Over the last few weeks I have become some what of a “Rift Evangelist”, as I have spent hours preaching to my friends why they should come over and play this new game. It is not something I have really consciously done, but I seem to have a constant stream of “isn’t this cool” moments to share. This series is devoted to these little sometimes overlooked features of the game, that all help to add up to such a rich experience.
Episode 03: Wardstones
When you first roll a character in Telara, and you notice that there are these odd looking crystal structures all scattered throughout the various towns and camps. Like all players, I thought they were mere decoration, since I had played through the Burning Crusade era of WoW, and lord knows the outland had gratuitous usage of crystals everywhere. However these are far more than pretty baubles to look at, each wardstone at it’s most simple level represents control.
The wardstone is a physical extension of the Ward itself, and both factions use them to strengthen their outposts. Players within 20 meters of a friendly or neutral wardstone receive a 20 minute duration buff that scales based on the level of the stone itself. The base buff is that you deal 10% more damage and receive 5% less damage from planetouched or planebound enemies. Because of this, the wardstone is the primary target enemy invasions as they sweep over the countryside attacking towns.
When We Fail to Defend
Player towns become the focus of huge battles and enemy forces attempt to batter down the wardstone weakening our “foothold” on the region. Above is a picture from Lakeside Outpost in Freemarch. Players have neglected the invasions as they swarmed the area, and in this case Abyssal Cultists have taken down our wardstone, and created their own foothold. When one of your towns wardstones is destroyed, no only does it allow for the enemy to gain ground, but it also keeps your NPCs from spawning effecting shutting that quest hub down.
These enemy footholds begin to spread planar creep on the ground, which allows more invasion forces to spawn from them. If players are not on top of the invasions, this can quickly get out of hand, as each new foothold will start spawning more invasion units until eventually even the capitol cities can fall under the influence of the invading army.
For me this is one of the great features of Rift. We play in an unpredictable world, where at a moments notice your towns can be ransacked by creatures. As players we are forced to constantly stop what we are doing, band together, and push back the planar forces to regain our territory. Games in the past have tried to carry out the “world at war” theme, but none of them have really succeeded. Warhammer came close, but the world you were fighting over left you wondering exactly why anyone would die over it. In rift we have these magnificent landscapes, that are well worth protecting, and we the players are constantly called to do so.
Ancient Wardstones and World PVP
As you explore the land you encounter multiple kinds of Wardstones. At the head of the article, the telltale green of a neutral ward is being shown. Defiant footholds and towns are protected by the ruby red wardstone and Guardian footholds and bases are protected by the bright blue wardstones. However once you reach the contested lands of Scarlet Gorge, a special kind of wardstone begins to appear.
To the right is a picture of an ancient wardstone in its neutral state. Through a quest line you gain an ability called ancient wardstone activation, which allows you to spend one planar charge to activate an ancient wardstone to your faction. You can gain up to three planar charges by closing rifts.
Above is an example of an activated Ancient Wardstone. While towns wardstones were destructible by players in early stages of beta, they are no longer valid targets. However these ancient wardstones become physical control points for PVP in any zone they are located in. The victor faction gains access to lucrative daily quests as shown above while holding one of these stones.
While I am not seeing a ton of PVP happening over them yet on my PVE RP server, I have heard they are extremely contested on the PVP servers. Currently in most of the zones I have found them in, they are located in poorly defensible locations. Which would make it hard to hold the stone against opposition for long. But hopefully there will be some ancient stones in areas that can be held much in the same way as keeps were in Dark Age of Camelot.
Since the wardstone is at is most simple level a control point for your faction, I think in the future these will be the way to work more world pvp into the game. Access to daily quests is nice, but to get players actively controlling them there needs to be a bigger carrot at the end of the stick. In Warhammer online, controlling keeps gave you access to the tier vendors. While I am not suggesting going that far, I think holding an ancient wardstone should give the players access to something unique and otherwise unobtainable.
One of the concepts I have always liked is that of the frontiers from Dark Age of Camelot. It would be nice as we go forward to see Trion implement a series of zones with towns and defensive structures that can be taken and held by a specific faction. I agree mostly with their decision to make player town wardstones off limits from the opposite faction, I feel there should be an area of the world where that is completely viable.
One of the big things holding many of my friends back from joining Rift is what feels like only rudimentary support for the pvp community. I am not saying world pvp or RVR is going to necessarily fix it, but I think with the existing infrastructure in place for taking and holding an ancient wardstone it is a logical step forward to implement something like that. I am not the kind of player that can be swayed much by battlegrounds, but I have always enjoyed keep raids because of the epic feel of taking and holding a world objective as opposed to an instance that only lasts as long as the match.