So, there’s been some debate about what is a skill-based system, partially around Rift and it’s supposed skill-based system. There’s no doubt that Ultima Online uses skills, everything you can do is based around a skill you have, and those go up and down based on use. Contrast this with say, World of Warcraft which is a strongly class-based system. In the latter, talent trees open up different ways of playing your character, meaning you can have a healing druid or a tank druid. Most games have roles you can play, and your class determines how you play that role, and there’s no easy switching around in a class-based game, and much flexibility in a skill-based one (as flexible as it is to manipulate your skill levels, anyway).
Rift falls between these two, although it’s much closer to the WoW model than the UO one. You pick one of four callings — Warrior, Mage, Cleric, or Rogue — when you create your character, and then three “souls” as you go through the newbie area. There are several 6-9 or so per calling, and each soul has two that ‘work well together’. Each of these becomes one of your talent trees. As you spend points on talents, it unlocks abilities that you can use in combat. Later, once you’re in your teens you can unlock another soul, and the implication is that you can unlock all the ones for your calling, eventually.
For my first character, my Mage Zhenette, I picked the Elementalist soul, partly because it sounded like ranged DPS, and it had a pet which helps when you solo. It worked well with the Fire and Stormcaller souls, which I also picked up in due course. What I wound up with by the time I was done with the newbie zone was a Mage just like in WoW. I even had the same complement of spells, although they had different names. Yes, I went with something that I was comfortable with, but the fact that I got the same exact result as I would in WoW was telling, and consistent with my experience with Rift.
I made a character of each calling. Most followed this pattern. The warrior felt the most different, so I spent most of my time playing her. It was the only character which felt like it had a different take on the MMO than WoW (the Rogue, Cleric and Mage callings all seemed to play like their WoW counterparts). Even so, it wasn’t that different, and it wasn’t “skill based”. Once I was locked into my talent trees, that’s the way it was, and it just wasn’t that different.
I did play her until I got the quest (at level 14) to get a new soul, although I admit I never did that quest, for other reasons. I also bought a “role” to see what it was, and it seemed to be a separate talent tree, which would allow me to rebuild my character with a new set of three talent trees. I didn’t try that, instead focusing on moving forward, but it seemed a bit unique. Although, I have heard from my WoW-playing friends that they can now have two different talent point spends so they can easily toggle back and forth between them. This feels similar.
Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about the one other thing that seemed to differentiate Rift from WoW, something I saw in WAR, and which I understand is in Guild Wars 2, as well: public quests and events.