Normally this morning I would go into my new game picks for the coming week to serve as alternate writing fodder to Blaugust. However that is not going to happen because I am not really feeling like writing that post today. I am struggling right now with a mix of allergies and asthma that have conspired to make me miserable. One of the things about being sick is that you tend to surround yourself by things that feel comfortable or nostalgic. Just as there is comfort food, there is also comfort gaming… and when I feel like shit I find myself wandered off into games I have pushed to the side. Essentially when I am feeling my worst I am lease capable of dealing with the stress of interacting with other people. As such yesterday and last night I ventured into a realm where almost nobody knows my name anymore… Telara. Rift was one of my games of the week for this past week, and with it comes a series of problems. Namely when I log in I am staring at a bag and bank full of dimension items and crafting materials. I am not sure if you are the same as me in this aspect, but if my bags are a mess there are so many times I will log in and then log right back out because I cannot be bothered to fix that situation. Honestly if I don’t do something quickly in Final Fantasy XIV I will be nearing that point as all of my retainers are clogged and my inventory continues to get more and more semi-permanent additions.
With Rift however I finally did something drastic. Last October Rift released the Nightmare Tides expansion, and I still don’t have a character to the new level cap of 65. During this time I have been accumulating crafting materials from doing the Minions minigame, and quite honestly I have more than I will ever actually use. By the time I actually get around to hitting the level cap I will more than likely have just as much materials I do now. So instead I decided to reinstall BananAH and post every single crafting material on the Auction House. It cost a lot of plat to post everything, but luckily by the end of the night I had managed to quadruple the amount of plat I had going into this experiment, and there are still a bunch of auctions up there that may or may not have sold over night. The money gained was a side benefit, the real mission was simply to clear the shit out of my inventory. At some point I will do the same with the various housing bits, because there are some things I will quite literally never end up using in any design. With the bags clear however I finally felt like I could actually go out into the world questing, and it improved my outlook on the game considerably.
While the great sell-off took care of one issue keeping me from playing Rift, I still had another big one standing in my way. Rift has quite possibly one of the most complicated character creation systems, namely that for a given class you can have any combination of three different souls from a pool of ten potential souls for each slot. If my math is correct… and I would seriously question that… but I believe that gives us 120 possible combinations with a pool of 76 talent points to distribute between your three trees. What I am trying to say is that basically every time I decide to play the game it requires a bunch of research on my part to determine what the current “viable” builds are and what purposes they serve. To say that Rift changes a lot is an understatement… they are constantly patching the game and tweaking things and often times these have ramifications have effects that trickle out and make or break the last patches specs. The class that I tend to care about the most however is the Warrior, and while I have a level 60 rogue and a level 60 cleric… I tend to mostly focus on Belghast first and foremost. So over the last week I have poked around the Class Guide forums and stumbled onto one that looked promising titled: Warrior Solo Leveling (61-65). Luckily it was not too far off from the build that I had tried leveling with before, so I was able to tweak out my hot bars without much issue.
One of the big strengths of Rift is also one of it’s great weaknesses. The macro system is excellent and allows you to do some really interesting things with it. The problem being the game also gives you so many sideways and optional abilities that you feel like you are required to macro everything together for fear that you miss some opportunity for not having 32 fingers to hit abilities with. The big thing I like about this incarnation of the soloing build is that essentially I am really only using one macro, and all that does is chain a series of high cool-down single target abilities onto Empowering Strike. The combo point dump abilities are on my bar separately, as is the main reactionary ability that I hit after using one of them. The feeling is that things are less random than they have felt before when I have played a suggested spec. I am hitting buttons largely because I know what the effect is going to be, and because I want to use it at that moment. Sure I still have one single mixed bag ability, but it feels like it is less important than the things I am not macroing. The other big thing is that it seems like my survival has gone up significantly, which was a huge problem I had previously. I am still under level for the region I am hunting in, but I am wondering if that just means that I missed something important in the previous zone.
At this point I had a spec and I had clean enough bags to be able to venture out into the world. I had two ports available in Draumheim so I grabbed one and hoped that I had picked the right one. It seems that I did as when I landed there were numerous quests available. The zone is extremely cool with all manner of nightmarish abominations wandering around in the midst of the ocean that is being drained away. The coolest thing about Draumheim is that it seems to be a nightmarish echo of Telara. There are numerous places in the zone that represent areas from the game, for example there is absolutely a version of Meridian and Sanctum as well as a nightmarish version of Port Scion. Similarly I ran into a copy of the great toad-like Greenscale, who represented the aspect of hunger. When I first attempted to play Nightmare Tides I was not sure if I liked it or not, largely because I am not the biggest fan of underwater settings in MMOs. Now almost a year later the subtlety of the expansion is starting to sink in. It is less about us traveling to the physical plane of water, and more about us traveling into the physical manifestation of dreams and nightmares. Nothing in the zones are quite what they seem, and last night I ended up helping out a series of existentially confused hay bales… and I am not making that up… they are quite literally named that.
I still wish we had a more directed questing experience similar to the old world. I know they went in this direction as a way of distancing themselves from the standard questing format of MMOs, but personally I find it somewhat lacking. The story that is there is really good, but there just doesn’t feel like there is enough of it. Mostly it feels like you can’t get through the content by only following the quests. Instead of feeling like questing is optional it feels like I have to do every single quest, and do every single carnage quest that pops up when you kill any mobs… and still do some dungeons or instant adventures or you run into the situation I am in… where I am one to two levels below the content I am trying to do. The leveling experience is much less directed, and this is a change that went in with Storm Legion… but the end result in both expansions was me constantly wondering what I am supposed to be doing next. For most MMOs the leveling experience gets better over time, but I feel like Rift went in the opposite direction. I get it that quest content is fairly expensive to create, and without the subscription model they don’t have that stable source of monthly income to keep said quest content coming. The quests that are here however are really good, and one I did last night took me through a series of “computers” that showed little recorded vignettes from the past, all of them fully voice acted. I like all of the things they have done to make finding quests more interactive… but I wish we had more hub based quests as well to fill in the gaps in content. I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy myself however, because I absolutely did. I needed a game where I could be anonymous and lose myself in the experience of playing an MMO, and that is precisely what Rift gave me yesterday. I still very much love Trion and the team behind Rift, and it is one of the games I will continue to suggest people check out on a regular basis. I feel like they did the absolute best job of a free to play conversion that I have experienced to date, and I am willing to keep giving them more of my money. I am just nostalgia for the way that questing used to feel in Rift is all.