When RIFT came out, it was an MMO like World of Warcraft; You bought a box for 60$, you paid 15$ a month to play and everything was open to you without the need to spend more money. The game was fairly grind-heavy but had a few good things going for it compared to WoW. Fast-forward three years, the game is free-to-play and the things that were good and special back in the days are afterthoughts now.
Creating a character starts by asking you if you want to be in the alliance or horde (or something similar) and then to pick up your race. All races are very similar, they all have a skill to help them move faster (leap, run, fly, dash) and a passive damage resistance against an element, but you won't know which one is useful, so just pick the race you think looks less stupid, gameplay-wise it is irrelevant. Then you need to pick up your class, fighter, rogue, mage, cleric. They explain pretty well what each class does, fighter is tank/damage/support, mage is damage/healer/support, and so forth.
After that, the game funnels you into a choice of presets of skill trees (and you have to buy a preset, really? Why?) You gain one or two skill points each level and you have to place them in talents to gain spells related to that tree. It used to be that you needed to buy new ranks of spells, but like WoW, they've done away with it. You also start with three skill trees, you used to start with one and needed to work towards the three others. Three trees are too much, limit it to two. I try to place all my points in the same tree to get the most powerful spells available (most level 1 spells are similar, most finisher moves for rogues are similar at the same level, etc.) and when you get two points, you can't place them both in the same tree, so I just level another tree for the talents and usefulness of spells (my warlock was focused on damage-over-time, there's a DoT spell in the dominator tree or something) so the third tree is just a neat legacy that won't get much use.
RIFT tried to keep current with some things, they've removed random grinding quests, they've added warps between some annoying places to go, simplified some quest lines and created a new few systems here and there. The thing they didn't add are instances. In MMOs where you have quests to collect things, talk to things, kill things, and that these things can leave or disappear afterwards, create instances for all players to do these things in. Nothing more frustrating than having to wait for a corpse to respawn so you can use some item on it to kill a boss and walk back to a quest giver. Nothing more annoying than someone popping their movement bonus skill to run past you to a beehive so they get them before and you have to go somewhere else. This feels so old.
The free-to-play hooks are everywhere, common use items can be bought for diamonds, you need to unlock bag slots, there's a loyalty system that you'd need to spend a ton of money to get the best items, you can buy experience, keys, money, mounts, gear and probably some cosmetic things. I don't care for any of these things, so I think they should rethink their strategy. Maybe locking skill trees behind a pay wall would work, it's tough to say, the free to play MMO nut is really hard to crack, especially when the basic systems of your game are so boring and old.
RIFT kept and added a few things over the years, and I don't care about much of it. Rifts (random events where monsters spawn in and you have to defeat them) are nice, but Guild Wars 2 did world events way better. Adventures (random quests that make you run all around the map while other people complete them before you can even get there and afterwards you need to go back to where you were ) are too random, artifacts (set of items that you pick and if you have the collection you get a prize) are okay, like the quests you pick up as you go (but World of Warcraft did that a few years back) and some kind of virtual reality world where you can place pots and chairs and move them around and play house (what?). None of these things change how the game plays, and it plays like a 3 years old game.
I didn't enjoy coming back to RIFT. I don't like the battle system (there should be an auto-attack, mashing keys is annoying), I don't like how they 'streamlined' some quests into nothingness and I still don't like how you're running around huge cities at some point, trying to do a bunch of quests that only involve talking to people and finding items before the game tells you where to go next, I hate 'major' cities in MMOs because they make you run around to talk to people and that's pretty boring. Like most MMOs, but hey, it's free!