Rift has me happily frustrated – the difference between having a hyperactive puppy and feral cat on the end of a leash. Where the puppy strains with loll-tongued enthusiasm against its master’s restraining pull, desperate to investigate all the new things in the world –which primarily involves chasing cats, ducks, rabbits, other dogs, flies, leaves, shadows, and various other adversaries which the puppy has clearly made the hell up– the feral cat is generally to be found being dragged along on its back, or face, or pretty much any part of its body that isn’t its feet, while it claws and chews and hisses and yowls at the leash, the holder of the leash, and more than likely itself at several points during the ordeal.

My overarching frustration is with the soul system; my happiness with it comes from the fact that it provides me with the fundamental urgency and drive to continue playing the game. The soul system provides a nice level of flexibility with respect to character builds, with the standard caveat that this only applies to non-raiders who aren’t interested in optimising the heck out of every soul point. I prefer entertainment over efficiency when it comes to games, where optimisation is, for me, a vampire which preys on entertainment, sucking the fun from it and leaving nought but the dry empty husk of complicit conformity. Working hard. Efficiency. Toeing the corporate line. This is what I do in the real world, and because of that, when I enter a virtual world I want to be able to hunt naked through a forest, dance wild and carefree with my swords beneath a curtain of rain, or wade aimlessly across the snowy back of a mountain at the top of the world. Skyrim managed to invoke that feeling of blithe liberty, of spontaneity and sovereignty in sublime union, and I will always admire it for that.

I have a build for my warrior in Rift, a fairly common combination of Reaver/Paladin/Warlord because I do love me some self-healing tank, but I’ve eschewed the deep thirty eight point investment in Reaver that is common amongst end-game builds, instead opting for a little more variety, flexibility and fun by delving deeper into the Paladin soul. The frustration comes from the fact that I now have a build which I think will be a lot of fun to play, but I’ll need to get close to level fifty (the current level cap) before it all comes together and realises its full potential. Thus the happy frustration, where every level I gain more points towards completing my character, but in the meantime the character feels somewhat disjointed – a fractured piece of a greater whole. Rift still manages to achieve that careful balancing act, however, where the levelling leash both holds me back and at the same time enlivens my enthusiasm for progress.

The most dangerous temptation, of course, is to play an alt. I switched to my low level cleric alt last night, and the hit of gratification from getting soul points so quickly in those early levels was the MMO equivalent of shooting up, “Ohhhhhhh yeah. Mmmmmm, three soul points in as many minutes. That hit the spot, that hit the spot gooooood.[gurgle][slump]”. Thankfully there’s always Mrs Melmoth to keep me grounded, who takes exception to watching me sit in the dark and dribble into my keyboard, the hugely dilated pupils in my ghost-lit face staring blankly into the computer’s window of neon aurora.

My other happy frustration comes from Rift’s combat system, but I’ll save that for another post, where my recent travails with respect to LotRO’s combat system will hopefully provide a suitable (and possibly lengthy) counterpoint to my experiences with Rift.

Posted by Melmoth at 11:22 am