To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

The joys of exploration in Rift


I am currently playing two MMOs, WoW for the raiding bits and the occasional heroic, and Rift, for leisurely leveling and exploring. I am a huge advocate of Rift. I know that its critics find it’s too much of a WoW clone, and sometimes I am astounded how much they really snipped out from the juggernaut. When I explain how my Riftstalker works, it usually goes like this: “Imagine you could tank as a rogue, and you can use Shadowstep to get AoE threat on mobs, and you have like Mage Blink, and if you are a Bahmi you have something like Warrior Heroic Leap, and then you can set a marker and have the Warlock Teleport, how’s that for mobility?” So, it’s all stuff that has been done before, but packed together into a fun mix that I enjoy playing. Seriously, Riftstalkers make WoW prot warrior mobility seem like a joke. You can be everywhere and just zoom around. Fun!

Initially, my favorite part of Rift were the public groups for invasion and rift content. When you are used to playing WoW, where you can solo from 1-85 without ever actually seeing another person outside of Orgrimmar, it seemed breathtaking to me that you can suddenly end up in a 40-man raid full of level 12 characters, taking down a zone boss. I am now in the dreaded mid-level zones, and rifts are still fun, but seem a bit more small scale now. Still, good stuff, but not my absolutely favorite part of Rift anymore.

My favorite is that Rift rewards exploration. I can’t even remember when I last explored in WoW. The on rails experience really doesn’t offer much exploration potential, outside of discovering all spots on the zone map to get the zone achievements. Rift has those as well, of course, but they have more, beyond that. I’ve only worked on the first four zones so far, but so far I have found achievements that are truly for the adventurous. So far I have gotten two basejump achievements, one for jumping down a very high waterfall into a very shallow pool below. That took a while, I tell you. I have discovered weird pilgrim spots where squirrels dance, and you can join in with them. I have found underwater lamps you have to light without drowning, to unearth treasures. The latter was part of the zone puzzles. Every zone has a puzzle you can solve, and completing them will reward you with a chest with a scaling reward of either rare or epic quality for your class.

Speaking of rewards, diving around in lakes or scaling particularly high mountains offers a chance of finding so called ‘Ancient Cairns’. These also contain rewards for your current level or close to, and are well worth finding.

As further incentive, the mountaintops and any remote areas that are hard to get to seem to be teeming with artifact spawns. Artifacts are what WoW’s archaelogy probably should have been. I tried archaeology and found it was a pretty horrifying grind. Artifacts are sparkly bits that you put into collections, much like you might know from Zynga games. Don’t run screaming now, it’s actually fun. You pick them up as you play through zones. Completing collections scores you a currency to buy fun stuff, like cosmetic hats or non-combat pets. For some collections you also get books full of game lore for the zones. They all have some thematic impact on your quest zones, and of course there’s more achievements for them. Nothing makes me happier than scaling steep mountains and finding tons of sparklies up there. I was so proud the first time I made the climb from Freemarch to Stonefield across the mountains. You get great views too.

This would be one of those cosmetic rewards, a hat called Headache Maker:

It’s a bit of a return of that sense of wonder, where nothing is as eerily familiar as stuff is in WoW. When the Cataclysm patch dropped, I went exploring as well, and it was fun, but it really didn’t last very long. Seeing all the changes was awesome, but now it’s gone back to feeling lifeless, static. WoW could definitely learn to create more world events, so that people get incentive to roam. So far, in Rift it lasts for me. Especially as I have many zones to go still. Lots of stuff to do. And that’s why I currently love playing Rift.


  1. I feel the same way! I love exploring in Rift, and I doubly-love the little rewards for it.

    Little things, like standing and watching cherryblossom petals float off in the wind, or spending ten minutes trying to get that ONE FREAKING SPARKLY (and then rerolling bahmi or elf to get the zoomyjump so that never again would you be denied your sparkle addiction)

    I’m really enjoying it. I hope I enjoy it again on my alt after I reach max level.

    • Never playing anything but Bahmi Defiant side, I tell you. I would not want to miss Mighty Leap ever. Life saver in my neverending hunt for SPARKLIES. I am so glad I am not the only one. 😀

  2. Random awesome thing I like about Rift: being able to destroy armor for its crafting materials. 😀

  3. Have to say I wasn’t thrilled by Rift when I got a beta key some time ago. However, I feel you when it comes to exploring. Right now, on off-raid nights, I experiment with EQ2, and it’s been fun so far. I’m enjoying the crafting, and of course, the exploration! So nice when everything is new. Plus, I can set my AA slider in the game to low and level extra-slow, so I can see a lot of content, and still get some rewards for it.

    • Slower leveling? That is actually quite cool. When I leveled my last WoW character, I had to turn exp off multiple times to not outlevel everything like crazy. WoW is broken in that respect, IMHO.

      • Not sure whether I’m telling you anything new in that respect, but the way it works for EQ2 with Alternate Advancement (AA) points is like this: basically, AA are like talents, but you tend to get a lot more points, and can spend it on a much broader choice of talents. These include, for example, crafting-specific talents, or harvesting-specific. You earn AA by a second type of experience.
        While you are leveling, you have the choice to set a slider which defines what percentage of your “normal” experience is translated into AA experience. As an effect, you can smoothly set how fast you level. If you have the feeling you are outleveling content (which happens really easily in EQ2, the world is quite large, and catered to different choices of zones at each level), you can slide the slide over to less standard and more AA experience. It’s quite neat actually.
        As a noob in that game, I have no idea how this plays out once you are at max level, whether you would be forced to then level your AA experience if you are not maxed there.

  4. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Rift when I thought I was being a smart ass by eventually climbing over a mountain range only to be rewarded for it with ancient cairns and artifacts.. Sure as hell beats getting a debuff and being teleported away from somewhere you’re not meant to be.

  5. Loving the new site! You’ve been opening my eyes to all kinds of fun nerd stuff. I grew tired of WoW very quickly after Cata hit, which seriously surprised me. So I quit. Maybe Rift can take its place?? Is it a F2P?

    • It’s not F2P, and their free trial weekends seem to be over for now. It’s a good game, I enjoy it a lot.

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