RIFT: Minion mastery

minionsIt’s a strange place to be in when you’re all excited about an expansion releasing for your current MMO but you’re not in a position to experience most of that content.  That’s my choice with RIFT, as I really am focusing on my Rogue (level 47 as of last night!) and content with the knowledge that Nightmare Tide will be there in a few weeks when I finally get to it.

In the meantime, only a few drips and dribbles of the expansion impacted me.  For starters, my health — everyone’s health — practically doubled overnight.  I’m not quite sure what the reasoning for this is, but I’m not necessarily complaining.  I theoretically have access to the new nightmare rifts (although I couldn’t find one) and the sidekicking (but no offers/reasons to do it).  So pretty much the whole of what Nightmare Tide is offering me right now is access to the minion system.

This makes Syp happy.

It’s a small, silly, side system, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that I love to do in MMOs.  The minion system combines basic strategy, collecting, and time mechanics to bring in some extra rewards.  I had two minion slots to start with and purchased two more, then loaded up with the default minion, one from the cash shop (with leftover gems), one from the collector’s edition, and four others that were at the vendor.  That was enough to start having fun sending them out on missions and getting a few rewards back.

Mostly I’ve just been leveling up my minions, which — as far as I can tell — only increases their potential stamina.  Missions cost stamina, and once that’s depleted you have to wait to regen it (24 hours from zero to full, or so Trion tells us).  Some missions cost aventurine, which Darkfall’s masters are undoubtedly irate over, although it’s not clear how one gets more aventurine.  Successful missions, presumably, although I haven’t seen it on any reward lists.

The “strategy” comes with matching up the best minion for the best job, according to symbols.  If only real life was this clear-cut.  A really good match can propel a mission into a five-star success, which brings out the bling.

So far I’ve gotten a few odds and ends, like crafting mats, a dimension item, and some noteriety.  But it’s an enjoyable little system that takes only seconds to interact with.  I probably won’t be seeing minions as quest rewards any time soon, so I’m hoping to find a few via drops.  In the meantime, I have my small army to work with.  Go forth, my minions, and do my bidding!

RIFT: Dancing with blades

bladeIncreasingly my favorite soul as a Rogue in RIFT isn’t the Tactician, but the Bladedancer.  I got convinced to give it a serious try thanks to a post on the official forums outlining all of its virtues.  After having played it as my primary build for the past week or so, I have to say that it lives up to that post’s hype.

There’s something exhilarating about being a whirling dervish of death, a fighter who’s more focused on precision, speed, and agility than brute force and sneak attacks.  The Bladedancer’s greatest strength is her extreme flexibility that allows for on-the-spot adjustment to different battle situations thanks to a set of powerful 24-second buffs.  She can pour out strong single-target DPS, shift into more of a defensive posture for tough fights, or activate one of a pair of AOE attacks for groups of mobs.  The life leech from the Assassin line helps to keep me from dying too quickly.

Probably the biggest downside to this build is that I don’t have a lot of “oh crap” buttons — no emergency shields or heals or anything like that.  I try to keep some health potions around, but usually it comes down to a DPS race between me and a lot of very disgruntled mobs.

I’ve been tearing through the Droughtlands in my early 40s, hoovering up quests left and right to do.  It’s not the most visually dynamic of zones — it’s kind of an Arizona-looking place — but it’s well laid out so that I don’t have much running to do to get to the quests.

As I’ve been striking blows for justice left and right, I’ve enjoyed (at least in my head) the feeling of being valiant.  We toss around “hero” as some sort of player/developer aspiration in games, but that’s too generic and non-specific for my liking.  Heroism comes in many shades and flavors.  Some days I don’t want to save the world, I just want to perform acts of service for those in need.  Escorting refugees and helping a widow get justice aren’t going to shift the geo-political balance of power, but it will make those lives better.  Or, it would if those were real.  But hey, it’s part of fantasy to play-pretend at being valiant.

