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Rifting it up again

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I am currently suffering from game ADD. Nothing can really hold my attention. I am puttering through Diablo 3 on nightmare but I have reached my saturation point with the game. I think I reached it when I killed the Butcher in nightmare and he dropped two blues. I don’t understand the game design decision where treasure pygmies and random elites are more fruitful than freaking act bosses. It really doesn’t help that the story the second time through feels even more boring than the first time round.

I have a sub for SWTOR but it doesn’t grab me at all. My SO and I score like 2 hours of gametime a week, which would explain why we’re level 31 and on Alderaan. I am still standing by my previous point that it’s the best duo experience I ever had in an MMO, but it decidedly lacks that punch, that sweet addictive gameplay that keeps you coming for more and more. I also still have a WoW sub that’s paid up til October but just thinking about WoW makes me yawn. I haven’t touched it since January. Of course, Mists of Pandaria is lurking in the future but it’s the first expansion I have no real interest in. Sure, it looks pretty in screenshots, but a themepark East Asia with pandas, pokemon and Farmville as the major draw is nothing that gets me excited at all.

And then there was Rift. I stopped playing that about a year ago, after loving it for the first three months. I mostly quit because the midlevels were dull, and I fell out of love with MMOs completely. It was the phase last year where I stopped playing MMOs completely, from May til October. Interestingly enough, that seems to be a phenomenon about former hardcore MMO players. You consume MMOs with a passion, live and breathe them, fall out of love with the genre, and then focus on single player games. Which I did all last summer. It was kinda glorious. Mr. Ezio Auditore and I had a lot of fun climbing towers, oh yeah.

Rift-Storm LegionBut back to Rift. Last week they announced their first expansion pack, and the main features wowed me. Two new continents tripling the size of the game world. That’s a lot of new zones. A dual faction city called Tempest Bay. Ten new levels. A new soul for each calling, so that means new gameplay options as far as characters go. Seven new dungeons, three raids and a chronicle (Rift’s one or two player dungeons). More crafting, more collectables, more titles, and whoa, player and guild housing. Take that, Blizzard, other game companies actually implement stuff like that instead of stating that it’s likely never going to happen. I would have killed for a guild hall in WoW. Alas. That’s a lot of features. Features that I find more exciting than what’s coming towards us in MoP.

I have to give it to Trion, they know how to push out massive amounts of content for their game and seem to be the busy bees of the MMO world. Let’s just compare. Cataclysm was released in December 2010 and received three major content patches in the 1.5 years since then (Zandalari, Firelands and Dragon Soul). Rift was released in March 2011 and is currently at patch 1.8, with 1.9 already announced for the near future, and the expansion coming later this year. Eight major content patches. That’s a lot of content. Of course not all’s sunshine and roses. Trion has a habit of releasing patches with new rift events, which basically are new rift bosses, a new currency, and new dailies. All the same pattern, not that exciting. But that’s just me. Other features they added I find rock-solid. Chronicles, Instant Adventure, more raids, more quests, more zones, new rifts.

Much like Belghast and Sypster, I have taken the time over the weekend to go back, and have a look at Rift one year after I got bored of it. Changing my password scored me three days of gametime, and I added the authenticator to my new phone. Besides, Rift is F2P up to level 20, called Rift Lite. When I played Rift previously, I was a Defiant. I do like their game story much better than the Guardians, but I also decided that I didn’t have it in me to do Freemarch one more time. So Guardian I went, picking a dwarf mage. In character generation, you get the first change of the game. Instead of just choosing your calling and then picking souls while questing, without really having a clue, you select an archetype, a calling purpose, as Rift calls it. In the case of mages, the four suggested builds are Necromancer, Chloromancer, Firemage or War-Wizard. You get specific information about the different builds and your main role. I randomly picked War-Wizard which is a Stormcaller/Pyromancer/Elementalist build. You get specific hints how to play that build, in my case build Electrified stacks, which proc to use, and what your main nukes are. It’s definitely very newbie-friendly. Every time you level, you get a clear suggestion what you should pick, and you can study all of the suggestions in advance, if that’s what you want to do. Of course you can still buy additional roles and then assign souls any way you want to, without sticking to the premade builds.

