and I am returned one mission done...yeah...what did you do in your mmorpg today? Oh that is right, kill 10 rats. 

Space Battles are a very different ball game. And this is a make or break for most people. Most people like space combat and hate ground missions. Others love ground missions and story and see space story as an annoyance...And then there are others like me. We love both. It is a perfect balance in my opinion of "keeping busy". Space combat is based on managing your skills vs the enemy. Allot like Guild Wars 1 where skills are used to shut down the opponent skills, this works a little bit like that, and mix in just pure mmorpg elements of this number vs ours. The twist, is that it adds the ship battle element as well. You will have to gauge your speed, and position in battle, if one side is losing shields and power, you will have to manage the energy output to recover and turn ship to the other side. The cannons and lasers are built with targeting arcs, and positioning so that you might have flanks exposed, weaker vs stronger sides....You get the picture? It is tactile shoot out, and it is FUN (if you like that thing).
I have had edge of seat battles! It does not end there, you can explore as well, scanning to do things, talking, escorting, probing, delivering. A mysterious signal in a base, go check it out, AHHH cloaking bad guy, take him out! Sometimes you have decisions, help or kill some one. You then usually beam aboard bases, planets, or even other ships (taking you to the "ground combat" aspect)...
At this point there really is no game to compare this too. I can't say "EVE is better" because eve has no ground combat. I can't say ANARCHY ONLINE is better, because Anarchy has no ship combat like this. STO is STO. It was well made to be it's own beast. Now lets talk everything between ground and space:

There is allot, and I will not be able to cover EVERYTHING, but here are highlights. Missions are broken down into Patrol missions where you will go forth and do about 3 random missions, either space or ground combat, or both. Sometimes it is easy as scanning things and leaving, or fighting it out. Either way it is repeatable, easy, scaling, and rewarding. There are STORY LINE missions, which are exceptionally epic and the heart of good times and exceptionally rewarding and repeatable (play them on the 3 different difficulties for new challenges and rewards). There are PvP, random encounters, Player Made content, etc etc. I had a good time in player voted and created content...There is player made bases that trigger unique quests and other goodies offered to players taking the challenge to staff and build these player made housing.

Ship customization is EPIC! You can chose from several generous servings of skins, decals, parts, etc..what you see as a standard upgrade, is purchased, then you walk and talk to an NPC to customize it, you can start swapping parts and colors etc...all for free...This is a HUGE point overlooked by most players. Most people will look at this game and say: "oh I get that ship or that one as upgrades, I dont like either"...but no one will tell them unless they play and explore, that the ship can be modified BOTH INSIDE and OUTSIDE! Yes, inside too! You can invite players to the inside of your ship. It is basically the second form of player housing this game has to offer...

A little on the negative side: PWE does leave it's mark. There can be a wall of grind for the power rangers that log in only to get to the top. You can outright buy your ship and bundles, and for the rest of us, we need to grind out events, missions, and pvp to end up with loot. But it is well introduced in this game. Unlike Forsaken world and other PWE titles where logging in is just a chore of scheduled events to get 1 item, STO is rewarding at almost all levels and group play to reach your loot goals is very rewarding. There is also a VERY THEORETICAL build guide. No one build is better than the other but DIFFERENT. So this means you can be missing a TOP piece to your ship, but that does not make you less dangerous. Your skill and how you have built can be just as lethal to the guy that shopped his ship. Know your build, use it well, and you will have a great time. I think the PWE influence is a little less in this game because it is built around a solid paying fan base. These fans have been paying since launch and lasted through thick and thin. This generates enough dedicated content to this game to last long and solid. IF you look at pure PWE games, they RARELY get updates and left just to suck your wallet in end game or PvP. So this is probably the ONLY PWE title I would ever recommend.

Currency is Credits, and Dilithium. Dilithium shop exists, and you can exchange for ZEN or cash shop coin. Easy to do. Not to hindering. And allot of in game stuff is sufficient to bypass it all.

Crafting is very...optional? I am end game and collect parts...I have yet to really craft anything useful. But you can and it exists and is presented in a very cool way. And ENTIRE base dedicated to crafting goods.

