Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Into the RIFT... Or, My life as a White Dude.

Boy am I glad the NDA was lifted today...

I have been chomping at the bit to tell everyone about RIFT, and finally I now have the opportunity, with pictures I hope (I really need an online storage space).

Last blog I spoke a bit about Rift, the new MMORPG (massively multiplayer, online, role playing game), in the hopes that I would be one of the chosen few in the closed beta testing sessions. Actually I think when I wrote it, I had JUST gotten my VIP beta key. Now I have been on the other side of the login screen, and man have I got tales to tell. Where to begin, where to begin...

First of all, What IS Rift?

You could simply click here  or, I can give you a brief summary. Rift is about a world named Telara that is under siege. Telara was a world built near the nexus of the elemental planes (earth, air, fire, water, life, and death), and as such is in a prime position from all these elements, who desire to conquer it for their own gains (except for death, the lord of death just wants it wiped out.... no surprise there.) Now on this world under attack are a few races, separated by geography, but united in their belief that their world will die if they do not do something. The problem is, some of the races feel the only way to do it is to rely on their Gods (who are living dieties, no guessing games as to whether their Gods exist), and the other races would rather look towards science and the research of the planes themselves to find a way to "fight fire with fire". These factions are thusly called The Guardians, and the Defiant, respectively. Things really got to a head sometime in Telara's past, and when the player is thrust into what is unanimously considered "present day", the world is at a point where both factions are at war with each other, as well as at war with the elemental planes, in a dog eat dog bid for survival.

I know, pretty intense huh?

Now for this past weekend's beta testing, we, the players, were asked to become part of the Guardian side of the fight. From that standpoint we could get an idea of what the world was like through the eyes of the faithful of Telara, who look to their Gods for help. I did not have issue with this since I want to play an Inquisitor, so religious fervor it would seem would play into my roleplaying hands perfectly. To begin with, we are treated with this video:

Pretty good setup. Ok so I am reborn by the Gods into a world at war.

Now my first and probably only major beef with the game was that as I created my character, it dawned on me that none of the races really gave me an option to create.... a BLACK dude! According to the lore the human race in this faction (The Mathosians) are from the north, and as such, are caucasian, to almost olive skinned. Nothing darker. Needless to say I was a bit taken aback. You mean to tell me no black folks have the spirit of the Gods moving in them? Wow... Apparently there are no Baptist churches in Telara, at least near the Guardian city of Sanctum. Of course, the Defiant side have humans called the Eth, and since they are from the south, they can get pretty dark. No worries when the game goes live, but it meant that I would have to live with being a white dude this weekend. There's a twist, the whitest black dude... literally. (Note- the next beta event I will have the option of choosing Defiant if I want, so I can be as black as i choose to be.)

So armed with the "holy spirit", Belenos the cleric began his journey. The first thing  I noticed in the keep of Sanctum was that not all the souls (ie- professions) were available from the get go. Granted MINE was, since I wanted to go Inquisitor, but there were a number of folks that were a bit miffed that they could not get straight to the soul they wanted to be. This is an issue that will also be rectified in the next beta, which already is a plus for Trion, since it means they actually LISTEN to their player base....  +1 to Trion.

The starter area was well laid out for the Guardian side... and it took me a while before I came to the realization that I am actually placed in Telara's PAST! I was able to gain levels as well as understanding about the war going on, even if at times I felt I was not really doing much to save the citizenry from almost certain doom. At this point I opted to go it alone, since the world was bright and new, and I needed to concentrate on what I am doing. Probably just as well, since just as soon as I start getting to the crux of the problems on Telara, I am asked to fight an epic battle against the lord of Death, Regulos, and though it takes my life, I end up winning.

Suddenly I awoke.... and found myself here.

