Many would disagree with my opinion here, but RIFT really sets the bar for me in terms of the features a modern MMORPG should have, but every time I think this I have to remind myself that the game has changed a fair bit over the last 16 months. In fact, one of the things I like about RIFT is that it has changed so much. The team over at Trion are gearing up for patch 1.9 soon. That’s the ninth major content patch since the game launched last February.
And since they are running out of 1.X numbers to work with, it comes as little surprise that an expansion pack has just been announced. RIFT: Storm Legion will include a Hell of a lot of new stuff, but before I discuss that, I thought I’d take a quick retrospective of the journey so far, looking at each of the content patches and what they added to the game.
The Journey So Far…
~Cue Kansas’s Wayward Son…~
1.1: The River of Souls
1.1 gave us a small taste of what Trion were capable of pumping out. I never did the River of Souls raid, but I very much enjoyed the world event leading up to it. The team obviously learned a lot from this first foray into World Events, as evidenced later on.
1.2: Spoils of War
1.2 gave us a lot of features the community had been asking for, as well as more content. Extra roles to use (bringing the total up to five customisable spec templates), improved auction house UI; a new Wardrobe feature to change your appearance without changing your stat-gear (this was the biggie for me this patch!); balance in PvP, dungeons, et cetera; and the main raiding content this patch which was Slivers, 10-man content where you’d raid alternate timestreams to see ‘what might be’ in specific areas of the world.
Oh, and they introduced the LFG system in 1.2 too, making it much easier to find a group for dungeons.
1.3: Waves of Madness
1.3 gave RIFT its third 20-man raid, Hammerknell, and a massive water-themed world event leading up to it. It also properly introduced item sets and synergy crystals which gave set bonuses when slotted in your UI. Guild banks were introduced in 1.3, as were bind-on-account vanity/wardrobe items allowing you to pimp out your alts.
Also added were open world PvP quests to try and get players out fighting in the world, and new sets of artifacts related to 1.2′s sliver feature. Oh, and they introduced free character transfers with a 7 day cooldown and added the ability to show tweets in your chatlog via RIFTconnect.
The accompanying World Event saw the forces of Akylios, the Water Dragon, surge across Telara, making Moonshade Highlands downright deadly at times.
1.4: Legacy of the Fallen
1.4 was notable for the introduction of a new 10 man sliver, PvP rifts to get people out in the world PvPing, cross-shard LFG, and a streamlining of quest items into their own ‘keyring’ so they don’t fill up your inventory, as well as the usual balancing of classes and zone tweaks.
The World Event to accompany 1.4 involved the fallout of power after the deaths of Greenscale (in 1.0 RIFT raiding) and Akylios (in 1.3), having players chase round the world for Dragon Motes which could be used to grow a cool mossy tartagon mount or trade in for powerful Life-themed weapons.
1.5: Ashes of History
1.5 is one of the most important patches for distinguishing RIFT further from its big brother, World of Warcraft. The addition of solo/duo dungeons that allow you a glimpse inside the 20 man raids (called Chronicles) gave players like myself who aren’t into large group content something to do. It also introduced the Planar Attunement system which gives you some kind of progression to work on even after reaching the level cap. Master Modes in certain dungeons gave hardcore players smaller group content to work towards, plus a new Warfront gave PvPers a new battleground to fight over.
Also introduced were Warfront Accolades which remind me of the old announcers from team-based FPS shooters. I half expected someone to shout out “MULTI KILL!” at one point.
The World Event accompanying 1.5 saw players racing to reconstruct the Travel Stones, ancient devices able to transport people great distances. An alliance between the forces of Laethys and Maelforge, dragons of Earth and Fire, provides the antagonists for this patch, as they hatch their plots from a mythical Island.
1.6: From the Embers
1.6 brought the biggest change yet to RIFT: a whole new zone, twice as big as the current ‘endgame’ zone of Stillmoor, and with it a slight increase in difficulty. While mobs in Stillmoor are mostly level 50 and 51, Ember Isle’s default level is 52. Unprepared players were caught out by the difficulty, while others relished the challenge.
As well as a massive new zone, Ember Isle also came complete with a new dungeon for 5-man groups to fight through, a new 10-man sliver, and a second tier of Planar Attunement to work towards. There were also a few UI tweaks to improve the start menu and map functionality, as well as an overhaul for water graphics that greatly improved the quality and appearance of water in the game — a good thing since Ember Isle has many beautiful stretches of water, from coastal beaches and waterfalls, to a great watery plain in the centre of the island.
Oh, and patch 1.6.1 introduced Instant Adventures to Telara, enabling you to get right into some kind of action in Shimmersand and Stillmoor where you would be stuck in a big group and instantly given objectives: no talking to quest NPCs. No reading text. Just go, kill, heal, tank, loot! Perfect for players who want a slightly more dynamic and constantly involving playstyle.
Since the massive World Event leading up to 1.6 occupied almost all of our time with patch 1.5, 1.6 instead went with a Yule world event. The first really seasonal event, Fae Yule is a traditional Christmas-style event where a variety of seasonal costumes, a red-nosed, antlered pet, and a reindeer-like mount were all available. Oh, and candycane-themed weapons…
1.7: Carnival of the Ascended
1.7 brought some significant changes to pre-raiding content, with the merging of the two tiers of Expert Mode dungeons into one, and a rebalancing of almost all endgame gear and dungeon/raid content for a more streamlined and accessible process. A new chronicle based on the River of Souls raid was introduced, this one a little harder than the previous Greenscale’s Blight and Hammerknell chronicles. Ascended wedding ceremonies (and associated costume items) and new Master Mode dungeons rounded out the new content, but the patch wasn’t done.
