Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I must be really tired. That title makes me laugh. Why am I tired? I haven't gotten much sleep because I've been playing in the Rift beta nearly non stop. Ok, so if you're into MMORPGs and you've somehow missed the hype, Rift is a big game coming out later this week.

Rift is an open map quest based game just like all the others. It's a fantasy MMO with a dark, far future fantasy twist. Not a lot unique, but still cool. Let's start with lore. So there's this Nexus dimension that connects all the elemental plains - Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Life, and Death. The Gods sealed it off, protecting the plains from invading each other. In the center of this Nexus plain, lived humans, dwarves, elves, and what have you.

Now, I haven't seen this mentioned, but I got kind of a Garden of Eden vibe here. Some of the people worshiped the Gods. Others wanted to bite from the Tree of Knowledge. So one group, called The Defiant developed advanced technology. Through their technology, they accidentally broke the seals, protecting the world from the armies of the Elemental Plains. So the faithful and the scientific are fighting each other, and the armies from the elemental plains are breaking through, coming through Rifts in the seal. And lots of people die. So the Gods resurrect the most powerful of the faithful so they can battle the armies from the Elemental Plains. These champions, or Ascended are The Guardians. Ascended have the power of three souls in the same body, allowing them far more power than a regular mortal. This is the time line in which the game starts. We know, future wise, that the Guardians will not be successful and that they will eventually lose and the world will be destroyed.

The Guardians blame the Defiants for creating the Rifts. The Defiants blame the Guardians for destroying their machines, crippling the Defiants from being able to clean up their own mess.

In the future, the Defiants will develop the technology to create their own champions, or Ascended, merging three souls of the dead into one body, and resurrecting that body in an Ascended. This is where the game starts for the player that chooses to play a Defiant. The world is nearly destroyed. There's little to no hope, but one. The Defiants have also built a time machine and at the end of the tutorial level(levels 1-6) they transport you to the past--while the Rifts are opening, but there's still time to save the world.

So whether Guardian or Defiant, you're on equal footing. With twice the number of Ascended, the players are able to stop the Rifts, repel invaders, and seal the Rifts as they come. But old rivalries die hard and Guardian and Defiant Ascended clash in civil war.

That's the basic lore. So what makes things so different? Game play differences are that the game is chaotic and ever changing. There are very few places you can go AFK at. A Rift could open up right on top of you. If no one repels the invaders and seals the Rift--I've seen 20 of them open in one small zone at once, the invaders start to build footholds. Once they build footholds, they can start summoning more of them and invade small camps or even major cities. Even if there are no Rifts around you, you could still see small armies of Elites running past you. Some of these elites are open world raid bosses, requiring dozens of players or more to take down. What's nice about this is that the raid bosses are level appropriate for the zone. So if you're only level 12 or something, that's fine. Two other nice things about zone events, other than they're constant, is you get decent XP--even if you just heal and don't attack anything. You just have to be in a dangerous area and be doing something. And two, you don't have to ask for an invite to the raid. A button pops up asking if you want to join. Click it, and you're in. It's constant, spontaneous raiding... even at low level. There's no rolling for loot. Everyone gets something.

I mostly stuck to the lower levels as I tried out all the different characters. But I noticed in the higher level zones, the rifts were different. A Death Rift in Stone Fields summoned a ghostly library with displaced townspeople wondering around and a Librarian boss that read books from different shelves while you fought him. Weird stuff. I imagine more variety the higher level you get with different tactics needed.

Ok, the other cool thing, the class structures are really complicated. I hated it at first, but yet, couldn't dismiss it. There are 4 classes. Seems simple. But each character can pick 3 of the 8 souls associated with each class. A Mage can be a Life Mage(Chloromancer), and Necromancer, and a Fire Mage(Pyromancer) all at the same time. A Warrior can be a Paladin and a Blood Death Knight(Reaver) at the same time. A Cleric can be a shadow Priest (Cabal) and a Purifier... basically, stuff that makes no sense together, you can do it if that floats your boat. And it makes sense from an RP perspective. I mean, you have the souls of different people in you, and access to their power.

Let's break this down.

