I just now realized this. There was always something... off about Rift. Even in the betas I saw it, but I could never place my finger on it. Now that I've played endgame some (and gotten a chance to play the game a lot more), I've finally realized what exactly is wrong with Rift: it has no soul.
Rift is what would happen if you told a robot to make an MMO. Technically speaking, it would be near flawless with extraordinary amounts of polish, but it would lack this certain human touch. The places are environments; not landscapes or worlds. The people of Telara are "NPCs"; not characters. Nothing feels like it's wonderful or enchanting or captivating. It's just a stock fantasy story with stock MMO mechanics with no human touches.
Rift is fun and well made, but it doesn't feel human. It feels plastic... like the people who made it were following some kind of MMO textbook to the letter without trying to create art. The game just doesn't have soul... it doesn't have that wonderfully, witty spark that draws you in. I'm not saying Rift is a bad game, but it doesn't have an identity or anything. It's like oil on water... it's just kind of... there.
So I downloaded the Rift perpetual trial last night, and after playing for roughly 5 hours I noticed something... odd.
For example, when playing Witcher 2, it's all 'Waoooh - this is a beautiful game!'
In Rift's case, what kept niggling in the background was, 'How come this isn't as beautiful as Guild Wars, despite how recently it was launched?'
Personality! Personality is the problem. While I no longer play WoW, it definitely has a ton of personality.
In fact, I'd say WoW, Forsaken World, GW, and Allods all benefit from art direction that renders them equally unique and charming - just handled differently (though GW is the only overtly realistic one in that list).
Rift is just... bland. It's like cardboard. In all those other games I mentioned, having played it, you'd know where you were. Rift... Rift could be anywhere.
There's nothing wrong with the rendering quality; it's more of the lack of quality in what's being rendered.
Gameplay wise, it's fine - standard rat pellet MMO, and a very polished dispenser at that - so I'll probably get my two trial characters to 20 and sate my pellet cravings in the process.
...I just wish the pellets weren't made from cardboard.
P.S.: I'm reading ALL the quest text, which is not usual for me, in an effort to give it a chance. It's not wooooorkiiiiiing.