This is a part of my Three Features Every MMO Should Have series.
Class customization, with premade classes
Rift, despite trying desperately to appeal to the ex-WoW crowd, doesn’t have traditional WoW-like classes, but instead has four (soon to be five) “callings,” and each of those callings has a number of different “souls” that determine your skill trees. In essence this allows you to make up your own class by choosing which trees you pick. This complexity would be a huge turnoff to me–after all, if there’s anything you shouldn’t overcomplicate, it’s the character creation process–except that Trion has taken the time to hand out a selection of premade classes, with a few even created by players. If you’re happy with your premade class, you can just keep hitting the auto-level button and it’ll put points where they matter most. Then, later, when you have a little more experience with the game, you can start tweaking. I think it’s a great idea; I can’t tell you how many classes I’ve played that have been almost perfect, but were missing that certain something. In Rift, you can simply swap out one of your souls until you find that something. It also happens to be a great cure for altaholism, as you can simply respec and get a fresh play style without having to reroll.
I didn’t play Rift for very long (as I recall my highest character is maybe level 25 at best), but when I did I played a lot in Instant Action, probably much to the dismay of my much higher level teammates. For those who haven’t played Rift, Instant Action is a system where the game throws you into a group with a bunch of people, dumps you into some random place, adjusts your level accordingly, and gives you a series of mini quests to do for rewards. The objectives are pretty simple–mostly kill 10 rats type quests–so it’s not like you need much coordination in your group. You can do this for as long or as short as you want, which is great since the game in general tends to be unfriendly to short play sessions.
Most MMOs these days have either a wardrobe feature or the ability to transmute/transmog gear to look how you want it to, but few of them do it as well as Rift. Every piece of gear you’ve equipped on any of your characters is automatically unlocked in the wardrobe. Simply choose your look from the list, dye it, and keep on questing. The best part is, there’s no fee for doing this, and dyes are one time buys for unlimited uses. Also nice is the fact that the armor class for the gear you’re showing doesn’t have to be the one for your class, so your mage can run around in full plate armor if you’d like. I’ve always wondered how much this is used in PvP to confuse people as to what calling you are, but with the game’s aforementioned customizable classes I’m not sure it mattered much what calling you were fighting anyway. Sadly, one of the reasons why Rift never stuck with me is because I didn’t care for the overall graphic aesthetic (especially the character models), and most of the gear I got looked really boring. To be fair, though, I was pretty low level when I got bored with the game, and all low level gear looks bad, right? It’s unfortunate to have a great wardrobe system trapped in a game that doesn’t deserve it, but at least if you do manage to find a piece of gear you like you can keep it.