Warrior Souls:
Champion - offensive, 2 handed weapon wielder
Paladin - defensive, shield block heavy tank
Reaver - defensive, death magic dot heavy, aggro tank
Warlord - defensive, buff / debuff heavy tank
Paragon - offensive, dual 1 handed weapon wielder
Riftblade - offensive, elemental style, ranged / melee hybrid
Void Knight - defensive, anti magic / mage's nightmare tank
Beastmaster - offensive, pet class

Some interesting combinations here. The Beastmaster's pet can tank and the Riftblade can throw spears of fire, stone, and lightning from a distance making this a plate wearing hunter that can engage hand to hand if needed.

I wouldn't combine Paragon with Champion since one needs two weapons, the other, one big one. But aside from that, any other combination of offensive souls would make a good damage dealer.

as for a Tank, the Reaver has tons of disease dots that they can spread around that generate tons of threat so I used this soul for aggro. The Paladin has great shield block abilities and great single target, threat building build up attacks. For the third soul, I didn't experiment much with the Void Knight, though I've heard lots of people liked it. I picked up Warlord instead and used the Warlords powerful finishing moves to debuff my target or buff my teammates. All four of the defensive, tank trees have talents that boost your armor, health, and other mitigation and / or threat generation. And they all stack.

Believe it or not, but the warriors are the only class that can't be healers. Nope, not even Paladins. Paladins can self heal and rez others, but that's it.

Inquisitor - offensive, single target, ranged damage dealer. Can self heal
Purifier - healer / debuffer, lots of direct heals
Sentinel - healer, direct and AoE heals
Justicar - defensive, self healing, tough as nails tank
Shaman - offensive, melee heavy damage dealer
Druid - offensive, melee heavy, pet class
Warden - healer, HoTs and buffs
Cabalist - offensive, AoE damage dealer

I didn't experiment much with the Clerics. I've heard that Cleric Justicar tanks are some of the best in the game for mitigation. Combined with Druid and Shaman souls and they never run out of mana. They're very good at self healing and can AoE heal pretty well--something I did running around Rift to Rift in raids. I didn't get high enough level with my Druid to get the pet that tanks for you, but I've heard the Satyr is a good tanking pet. I know that Clerics can make fantasic damage dealers. This makes them one of the classes that are great healers, tanks, or DPSers.

Elementalist - offensive, pet tanking class
Warlock - offensive, dots, life drain, and mana regen
Pyromancer - offensive, AoE damage
Stormcaller - offensive
Archon - offensive, damage and party buffs
Necromancer - offensive, pet class
Dominator - crowd control, damage and debuffs, cc, and snares
Chloromancer - healer, perhaps the best healing soul in the game

I didn't mess with these guys much either. The Chloromancer is interesting. At low levels, they can debuff a target so people hitting it get healed. They can also dps to heal others. As strange as it sounds to pair this life mage with a Warlock, or shadow mage, since the Chloromancer has mana issues, being able to get mana back from Warlock spells makes this a strong combination.

Mages are the only class in the game that cannot tank.

Assassin - offensive, stealth heavy, burst, melee damage
Nightblade - offensive, melee with some ranged
Ranger - offensive, ranged damage with a tanking pet
Marksmen - offensive, ranged
Saboteur - offensive, bombs and traps, currently a PvP beast
Bard - healer, single and AoE healer with tons of party buffs
Blade Dancer - offensive, melee damage with some damage mitigation
Riftstalker - defensive, tank

Ok, so I played the hell out of my rogue and was surprised I liked this class the best. The main combination I used was Ranger for the tanking pet and Marksman for more ranged attacks. Ranger is good enough on its own, but the Marksman gives you another shot that buffs you. I messed around with a third soul for a while. The Saboteur, though powerful, seemed like too much bomb management work. According to the forums, people are begging for Sabo nerfs, so I'm guessing the bombs are really good for PvP. I used a Bard soul for a while. That was neat because it gave me another way to heal my pet. They do decent dps, though not great. I didn't want a melee soul because my pet keeps stuff off me, so it would just be a waste unless my pet died, which happened sometimes. Then I figured out that the Assassin's many, many poisons worked at range. Yay, poisoned arrows!