There are several other things I have not mentions and so much more to discover. One thing I like about this game is that it is presented VERY simply: UI, few menus, Space and ship, or ground and person. But the tasks, and the things you will be doing and story uncovering get's deep. And imagine trying to keep other players in the loop of where you will soon be speaking Trek Lingo very quick.
I give Game play 4/5 I wanted 5/5 as it is very unique, not comparable, only pieces comparable. I also thought of 4.5/5, but a trip to the forums will show there are bugs and recently maintenance seems to take place every day for 2 hours...So for now, a SOLID 4/5

Social: Being alone is space... Never a fun ordeal. Feel free to youtube Ren and Stimpy: Space Madness. This is a game that thrives greatly in grouping up. Solo is doable, and I solo 90% of the time. But when I am with a group it is just fun! The content scales with group size! So you can never zerg content out right. The content will see you are entering with another player and increase mobs and difficulty. This allows you to also team up with others higher level than you. This is done in such a genius way it is just yet ANOTHER LITTLE point HUGELY overlooked. I have to say again, these small things are what make STO shine. The Guild finding tool is great and you can advertise your guild and have others apply for recruitment etc. I got in a guild pretty quick, and with very specific guild tasks, it is fun addition to the game. That said, random chat, and open discussions are rare and void. This contrasts with the HUNDREDS of player ships floating by you...Kind makes for a stale open social environment...but once the chat gets rolling, it is one the most entertaining world chats I have ever read XD
3/5 - Solid Guilding, great player base, but open and free speech not existing. I have been warned about my chat once because I Role Played and said my digestive system is in my mouth...not sure why but someone though I was offensive and the game took action. Also, the forums locked until you log in several months of game time...kind of a stupid feature. Considering the forums are PWE managed and not CRYPTIC (from what I can see), this makes no sense other than a gimick to log in or pay.

Sound:Standard. Nothing to outstanding. The sounds sometimes recall the cool effects of the Peeewww phasers of the original show. That can get annoying after some battles. There is a built in Music player that I use at it balances with in game sounds etc. In game chat, and voice dialogs. I think with a little love they could have added some epic things like slow mow zoom in kills on some bosses, and more theatric music etc..but we get standard fare.

Conclusion: It had its F2P bumps. It is in partnered with a rather controversial publisher (PWE), but despite all that, I do believe the dedicated paying player base has allowed us F2P to enjoy basically all this game has to offer and more! I do feel guilty for not subbing for all the unique expereince I had here. IF you take this game and say "Oh well GW2 PVP is better, oh well EVE has better ship combat, oh well Blacklight is a better sci fi shooter" could be right, because those games are not all comparable. Piece by piece, this game could not last, as a whole, this game offers very intelligent design and fun features! I have tried Secret World that was supposed to be "intelligent" and "customizable" and felt that the puzzles were dull, illogical, and not that much to really dress up in (or ugly). STO full fills that role and exceeds it! But again, I can not go comparing it directly to other games. It is what it is, and I highly recommend you check it out!

Over all: 4/5

(Not seeing my clone anywhere, I decided to dance on the bar with all the other unique players in this epic universe!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

JL 2 - RIFT Noob Review Levels 1-20

This originally appears on my mmosite Blog found here:

I had wrote an article in this blog about my first experience in RIFT; found here:

I promised I would continue to level 20 and update. It took awhile because I have been playing on and off on vacation, but, I enjoyed my time to carefully take notes and screenshots to get this second part of my RIFT experience.
I start each critic below in chronological order as I played. I would stop and write down what was going on in my head.
Without further delay, here are levels 10-20: 

"I like that things are still pretty diverse as I level up. Different tasks etc. Takes the edge of bad graphics and boring combat.