A place called Port Scion. (That's me with the huge hammer on my back, sitting by the water's edge). I was informed that many years had passed, and once again the world is in peril. The most important thing  I noticed this time around was there were way more PLAYERS than NPCs in this zone! The quest NPCs by the way show chat bubbles or quest icons over their heads, so in a way it was easy to figure out where to go, or whom to see in order to advance myself to the next area. Some might see this as handholding, but considering it was my first time in the world, I kind of needed that. I get distracted easily and might have spent all of Friday night simply swimming in the bay. (It was pretty sweet looking). I eventually made my way up into Silverwood Forest, where the bulk of my adventuring would be, and my leveling.

At this point I should pause to explain one of the key differences between Rift, and other MMOs. The soul tree. Most MMOs will have you choose one path, and you get leveled along that path till you are max level, and that is it. If you want to experience another path, you have to make another alt. If you are lucky your game has in it an expertise tree so you can add some extra skills and attributes as time goes on.

Rift does it differently. The soul tree is your path, but here is the kicker. You can have THREE! Not to mention there are 8 souls, per calling (the callings are Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, Mage), and you can save 4 loadouts of your trees, making the possibilities pretty impressive for whatever you want to be. You can also change this at any time. SO let's say I want to be a healer who also does some wicked melee attacks, and does some ranged DPS. Well I can be an Inquisitor / Justicar. Justicars heal the more they attack using their hammers, or mauls. Inquisitors do ranged DoTs and so on. Now as time goes on, if I wanted to add a third soul I could pick any of the other 5 available to me, and level up in that, adding the skills of that soul to my existing tree. Pretty darn ingenious if you ask me. The system is not yet perfect, but for what it is, it is really well thought out considering the game is only in beta.

As i journeyed onwards, I was treated to the meat and potatoes of the game in a most exciting way. I was standing in the forest, having just finished organizing my new skills, when suddenly the sky darkened, the sound boomed, and lo and behold, a rift opens up above my head! There is nothing to prepare you for the sheer awe that is a rift opening! One moment, it is a beautiful afternoon with birds chirping, next, you are standing amidst a lava strewn land with demons and goblins spawning all around you.... and worst of all, THEY SEE YOU! Only one thing for it... RUN!!!!

The above picture is an example of what the goblins look like. Some have stayed on Telara to start a foothold for their elemental plane (Fire), and are part of the quests you have to kill, but these goblins are nothing compared to the invasions that pour in when a rift opens. Since rifts are dynamic, if players do not seal them off post haste, they will eventually spawn enough invaders to take over the towns, villages, etc... and let me tell you that is not a pretty sight, especially if they are stronger than you, travel in numbers, kill you multiple times, then camp the spawn point when your soul is revived... AND kill the soul healer woman who removes your death penalty. I had just such an experience with the Satyrs that spawn from the life rifts. They hate me with a passion for some reason, and took every opportunity to wipe me out, especially if I was travelling alone, or decided, "let me sit for a while and enjoy the countryside". Luckily the chat system is pretty robust, so at any given time the call can be sent out to general chat, level specific chat, profession specific chat, guild, group, or just plain yelling that help is desired. Not surprisingly, in short order, a bunch of players will drop what they are doing and run to help seal off the rift. Talk about a community effort. I am sure I do not need to tell you that those sinister Satyrs did not last long enough to revel in destroying little old me the first time.

It was indeed impressive to see so many players run out to help whenever the call went out, and when it was all said and done, and the world peaceful again, you can TELL the calm has returned. If only for a few minutes... the world went back to being serene, the NPCs came back out (respawned if they were killed), and life returned to that relative normalcy on Telara that would allow you to go on your merry way questing and leveling your character.

