Rifts: Promise of Power
Platform: Nokia N-Gage
Publisher: Nokia
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: MultiMedia Card
Release: US October 2005
Japan N/A
Official Site: English Site

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Burn Baby Burn!
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Improve to survive.
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Humanity and technology don't always collide.
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A glimpse of the environments.
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John McCarroll
First Look Preview
John McCarroll

Fifteen years ago, Kevin Siembieda released a pen and paper RPG by the name of Rifts and started an empire. Players of Rifts are some of the most hardcore pen and paper gamers out there, rolling dice with a fervor that makes some of Wizards of the Coasts' D20 System gamers look like sheep. In an extremely expansive world, where a player can be anything from a lowly psionic to a 30-foot-tall Dragon with a railgun for a right arm, Rifts has cut a swath in pen and paper right next to Steve Jackson's GURPS. Never before has Rifts been portrayed in a video game; a far cry from the tons of Dungeons and Dragons video games. If it weren't for the fact that Shane Neville, producer of the title, is a huge Rifts fan, Siembieda's legions might have something to worry about. Rifts has been in development for around two years - about twice the average time for an N-Gage game. Rifts gamers: your time has come, and Backbone Studios has just the SRPG for you.

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, the world enters a golden age of technology. The emphasis is on human augmentation: the human race wants to be better, smarter, faster, and will utilize any means necessary to make that dream a reality. Cybernetics, forced mutation, man even tried to completely re-create himself... and not all of these attempts came out for the best. Mankind, however, warred like mankind always wars. Nuclear war killed millions, but was simply a catalyst for something greater. The latent psychic powers of those who died entered the long-forgotten ley lines of the earth, and they flared. Where these lines intersected, great interdimensional rifts formed. This magical energy killed millions more, and the ley lines strengthened. The continent of Atlantis showed itself for the first time in millennia and the east coast of the United States was forced to the bottom of the sea. Billions were killed, and the ley lines fed themselves. The world was irrevocably changed in a short time. Mankind entered a 200 year dark age, and progress slept. Years later, mankind began to emerge from their hole into a new world - the world of Rifts.

Backbone's shift of Rifts from a paper and pen game to the N-Gage isn't to an Action RPG or turn-based RPG like most of the Dungeons and Dragons titles. Backbone and Nokia have instead pumped out a Strategy RPG. The game looks simply superb for an N-Gage title, with full screen spell and ability effects. The environments in Rifts: Promise of Power are fully three dimensional, while all of the character sprites are two dimensional. Unique to the portable market, the battlefield camera in Rifts can be rotated and zoomed. The battlefields for Promise of Power are gargantuan- more than fifty tiles by fifty tiles. When we had a chance to look at Rifts: Promise of Power, it was on the noisy floor of E3, so we're as of yet unsure how the game will end up sounding.

Combat in Rifts is high-stakes turn-based strategy combat. The character classes that are available in the N-Gage game, including the exclusive new class- the elemental fusionist, have been re-balanced from the books so that there's not a gap between them. Sorry folks, but you're just not going to be able to add a dragon to your party and go rampaging. The combat itself goes along with the system set down in the Rifts pen and paper manual. Rifts owners will be able to play with up to three friends via Bluetooth as well as over the N-Gage Arena. Playing over N-Gage Arena allows players to play similarly to the 'Play-by-Email' system seen in Sid Meier's Civilization. The N-Gage Arena servers will keep all the files themselves so that they can't be tampered with. Battles in multiplayer won't be limited to simply beating on the opponent; Capture the Flag and Siege battles will be available.

If Shane Neville and his team at Backbone Entertainment end up pulling off their hopes with the Rifts game, they'll make a lot of fans happy. The game has been in development for around two years; much more than the average title for a mobile platform. Let's hope Nokia scores a winner here, as this game has the potential to beat every other game on a Nokia platform... even Snake.


© 2004-2005 Nokia, Backbone Entertainment, Palladium Books.
All Rights Reserved.