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 02: Porticulum Network
The Porticulumn Network is one of the coolest features of the game, but is also one of the most indirectly complained about systems for players coming from other games. I will admit at first I was one of the complainers, even going so far as to post on the beta forums about it. However after living with the system, I have come to appreciate exactly how amazing it is, both for rapid transit and the way it very gently nudges the player population to be community minded.
What the Porticulum Network gives you is the ability to transfer from between any two ports on the network instantly for a nominal fee (that gets less and less nominal the further away from your current hub you go). This is what we loved so much about the Dalaran portals in WoW, Fast Travel devices in Everquest II, and the various Plane of Knowledge portals in Everquest. This allows you to move quickly to wherever in the world your guild needs you to be.
The player starts with no portals connected to his or her network. They receive the first connection on their hub by visiting the Porticulum Master for their faction’s capitol city. From that point on, they can connect additional ports to their hub by talking to the Porticulum Masters in each of the zones explored. The above image shows a complete network for the defiant side (minus the new Porticulum at Knight’s Stand added in 1.01 patch).
When you talk to any Porticulum Master you are given the option to Bind Soul for a small charge. Doing this will give you the Soul Recall ability, and allow you to return to your bound porticulum. This ability has a hour long cooldown and a brief cast time. With the Total Recall guild perk you are able to reduce the cooldown to 50 minutes. This allows you to rather quickly get to anywhere in the world once an hour.
What You Give Up, And Why It’s a Good Thing
Now we get to the point of complaint many users including myself initially have. The zones in rift are fairly massive, and take a large time to cross. If you notice, most zones have only one portal. What the game lacks is an intra-zone taxi system, like flight points and horse paths that have been utilized in various other mmos. Initially this seems like a massive thing to give up, players like to be able to go where they want to when they want to with minimal effort. However, like the heading alludes to, not having these ways to travel intra-zone safely is a good thing.
Taxi systems general allow the user to skip large areas of content safely. In a game like rift, where part of the design is a constantly changing world where rifts and invading armies besiege towns, it requires community interaction to turn the tide of events. As you move through a zone, you are forced to confront these forces head on to survive. As a result I have seen random groups of players gathering to take down rifts on a regular basis. This kind of impromptu interaction is what I feel will keep the player community active and thriving.
As you move into some of the larger and more difficult to traverse zones there are multiple porticulum in the zone. For example Iron Pine Peak a 40-45 zone, had 3 well spaced portals allowing you to pop between major questing hubs easily. When you enter this phase of the game, the lack of an intra-zone taxi system really goes out the window.
It’s All About Immersion
One of the things has been amazing about this game is the level of immersion the player has. As you travel across a zone you carefully cling to the roads, knowing that just off the path lies your likely death. The game brings back the edginess and fear factor that so many early MMOs had. In Everquest, I knew that if I went wandering off in unexplored territory I was likely to find something that would squash me like a bug. However in the World of Warcraft era, we as players have become lazy as we are used to being able to wander zones with godlike impunity, or simply fly over the top of them ignoring all of the would be pitfalls.
I’ve come to appreciate the uncertainness and randomness of encounters this game has brought back to the MMO genre. I remember the sheer fear I had the first time I stepped foot into Muire Tomb in Dark Age of Camelot, or cautiously running the zone boundaries of Kithicor Forest trying to get through to the safety of Rivervale before nightfall. While I considered it inconvenient at the time, and was happy to see things like that gone in World of Warcraft… I have come to realize now that I have it back how much more depth it gave the game. After all, isn’t the reason why most of us play these games to have a break from our normal lives and be thrust into epic battles that just don’t exist in real life?