Rift: Forbidden Areas

A few days ago I was exploring the northern ridge of mountains in Droughtlands, partly looking for cairns and artifacts as usual, but also to see if I could peek into the forbidden gray area north of the zone. Needless to say, there were lots of invisible walls and of course an insurmountable final ridge. But much to my surprise, I did manage to get close enough to notice weird names pop up on the map of the forbidden Neverland. Actual roads? Real areas? Your guess is as good as mine.

Forbidden Areas
The names in top revealed themselves when I got real close.

What I’d really like to know is, why did the zone designers bother to add these names? Did they originally want to have more zones, but eventually had to cut back in order to reach a deadline? Or did they just start building a zone for an upcoming expansion (or patch) while having some sort of invisibility flag on, only to have someone like me discover a bug in the invisibility mode?

Maybe it’s caused by some sort of algorithm that dumps the names on the entire continent like salt and pepper. But does that really make sense in a world that has probably been handcrafted?

Perhaps they added them to see if blog posts like this would emerge, pondering their existence. 😉

Rift: A Game World

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I’m now level 41 and barely started in snowy Iron Pine Peak with lots of chilly winds coming out of my loudspeakers. Droughtlands and Moonshade Highlands are both behind me. Since most rifts are often conspicuously left alone on my shard, I decided to do quests in both of those equal level zones to avoid hitting orange quests. I also tried healing in a dungeon (King’s Breach) but soloing has occupied 99% of my time in the game.

The more I play, the more I have to say that Rift doesn’t rub me quite the right way. It’s indeed very slick, beautiful, it has an impressive range of features for such a young MMORPG, and the rifts are a lot of fun to do with many players. Soloing with quests drags the game down, however, and I’ve seen in reviews and on other blogs that the game generally gets a lot of criticism in this area. There’s something about the quests that feels like working in a factory. Here, have these five quests. Go to these yellow circles over there and complete them. Return and deliver. Get another five quests. Go to the yellow circles right next to where the other yellow circles were. Rinse and repeat.

Quest grinding is not a new thing and I’ve seen the like in other MMORPG too. It can be spiced up with more imaginative quests (Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm), intricate story lines like the book quests in LOTRO or just with enough variety to keep it interesting. In Rift, not only does it feel a little like a job, there’s also something about the game itself that feels shallow.

In both LOTRO and EQ2 I’ve been happy about the atmosphere because it actually feels like an interesting fantasy or alien world. Sometimes this can make all the difference. I played Morrowind for a long time after the quests were pretty much completed, merely exploring various caves just because the world felt so intriguing. In Rift, the world feels exactly like what it really is; a game world. Nothing more. When I’m climbing the mountains looking for artifacts, cairns and hidden puzzles, I’m not really walking on mountains. I’m walking on polygons and textures.

Rift: Level 30

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I finally dinged level 30 in Scarwood Reach, which is the zone following Scarlet Gorge. It seems I’ve fallen behind quests, as I’ve had to do a number of orange quests. I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong. There was a small batch of quests in Gloamwood which I skipped, but I went back and did them to make up for it. This did turn the quests yellow, but after a batch or two more, the quests were orange once again.

Orange quests, and thus orange enemies (i.e. 3-4 levels higher) is a big problem in Rift, at least for my Cleric even with heavy emphasis on the Inquisitor soul. Enemies up to yellow are easy enough to kill, but orange enemies resist a lot, take forever to kill, and hit hard. I met orange solo mobs in Scarwood Reach that could get me down to about 20% health before I managed to kill them.

Undying Myrmidons
Luckily these Undying Myrmidon were only of yellow difficulty.

That’s just not fun for a casual player like me, so I’ve decided that I need to go back and grind some footholds and invasions, maybe even try some dungeons. As mentioned in the previous post, rifts are mostly empty after Silverwood on my shard with its medium population. I was hoping it would catch up after Gloamwood, but it hasn’t been much better in Scarlet Gorge nor in Scarwood Reach.

Am I too fast and the public haven’t caught up? I don’t really think so. A lot of players in my guild are much higher level, and besides, I’ve actually not played all that intensively. An hour or two per day, perhaps. My guess is that people are concentrated on questing and dungeons while keeping rifts in the back of their mind as something they can always do later.

Rift: Gloamwood

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An interesting thing happened in Gloamwood, which perhaps I should have seen coming. Where rifts in the Silverwood (the starter zone) were zerged by players (which was great fun), practically no one is touching the rifts in Gloamwood at all, at least not on my shard (Quicksilver).

I’d like to do these rifts, but not on my own. This means that I have to settle with footholds (doable because the enemies rotating the wardstone are not linked when you tag them) and then there’s quests. This, together with the fact that Gloamwood looks a bit too dark and gloomy for my taste, means that the game is suddenly not as cool as it was to begin with.

