Since there are a lot of new people flooding into Rift, there have been complaints on the forums from the usual suspects about how easy it is to level. I can confirm that yes, it’s really easy to get from 1 to 50, and it’s now easier than ever. It used to be harder, but even back when it was hard, it was still pretty easy for a veteran gamer to get to 50. If the last MMO you played was EQ1 or vanilla WoW, you’re not going to be challenged. But if you’re coming from almost any other modern MMO, it’s about the same.
Unfortunately sales numbers don’t lie - the majority of people like leveling to be easy. MMOs - and in fact, most games in general - have grown in popularity because they are getting easier. Most MMO players seem to want immersion, costumes, collecting, and achievements. And houses, for some reason. (Raiders and PKs, the so-called elitist jerks of MMOs, don’t want any leveling process - they just want to go straight to the end game.) So the people who want leveling to be difficult like it was in the old days are out of luck. (Personally I think Rift compensates by providing a lot of different leveling paths, and a lot of different soul combinations to play with.)
You might think (and people certainly post about it) that a difficult MMO would be wildly popular if someone would just make one, but sadly, people do make hard MMOs, and they are not popular (Darkfall and Mortal Online are two). They only attract one kind of gamer - the hardcore kind, who don’t so much want to play a game as they want to dominate and destroy.
On the bright side, leveling from 50-60 in the Rift expansion areas is considerably more difficult, although it’s still not super difficult. The hardest part is probably from 50-52 when you are still collecting Storm Legion-appropriate gear. You might get facerolled when you make that initial jump from Ember Isle to Pelladane or Cape Jule. And god help you if you go directly from Stillmoor into Storm Legion. (I don’t know what that experience is like because all of my 50s were adequately geared before SL came out.) But after you get acclimated and setup with a good build it’s just a matter of cranking through the quests until you get to 60. (It took me perhaps two weeks of casual playing to get from 50 to 60 on my mage, using a very durable Harbinger/Chloro build.)
They say the Storm Legion normal dungeons are a lot harder than the old world normal dungeons, but I haven’t had a chance to observe that yet. I’ve only experienced the SL Expert dungeons, and in those I have definitely seen more wipes than I ever did in the old world experts. I would say 1/3 of all the groups I played in wiped and couldn’t finish the run. I personally didn’t find them excessively hard - after you learn the correct dance steps to succeed.