Speaking of the world, I know I only got a small taste of it, one zone to be precise, but can I just say WOW. I am a visual person. A game has to have incredible graphics to interest me, and I admit that was part of what drew me to this particular one... It is also one of the main reasons why I will never play World Of Warcraft. I cannot stand their graphics. In Rift, everything looked like it was done with some degree of intricacy and care, right down to my garb. Chainmail rings glinted in the sun, while the sun dappled through leaf canopies overhead. My Maul of doom looks like it has been through some battles but is not much more tarnished than I would expect it to be since I take care of my items. The buildings fit the scenery, and although doors on the buildings do not open (a minor letdown), You really do not need to get inside the buildings to appreciate their architectural beauty... Except the INN... You HAVE to see the Inn in Argent Glade. I was hanging out in there for a couple hours in between life rift invasions. My favorite though would have to be the lush countryside. As I stated a little earlier there were times  I just wanted to sit by the road and take in the scenery. Of course my mistake was to sit in areas that would happen to have a significance to any invading elemental armies. Quite a few times my rest was interrupted by these interlopers.

Now unfortunately I missed most of Saturday's game time, since I had a party to go to where  I had promised I would cook. (It was great by the way), but Saturday night I was back on Telara, smashing and smiting my way to the capital city of Sanctum, as well as joining forces with some really great people for the good of getting a bunch of story related missions done, as well as sealing the occasional rift or ten.

One of the few complaints I had being a Cleric was that my healing skill was not up to the par of some of the other clerics, but I realize now that the way I meted out my skill points in my two soul trees (Inquisitor and Justicar, remember) left me in the position of being mainly offensive with no real strong defense, let alone the all crucial heal. Come next beta session I intend to revamp that. Some have told me that I chose two professions that really do not mix well with each other, but I beg to differ. I still believe it can work, and I intend to prove it. Had I been able to play Saturday during the day, I might have gotten to level 20 and done the quests I needed to get that all important third soul (I only got to level 19 by Monday morning), but since this was all a learning experience for me, I took it in stride.

When I finally made it to the capital city of Sanctum, I arrived just in time to help seal off a rift and stop a major invasion headed straight for the citadel. One of the things that impressed me about the NPCs there is as soon as it was all over, they CELEBRATED! For several minutes they danced, screamed in joy, played music, and actually gave you the feeling that they were grateful for the work you and the other "Ascended heroes" (players) did to save their way of life. It did not just feel like a bunch of NPCs standing around doing nothing... They actually gave me a real reason to roleplay it up. Other players celebrated as well, and it created the kind of feel good community spirit I have not seen since the good old days of Sanctuary guild in SWG. My hat goes off to Trion for creating a world with NPCs that actually respond to the world itself.

It seemed the best was yet to come on Sunday however...

I greeted Sunday with missions to the marsh to reclaim some items stolen by Boglings. I took my trusty maul and made the sinners repent, before I absolved them of both sins and life.

The quests themselves were easy since I had leveled up a little bit and was actually a higher level than the quests  I was doing. That worked for me. However, the devs had a little surprise for us as I made my way back to the town of Argent Glade, and the mission givers.

What you are seeing there is a giant tree. A Treant to be precise... and a nasty one too. This sucker took us almost 30 minutes to kill, and had some very impressive attacks, including a "knockdown" that literally threw players back a good 100 or so feet. I am sure  I do not need to tell you that once this bad boy made his way upon Telara, everyone and their uncle from one side of Silverwood to the depths of Sanctum came RUNNING over to get a piece of this tree. Apparently this was the secret goal of the developers this weekend, was to test out the epic monsters, and see how well the servers would handle 20, 30, sometimes 50 people in one place trying to kill a monster that habitually simply STEPPED on players to kill them in one go. When one Treant was not enough, they had to spawn two (one a few hours later), and when both Treants went the way of the wood splinter, they decided to bring out a third one when we least expected it... in the dead of night. (Day and Night last roughly 3-4 hours real time a piece). The night time tree even had the ability to turn us all into deer.... which was really funny to see, if not annoying to be fighting as.