Level 13 so far stuck with boring city quests. Rifts are so not cool any more." - 
  As mentioned in my first article, this game was feeling cloned experience and brought nothing new to the MMORPG table (except the RIFTS, which, for me, get boring right away). However, as I was pushing on, I do have to say THANK YOU developer for hiding the grind in amusing quest events. Such as putting out fires, confronting the dead, trying to collect pieces of this and that. But over all it was not TOO dynamic and basic "Kill X and Y" and collect this and that. I mention the graphics because there were times things just were so ugly or out of place that it made this game "Funny", funny enough for me to stop and say "WOW, this is so bad it is good!" Like those cheesy hollywood films that know one knows about. It is so bad, but good.
  One example: I arrive to the burning entrance of a city under siege...a NPC runs past me screaming: "I know a short cut"! I slowly turn around to see where he is running to. He then suddenly stops, gets thrown violently up, and back and to the ground, and explodes in flames and dies. What just happened? IS this a glitch? This makes no sense. Sure the city is under siege but what killed this poor guy? Was it just an animation and the producers said "oh, screw it, we do not have time to think all this out." THAT is RIFT so far...Love it or hate it, I can see why people paying would be a little upset at this quality. F2P makes sense now.
  Level 13ish, you do lots of "talk to this guy" in the main city area and it dragged on, and I did not care. And it did NOTHING to orient you around the city, it just lade you run around the library looking for crap and using the teleporter instead of the stairs. After all the city quests were over, I still was using the map to figure out who is where. Thanks for nothing useless city quests hub. After you gain a level there, you are pushed back out into the wild, so it is just a phase...a very boring unthoughtful phase...
 (Lord of the!)
"Seems like events and pvp and other off main game play elements keep this title glued together." - 
  Events and "goings on" are forced upon you very early. I did not pay attention lvl 1-10, and I had no care in the world at level 10-20. It is spammed in text across you'r screen: "15/200 'mobs' killed"...I guess this is something I should be apart of? I guess something is happening somewhere that I can do? It seems somewhere my fellow players are killing things and I am getting world credit for it.
  This is a two edged sword: 1) It is great that "live" feel of things are happening in the cookie cutter game play. But 2) I do not care one single bit. I am questing and leveling up for every hour of game play, why in the world would I detour at level 1-20 to do any of this stuff. Thank you for forcing it in my mini map, my main screen, and my large map....but it is cluttering my questing objectives.
  I think there should implement dynamic going on's in a better format. Perhaps speak to an NPC that officially engages you in the action and allows your map to be spammed. Otherwise, I care less who is invading what...I am leveling up and getting l33T gears dang it! 

"I still have an urge to play the other games this one  is copying." -
  I can't emphasis this enough. Despite the rift's opening up. This game feels cloned. But it feels like it just cloned to typical things of other games and left out the good things that made those other games great. I will start with WoW: The progression and presentation is very WoW like. The gear progression and how to suit up felt wow like. The combat feels exceptionally WoW like. But it leaves out the large armor selection wow offers and pigeon holes you to chose certain sets only. In wow I had so many choices, I would keep doubles because of color differences etc.. This game does not present a "Pirate cave" first group dungeon, or solo dungeon early on, and just keeps progression very linear. There are other elements not WoW cloned that set it aside, but not for the better.
  Lord of The Rings Online: It copies the color pallet and targeting reticles and other details almost to the T. The character design and stiff combat and animations as well. the lay out of the land. However, they seem to have left out the ambient touch that made LoTRO feel unique it is world. Those starry constalations at night. The lore tying in beautifully with LoTRO. In fact, RIFT felt like they were confused to make a fantasy game or steam punk game more on that below...

(The first BUTTHEAD npc I have seen...)
"So far ambience Steam punk like. Chords and magic fantasy mechanics everywhere." -  Level 1 - 20 I saw allot of unbalanced graphical models. I had this huge sense this game was fighting itself to be high fantasy or steam punk. Allot of chords and machinery and engines powered on magic in allot of areas...on the other hand I found myself clad in animal fur armor, swinging my pole arm like a barbarian, and attacking a stone fortress with sword wielding skeletons. AFter a few hours of this, I return to a city to take quests to repair cable lines for a magic powered motor thingy...What? I could not help but have flash backs of my experience in City of Steam. 
 As I pass higher level characters, I notice they are very lack luster. We all seem to be humanoid models, stuck in the middle ages. Fur robes, leather pants, metal basic looking weapons. Nothing has an EPIC feel to it and I sort of lost motivation to mission grind to the end just to look like a level 1 character. This is a good and bad thing depending how you look at it.IF you do not like glowing armor pieces and oversized axes to show at level 60, than you will like this. But if you want to show the world you have achieved something, you are not really special. YOu look like a level 2 noob, and I was forced to "inspect" to see what that level 60 was wearing...because it looked just like me at level 2...
  Mounts are sort of just there and make no sense as well. I saw over sized spiders, Horses, and some random creatures… Dinosaur looking thing…So you end up with this “Dark Age of Camelot” look, in a Steam punk world full of fantasy elements and you ride dinosaurs as “rifts” appear (something you could care less about very quickly)…. That sounds epic on paper, that sounds cool as I write it, but the “hmmm, yeah….no” feel in the actual game just leaves me “meh” feeling. That said, it would not take much in one direction or the other to make it a great game. Exploit the steam punk side and call it “RIFT: Steam punk expansion” or use dinosaurs and say “Rift: Dinosaur madness expansion”. Until then we are what feels like an amateur “player made content” world.