Gloamwood

I fear that the rifts will only be zerged by players in Silverwood (the starter zone) and whatever the zone is for level cap (level 50) as more and more players reach it. This could probably even be shown as a graph with a big bump in the start and end of it, together with a “flat valley” in the middle. Since I don’t have the exact numbers, I’ll leave it up to someone else to draw it (fat chance).

Rift: Idea for Mounts

I too have been pretty annoyed by the fact that low-level mobs can one- or two-shot me off my 60% mount in Rift. I then read a few complaints at the official forum to see if this improves with faster mounts. Supposedly the 60% is deliberately fragile and the faster ones can take a beating. I’m not sure yet, however. Some claim it’s exactly the same (which is not acceptable) while others claim it does indeed get a lot better. Guess I’ll have to see myself when I get them.

Nevertheless, it got me thinking and I have an idea I actually think is pretty good if I may say so myself. One of the points of being pummeled and thrown off the mount is to make sure the players actually use the roads. Fair enough. Here is what I propose then:

All roads in the zones automatically give you a temporary buff when you enter one. The buff makes your mount a lot sturdier while riding on the road (it gets more “confident” because of the clear view of the road). While on the road, enemies will have a harder time throwing you off. As soon as you leave the road to ride through an enemy territory, the temporary buff is gone.

I also posted a suggestion thread at the official forums about this.

Associations: Australia in Rift

In a previous post I claimed that Freemarch (starter zone for Defiants in Rift) looks a lot like Australia. Maybe I’m just lying on my back spotting clouds looking like rabbits and I actually have no case. But still, I think it’s funny how many similarities there are. Allow me to demonstrate:

Freemarch / Australia
I'm convinced the map designers were inspired by Planet Earth.

When I bought the box and unfolded the big map poster, I immediately thought Freemarch looked like Australia. Am I crazy? Out of my mind? Perhaps the world designers didn’t even mean to do it but still did it subconsciously. If it turns out that I was right all along, another question pops up – are there any other parts of the continent that was inspired by Planet Earth?

Rift: Silverwood

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I hit level 18 in Rift yesterday and uncovered all of Silverwood. I even took a ride on the top of the mountains at the north and west edges and found two small rockeries with a green item in each. It’s really great that you can get to these places and that you can walk on pretty steep cliff sides.

Also, walking around on these mountains and overlooking two zones from there, it occurred to me that the 3D engine is probably ready for flying mounts sometime in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trion Worlds made sure of that and have it somewhere on their list of things to do.

I noted in the previous post that I only saw daytime and was wondering if nighttime ever occurred. Well, I have seen both since then. Nighttime is more akin to World of Warcraft than Lord of the Rings Online, i.e. the landscape gets a bluish tint but you can still see most of everything.

Rift Invasion
As an invasion moves, the ground effect moves with it.

The game has grabbed me in a way I haven’t been grabbed by an MMORPG for years. The atmosphere when stumbling into a rift and seeing a lot of other players is so unique. I join them on the fly in a big raid and start my mix of mostly healing everybody and doing a little bit of damage when they’re all right. I usually end up reasonably high on the participation meter.

One of the reasons it feels so great is that it’s so spontaneous and temporary. I admit I’ve become pretty introverted in MMORPG lately and usually stick to my own business. In Cataclysm, I didn’t do any of the dungeons, even though I reached level 85 and did a lot of dailies. I just felt like I didn’t want to go through the bother anymore. But rifts are so very different and I can get right back to healing a lot of players in a jiffy. No LFG, no preparations in guild chat – I merely check if there are other players moving towards the rift. In that case, I’m definitely in!

Rift: First Impressions

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Rift was finally launched in Europe yesterday and I was there right from the beginning. Luckily I had none of the queue problems I’ve heard so much about, although there were a few hours in the middle of the day where all shards (servers) in EU and USA were down for a patch. Other than that, the game ran perfectly. No bugs, crashes or anything of the sort. It felt like I was playing an old, settled MMORPG that had been around for months already. Impressive.

I started out by creating a Guardian Dwarf Cleric. I heard from various blogs that this should be one of the better choices. Ironically I’m usually the type of guy to make different choices in these sort of games, but this time I really wanted to make it easy for myself. So a cleric it was. The souls I chose to begin with were Sentinel, Purifier and Warden. This gave me a good array of healing spells aside from damage spells, and I reached level 10 without any hiccups.

Divine Landing

Although great fun, there’s no question that the influences from World of Warcraft is so great that it’s almost absurd at times. Most MMORPG use a rainbow color code for the titles of enemies to indicate their difficulty, and when you’ve out-leveled them they turn gray and won’t attack anymore. World of Warcraft is unique with its yellow (for non-aggressive) and red (for aggressive) titles for enemies. Rift? Exactly the same title system as in World of Warcraft.

Still, the game did feel unique enough to fill me with the joy of exploring a new game and its world in spite of the heavy influences and loans from various other MMORPG. One of the reasons is that the starting zone for Guardians immediately puts you in a war zone with bombardments and a tangible sense of danger, instead of just holding your hand in a field of flowers like in so many other MMORPG.