It’s fairly easy for me to identify which game is holding a candle in my heart and gently warming the hearth of my affections, because I often find myself quietly humming one of the game’s iconic theme tunes throughout the working day. This morning, as I made a cup of tea in the office kitchen, I caught myself subconsciously humming the tune to a game which I’ve recently returned to playing — the gamer equivalent of catching yourself doodling the name of someone you didn’t realise you fancy, onto the cover of your exercise book during a particularly dreary double lesson in geography.
I had been playing the game, yes, but I didn’t realise that it had settled itself quite so highly in my regards. It’s no mean feat, because as anyone who reads this blog will know, when it comes to MMOs my Tower of Regard has but one heavily guarded ground floor entrance, and the only way to climb any higher is by way of a thin rope slicked with oil, covered by crossbowmen, with angry lions tied on every five meters for good measure. I had only intended to noodle around with the game in question, which I like to do in an attempt to determine further what does and doesn’t work for me in an MMO and why; so it was quite the surprise to find that it had slipped like a thief in the night up that perilous rope to a higher level in my Tower of Regard.
I’d had a hankering for playing another MMO, what with my enthusiasm for solo SWTOR being reduced to staring sloth-like at the screen –tongue hanging out and down to one side– as the game frantically clung to the bottom of the rope in the Tower of Regard, legs lifted and wrapped tightly around the rope near its head, such that its bottom swung pendulously a few centimetres above the floor. Meanwhile, static groups in various other games meant that my desire for playing said games outside of Group Hug Time was greatly diminished. So the choice was between EQ2 and Rift, seeing as both had options to play for free. Rift now offers a trial of its first twenty levels with some basic restrictions (such as not being able to equip items of purple quality or higher), whereas EQ2 offers a more ‘freemium’ affair, with a selection of races and classes available, but with many desirable options tucked away in display jars behind the sweetshop counter that is their in-game store. One such fruity boiled-sugar delight was the beastlord class, whose play-style sounded intriguing, both different and powerful, akin to the Artificer in DDO or the Warden in LotRO; it’s the sort of design where it appears that the developers took leave of their shareholder-aligned senses, and briefly went bonkers.
“I know” [puff] “let’s… uh, make a monk… that’s also a conjuror.”
“Yeah man.” [drag] “Yeah. Give it pets and kung-fu and healing and, like, stuff.”
“I-… it should also, like, be,” [puff] “y’know, part demon and part… badger.”
[pull] “An’… an’ it can totally transform into a spaceship.”
[drag] “An’ be able to wear fine hats.”
“Pfff, nah, that’s just silly.”
Unfortunately the Beastlord was all that really interested me, and seeing as it was locked behind a heftily priced expansion, while possibly also requiring a purchase of the class itself from the EQII Store, in that moment of decision I went with Rift’s more amenable ‘We’re here. These are the first twenty levels of the game. Pick any race or class you desire. Now login and away you go’.
Thirty levels and a one-month recurring subscription later I’m still playing the game, as well as quietly humming its theme tune the next morning while making a cup of tea. I’m not entirely sure how the game has managed to shimmy its way up that oil-slick rope; it’s not that there isn’t plenty to like about Rift, but I can’t see how it’s more compelling than, say, SWTOR. I do have some ideas as to why I’m enjoying the game, however, and hopefully they’ll be suitable fuel for the muse to generate future posts on the subject.
One thing I have discovered is that I’m definitely a sucker for the front-loaded free MMO experience – Rift is currently getting my money where EQII was offered the chance first; despite the former having a much more restricted experience over the entire levelling range, it offered the greater freedom in that part which was free to play. It seems that the short-lived but rich bait of ‘free to play freely’ is the more tempting lure with which to capture me, as opposed to the long lasting but restrictive bait, which keeps me nibbling for ages but rarely lets me take a bite big enough that I find myself subsequently hooked.
Some of the things Rift gives away for free is very generous when compared even to other sub games, like being able to rename characters and transfer servers for free, even trial players can do it. Well there is the downside that to rename a character, you have to transfer a character to another server already containing a character with the same name, then wait 7 days to transfer back again but not having to spend cash is a big deal. Not subscribed at the moment, but having fun levelling a cleric, going to subscribe in a short while to access my lvl 50 rogue again.
Ah, most useful! I must admit I’m a bit of a fool for chaning the name of my characters all the time, so to know that I can do so for free (with a little effort) is most splendid, thanks!
I’ve gone with a warrior (although I do love the bard class) because I’ve slowly grown to love the self-healing sword’n’board style of character. I imagine a melee cleric would also work well in this regard.
It’s a bit quiet in the zones at these low levels (although that may just be my choice of EU server), but that does mean I can build my character any which way I want, without fear of remonstration from other players. I’m really rather enjoying my hybrid build, even though it would be heavily pooh-poohed at the end game, and possibly even in rift PuGs.
However, I’m hoping it’s not the case that I’m enjoying Rift so much because other players have buggered off and left me to play the game in a way which makes me happy. Time will tell.
The thing I love about Rift’s open world end game at the moment is you can get Raid quality gear running around chasing invasions and questing in whatever manner you see fit. There had to be 100 of us killing a huge jewel encrusted bone dragon on Ember Isle yesterday so nobody said a word about me barding it to death just because it looked cool/silly.
KiaSA was the reason I gave Rift a shot last year after Hating the beta…glad you’re giving it another go. I’m at 10 months in now and remain impressed at the priorities of the dev team and how they balance interpreting metrics and simply listening to the player base.
I’m certainly hoping that the open grouping mechanic which surrounds the rifts will continue somewhat come the end game, that will give me something to do outside of raiding, which as I’ve stated many times before is not really my thing.
I’m very glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed Rift for so long after giving it another try; I’m hoping I’ll find the same, because then it will give me a solid MMO to enjoy until Guild Wars 2 comes along, at the very least.
There is always at least one raid group for each side on Ember Isles during invasions. Even if you are not in a raid group, it is easy to hold sourcewells on your own, but there is usually 2 or 3 players, that’s feels more rewarding too than running with the zerg and there is a daily quest for each sourcewell. I’m not sure about the old high level zones now, Shimmersand and Stillmoor, I think raids still form but they are slower to get up and running. There’s ‘Instant Adventures’ in both of those zones, that when I last tried them had several players running in the raid, I’m really hoping they bring this system to Ember Isles and the other zones, because it’s the most fun, hectic way to do traditional questing.
Chaoti-raiding sounds most intriguing, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for that once I reach the upper echelons of power.
Actually that reminds me: I must read around the subject some more, as I imagine I’m probably missing some features as I level through the game solo; I’ve certainly learnt some interesting titbits from all of you already, so ta muchly for that!