The extension of Beta 5 into the weekend lured me back into the game. I really wanted to experience more of the new public group systems, and changes to invasions.
I didn’t really get to thoroughly test invasions because I honestly didn’t see that many. Or rather, the ones I did see didn’t survive nearly as long as they used to. So the despawn issue, with the way things are now, doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. The frequency of rifts, outside of invasions, seemed to be toned down quite a bit, and with the ability to pull single mobs from an invasion they got taken apart piecemeal pretty frequently.
The good news about this change is that a solo player can complete the “Kill X Rift Creatures” quests really easily now. The “support mobs” of an invasion do respawn so you can just follow an invasion, pulling singles and killing them, and quickly farm enough mobs to knock out your daily rift-kill quests. If you never kill the invasion leader you can do this until they reach their destination and fight the wardstone (and even after, but they tend to die quickly once they hit the wardstone).
I mean, I guess that’s good news. It definitely make things easier. Though I don’t think easier is better.
The bad news is that I didn’t see many (any?) friendly wardstones in serious trouble. So never saw what happened after an invasion succeeded (which is when invasions despawn). Also players seem to have finally figured out how to use the Rift Loot that heals and levels up Wardstones and most stones are leveled up enough to have turrets, at least on Faeblight/Guardian.
As to these public groups, I’m still not a fan. This isn’t a huge deal because they’re easy enough to ignore, but I gave it the old college try and joined them whenever I had the opportunity to do so, and left myself open to starting public groups.
Typically what happened to me is I’d run up to a rift that had, say, 10 people fighting and I’d get the Join Public Group pop-up. I’d join and find myself in a raid of 3-4 partial groups. Of the 10 people fighting the rift I was at, maybe 2 would actually be part of the same raid I was in. The rest of my raid would be all over the map.
I found the whole experience more distracting than anything. I’d be watching the Raid UI trying to figure out who was here and who wasn’t (a player’s name is brighter if they’re in range, as far as I could tell, but there are also color tints that indicate something) and not watching the combat. Because of this, I let plenty of people right in front of me die because I was paying attention to the health bars of the raid members who were over the hill somewhere.
That’s just me; I’m a total newb at being a healer. But I found that when I left the public groups I was more of an asset to the people fighting the rift I was fighting.
I also found it distracting having people constantly joining and leaving groups. When I was the ‘starter’ of a public group things would go better since only people near me could join. So then we’d have a nice little group of 3 or 4 people fighting and doing well. And then they’d all be gone and I’d have 4 mobs beating me into the mud. Maybe I suck so bad people need to get clear of me!!
By the end of beta I got much better about just rejecting groups. I’d join a public group and if it was a raid with people all over the map I’d just immediately leave it. If it was a smaller group of people in the immediate area (and sometimes that does happen) I’d stay in it and try to fight as a group (though had mixed success there, too).
So why aren’t public groups working (IMO) in Rift when they did so in Warhammer? Because in Warhammer they’d form at Public Quests. Public Quests always happened in the same place, on a schedule. So people would go to a specific area to do a specific quest and join the group there. They’d stay in that group until they were done with whatever they set out to accomplish. Then they’d leave, sometimes as a Group (head off to another Public Quest) or as individuals.
In Rift, rifts happen everywhere. You chase one down, or stumble upon it. Join the group. Rifts don’t last very long usually and once a rift is sealed there’s no single obvious next place to go. There might be 2-3 other rifts nearby, plus an invasion running past. Which one to go to? Even if you decide as a group to go to another rift, things get confused because you’re not going to “The Windmill” you’re going to “that fire rift east of here” and invariably people get side tracked or confuse east for west or end up going to the life rift to the east or whatever. And so the group gets scattered over time. You wouldn’t believe how often I see in chat someone /shout “Another rift over here!” as it we could hear the direction he was calling from.
Now again, you can just ignore public groups, to be sure. The only downside there is that you never know. If you’re at a rift with 10 people and they all really ARE in a public group then you probably want to get in on it because otherwise no one is going to help you (people naturally focus on characters in their own group/raid). So really, you have to at least try. But constantly joining/leaving groups in the chaos of a rift battle can be dangerous. I died more than once because I was focusing on getting into or out of a group rather than on combat.
I think Trion needs to keep working on this system. There needs to be some way to keep a group focused. I’m not sure what it is. At the least, don’t put a player who clicks “Join Public Group” in a raid where most of the players are far, far away. Maybe groups need to auto-split out from raids when the group leaders get too far apart? Just thinking out loud here…
I don’t want to end on a negative note though, because jumping back into beta reminded me of how much I enjoy the game. I snuck in a bit on Tuesday or Wednesday night and the community was pretty bad. With all the VIP keys being given out, the servers were horribly laggy and I got the sense there were a lot of people playing who were committed to other games, and who were just trying Rift out of curiosity and looking to re-affirm their decision not to leave their current game for Rift.
By Friday night and Saturday morning, things seemed much better. Lag was much reduced and the community was more upbeat. Those “tourists” were probably back in their “home” game doing raids or something.
There’s something about combat in Rift that just brings me joy. I’m sure it’s too fast for some people and too slow for others but for me it just feels good. I fight constantly because I find fighting fun. When I’m going to get or turn in a quest I don’t go around mobs, I go through them for the joy of doing so (not so much with Rifts since I’m up against a time limit with them).
Popping back into Beta 5 re-affirmed my decision to pre-order and to commit to Rift for a 6-month stint. I do reserve the right to change my mind, of course, and I hope Trion stops making the game easier. I have faith in them that they’ll do the right thing.