The RIFT open beta test is upon us!  As thousands of adventurers get set to brave the Planes of Telara – I sat down with developer Trion Worlds to find out just what makes RIFT so different, and perhaps even better than it’s biggest competitor – World of Warcraft.

Both myself and RipTen founder Chad Lakkis were hardcore WoW players and raiders for years.  Not only that, but I’ve personally spent time with almost every other major MMO that’s been released in recent memory.  So, as I sat down to talk with Trion Worlds Design Producer Hal Hanlin – I just had to know what would set RIFT apart from every other fantasy roleplaying MMO in a market that is, quite frankly, over-saturated. I asked Hal to give me five reasons why RIFT is different than WoW – and he was certainly up to the challenge:

So as I listened to Hal go on about what makes RIFT unique, I was quite intrigued and in fact impressed by some of the features that they’d implemented.

When he says there is no right way to play a class, I was thrilled.  Anyone who plays an MMO like WoW in a serious way knows that there are pretty much only a couple of ways to play your class as either a PvP or PvE spec.  Everyone who’s anyone knows their best-in-slot gear and their best talent spec for their class, and that’s that. However, in RIFT there are so many different variations of a class that will work effectively for both PvE and PvP, there really is no right way to play a class.  A good player is good and a bad player is bad, it’s as simple as that.

When he speaks about dynamic server-wide events, this is something that is not commonly seen in WoW.  These sort of events usually only happen during holidays or during the pre-release build up to a new expansion.  In RIFT, events as well as the Rifts themselves can actually spawn invasions that can take over entire cities. Imagine running into Stormwind only to find all the NPCs are dead and an invading force has taken over and you can’t even use the auction house until you’ve cleared the city of said invasion!!  It’s a pretty cool dynamic if you ask me. Not only that, but in WoW, server wide and world raids are still handled like regular raids.  If you see something going on, you will have to run into the middle of the fray while spamming chat saying something like, “SOMEONE F**KING INVITE ME TO A RAID!!” or else you’ll not be able to participate or even have a chance at getting any loot.  However, in RIFT, you can press one button to join in on the fun and the effort you put in is directly proportional to the loot you get out. All of these ideas are extremely refreshing and welcomed by players like me who think the systems for dynamic events and world raids in a game like WoW are “antiquated” to say the least.

Now, when Hal says that any group can clear an instance as long as they know what they’re doing – that’s bloody awesome.  No longer will you have to spam chat looking for PUG tanks, healers or ranged/melee DPS.  Any class can fulfill multiple roles, and as Hal says – you won’t find group members logging off to get alts just because they can’t kill a boss.  All they have to do is get out of combat, change the way their class is set, and press onward!!  Yet again, another awesome feature of RIFT and an idea that clearly comes from years of playing and being frustrated with other MMOs.

So, while it’s easy to see how RIFT is in fact different and perhaps in some of these ways better than World of Warcraft . . . is that enough to drive sales? The MMO market is definitely over-saturated and it’s hard for anyone to compete at all, let alone take on the industry juggernaut that is WoW.  Even when you have a game that is as polished and offers as much dynamic content as RIFT – only time will tell if the Planes of Telara will be populated with players for years to come, or if we’ll find RIFT in the bargain bin before years end.

However, if you’re as intrigued as I am by what you’ve seen – sign up for the RIFT open beta and get in on the action today!!