Diving into RIFT

Zyngor | Thursday, October 23, 2014
After receiving plenty of emails and tweets that the latest RIFT expansion, Nightmare Tide, was undergoing beta testing and all that good stuff, I never kept track on when it'd finally be dropping. I saw a tweet the other day, announcing the release of this free expansion to an already solid Trion free-to-play MMO title. Boom - RIFT 3.0 is upon us.

I figured I'd at least get through the patching process, and perhaps give it a whirl on not launch day. I checked out the patch notes while the server was busy getting my set up with all the bells and whistles, and I guess something triggered me to hit "Play" once it was all downloaded. Perhaps it seemed a little exciting & overwhelming to see bits like "5 more levels of adventure," or maybe the "three brand new zones" of the Plane of Water (water-themed Goboro Reef, dream-themed Draumheim, and frozen-themed Tarken Glacier). Other details certainly sparked an interest, like the new minion system and further advancements in crafting. I'm neither a PvPer or raider, so I was indifferent to new warzones/dungeons.

Upon loading into the game, the first thing I noticed was that my health pool must have been doing some backflips, as it took a leap from about 14k to 41k health. I did see the patch note explaining this, in order to reduce the difference in health between tanks and squishies. What I didn't realize was quite how much this balance would ultimately affect my rogue's well-being (not that I'm complaining!).

Minions, a new activity in Rift 3.0
I had myself sitting in Meridian (home town for the Defiant faction), so I figured the first thing I would do was check out this new minion system put in place as a casual side-game. I had seen some comparing it to WoW, which I had no connection to, so I went into it with the Neverwinter "Sword Coast Adventures" in mind.

It is presented as a card game, in which you pick a minion (some starters are available for platinum purchase, other premium ones acquires in various means), and an adventure. It is usually best to try and match up your minion attributes to the detailed attributes within each mission, usually for a better result. Starting off, it seems best to just do the beginner adventures to level up your minions. It is a nice little side-game for those slow times, though I have not gotten far enough to tell how the premium minions compare to the starter selection.

After playing around with the minion game (or should I say, while - the minute adventures kept me on my lazy toes), I took the porticulum over to Goboro Reef, the first of a whole new page containing the three new zones within the Plane of Water. I will say that I'm still only about level 60.33, and have really just been running around the first zone a bit, discovering land & porticulums.

Goboro Reef, the first of three expansion areas

From what I have seen, the world builders must have been busy filling out this lush area. Meanwhile, the designers literally gave another dimension to combat by means of underwater combat (there was a preview of this in an earlier update, in a mini-region of content). It's a little jarring to deal with what is not just in front/back/sides of you, but also up and down. Fortunately, I have only actually needed to complete underwater combat in one smallish part of the region thus far. The rest has been designed to show you being in the Plane of Water, but plays as regular landscape combat. It looks like there is also a shark mount that can be used both on land and sea, though I'm not sure if it is only available for those who made the optional expansion purchase.

Zone events on launch days in the expansion starter area are...touchy.
Playing launch days on an MMO expansion is always a gamble. It's a new fresh experience, so that's cool, but then you have to remember that the floodgates are now open for ALL players on that server. Many of whom have been waiting around for this to launch. So you pop open into the new land, and you realize there are probably several hundred avatars standing in the same spot as you. It becomes more apparent as you start questing, and if spawn times aren't on their game, it can become a waiting game (good time for Minions, at least!). Another highlight of RIFT are the zone events - dynamic occurrences that are randomly activated on various zones. So a zone event pops for one of the new areas, and now a good percentage of the server's level 60+ are now working together en masse to complete this sucker. We reach the final boss, a 600 million (I think) health demon. When everybody is crammed at the same place at the same time, our biggest enemy became the lag monster. Skills fired off at least 5-10 second later, allies would flash in and out of existence, all that good stuff.

I also got the chance to take my first bite of the new nightmare rifts. Another staple of RIFT, portals (known here as...you got it, rifts) open up all around each area in the game, as enemies from another plane attempt to infest the lands of Telara. Normally, rifts have a set number of stages that can be completed, several of them on timers to advance. Nightmare rifts, introduced with the latest update, take it to another level by having an endless number of stages. They run on timers, and must be completed in time to proceed to the next. They also increase in difficulty as you progress, and are also scaled depending on the number of allies you have in your vicinity to the rift. I joined one in progress, probably somewhere in the 30-50th stage, and went another dozen stages before the enemy health was a bit too tough to take down in time. It looks like a nice way to pick up a swath of goodies, and if you can get the right group, would be interesting to see just how far the player-base could reach.

Overall, my limited time with the latest RIFT expansion has been a pretty good time. I have not really gotten far enough to give a better opinion, but first looks are leaning on the positive side of the board. There also appears to be a new equipment slot (2x earrings), which can be unlocked by either purchasing the Nightmare Tide optional pack, or paying some huge amount of earnable currency (assuming it's possible for any subscription type to gather that amount). I believe there is also a new bag slot available, though the 5 bag slots (with the larger size bags) that I have at the moment seem to suffice (especially when I can access and sell vendor trash anywhere I am in the world via the RIFT store).

If interested in trying out the game, head over to the RIFT site here and give it a whirl. In general, I think Trion is fairly successful in producing free-to-play models with a large amount of content to be enjoyed without immediately attempting to whisk their fingers into your wallet.

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