So I joined the flock and re-subbed to Rift yesterday, for a variety of reasons, the main one being that gamer enthusiasm is, for me at least, super contagious. Too many of my friends seemed to be having a blast for me to not at least take a peek in. I mean, it’s only $15 to sub-up for a month and satisfy my curiosity.
What I found was that really, things haven’t changed. Player population is still a huge issue in the mid-levels. I play on Faeblight, Guardian side, and I checked the Social Window at 9:30 Eastern on a Saturday night and here’s what I found (click for a readable version):
The reason this is a problem is that there are Story-Quests that require a group. In my particular case, I had to close a Fire Rift (a static, placed Rift like you encounter in the intro, not a random Rift) in the Scarlet Gorge. Ironically I did encounter another player in the Gorge and helped him close the Rift before I got the quest, but when my time came there was 1 other player in the zone and s/he was AFK or just ignoring me. I tried and tried to solo that Rift but it’s designed for 3 players and even though I was over-level I wasn’t -that- over-level. I’d given up on the whole thing and was riding out of the zone to find other entertainment when I got a ping of exp/reputation and I realized someone had just killed a Rift mob I’d previously tagged. I rode back, dragging a train of mobs with me in my desperation to get there on time (I’d pushed the Rift to stage 4 of 5 solo) and found a level 50 taking down the final boss. I auto-joined her group and managed to tag the mob with 1 spell before she killed it, and I got the quest complete.
I know the announced expansion will support Mentoring so that those level 50 players can come back to the rest of the world and help out the mid-tier folks and get some fun out of doing so, and I think that’s the single most important feature of the expansion. The only other solution I can think of is some kind of Hireling system for folks who’re stuck with no companions to help them take down small-group content.
So my day in Rift sucked, right?
Actually, no it did not. It didn’t take me long to slip back into the cadence of my bardic rogue and it was fun to be roaming the world of Telara again. Also there is one upside to the sparseness of the population and it’s that when you do run into someone you’re more prone to interact with them. Think about it…when you’re walking down a city street you don’t talk to strangers but when you’re on a country road and haven’t seen anyone for 20 minutes and pass someone walking the other way, you’re more apt to say “Hello” and exchange a few pleasantries. That’s how Rift feels. Also the lack of other players out there makes the world challenging in a good way.
Also the dynamic Rift scaling seems to be working as advertised. I closed a few Rifts solo while wandering deserted areas. The only tricky bit is when you push the Rift into 1 too many bonus stages and get it to where you can’t defeat that stage’s mobs. Then you can’t close the Rift and don’t get credit. That seems like a flaw to me. Why punish the players for pushing into bonus stages? I got to where I’d run around until the timer ran out after about stage 2 so things didn’t get too difficult.
So I had fun and I don’t regret spending my $15 but I don’t think there’s enough here to hold me. The solo PvE experience isn’t that compelling and is filled with very unheroic feeling chores. Last night I had to gather firewood and water plants, for goodness sake. My bard dude fights almost on auto-pilot, spamming the same 3 attacks to build combo points and restore health and then hitting a finisher, either melee or ranged depending on the mob. Over and over again. After TERA this kind of combat feels really uninspired solo; clearly you need the dynamics of a group to make all these skills meaningful. Ditto the varied Roles. When playing alone there’s no reason to change Roles.
Still, I’m sure I’ll re-up for a longer term when the expansion comes out. Trion is still enjoying it’s “Good Guy” status in the MMO Player community; they seem to have managed to avoid doing anything to really piss us off and the regular roll-out of game updates makes me want to see them succeed.