I did get a little Skrit hellbug pet from one of those Defiance crossover rifts, which made me pretty happy.  I’ve also upgraded my planar focus to the full version (2 greater/4 lesser essences) which is allowing for more customization.  So slowly but surely I’m charging toward the threshold of Storm Legion, and after that, Nightmare Tide.

RIFT: Pile up on the poor Dwarf, why don’t you

ironEven though RIFT utilizes the older tab-targeting, global cooldown combat system, I’ve been enjoying it as though having a long conversation with an old friend.  Action combat is well and good, but sometimes you want to think during combat and not be simply slamming a whole ton of keys at once just to activate everything.

EV-REY-THIIIIING

And even though RIFT’s combat is a little slower pace, it can get really exhilerating.  One thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is seeing how my at-level mobs I can pull at once and take down.  The tactician’s flamethrower (and icethrower… and deaththrower…) is perfect for this, since it has a wide cone with a long distance that spits out a string of damage.

Of course, with the mass pulling game, sometimes I get overconfident or I misjudge the mobs’ strength and end up in a world of trouble.  I’ve had more than a few fights where it comes down to the wire — I have no “oh crap” emergency buttons left and it’s simply a matter of DPSing them down before they do the same to me.  And I’ve had several encounters that ends up with me taking a jog back to my corpse.

As of late I’ve been trying out a Bladedancer build with a little bit of Assassin (which gives me a health leech).  For a melee class, it’s kind of outstanding.  I have a huge amount of flexibility with a set of 24-second buffs to apply, single- and multiple-target attacks, and pretty decent survivability (dodge + some health regen).

Iron Pines Peak took longer than I had anticipated to wrap up, as there are several different storylines going on in that zone.  Since this zone was reworked to be a mid-level questing area a while back so that players could get an earlier introduction into the Storm Legion content, I was definitely interested to see how the changes sat.  It’s not bad, in retrospect, although I’m wondering if the level 30-40 corridor is a little too cluttered with zones.  I liked how the quests slowly built up to the mystery of the necklaces and didn’t try to resolve that within one or two completions.  At least I got to spend some quality time in a nice snowy zone, beating up bandits, wolves, and swirly whirly air elementals.

Now it’s on to Moonshade Highlands, one of my favorite old world locations due to its beauty (it’s like spring right before/after a heavy rainstorm) and to connect back up with Scotty the Dwarf.  We’ll see how many fae I can get to pile on me here before I break out my blades like a teed-off porcupine.

Friday Fluff: WildStar, RIFT, and TSW

mordeshMy new graphics card should be arriving today, and not a moment too soon!  I’m not overly thrilled having to use my laptop for everything, although it’s performed admirably well in the meantime.  If I can get it up and running today, I can continue with my Secret World series, which has sadly languished due to real life this week.

RIFT

After hinting heavily about it during the livestream earlier this week, Trion announced yesterday that RIFT’s Nightmare Tide expansion is not quite ready for prime time and will be pushed from October 8th to the 22nd.  While that should be a downer, I’m fairly okay with the news.  For one thing, I’m nowhere near the level cap nor through all of the content (at my pace, it’ll probably be at least two more months), so the expansion wasn’t going to be a major game-changer for me in what I’m doing.  For another thing, it did sound like the beta’s been rough and that it needed some more work.  Trion does not need another rocky launch so soon after ArcheAge.

Last night I plowed through a large chunk of Iron Pines Peak.  Some of my quests there have to do with the Cult Saga, of which I’m largely ignorant.  I vaguely know that there are these large mission chains with the “saga” label, but past that I haven’t done much research.  Actually, I feel as though there is so much about RIFT that I don’t know, especially with all of its changes and additions since I left it during the early Storm Legion period.  I’m going to need to carve out some time to read up, I guess.

WildStar

My laptop ran WildStar surprisingly well, and last night was the first time this week I was able to get in some time.  I didn’t do anything super-special, just chatted with guildies, tended to my garden, and worked on a few quests in Bio-Dome 3.  I’m actually toying with the idea of pulling my spellslinger out of retirement for another go, just for some class variety sake.  Perhaps my subconscious is plotting against my ever hitting the level cap.  Oh well, no rush nor reason to rush — it’s not as if I’m going to be attuning for raids or anything.