War-Wizard Soul Tree

Suggestions on how to spend your soul points

War-Wizard full build

The full build as Rift suggests it

As I leveled my way through Silverwood, I was struck with how well-polished Rift feels. I also felt the absence of features I have come to love in other games, like voice acting, or GW2’s public questing, but no matter what, playing Rift felt very polished. Of course you can’t compare Silverwood a year later with the frantic pace of frequent invasions in Freemarch a year ago, but I never felt that the zone was devoid of other players. I ran into quite a few different people, closed rifts together with others, and puttered along nicely. The rifts are now all soloable, so even if you are by your lonesome self, you can still take out a rift yourself. You might not get to the bonus stage, but you can definitely close rifts. Also, if an invasion has taken over a place you need to go, you learn an ability to get NPC reinforcements to destroy enemy idols. I also liked the addition of a channel that announced where invasion events were happening, including which event (for completionists) and in what zone. I feel Trion has thought of everything that would make lowbie leveling a pain, and improved on it. There are more planar gates for easier travel. Of course I still had my pre-order mount from last year, so traveling was no issue anyhow.

Speaking of my mount, I found that my mailbox was chock-full of goodies, veteran rewards. Trion has a program where you get rewards for subscribing a month, three, six and 12 months. Consumables that increase experience and favor for 2 hours, special gear, and a very handy vendor I can summon, etc. I had gotten up to the six months rewards, and if I subbed for another six months, I would earn the 12 months rewards. It’s a nice incentive because yeah, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Fishing in RiftI tried the two new professions they added to the game, fishing and survival. Not sure why they didn’t call survival cooking, but it goes hand-in-hand with fishing. I liked what I have seen of the fishing so far. It’s pretty much the same mechanism as in WoW, with a few twists. First off, there’s shallow and deep water fishing. You don’t need to equip your fishing pole, you just use it. You get a cursor that changes color based on where you’re fishing. Red means that won’t work, blue means you are fishing in shallow water and yellow means you are fishing in deep water. Different catches in each area. When the fish splashes, you click to reel it in, but sometimes, it takes longer, and you might have to click again. I don’t know, it probably sounds stupid, but that way alone I felt the fishing was more interactive than WoW fishing which I usually spent reading on my Kindle. You can craft lures and such that will prevent fishing up any grey items and improving your catch. There are schools of fish, when your cursor turns green, you are fishing from the school. They contain rare fish. You can turn in the rare fish at an NPC, to earn reputation or stuff. What stuff, I don’t know, I didn’t have the patience yet to fish up enough rares. In Silverwood, the turn-in rate was 8 rare fish per reward. Survival gives you a way to make stuff with all the fish you catch. Also, you can fish up artifacts, and I mentioned before, how much I love those.

The game feels subtly changed. I don’t know what they did, but the graphics looked a lot prettier than I had them memorized. Riding through Silverwood was just a lot of pretty sights, from lovely forest, to swamp to areas infested with bad faeries. It’s not Guild Wars 2 pretty, but it’s definitely not a bad-looking game. Ultimately, I had a great time playing my mage. She felt powerful, but it wasn’t faceroll-easy, and closing rifts is still fun. Unlike Belghast, I can’t complain about the 1-29 chat, people in there were friendly and polite. For reference, I was playing on the German PvE shard with the highest population, Brutmutter. In fact, I liked it so much that I want to keep playing and am debating putting down money for a month. Yet as I am currently not working, I feel very hesitant about it, and am actually considering dropping SWTOR to go back to Rift for a while. Just to see if I will like it enough to bother with the expansion. From what I have heard, you have tons of endgame options now. It sounds fascinating. I just don’t know yet. I’ll keep you posted.

So, any passionate Rift players reading this? It would be interesting to hear from Rift players about an assessment of the game. I have always felt it’s like the underdog of the MMO world, and yet Trion work so hard that they deserve more recognition for their work.

P.S.: Trion, I am not too happy that you are using the below image as major advertisement for your game. It reminds me that I dislike your female character models as much as the light armor in Guild Wars 2. Disappointed. Again.

Rift Expansion: The No Real Armor Legion

Rift Expansion: The No Real Armor Legion

2 Comments

  1. Why oh why must you be in a radically different timezone! Also I agree on that expansion image…. I cannot see anything but metallic fingers coping a feel. I think honestly I would be more likely to play female characters, if they had real armor. I’ve just never really liked the idea of prancing around in a bikini.

  2. I was thinking of flashing up Rift for another go, and Storm Legion looks promising; like yourself (and Belghast, truth be told), however, I’m not sure I’ll stick with it due to a bit of MMO ADD. I’ve stuck with WoW because I like the people I play with and, in general, enjoy it in the casual-friendly small doses that are required. Do I want to re-learn a new game all over again?

    Perhaps not.

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