Monday, January 23, 2012

Rift At 50

Telhamat, my Rift Cleric, finally hit level 50 this week.  In addition to a welcome back weekend, Trion handed out 3 days of game time to anyone who has an account as compensation for changing their passwords after a hacking incident late last year.  As a result, of all these freebies, I was able to reach the game's level cap without any additional paid time beyond the initial month - certainly no grounds to complain about the value I got for that purchase a year ago.

Soso Solo
I have soloed characters to the level caps in WoW, EQ2, DCUO, LOTRO (though I have yet to catch up with the latest increase), and now Rift, so I'd suggest that I have a fair amount of experience with solo PVE play.  Unfortunately, I can't recommend Rift all that highly in this department.

There's no way for Trion to balance content around all possibilities in the soul system, but any of the four DPS Cleric souls paired with 10 points in Justicar can chain-pull 3 mobs at a time with limited to no downtime or consumables.  (I didn't even realize there were drinks I was supposed to be purchasing and consuming until someone mentioned how many they consumed on a dungeon run.)  The game's zones are extremely lengthy and linear, so there's limited opportunity to push the envelope on better optimized solo builds by attempting more challenging content.

Meanwhile, the game's exp curve is inexplicably weighted in favor of killing mobs over completing quests.  If you have rested exp, you will get significantly more experience for killing 10 rats than for riding halfway across a wide zone to turn in the quest to kill the 10 rats.  Quest reward gear is generally much worse than what you can get at the same level from zergable Rift events.  Overall, zones are pretty, quests and lore are reasonably well written, but overall the long and non-challenging quest grind feels the opposite of rewarding.  Nothing about what I've seen makes me excited to work on the endgame solo daily quests.

The group flexibility niche?
My seldom-active Rift characters happen to be parked in Ferrel's raiding guild, Iniquity.  Having seen my level 50 achievement notice in guild chat earlier that evening, the guild invited me on a farming run that very night.  The group had some empty slots in an excursion back to farm the old River of Souls instance for raid currency etc, and they figured there would be unclaimed loot that could be handed to a blogger/tourist.

Telhamat, with her new hammer
The random loot table obliged, and I ended up with a belt, a pair of gloves, and a 2-handed hammer.  (I also snagged a level 50 purple helm with currency from a past world event).  Perhaps more valuable was a hint of what exactly this game has that other games do not.  Through the soul system, Rift players have unprecedented flexibility to find something they can do with the players they have, rather than attempting to find players to satisfy the needs of the content.

Healer has to sign off?  No problem, the tank will go heals and a DPS will switch to tank mode.  Freshly dinged 50 who can't hit anything due to lack of gear?  At least I can switch to a healing role and contribute somehow, since heals can't miss.  Not enough players to run this zone?  There's a smaller one that still has some tokens and loot, or the even less structured outdoor content. 

None of these ideas are original or even that impactful individually.  Taken collectively, though, I'm starting to see why this game seems to draw the older-school crowd from the days when MMO's were more of an activity than a game. 

Going forward

I'm actually not done with Rift just yet - I happened to snag a very good deal on some game time earlier this month.  It appears that the biggest thing I need to do with this time is to stop trying to solo.  I have more fun in this game when I play as a healer than as a DPS (perhaps in part because I have built a Purifier that heals a lot like my WoW mage does DPS).   Trion will take my money as a solo MMO tourist, but they will never hold my attention in that role because that's just not the direction they have chosen to take their game. 

In a lot of ways, Rift is the exact opposite of the direction I'm going as a player - subscription in an era of non-subscription options, group-friendly when that does not fit my schedule.  The fact that the game makes me at least interested in trying it anyway suggests that they're doing something right. 


Carson 63000 said...

I played some Rift during this free weekend - first time I'd touched it since beta (when my conclusion was "nicely done, but nothing here that makes me want to play.")

I had an enjoyable weekend and was actually moved to drop some money for a month's play (finding a CD key + one month going very, very cheap indeed on one of those "we sell CD keys over the internets and throw away the box" sites helped).

Vatec said...

Yep, the questing side of PvE in Rift is fairly weak, especially Guardian-side. The good news is, it really is completely optional. You can substitute zone invasions, PvP, regular dungeons, or even crafting (very, very slow, but some of my alts have gone from 25ish to 38+ exclusively from running crafting delivery quests).

Furthermore, I generally loathe group content in most MMOs, but Rift's group content is actually both accessible and entertaining, in my opinion. Not a big fan of the raiding, but then again, I don't like raiding in any other game either ;^)

Quite frankly, I consider Rift to be the most polished example of the DikuMUD format currently available. If it has any major flaws, it's the fact that leveling and endgame gearing are both far too easy. And not everyone considers that to be a negative....

seanas said...

and, of course, the whole point of Ember Isle, the level 50 quest area added in 1.6, is that the mos are much more difficult than the launch level 50 areas.

thus if you are after a (more) challenging level 50 questing experience, head over to EI - it makes every class, even Clerics running the duracell build, re-think their builds.

Bhagpuss said...

I think you've inadvertently put your finger on why my experiences with Rift seem to vary so markedly from a lot of comments I've read. The key sentence in your post is this:

"the game's exp curve is inexplicably weighted in favor of killing mobs over completing quests."

That sums up neatly what I like most about Rift and why for me the game has none of the linearity others describe. I don't like quests. I think the move from hunting for xp to questing for xp that happened in 2004/2005 was a deeply retrograde step for MMOs, moving them further towards following stories written by other people and away from making your own story. Consequently my time in Rift has been filled with a sense of freedom that I last experienced in Vanguard.

I would be more than happy to see Rift do away with all quests. In beta, when the game was certainly at its best, it was commonly stated that quests in Rift had no other purpose than to give you something to do between invasions and in those days invasions were so frequent there rarely was any "between". Unfortunately, within a few weeks of launch Rift began to move further towards a quest-based model, especially at 50. A very bad idea indeed.

As far as the actual quests go, I think they've been very unfairly criticized. Most of those that I've done have been at least par for a post-WoW MMO. Several have been very entertaining. But really, whether they are good or bad is beside the point. The USP of Rift was the Rifts and Invasions and focus never should have shifted away from those.