I do want to be better about engaging in more guild activities.  We’ve got an active leadership that has several events planned each week, and I haven’t been the best at participating in those.  That should change.

The Secret World

Now that we’re in October, we’re starting to head into the best MMO holiday season there is: Halloween!  And this is where The Secret World shines, since it’s already a very Halloweeny game (especially in Kingsmouth, where it’s always October).

It was great to get the new TSW newsletter yesterday and hear about a new mission being added to the two existing ones for Halloween.  My goal is to do all of these missions with my new playthrough character, so I’m going to have to work hard to get her to the point that she can at least run through Blue Mountain without being insta-gibbed.  At least there’s a double-AP weekend next week, so maybe a marathon should be planned.  Yes.  Yes, that will do nicely.

RIFT: The many lives of Deltavee

deltaveeWith my main computer (hopefully) temporarily out of commission, I’ve been resorting to using my laptop at night.  It’s not as much of a powerhorse, so I pretty much just played RIFT last night and finished up Scarwood Reach while getting to level 35.

I actually have a lot of options in terms of where to go next, with the newly revamped Iron Pikes Peak, Moonshade Highlands, and that other place down to the south.  I’d actually like to do all of the quests through these areas, so I’m leaning more on the mentoring system to artifically lower and fix my level so that I’m getting XP from these areas.

So today I’d like to share what builds I’m working on for my Rogue Deltavee:

Role 1: Healbot

I haven’t really used this at all; it’s primarily a Physician build in the event that I’m needed to step in as a healer in a group run.  I should check out its solo viability some day, although I’m pretty sure it’ll be a lot slower than the others by virtue of its healing-ness.

Role 2: Flametank

This is the role that I use the most.  It’s primarily Tactician focused on torrents, Physician for self-shields, and a splash of Bladedancer for the +50% dodge skill.  It’s so insanely good and easy to use that I have a hard time not defaulting to it.  I pretty much just slam down a few cores, round up a group of mobs, and then take turns freezing them and roasting them with torrents.  For groups it’s just a dream, and my survivability is very high with self-heals and -shields, plus a few panic buttons.

Role 3: Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight

I’m trying to get a good mix between the Saboteur and Ranger here, mostly to just throw out bombs instead of charges because I like the one-and-done attitude.  The piggy is a good tank, although against a group of mobs I struggle a bit to keep alive and take down a group of mobs fast.  Still, tossing out explosives is wicked fun and it’s the second-most played role I have.

Role 4: Invincitank

The idea here was just to see how tough I could make my character as a melee fighter.  She starts out with most of her points in Riftstalker for that type of play, and then tosses in Tactician and Physician in equal measures for those shields and self-heals that I love so much.  It actually works really well; she has high health and armor, and can wade right into a crowd and start chopping them up one at a time.  The one downside is that she’s not very strong on AoE abilities — I only have the necro torrent for that.  It’s a good build to have for tough fights, tho.

Role 5: Experimental

I have no idea what this is going to end up being.  Right now I’m trying out the Nightblade soul, which looks kind of cool but I really lack survivability.  I might try to do a balanced hybrid between Nightblade and Bladedancer to correct that.  Or perhaps I’ll scrap it entirely and go full-on Ranger with a different angle than my sabo build.

RIFT: Glad to be back, baby

flamethrowerIs there a term for the opposite of buyer’s remorse?  Where you get or do or buy something and are increasingly satisfied with that decision?  That’s kind of how I feel about RIFT as of late.

I’m tremendously glad I’ve gotten back into the game, although those feelings may well be from that returning glow that one gets (and causes us bloggers to gush about titles we haven’t played in a while) and the excitement over the upcoming Nightmare Tide expansion.  It’s certainly not all I play, but the fast load times and the bite-size nature of questing and rifting lends itself well to short play sessions.