(Please tell me, where do you load the cannon? Because it is not going to fit in the back end...)

"Things are still happening. I still do not care." -Invasions. Rifts opening up. Something about do something. Nothing takes away from the fact all these statistics and events are spammed across my screen as I play, and they seem to resolve themselves naturally. I would have to be in the know to understand it all. And at level 15, to have all this spammed across the screen as I level up and showered in EXP and rewards through questing…what is the motivation to side track to this crap? EXP? Items? Reputation? Like crafting, I am leaving all that to the side to “do one day later one at a higher level or totally bored”. Until then, I am fighting my hardest to get out of this mundane map."
(I am level 15 and doing great questing...Why should I care about all this crap? I do not, please GET IT OFF MY MAP!)

"Worst community ever." -
I understand this is subjective to the player. My misery does not apply to all. YOu ight have a great social expereince in RIFT, and I fell on the bad end of it. So take this lightly.
   In TERA, I can troll, and have people play along. Here, there are trolls and no one understands. Everyone takes it so serious. I do not understand. For example, if some one says: “How to find the auction?” and a troll responds: “ALT + F4”, you will receive letters, private messages, and global chat calling you out. No one got the joke. Then you will see “serious debates” like: “To many noobs ask to many questions I am so sick and tired of it”…well, tell them ALT F4…don’t harass the trolls profiting by adding humor and good time to a game that suffers from design flaws…This game just lacks a huge part of community. I have the feeling it is for disgruntled wow players that just had their credit cards removed.

