Once more into the Rift!

With beta 4, I’m changing servers on the Guardian side in order to join some old friends. That meant a new character for the first time since beta 2, and the first time since the skill point/soul distribution revamp.

I tried to look at the game with fresh eyes, to try to understand some of the common complaints. Obviously this is really hard to do and I didn’t have a lot of luck.

By level 6 I had 3 souls already (used to be you had to be 18) and I almost wonder if this is asking too much of new players. Level 6 is maybe an hour of relaxed play, unless you’re a total MMO noob who doesn’t understand how to move, attack, loot and interact with NPCs (Rift uses standard MMO systems for all these things).

I’ve heard some players wishing they could test new souls before committing to them. Some other games (which one escapes me) offers this and it sounds like a great idea. Rift doesn’t let you do this, but it does (now) at least allow you to examine a soul’s skill tree before choosing it. This is a new feature and it’s a bit hidden.

You get new souls as quest rewards. Before picking which soul you want, you can control-click on their icons to get shunted over to a copy of the skill tree for that soul. It feels a little weird to be using a quest reward window to do research. I mean I guess it’s the same as examining a piece of gear but it feels odd to me. Before they revamped the system you had only 4 souls to pick as your first one, and there were 4 NPCs you had to talk to as part of the quest; these NPCs told you a bit about that soul. I guess visiting 8 NPCs would be a bit dull. Anyway I think Trion needs to polish this system as well as publishing a nice big chart of the souls and what they’re best at.

Do keep in mind that while there are 4 archetypes (Warrior/Cleric/Scout/Mage) by mixing and matching souls you can really take on any role you want within your archetype. Tank cleric? Sure. DPS warrior? Yup. The archetypes are almost used as a character theme more than anything else.

Another common complaint is that you feel rushed through the tutorial. I’m not seeing this at all. Yeah there’s a lot of activity going on around you; battles and all that. But none of the mobs are aggro before level 5 or so. Yes, there’s a rushed ‘vibe’ but nothing is really rushing you. You can take as much time as you like to mess around with your UI, set up your friends list, or whatever.

Next, the “On Rails” complaint. Guilty as charged for the first 8-9 levels (1.5-2 hours). But if you’re lauding the new WoW newbie experience and criticizing this one, you’re being a total hypocrite. Both games shunt you from hub to hub pretty quickly in the first few levels.

I’ve heard complaints that the world is too small. This kind of dovetails in with the last point. Your journey from 1-9 is essentially along a corridor of quest hubs. But please, hit M, look at how much of the world, or even the starter zone, that you’ve explored, then zoom out. I don’t think the world is small at all. I’ve spent 3 beta events in 1 zone without getting bored.

Last, Rift is just another quest grind. Well by level 9 I was in Argent Glade fighting off rift invasions with a bunch of other players. In fact I dinged 9 in the midst of an invasion. Yup, you can play Rift as a quest grinder if you choose to, but there’s rifting and now PvP (though that doesn’t open up until level 10, at least not the Warfronts, so I can’t address that aspect yet, but I’m told you do get exp from PvP). If you choose to play it as a quest grinder then you’re missing out on some of the best features of the game.

In a comment to one of my earlier posts Green Armadillo of Player vs Developer criticized Trion for not exposing players to everything the game has to offer in the first hour. While in theory I agree that a game should hook you as quickly as possible, I don’t think it’s a practical option for Rift. Rift invasions are disruptive to the player experience. That’s kind of the point of the design of the game (see the recent Dev Diary for more details). But disrupting things during the tutorial phase of the game would (rightfully) draw the ire of many players. Can you imagine being in the midst of reading the tutorial pop-up windows and being steam-rolled by an invasion force? You do get to experience a rift in the first hour, but it’s carefully tucked away and always in the same place. Nor does it spawn invasion forces. It’s a pale reflection of the full experience.

So, surprising almost no one, I don’t see a lot of the complaints people are having. I didn’t get to play a lot last night. I wish I’d made note of my /played time. I’m guessing 2 hours over a few sessions. And I hit level 9 and Argent Glade (Guardian side) which feels to me like the end of the tutorial experience. I’m seeing “real” rifts now, the world is no longer a long narrow corridor, I’ve already got 3 hotbars (due in part to having 3 souls, and in fact that might be too many this early) set up; 1 for combat skills, 1 for utility skills (call pet, track plants, teleport back home, etc) and 1 for the myriad of consumables I’m getting from combating rifts.

