During Trion’s closed beta events, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to test the game. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and an ever-so-hectic real life, I was only able to play for an hour or so one weekend. My initial response was pretty much in-sync with that of the other bloggers I read: Very shiny, nothing really new.
Now, to be fair, I only played until about level 5, only had two of my 3 souls, and had gone with my tried-and-true spec in most games: pet + ranged. I do loves me some Ranger/Hunter types.
When the Open Beta event came around, I was able to put in a few more hours. Rose and I both had fun leveling some Guardians together (I had previously stayed strictly Defiant) and though we didn’t get much further than I had been before, the game seemed to “click” a bit better with even just a duo. When Rose wasn’t able to play I would hop back over to the Defiant side of things. This time I rolled up a Cleric with a build that looked fun (Druid, Shaman, Justicar – one that I later read to be an ideal leveling spec, go me!). MAN was she fun to play. The little pocket-Fae that could assist in battle or heal, the “traditional” Cleric who wears heavier armor, can bring the hurt with a big-ol’ mace, as well as casting? Booya. I made it to about level 12 with this character and got to experience a fair few Rift events.
On the last day of Open Beta I got to experience a Rift assault. The whole zone was ablaze, evil minions were marching toward our quest hubs, sacking little roadside places on the way. It. Was. EPIC. One of the most fun things I’ve done in a MMO in quite a while. Having two full raids of 20 group up to help banish the baddies was very fun to see.
See, Rift doesn’t do a whole lot of new things. They’ve taken what works in established MMOs, put a very shiny coat of paint on it, and proceeded to make a stellar product. That alone could probably be enough to keep them going strong, even with just a minimal amount of subs.
However, Rift DOES add a couple very big new things: the soul system and the Rift events themselves. It’s easy to overlook these things and say “yeah, but besides those…” but that’s the trick, you CAN’T look past those. Everything you do in the game will be based on how you level with your souls. You’re only ever locked into them for the first 13 levels of your character. At that point, you can do quests from your faction’s capital city to unlock all of the others. You can then buy “builds” (a la WoW’s dual-spec) to be slotted with different souls. To my knowledge you can have 4 of these builds (after you purchase them) that can be swapped whenever you want. You can have a Tank spec, a DPS spec, a Heal spec, and a PvP spec; all on one character, all with WIDELY different abilities.
And that’s where the system really shines. If you pick a Rogue and take in the Ranger/Marksman way (pet and ranged) to level with, when you hit level 13 you could make another spec (or change your current one) to be the stealth-and-stab rogues you traditionally think of. Or you can make them into a sort of hybrid tank. The choices are only as endless as your creativity for mixing the souls together.
As far as the Rift events are concerned: AWESOME. Never have I been so easily distracted from my questing goals than I have with these events. Well, other than gathering nodes. I do loves me some shiny resources. Anyway, after you have explored a section of the map, you can then open it at any time to see if there are any rifts currently open in the area. Then it’s just a matter of running over to them, joining the public group (a handy “Join Public Group” button appears – nice!), and helping to beat down some Planar baddies. These events are so much fun, give great rewards, and really help to mix up your time in game. These events range from one-off summoning to zone-wide invasions that can take an hour to clear. Very, very fun.
Oh, in case I didn’t make it clear – after playing the Open Beta, Rose and I decided to pre-order the game on Steam, and are currently involved in the Head-Start program. The game doesn’t officially launch until tomorrow, but we’ve managed to log in a few times this past week. I’ve leveled a couple characters and I’m loving every single one. If you hop in game, come seek me out! You’ll most likely find me on one of these:
-Kalandra, Guardian Cleric – This character won’t get played much anymore. Faeblight is the single-highest population server and the queue times make it something I just don’t want to mess with.
-Jaarka, Guardian Rogue – This was a new character I made last night. We got all the way through the tutorial and made a decent dent in the starting quests afterward. He will probably be my main in the evenings when I can group with Rose and others.
-Xialas, Defiant Warrior – This is the character I’ve been soloing on mostly when no one is around to group with. I’m a little bit on the fence with her still, but trying to give her a good chance before shelfing her. Warriors are fun, but they seem to lack a certain bit of survivability.