I am extremely pumped for the release of this game. I really hope it provides the genre with a breath of fresh air. Though it borrows elements from games of which we are familiar, I understand that games build upon games build upon games...and so on. There are many features of Rift that have piqued my interest, but one has particularly stood out in front of me, and that is the Calling/Soul system. I am interested in what anybody has to say about it. My MMO background includes EQ classic (around 2000), Guild Wars, WoW, and most recently Aion, so my opinions about Rift are compared to these games.
I find the character development in this game to be intricate (not in a bad way) and liberating. 32 classes, and the limitless combinations within, can seem a bit daunting, so who knows which ones will be effective. It's better than having static classes (EQ, Guild Wars) and a twist on WoW's Talent System. I can see that as time goes on, people will discover "optimal" combinations for particular roles. Do you think that "carbon copy" templates will prevail in the long run? Or will there be multiple paths to a particular role, that are on equal footing but with different play styles? When I say "role", I mean DPS, tank, heals, utility, etc. For example, will there be that "one" optimal hybrid soul combo that will allow one to heal and melee, or will there be alternative soul combos?
I find that in MMOs that one's identity is determined by both class played and server reputation. I envision that Rift's flexible character development system makes it possible for the idea of "class" to be less important, and the emphasis is more on play style, ability, and reputation. These characteristics are what build a solid foundation for the server's community. I really hope that the game takes this direction, as I find community to be the most important part of an MMO. What do you think?