What’s making me happiest is seeing/realizing/re-realizing how friendly RIFT is to players.  There are several legitimate paths to leveling.  There are free server transfers.  Everyone gets housing almost right out of the tutorial and it’s a pretty good system.  There is a good amount of account security (coin lock, two-factor authentication).  There’s a great mentoring system that will soon allow you to scale up in levels as well as down.  The LFG finder works wonderfully for dungeons.  Artifacts are still addicting to collect.  There’s a decent mobile app.  The soul system allows for a lot of playstyle customization.  And I’m hearing word that there will soon be a unified currency to allow endgamers to save up and buy gear whether they raid, run dungeons, or PvP.

Sure, there are drawbacks.  RIFT wasn’t very sticky to me the last couple times I came back, although right now I’m level 32 and still trucking.  Storm Legion is excessively long and leveling through it is slow.  There are a lot of mindless quests, although a few are genuinely engaging and full of great story.  I’m feeling as though the newer souls are so much more powerful than the old ones, which makes me hesitant to use the older ones (and that’s a shame).  And man am I glad for the wardrobe system, because so much of the armor is (and this is a professional writer’s term) icky.

I’m ridiculously excited about the minion system that’s coming with the expansion too.  I know it’s silly and not a huge game-changer, but I like collecting NPCs to order around on tasks (such as Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and SWTOR).  I really want to hear more specifics on where we can get these minions so that I can start planning to do so even at my level when Nightmare Tide hits next month.

Six things I’ve loved about returning to RIFT

skyI’ve been back in RIFT for a good week or so now, rocketing up through the first 30 levels.  While the first day back was kind of “meh,” it’s quickly returned to my favorites list — as in, I can’t wait to log in the next time.  So what have I loved about this return so far?

1. It’s still a very pretty game.  Sometimes I hear some hate on RIFT’s visuals for being bland, which puzzles me.  I’ve always thought of it as a good-looking game world that’s fun to poke around in.  The enemy models are especially notable for their details and animations, and every once in a while I can’t help but stop and take screenshots of the local scenery.

2. Fiddling with soul builds is a terrific ongoing minigame.  What the soul system loses in terms of identity and class permanence, it more than makes up for with flexibility and a friendly, welcome attitude toward those who just want to endlessly tinker with new builds and ideas.  Finding little synergies that work and being able to create a build that caters to your playstyle (versus having to adjust your playstyle to a class) are the moments that make me the happiest.

3. The new Rogue Physician soul is terrific.  Now that all of the callings have souls for all roles, you can now do it all.  Rogues have a great healing soul with the Physician, but I like it more for how it complements solo PvE play.  At zero points, you get a fairly potent heal, which is great for pretty much any build.  Then the soul has access to all sorts of heal-over-times and absorb shields (the first of which you get at 4 points).  My Tactician/Riftstalker/Physician build feels incredibly durable as a result.

4. I missed tab-target combat.  With the exception of LOTRO, all of the other MMOs I’ve been playing lately have skewed to the action combat side of things.  I’ve gotten used to it (and Guild Wars 2 remains the gold standard for balancing the old and new types of combat), but going back to RIFT showed me how much value the old tab-targeting combat was.  It’s so much less stressful, especially for when I just want to quest without having to run around like a crazy person for each and every combat encounter.

5. Dimensions are pretty great.  I’ve been working on my dimension a little here and there, and while WildStar gets the edge for housing looks and functionality, RIFT definitely has more user friendly placement tools.  Plus, I’m getting a lot of housing items as normal loot, including a blue-quality Gloomwood house… to put next to my other house.  Didn’t know houses could drop.  That’s kind of cool.

6. There’s always a variety of activities to do.  Mostly I’m just questing, because I do like the zone stories and completing everything, but I have a lot of leeway to take breaks for other activities.  Instant adventures are low-stress group activities, dungeon running is still awesome (I do one or two a night), and I even do pretty much every rift that I encounter.  I forgot about the mentoring system too, which eliminates the worry that I might out-level zone content before I’m ready to leave.