I played the beta and the look was one of the things I didn't like about it at all. It was more realistic looking, but it seemed to lack any sort of design aesthetic or "soul" for lack of a better way to describe what I thought. I guess bland would be the description I would use for its look.
I hit level 15 and never thought it strayed too far from being a WoW clone with a few neat additions like the rifts and the interchangeable souls for each class. Ultimately, it was just too much like WoW for me to bother buying into it.
I've been looking for another WoW (am unhappy with the current actual WoW) and so this seems to be working out rather well for me.
Things I'm glad aren't in Rift-
1. Cross-realm dungeon finder
2. Flying mounts
Rift's visual aesthetic does have some issues but just out of curiosity did you make it to the capital city? I thought that was rather well done.
What I meant by the maturity of the world I meant more like it takes itself somewhat seriously. There are elf type races and people type races but everyone more or less looks like a person, no giant cartoon cows or impossibly lanky trolls with Jamaican voices. That's part of what is fun with WoW, true, but something that plays a bit more as straight fantasy is nice for a change. I'd forgotten what that kind of game world was like.