This probably isn’t a very surprising revelation from a site called “Rift Junkies”, but there are a lot of things to love about RIFT. The events, the quick rate of patch releases, the mechanical ponies… but even as fans we know that not everything is perfect. Right at the top of that list for many is the game’s art style. To be fair it’s been getting better over the last six months, but arguably the biggest factor that prevents new players from getting into RIFT is quite simply how it looks.
The complaint I hear most often from people who tried RIFT but didn’t like it is that they just couldn’t “get into the game”. There are of course a number of factors that can contribute to this problem such as lore or questing mechanics, but one critical element is that players think their character looks cool or interesting. If you don’t like how your character looks, you’re going to feel less interested in playing them.
While the addition of a barber shop in patch 1.9 helped with this problem, the character customization still leaves a lot to be desired. RIFT lacks different silhouettes in player characters. Bahmi are a little tall, Dwarves are a little short, but generally all the models feel the same. Much of the levelling gear is pretty hideous, too, which was particularly troublesome before the Wardrobe was added. Remember that asymmetrical diaper bodysuit thing that lowbie Guardians inevitably end up using? Or the leggings with steering wheels for knee pads? Or the many many pieces of generically tatty chainmail?
Even the original cosmetic gear seemed oddly unappealing for the first few months. Sure, the Deep One Hugger hat was amusing and different, but does it make your character look cool? For most people, the answer was no.
And then there’s the world itself. Trion quite intentionally designed Telara in desaturated colors, particularly compared to other modern MMOs. The tones absolutely do make the world seem more grubby and war-torn, but it also created an uphill battle for designers trying to create striking vistas and remarkable zone ecosystems. In an era where other games are bright and super-saturated with color, a more modest “realistic” palette can be a tough sell.
Fortunately there have already been some signs of improvement. The masks from the Carnival of the Ascended were all unique and inspiring. The Farmer’s Hat from the current Autumn Harvest festival is also well-made and looks neat. On Defiant side it seems like every other player is wearing the Centurion outfit from the Veteran Rewards because the combination of metal and cloth looks interesting and the model dyes very well. More like these, please!
The style of cosmetic items is going to become even more important once Storm Legion introduces dimension housing. There’s nothing wrong with using a more gritty, muted art style and it certainly helps differentiate RIFT from other MMOs, but players need cool, unique, and stylish items that fit in that world. Give us strange angelic or steampunk themed furniture (for Guardian and Defiant), shirts with odd Elizabethan collars, and the ability to make our characters as wide or narrow as we like. RIFT’s art style was a hindrance when the game launched, but the future in Storm Legion is wide open and hopefully Trion is ready to give the players the interesting customization items they deserve.