I didn't try and main heal any instances as a Bard, though I imagine that would be challenging. They don't have mana, and rogue energy regens ridiculously fast, so maybe they could be main healers. If a rogue is a dpser in a party, I can imagine the healer would be bored.

Ok, so I did try the Rogue tanking spec, the Rift Stalker. My souls were Riftstalker, Blade Dancer, and Bard. I picked Bard for the +10% to health and the slight mitigation they have. Blade Dancer has a lot of +dodge, so that was a natural choice. Let's talk about the Riftstalker. Having rift powers, they can shield themselves. They can also teleport around a lot. Think of Shadow Step from the Subtle Rogue tree in WoW. Now imagine each time you port, it gives you a shield. Casters over in the corner shooting at the healer? I teleport to them, stab them a couple times, then port back to the rest of the melee mobs. The teleports port you to the mob you have selected. So I was constantly porting around the battle field rather than gathering mobs up. I had a blast doing that.

I'm a little torn about whether I like this or hate this, but the racial stat bonuses that each race gets is pretty significant. Each race gets +10 in something. At level 25, my rogue never got a piece of gear that had as much as +10 in anything. Some of the level 50 epic stuff had +15 in something. So +10 to a stat is a big deal at low levels and at least a slight factor at high levels. But that didn't stop people from making strange combinations like Kelari Mages or High Elf Warriors. I made a High Elf Paladin because they look so awesome. Speaking of awesome, Rift is the first MMO in the history of the world that has dwarven female characters that actually look like females. I made a Dwarven female Champion Warrior. Her two handed sword was twice her size, which was pretty entertaining as is. But she looked like a 6 year old girl running around with a colossal sword. I mean, I was pretty set on playing the Defiant side, but the Dwarves are just so awesome looking in this game that I've been tempted to at least try Guardian side. I loved my Dark Elf(Kelari) rogue so much, I'm going to start there. The Kelari look really fragile and petite looking. I had a Bahmi warrior too. She looks like an amazon. Looked. She got wiped in the holocaust known as the Beta wipe. But I'll remake her once the game goes live in a couple days.

Ok, lastly, I'll talk about the first 5 man instance. It's called Iron Tombs. The first boss is tank and spank. The second encounter is three mini bosses. A mage, a healer, and a warrior. Kill the healer first, blah, blah. The last boss is almost Tank and Spank other than he does an AoE that would kill everyone, but a ghost guy pops up saying, "Heroes, come quick. I'll protect you from his magic." He makes a circle of protection. Run into the circle and you can survive the AoE.

But the part of the instance that struck me the most was the part where you are surrounded by little shadow demons. There are these orbs in the darkness. And it's really dark down there. The Shadow Demons keep on coming. But if you jump on an orb or bump into it hard, it lights up, and the light will kill the shadow demons. It just reminded me of some horror movie where you're hiding in the light, and you can't see all the monsters wanting to kill you outside your small circle of protection.

The first time I ran it, we didn't know you could activate the orbs. And it was a pain killing off all the shadow guys that kept repopping.

So, will Rift kill WoW? The one thing WoW has going for it is nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Everyone that plays MMOs knows WoW, has tried it on some capacity, or at least has friends that play it that they could join. WoW has tons and tons of content. It's an aging game engine that's be revamped with Cataclysm, but still has low polygon characters and models. It's cartoony and highly stylized. Is that good or not? It depends. Too much photorealistic art in games can make things hard to spot. One of the problems I had tanking in Age of Conan was the mobs blended in with the back ground, and I couldn't always see mobs loose and attacking my healer. I was too busy doing all those funky Dance! Dance! Revolution! combo buttons to get my attacks off as is.

Rift has fantastic graphics, with amazing particle effects, great animation, and higher polygon models. They made it so WoW users wouldn't miss anything. Even the macro programming language is the same or similar. It's missing a random dungeon finder system, but they say they're adding one.

I've been through a lot of MMO launches. I've never, ever seen a game this well polished at launch. So I'm hopeful that things will go well. I can't wait to get started with my new rogue.

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