After various bouts of testing, solid and promising MMO Rift has a release date: 4th March 2011 (or 1st March if you're American).
That announcement coincides with start of the pre-order incentives, available both online and off.
Put your money on Rift today and you'll be rewarded with one of three in-game pets as well as early access to the game's servers from 24th February. What's more, you'll automatically be included in all upcoming beta events between now and launch. The next phase of testing begins this Friday, 7th January and ends Monday, 10th January. Character levels one to 27 are accessible, according to the official site.
Rift carries a monthly subscription. The flat rate is Ł8.99/€12.99/$14.99 a month, but that can be pressed down to Ł5.99/€9.99/$9.99 if you commit to a six month membership upfront. You can also buy game cards, although only the 60-day option will be available throughout the UK and Europe (it costs Ł19.99/€29.99).
Rift can be bought either digitally online or in shops. Online there are two options: the Digital Standard Edition (Ł34.99) and the Digital Collector's Edition (Ł39.99). Both come with perks, but the latter also offers a turtle mount (that is fast, actually), a bigger backpack a goblin kind of pet.
Rift is made by Trion Worlds, a company using a huge investment ($100 million) to make three MMOs. The upshot is what appears to be a robust and good looking game engine. The unique hook of Rift, meanwhile, is that the game world can be carved open by interdimensional rifts, through which big baddies with nasty faces maraud. These promise to be dynamic and keep the world feeling fresh and exciting.
In short: Rift is worth keeping an eye on. John Bedford investigated deeper for Eurogamer late last year.