"I die more indirectly than directly." -
Can’t tell if bad design or just not caring enough…With your skills, you are basically invincible. I can kill anything and anyone in my quest log. There are a few times I deserved to die, like attacking a rift 2 levels higher than me solo. However, there are times I was AFK, or lag spike, or I did not care do one thing before the next...and I look at my screen and dead...huh. I die more by being AFK or not caring what is going on than if I plug away. It is a small point, but probably the most bizarre death expereince in game I ever encountered.
  I do like the game in window mode flashes as an icon when attacked while AT+TAB out.
 (This is a big pile of poop these guys died in...probably a metaphor for hte game?)
"Skills thus far: DPS class is not faster than my casting class…" -
This is important because fan boy's cry this is the saving point of RIFT (the skill tree). I played level 1-15 as a Cleric. I read and understood that there were multiple classes to swap out and that "I could play as many roles at once". I was thinking this would copy games that do this successfully already like Runes of Magic, Eden Eternal, etc...but no, they have to go and try and re-invent the wheel. So here it is. You have one class: Warrior, Cleric, etc...In side these classes are sub classes or roles as they are called. Example: Once I chose my Cleric, I had my first choice of "3 heal builds (Heal over time, group, or buff) - 3 DPS (Big damage, fast damage, damage over time) and 1 Tank (tank)"...
  I start with all heal as I like that. so in my group heal choice, I now have 3 trees to build in. You can only chose points in the top point of the trees. THIS IS ALL PASSIVE. Because, as you build in PASSIVE points you unlock ACTIVE points. So below, or the "roots" as I call them, are the icons you actually drag and drop into your hot bar. Easy to get to know...makes you try and think out your build etc. But all and all, all the points are really useless. LOTS of "1%" increases and that kind of crap. The heart and the goal of a good build is just chose the best "ROOT" or active point to get. Then build in the top or "leaves" how you want to get there. Sure, some extra passive crap helps boost to be better, but all and all, they just took the regular roles of each mmorpg class and broke them out into 3 PIGEON HOLED versions.
  So, as I built my healer with 3 attacks (Fire blast, water blast, and a damage over time. I noticed I had about 4 different heals...which I never really used. MY main fireblast takes a long time to cast. So around level 15 I was bored with it and notice I never take enough damage to be healed, and I have no group to heal, so forget this crap. I want to try a DPS build, but how?
  It is not explained. So I experimented and found out. Go to Class trainer, they only offer "Buy role" option for 30 gold pieces. I did it and it basically just adds a button and resets all the points to 0 to build in your new role (guarding your old role intact). I took it, but you do not change MAIN CLASS. Meaining, I am always a CLERIC, I will always use CLERIC weapons, and armor and fight like one, but now I just chose the sub class (role) of the roles I mentioned above (3 heals, 3 DPS, 1 tank). I chose one of the Clercs DPS build. I was kind of upset I would not change weapons. I do not get to swap out gear to use daggers etc... I am, using everything I had, but just get different skills or (roots)... This is disappointing, because of this BIG PROBLEM: PIGEON HOLED GEAR and SKILLS ARE NOT FASTER: So, now that I am a fast DPS (rouge) Cleric, I still could only wield Cleric forced weapons...My big staff...and armor...well this is awkward..but ok, I can live...I have new skills, so that is cute... But I did not like that I felt like I was just being forced to use certain armor and builds a very LINEAR way. It does not feel as dynamic as all the fan boys claim this game has to offer. Just super MEH.
  My Rouge skills...I was now swinging my staff instead of casting magic bolts. I was rushing and bashing...This is actually very comical. MY robed magic casting Clerc, is now RUSHING and BASHING enemies like a mad man! This is very funny to watch, and again, feels like a design quirk they just said "oh forget it, it is to late to fix, let them play this way". And finally, I timed it...My casting magic attacks take the SAME TIME to kill as my new Role as DPS...This sucks. This means the only difference between you and other classes this far in the game is just animations, not roles...but why call it roles??? I guess end game this will be more evident, because some one somewhere will want my magically delicious heals...on that note, I have 4 heals...all spells on the same cool down...that is probably the most game breaking feature here. Why have all these heals if they are all on refresh??? Something feels pigeon holed (forced), linear, broke, and LAZY. 
" Although the map is very linear and straight forward. I climbed enough hills, and had enough interaction in quests…as quirky and odd as they were, to make me just curious enough to discover the next one. At a decent pace so far as well." - The maps are VERY linear and force fed. Exactly at level 20 I got bored of this ugly mix n mash plains of this territory (just grass and rocks and trees). I looked at the map and noticed EACH REGION IS CLEARLY MARKED with a level REQUIRED! noooo! no diversity! Just linear progression. Oh well. On a positive note, the area you are in does go vertical! Allot of hills, towers, mountains to climb and quest in. Again, I felt it was not genious of a design, but allot of flops. I found yself completely enjoying jumping off a tower, rolling down a hill and landing in a castle below me wihtout fall damage. Just a woop! That was fun! moment. In other mmorpgs I could have died, or been blocked. On that note, it is hard to take it serious and the general feel of the game is superficially plastic. No amount of RIFTS can save it. 
  On a final note. I did enjoy doing this...I can say I can not think of another MMORPG I want to be in. So many just not that interesting right now. I am still enjoying TERA, AION, and Star Trek...and I Think I will keep RIFT installed. If I happen to run up on level 30, I culd do a level 30 Article, but I won't be aggressively playing as much as I have for this pre-review.
(Welcome to the world of Linear. No detours, no alternative routes. People Subbed to this before? ouch!)

Keep that in mind. This is a PRE-REVIEW, I can not judge this game entirely if I have not gotten at least close to end game. Once I have the map more filled out I can give a final score. As of now, as a noob looking to spend his first week in the game I give it:
Very mediocre - Rifts and skills cant save it and are not at all as game changing as it is presented - Lots of bad design that actually lead to good times (bad or good, up to you). - Music forgettable - Standard Tab combat - There seems to be a RIFT in social aspects - Graphics very sub par - You can modify the settings allot - No real motivation to log in except it feels cloned enough, like I have a free WoW...