This weekend I have spent most of my time reacquainting myself with the world of Telara. While much has changed, it very much feels like sitting back down in a comfy chair, much the same as returning to Everquest II always has been. A year has been a pretty long absence from the game, and in that time many changes have taken place.
The most subtle thing, is the fact that it seems the entire world has been given a face lift. Granted the above screenshot doesn’t exactly show it off to the highest state, since I have been playing mostly on my laptop. Everything from the character creation screen, to the world itself feels different from my memory, and from the screenshots I still have from earlier. I’ve talked with Scopique off and on throughout the weekend and he felt exactly the same thing, otherwise I would have thought this just an artifact of not having been in game awhile.
The game as a whole is the same basic game it always has been. It is a “wow-like” at it’s core, and is still the basic quest driven adventure it always has been. However I have to say, everything Trion does, is carried out with the utmost of attention to detail. So while the experience feels like a throwback, in terms of the games on the horizon and in beta, it is without a doubt the absolute best “wow-like” experience out there.
Bring on the new
I am not exactly sure how to quantify it, but the game as a whole feels much more fleshed out than it did at launch. The game world back then, felt extremely spartan. There are far more constructs in place to add some additional depth to the game. Instead of leveling with some arbitrary soul choices, that you make through a series of quests, you are asked to choose a predetermined path. Each of these paths offered, highlight some of the more common and well designed builds, but give you a feeling of purpose.
Personally on my Guardian Warrior, I chose the heavily Reaver-centric tank build. Each time you gain points to spend, the game makes suggestions of the best possible path to gain abilities. So far, as a result it seems like I always have exactly the abilities I need, at the level I begin to need them. I got my shield throw ability, right about the point I started needing to split up pathers. On my high level defiant Rogue, I picked the Huntsman spec, and it ended up giving me a far more capable Ranger spec than I ever managed to create for myself.
Basically this seems to make the game far more digestible as a whole. I’ve personally found myself spending a good deal of time on the two new trade-skills, Fishing (as seen in the image above) and Survival (think cooking). This really was something missing at launch. There was no functionality for creating crafted food, which forced you to rely on vendor bought food just to survive. Not only is the food better and stat granting, but it has been a good cost savings as well. At level 17 I have roughly 3 platnium, which is far more money than I can ever remember having in the past.
The mind numbing and annoying
One of the interesting things that has changed since I last played is the fact that the game is now apparently free until level 20. This has had some pretty negative effects on the community, or at least what passes as a community at low levels. As is custom in Rift, players are placed in a level gated “general” chat. The level 1-29 chat channel is packed full of children, and with them mind numbing annoyance. If the channel at all represents the future, we are royally screwed.
Luckily I managed to get into a very lively guild, The Gaiscioch Family. So now my screen is filled with friendly green spam, and it is far easier to ignore the rabble. I can imagine that paying customers long for the day they ding thirty, and move up to the next chat bracket. On my high level characters, defiant side, the community seems very healthy and friendly. So I am hoping that this is just something we can chock up to the fact that there are a large number of “non paying” customers at the low levels.
On a whim
I re-subscribed to the game on a whim, and in response to news this week of the expansion. After looking at the long list of features that had been added since I had last played a year ago, intrigued me, and with it I chimed in for a 3 month subscription. I’ve had quite a bit of fun this weekend playing it, but I am sure as the week comes on I will go back to playing a good deal of Everquest II and Diablo 3 again. I plan to play the game off and on and experience the Guardian content I never got to see.
The guild I am in now, seems really nice and always in action. So I could imagine that if I leveled up I could experience all the expert content and even some of the raids if I so chose. The big question is, that since I pretty much renewed my subscription on a whim, what exactly do I want from it? I am generally happy to quest along, and do the occasional rift, so I assume that bring my happiness once more.
While the core mechanics work the same as when I got bored with it before, it feels like they have beefed the game up in the fluff department, which is what had been lacking for me before. With the expansion comes player housing, and with the next patch mentoring. Right now I am finding the Rift mobile client pretty addictive. Through playing the scratch-off game, I have managed to win 10 or so of the purple rift currency. So as a result I have all the best gear you can buy from the rare planar vendor. So while it is a viral gimmick, you can actually really improve your gameplay just by playing it every hour.
A year later
A year after I left Rift, it has become a pretty great game. Everything about the game, from the maps, to the nameplates, to the mobile client just exudes polish. It is always funny to listen to general chat, and year people complaining as is the case with any MMO. I think to myself, anyone complaining about the game that has tried to think of everything, clearly has never played a game with a roughly cobbled together UI and little planning. I think much like Everquest II, the game is in its most playable state since release. Unfortunately, just like EQ2, the people that hold a grudge against the game will likely never give it a fair shake. Here is hoping that the expansion can rekindle the game for others. I luckily have the ability to feed my whims, but it will take a bit more than that to bring in the folks that can only play a single game at a time.