The update also brought with it premade soul templates, giving you a guide as to how to spend your points for newer players or even players who simply aren’t interested in theorycrafting. A sixth role slot was made available for purchase too. For PvPers, the addition of the Mercenary system aimed to dramatically reduce queue sizes by making it less about factions and more about teams: now Guardians and Defiants could fight on the same side.
The addition of RIFT Lite, allowing everyone to experience the 1-20 content for free with no time restrictions, gave Trion’s already-aggressive marketing strategies a boost too.
The actual World Event after which the patch is named arrived after 1.7 went live, a huge celebration as RIFT crept closer to its 1 year anniversary. It was filled with carnival minigames, solo and group content, new quests and event rewards.
1.8: Infernal Dawn
1.8, the last released patch, brought with it a new 20-man raid — the biggest Trion has ever attempted — where players face off against Maelforge and Laethys amidst swirling lava within a giant volcano at the centre of Ember Isle.
The patch also brought new Instant Adventures on Ember Isle, further utilizing the massive space allowed by the zone; and, more importantly for solo players such as myself, 1.8 introduced two new tradeskills — fishing and survival — with which to spend our time. Or, if you’re more competitively-inclined, 1.8 introduced Leaderboards for just about everything in the game, and a Guild Finder to help you find the people to do stuff with!
The World Event for 1.8 involved conspiracy, group and solo content, and yet more special currency to acquire as the forces of Laethys crashed the end of the Carnival of the Ascended and drove Telara to war.
Patch 1.9 isn’t finalised yet, but there’s already a fair chunk we know about it.
Firstly it introduces a new 3-faction PvP style called Conquest where, regardless of whether you’re Guardian or Defiant, you can group up with like-minded players to try and dominate a sliver version of Stillmoor. Capture points, objectives, Colossi to fight or control, new crafting recipes, gathering resources… This is a huge addition for people who want more open world style PvP.
Secondly the game introduces a Mentoring system which allows you to set your characters level below what it actually is. This means you can go back and gain benefits from lower level content you may have missed, or team up with friends levelling new characters and still gain experience for your Planar Attunement.
Lower level Instant Adventures mean you can take even better advantage of the Mentoring system, basically meaning you’ll never “run out” of content as there will always be something going on. In fact, a new UI interface means you can simply queue for one anywhere, and the game will automatically mentor you to the appropriate level!
Oh, and while it isn’t a major feature touted, they’re finally putting in a bag sort button that will group inventory items into likely groups. Thank God! Also, new weather effects in certain zones, and castbars next to your and your opponents nameplates so you don’t have an excuse to miss that interrupt!
The accompanying world event for 1.9 seems to be Summerfest, in direct contrast to the Fae Yule event. Don’t know a lot about it at the moment, but I imagine it’ll have quests, rewards, currency, pets, mounts, aesthetic items… the usual!
The Future: the Oncoming Storm
Storm Legion, RIFT’s first expansion, looks like it is going to be huge.
Trion’s Storm Legion website promises:
A Vast New World:
Two continents worth of content that “more than triple” the size of the existing world of Telara.
“Epic stories” that reveal more about Telara as well as mentioning gateways to other planes. May we finally get to take the fight to the planes themselves?
A new city, Tempest Bay, stronghold for both factions.
10 More Levels, 4 More Souls:
Each calling — Warrior, Cleric, Mage, and Rogue — are going to get a new soul each. Hopefully this will be something you have to unlock via an epic questline rather than something you just have as soon as you add your product key for the expansion.
An increase in the level cap to level 60. This is interesting as I’m wondering how it synergises with the extant Planar Attunement system. Does it simply pause while you level?
Trion specifically calls that you can choose how you level, mentioning Instant Adventures and Quests as well as Rifts, but also “onslaughts” and “events“. It definitely sounds like they’re taking a leaf from ArenaNet’s playbook and trying to create a more dynamic leveling environment, moving away from traditional questhub leveling.
Brave the Storm
If the dynamic content isn’t enough, 7 new dungeons, 3 raids, a new Chronicle, “and more” should keep you occupied.
Added to this, “new rift gameplay” allows for a wide variety of increasingly challenging planar bosses, new monsters to fight, and even Colossus to fell — a monster that can dynamically change the world around it!.
Make Telara Your Own
Finally, Trion offers you the ability to further customise your characters. Dimensions offer a cool form of player housing by allowing them — and guilds — to craft their own slivers. Grandmaster crafting brings with it many new items to create. New puzzles to solve, artifact and collectible sets to complete, new achievements to unlock, mounts, pets and titles to find…
Oh, and we get capes to wear…
RIFT gets a lot of flack on the MMO scene. Head to any article on the game on any major gaming site and you’ll see comments asking how this game is still alive, how they can put out a paid expansion when the servers are “dead”, et cetera. I read one comment earlier that claimed only WoW would ever be able to put out a paid expansion…
I don’t believe that, and obviously neither do Trion. While Guild Wars 2 will certainly be my MMORPG of choice once it is released, I can’t help but admire Trion’s work ethic and commitment to pouring out content. I have to wonder how GW2 will compare, in fact.
Details on RIFT: Storm Legion will be releasing over the coming months. I’ll keep y’all updated!