Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Rift is the Best MMO On the Market

Let's begin by assuming you're either new to Rift or are considering picking up the game.  In the prior case, you worry about whether your investment will pay off in fun dividends.  In the latter case, your trigger finger is a bit shaky and you're hesitant to make the jump.  With this entry to The Ascended Chronicle, I'm going to make the argument to support your leap of faith and I'm going to do so with 5 examples among myriad to whet your appetite.

1) So Different yet So Similar

For those considering the jump over to Telara from Azeroth, or any other world for that matter, often the most significant hindrance preventing the switch is one of comfort level.  I played WoW for seven years.  Prior to that I played Final Fantasy XI.  Even before that, I played Ragnarok Online.  Somewhere in between I've played Warhammer Online, Aion, Tera, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Needless to say, although I'll say it regardless, I've had my fair share of MMO experience and have performed the proverbial "jump" countless times.  Never before has a transition been so seamless as it was to Rift.  The game simply "feels" and "plays" similar to other MMOs like WoW.  It uses an interface you'll immediately be at home with and employs a combat style not too far removed from that which you're accustomed to.  To the game's credit, Trion has implemented a slight bit of realism into Telara's presentation and, as such, has forgone the inclusion of spectacular combat effects commonly referred to on MMO gaming forums as "rainbow sprinkles and unicorn farts".  Rift's combat is guttural with a tinge of realism that still gives Trion's unique take on MMOs a somehow familiar feeling.  Further, the user interface is laid out in a predictable manner and one that will take all of about 30 seconds to get used to.

2) The Little Things are often The Big Things

In 13+ years of MMO gaming experience, I've never witnessed a development studio whom gives more attention to "quality of life" improvements than Trion.  Seemingly every patch or hotifx provides a new, sometimes simple yet much appreciated improvement that aims for nothing more than improving the little things in Rift.  Need to find an item in your completely full bags quickly?  Hit CTL + F and start typing the name of the item as you inventory is dynamically highlighted in accordance with your search.  This works on both the bank and guild bank inventories as well.  There's even some special filters you can use such as search for "/a" which will highlight any artifacts in the inventory being viewed.  Are you someone who likes your portrait nameplates down near your action bars and your chat area to the screen's right?  Hit ESC and go to "Edit Layout" and you'll find that the entire interface - literally every single piece of it - can be moved wherever you want.  Do you want to roll multiple characters even putting a few of them on other realms but cringe at the thought of having to configure the UI, keybindings and macros for each character?  Trion's got your back as with the click of a button you can import any settings, from any character on any server at any time.  Further, you can be selective about what you wish to import.  Want to sell all poor quality items quickly?  There's a button for that right on the merchant pane.  Wish you could record video but don't feel like picking up a copy of Fraps and don't really know you're way around video editing software?  There's YouTube integration built right into the game that let's you easily record, encode and upload video straight to your YouTube account.  I could honestly go on for days about all the "little" things that are present in Rift simply to make your life easier but why not click around yourself?

3) It's Not "In a Few Minutes" Adventure.  It's INSTANT Adventure

Some may wonder why I'd call out this specific feature as there are countless to choose from.  In short, I feel this provides as good an example as any to make my point.  To put things in perspective, this aspect of Rift was actually put into the game during a hotfix.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It wasn't part of a major patch but rather an idea somebody at Trion had one day that was received well and given the proverbial green light.  Instant Adventure is precisely what you would expect: adventure at the click of a button.  It's one thing to grind out quests on your own or even in a small group.  It's entirely another thing to be instantly teleported to a location in Telara and take part in a dynamic campaign of scalable objectives.  Simply hit the "." key and choose between Shimmersand/Stillmoor adventures or the more challenging Ember Isle adventures.  Within 5 seconds you'll receive a prompt with which you can immediately teleport right into the action and be placed into a raid of up to 20 players.  It's good experience.  It's good notoriety.  It's a good way to earn currency such as planarite or inscribed sourcestones and, most importantly, it's great fun.  In the next patch, instant adventure, is coming to literally every zone in the game so low-level characters can participate as well as any max-level characters that wish to mentor themselves down to an appropriate level.  Don't worry, if you mentor yourself down for a lower-level instant adventure, you still get experience, notoriety and currency consistent with your level!  Simply put, Instant Adventure is innovative, fun and is yet another example among myriad of just how much passion Trion puts towards this game.  In fact, this point provides an adequate segway to my next area of focus:

4) Rift:  Clearly a Labor of Love

Seven years of WoW and I can say with confidence that there's few better feelings than that of anticipating patch day.  I knew my addons would most likely break and I understood that the game itself would be a buggy cesspool for a few days beyond launch but it didn't matter because a substantial amount of content was on its way and that's precisely why I was playing the game in the first place: to enjoy the content I'm being provided.  It was the buzz of a new Arena season and the footrace between quest hubs.  It was the set of initial footsteps into a new raid zone and aromatic scent of new challenges lying in wake.  Ah, patch day - you couldn't arrive soon enough.  Unfortunately, that rang truer than I had, at the time, anticipated.  Hindsight always being 20/20, and after a year in Telara, I look back at my time in WoW and wonder how I even managed it.  Trion puts out content at a blistering pace that makes my time in Azeroth look ridiculous by comparison.  As an example, World of Warcraft patch 4.2 was pushed live on June 28, 2011. With it came one new raid instance and a daily quest hub outside along with a handful of balance and "quality of life" fixes.  Patch 4.3 arrived on November 29, 2011 and was a much larger patch feature-wise.  To put things in perspective, between June 1 and November 30 of that same year, Trion put forth a "bit" more aggressive of a schedule.  Also, consider that my Instant Adventure example above, is one of many features that have arrived in this game via hotfix:

  • Patch 1.3 - 
    • New 20m Raid:  Hammerknell Fortress (11 encounters)
    • Guild banks
    • Free character transfers
    • New tract of artifacts across all of Telara called "Twisted" artifacts essentially doubling the amount of artifacts in the game
    • Raid Rift overhaul
    • New World Event
  • 15 hotfixes (minor patches) for Patch 1.3 
  • Patch 1.4
    • New Warfront:  Whitefall Steppes: Escalation
    • LFG tool now cross-server
    • PvP Rifts: open world, objective-based PvP hubs
    • New epic questline: The Water Saga
    • New 10m raid: Drowned Halls (4 encounters)
    • Quest journal overhaul
  • 8 hotfixes for Patch 1.4
  • Patch 1.5
    • Chronicles:  solo or two-person dungeons modeled after Rift's many raid environments
    • Planar Attunement:  character advancement beyond the level cap
    • Veterans Rewards: unique items such as mounts, costumes and more for veterans of Rift
    • New tier of dungeon content: Master Mode - Take on the dungeon "Dungeon Darkening" deeps with heightened difficulty, a new encounter and greater rewards
    • New Warfront:  Library of the Runemasters
    • Addon support
    • New World Event
  • 15 hotfixes for Patch 1.5
  • Patch 1.6
    • Ember Isle: An entire new zone increasing the world map by roughly 20% with dailies, epic questlines, new Rifts, new zone invasions, and tuned for well-geared level 50 characters
    • New 10m Raid: Rise of the Phoenix (4 encounters)
    • New Warfront: Black Garden: Stockpile
    • New Level 50 dungeon: Caduceus Rise - it's the size of two dungeons and can be done in halves
    • New world event
    • Tier 2 Planar Attunement - another tier of planar attunement trees for character advancement beyond the level cap
  • 3 hotfixes for Patch 1.6
To be honest, the above list doesn't quite do the reality proper justice.  There are so many improvements and features packed into the hotfixes themselves that to list them out here ad nauseum would push this blog posting well into literary territory bordering upon absurdity.  Suffice it to say, I'll let the contents herein speak for itself.  Let me ask you, though: when was the last time you played an MMO that boasted a content update schedule so aggressive?  I'll answer that for you:  you haven't because it's never been done before.  And it's this very fact, which leads me to my final example of why Rift is, without question, the best MMO on the market today.

5) "We're Just Getting Started"

For Rift's one year anniversary, Trion did a great deal of interesting and fun things.  Among them was releasing an anniversary video to commemorate the occasion and whet the collective appetites of Ascended across the world.  At the end of that video, Scott Hartsman states that Trion, with respect to Rift, was "just getting started".  From any other company, this could easily be considered simply as market posturing and little more.  From Trion, however, you couldn't help but be instilled with a sense of wonder at how they could possibly outdo their history.  Then it began in February with the release of patch 1.7 which completely overhauled itemization at max level to make it a smooth and understandable progression.  With that patch they also included quite a few PvP updates including an all-new Mercenary system that drastically cut queue times for Warfronts.  That same patch also introduced in-game weddings, a "purpose" system for helping new players through the extensive soul system, approximately twice as many expert mode dungeons to run, a new Chronicle and a new master mode dungeon.  Just two months and several hotfixes later, patch 1.8 was released offering a new 20m raid, two new professions (Fishing and Survival), a Guild Finder system, Leaderboards spanning every  aspect of Rift and a new "Seal" item slot.  We're only halfway through the year on this 13th day of June 2012 yet patch 1.9 is already on the PTS while patches 1.10 and 1.11 are both still planned for later this year.  Were we to stop there, one might still marvel before the blistering pace at which Trion pushes quality content into their game.  Yet even still, it was recently announced that Trion has all along been putting together an expansion that will, literally, triple the size of the known world.  What's more is that this expansion is targeted for Fall 2012 and includes, at bare minimum, the following:
  • Two new continents each as large or larger than the existing Telaran continent
  • Countless epic quest sagas taking you through all the new lands and telling their stories
  • A new, faction-neutral stronghold called Tempest Bay
  • A raised level cap to 60 from 50
  • A new soul for each of the four callings to bring the total soul's per calling to 9
  • Instant Adventure for every new zone
  • 7 new dungeons
  • 3 new raids
  • 1 new chronicle
  • New Rift type: Hunt Rifts - rifts that scale in difficulty to provide increasing challenges over time
  • A colossus world boss whom interacts with the environment in ways never seen before in MMOs.  He smashes through walls, scales bridges and can be attacked via several different targeted areas that each dynamically alter the encounter.  The encounter itself is more than just your typical raid encounter as you will use the environment itself, power-ups, launchpads, cannons and more to take down this monstrosity with your fellow Ascended.
  • Player housing in the form of Dimensions.  Enjoy sipping mead from atop your stool in the Granite Falls Inn?  Why not carve out your own alternate reality version of that very location and make it your own!
  • Grandmaster crafting
  • New item slot: capes
And, as always, the above is just scratching the surface.  There are countless more improvements coming to the game in Rift: Storm Legion that to mention them all here would, well, hopefully you get the picture by now.

So what's holding you back?  I've played MMOs for 13+ years, and Rift is easily the best one I've laid my twitchy little fingers on.  The content keeps on coming, the improvements keep on rolling in and the future for Trion's labor of love is both bright and inviting.  Grab a friend and go solve the many puzzles and mental challenges hiding away in the corners and narrows of Telara.  Gather a group of allies and take on some Ember Isle Onslaughts.  Theorycraft until your heart's content with the expansive soul system that truly does let you play your class how you want to play it.  No matter what it is you enjoy most in an MMO, Rift has something to deeply sink your teeth into.  I'm Synovia on Faeblight-US and I'll see you in Telara.

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