No matter what the devs threw at us, our combined community effort repelled it... Even if it took us upwards of an hour to do, we never gave in, never gave up. It was truly epic. When trees just were not enough, they decided to spawn a giant goblin named Cinderon, who took us even longer to kill. In short, it was an impressive battle royale that made me glad the player community is as active as it was, and glad I had gotten those skills ahead of time that  I was working towards.

The piece de resistance came on Monday morning, two hours before the server had to be closed, marking the end of beta session two. All weekend people had been talking about the Fae instance, a sub section of the world called the Realm Of The Fae, where each section was a season of the year, and the fairy denizens within all wanted to kill you in the name of their lord, Lord Twyl, and ultimately the Dragon of the plane of Life- Greenscale. I quickly gathered a group of 5 (the max you can have in a group), and we went into the Realm of the Fae to dispatch this Lord Twyl.

Through Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter we fought valiantly. We did have some problems with Spring, as our strategy was not as sound as it should have been and we spent a few tries just to get it right. Unbeknownst to me, there is a certain order that the boss monsters should have been killed. I will not reveal that secret to you though... You gotta find out on your own.

Summer was pretty straightforward, but also required some careful planning, lest we call upon our hides way more enemies than 5 people could handle. A couple tries at it taught us what to do, and in short order, Summer was history... even the disgustingly amphibian looking boss monster that had a nasty habit of farting on us.

Autumn was by far my favorite. As it should so happen, the natural denizens of this particular zone were none other than my favorite enemies... yup... the damn Satyrs! They were more concerned with getting drunk on wine and hosting their Dionysian themed festivities to notice as we intruded on the sanctity of their revelry and got to the business of cracking skulls. A plus to this zone was that the boss monster had a voice over, which added a bit of immersion to the whole section.

By the way, here is the finalized group I went with... awesome awesome people.

With Autumn taken care of, it was time for winter. Now if I was impressed by Spring, Summer and Autumn, I was damn near blown away by Winter! The moment we made it up the hill from Autumn's terrace, the wind began to blow, and with it the snow... next thing you know, we are in a veritable blizzard!

When I tell you I FELT COLD, it is no exaggeration. This section of the zone had such an impact on me with the howling winds, and impressive graphics that I literally started shivering. It almost looked like my character did too!

Sure enough we killed the winterized Treants and made our way to Twyl himself. It was a huge battle but unfortunately time was not on our side, so we wiped out the first time and could not kill him before we had to leave the zone in preparation for the server shut down.

Next time baby... next time.

With 19 levels under my belt, a little more understanding about Telara, the war, and the life of a white Guardian of Mathosia.... I decided to head back to Sanctum, and log out. I made my way to see the leader Cyril, to turn in one final mission I had done, when my chat started buzzing about some kind of HUGE invasion heading the way of Sanctum!

I left my Liege in the throne room and made my way outside to see the entire plane of Life attacking us all at once it appeared...

Without warning a huge, hulking form appeared from the forest, the green behemoth, the lord of the plane of Life himself... Greenscale the dragon!

Then all went grey...

Greenscale made short work of all the players in a 100 meter radius. Eventually he was repelled, and once his attack subsided we were treated to our last epic vision of the beta, on Faeblight server...

The one and only leader of the Defiant, Asha Catari, came to fight against the guardian leader Cyril Kalmar. To my surprise and in fact great pleasure, SHE BEAT HIM! She kicked his ass from here to next tuesday, even with a ton of players attacking her as well, she was able to hold EVERYONE off. I consider it poetic justice... That's what the Guardians get for turning me into a white boy all weekend lol. Any woman who can kill the leader of the other faction is a woman I WANT to follow! My mind is made up, from here on out, my life in Telara is DEFIANT!

The next beta session is December 28 - 31. I am in no way affiliated with Trion, but I guarantee you, I will be on Telara on Faeblight Server if it will let me...

If you are lucky enough to get into the beta, I will see you there!

Addendum- Known places you can get a beta key right now!

IGN Rift Kingdom Giveaway

Game Sector Network Giveaway