My biggest gripe once again is inventory space! I’m spending all my cash on bags. More space, Trion. Please!

Also to anyone who has gotten this far. When you’re picking your souls, even if you’re a melee character, try to get at least one ranged attack (or a rush attack). One other complaint I have about fighting rifts: while you don’t have to tap a mob to get rewards at the end of the rift fight, there are daily quests to “Kill 10 Rift Creatures” which are basically free exp (since you’ll be killing them anyway) but to get credit for those kills you need to tap the critter. If you have to run up to a rift creature to tap it, you’re never going to get there before someone with an insta-cast ranged ability gets to it.

That’s my 2nd biggest gripe. It’d be nice if you got credit just for being in on the attack or even healing someone who’s taking damage from a rift critter.

That’s all for now. Beta beckons!

Oh, right now I’m playing a Druid/Warden/Justicar. I meant to be mostly Druid with some Warden and just the ‘freebie’ Justicar skill, but now I’m getting intrigued by the Justicar tree. My have to set up some new Roles for this guy…

6 thoughts on “Once more into the Rift!

  1. I’ve been holding out on preordering this game so bad. I feel all these good previews are too good to be true, but I think back to all the games that have come up short (in my opinion) and none of them have had this much great buzz. I’m torn

  2. The soul preview system is a challenge, and I don’t know how you handle it. If you limit player choices (as Trion did at first), you hamstring the customizability of the system. If you don’t limit player choices, your newbie can land in the position where the only way to make an informed choice is to review 50ish branch and root icons per soul to see what they’ll be getting.

    Or, more likely, they’ll pick without a full understanding of the consequences and then end up asking how they swap out the soul they got for one they want. Trion’s plan seems to be to tell folks that everyone will eventually get all their souls so there’s no need to offer a mulligan, but I’m not sure that players will – or should – be expected to slog through til the level cap and do epic quest lines just to recover from a poorly informed early game decision. (I have similar concerns with DCUO, which throws a lot of poorly explained choices at players during character generation.)

    One last thing that kind of concerns me about the selection system is that the cross-archetype souls seem like must-haves. In particular, any mage who does not take the archetype’s one healing soul ASAP seems like they’re hugely limiting their potential.

  3. Great write-up, Pete and we pretty much agree.

    I don’t think it’s really necessary to expose the player to rifts any sooner than they already are. The starting experiences for both factions are so far beyond almost every other MMO and a good chunk of WoW’s — oh, wait, Trion doesn’t make you do vehicle quests in the first five minutes, my mistake. As you go through, they’re colorful, full of action, good story, and have tons of extra stuff to add to the atmosphere: exploding volcanoes on the horizon, meteors streaming down to earth, skeletons pulling themselves up from the ground, lich lords summoning giant beasts on war torn fields; I don’t see how any of this could be considered sub-par apart from being linear. And every themepark has a linear beginning to help new players — real, new mmo players — get accustomed to this type of game.

    And then they all end with an epic Rift battle. 10 minutes after that, you get a scripted, quick spawning Rift battle to follow it up. My only complaint there is that it’s not exactly the best introduction to how will they pull it off later.

    In response to GA, though, you’re right in the system being a bit unforgiving to new players. Questions about resetting souls were very common last night. With so many options, it’s easy to get locked into one that looks great on paper but that doesn’t click in practice. The preview feature is nice but is asking a bit much from new players. For now, though, I think it’s safe to assume most players who buy the game at launch are familiar enough with the genre, and fans enough, to look through and use the system as is. They need to come up with a better option before they release a free trial, though, because I could see it being too cumbersome for the undecideds.

  4. Ah-ha! I knew I was forgetting something. My concern above won’t happen simply because how many/what type of rifts open is dependent on how many people there are in a zone. That’s what I get for commenting late! Sorry to spam your comments here, Pete, but I thought that was a pretty important clarification.

  5. I have to say bag space is the biggest issue for me. It could be that I am too scared to sell, or destroy something because when rifting you get so much stuff you can’t make heads or tails out of it.

    Playing with some friends that took up crafting there is also a huge problem with bag making. Hopefully they listen to the feedback, but the recipes require so much burlap, and cloth it just isn’t worth making bags. My understanding is you can make around 36 robes which will skill you up faster compared to 1 bag. That is a huge difference. Anyone with common sense is going to choose to make robes if it means they can level up their crafting faster.

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