RIFT: Tinkering with builds

I’ve deliberately been avoiding the RIFT forums, not just to retain my sanity, but because I have little interest in spoiling how I’m playing my characters right now.  One of the big attractions of the game for me is being able to tinker with and create whole new builds on the fly, and the longer I stay away from probably-already-perfected min/max specs, the more I can enjoy personal experimentation.

I know, of course, that means I’ll be playing less-than-optimally, but that’s okay for the time being.  There’s a LOT of depth available with the soul tree builds, and I’m still just feeling around the edges of it.

My mage has three roles at present: my Necromancer build (primary solo/dps), my Chloromancer build (for group healing), and an experimental build (currently Dominator).  What I love about this game is that I can come up with an idea for a class in my mind and then, more likely than not, make it happen in the game.  For example, my Necromancer is incredibly similar to my old World of Warcraft Warlock, what with DOTs (augmented with the Warlock soul), a tanking pet, and even a stream of soul-sucking power.  But it’s also a pretty unimaginative build, I’ll admit — I’ve seen some players do incredibly creative things with builds that aren’t weighted toward just one soul.  When you free yourself up to spread a role between three souls and look for synergy between cross-soul skills, almost a Magic: the Gathering strategy emerges.

I’m not 100% sure I want to stick with the mage at this point.  There’s a lot to be said about them, but I’m starting to rue the lack of archetype flexibility (they’re weighted strongly on the “DPS” end of the scale).  My cleric alt, who’s been waiting in the wings for weeks now, is giving me a seductive glance.

But no!  I must stick with one to max level, I tell myself!  Be strong!  Commit!

I am not strong.  I am but flesh and blood and 0.10% altohol.

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Is RIFT simply… fun?

I can’t tell you how happy I am that we’re at the two-month mark in RIFT’s lifecycle, because an edge of the launch insanity is finally gone.  Oh, people are still crazy on both sides of the aisle and the forums are a dark pit where no sane thought can ever escape its grasp, but by all accounts the game is doing well, got very positive reviews, and — most importantly of all — is being enjoyed.

Not speaking for all players, as I’ve seen some who just don’t like or are bored with the game, but I’m pleased to see quite a few posts lately that say something to the effect of “It’s not the most revolutionary game in the world, but you know whatIt’s pretty fun and I’m enjoying myself thoroughlyReallyIndeed.”

I think that’s my attitude as well.  There’s nothing that’s turning me off of RIFT at all, and every time I log in I have a good time.  There’s always something to do, the soul system lets me fiddle with builds when I want to try a new combat style, and I’m progressing at a relaxed pace through the world.  I’m actually glad I’m not overly addicted to it, because I just want to ride these luxurious waves for a while instead of getting burned out.

Of course, one of my greatest hopes for the game is that Trion pours a lot more effort and attention into the dynamic event system to make it even more so.  While the River of Souls event ultimately plopped, I liked the fact that the new death rifts at least had different mechanics to them — it showed that there’s a lot more they can do with this system than we’ve seen already.  I’d also love for there to be more long-lasting effects from invasions on the world, up to and perhaps including attacks on the capital cities themselves.

I’m also very much looking forward to both the wardrobe and LFG systems coming in the next update.  It’ll be nice to tinker with my mage’s look (her purple robes are atrocious) and I really, really like the dungeons in this game.

Nostalgia Lane: Final Fantasies

I may have mentioned on this blog that we didn’t have a regular NES when we were growing up — not for a lack of wanting, believe you me.  We had to wait for the SNES, which was certainly worth it, but that meant that my brothers and I were in a constant state of envy over our friends’ consoles and enraptured with them every time we could go over and play.

It was at a friend’s house that I first was exposed to Final Fantasy.  We were having lunch and the TV wasn’t on, but I still sat down and poured through the Final Fantasy I manual like a parched man at a drinking fountain.  Even by 1987 RPGs were incredibly captivating to me, and I loved the notion that you could make up your own party mix for the game, a party who would “grow up” at a certain point and evolve into a better class.

Oddly enough, that manual was it for me and Final Fantasy until 1997, when I purchased the PlayStation and a couple “killer apps” to go with it — Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil 2.  Now, most gamers I know have their Final Fantasy preference, which usually corresponds to the first FF game they played, so you’ll understand that I’ve always carried a torch for FFVII.  It was an incredible experience back in ’97 — a very cinematic RPG with lots of depth, a huge cast of characters, and hundreds of hours’ worth of gameplay.  Yes, it looks laughably quaint and slow today, but when I first got it?  I played it for three days straight.  Seriously, I skipped work and everything.

Little did I know that Final Fantasy VII would become such a gaming touchstone, what with Aeris’ death, Sephiroth, Cloud’s hairstyle, limit breaks, and all the rest.  Back then it was simply a fun game and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Two years later I had graduated college and moved to Colorado.  It was then that Square released Final Fantasy VIII, a title that we were all waiting for like crazy.  They promised more realistic proportions on the characters and a more scifi world, although it soon became apparent that it was a far cry from 7.  The Junction system was absolutely stupid, although there are a few masochists who claimed to love it.  I also really hated the sour protagonist — and Square’s penchant for the brooding hero type — and so it became a forgettable experience.

The next year I moved to my current home of Detroit and picked up Final Fantasy IX.  Along with Chrono Cross, this represented the glorious peak of PlayStation RPG goodness for me.  FF9 was a tribute of sorts to the entire FF franchise, and I genuinely enjoyed the upbeat tone, the colorful look, and the easier-to-understand gameplay.

With the next installment, Square moved to the PlayStation 2, the last console I ever purchased (we’re not counting the Wii because, really, it’s a party trick, not a gaming console).  I made the jump as well, although the PS2 never really caught on with me as much as the PS — probably because computer gaming just was more fun in 2001.  While not a bad game, per se, Final Fantasy X felt like it was more about the looks than the story (which was weirdly vague and anticlimactic) or gameplay.

It was here that I lost my love for the series.  There’s a lot to be said in favor of Final Fantasy as a historical franchise, but in my opinion the company never really grew up as fast as the rest of the genre.  Turn-based combat got old, random encounters were annoying, linear gameplay felt confined, and the stories felt so confined to weird Japanese conventions that ultimately baffled me.

While I did dip my toes into Final Fantasy XI — it was not for me, I quickly decided — that was it between me and Final Fantasy.  I haven’t felt the pull back for 12, 13 or 14, and while it’s not for me any more, I’m not going to badmouth games I haven’t played.  It just feels as though I moved on and FF stayed still.

Also?  Cloud is a really silly name.  I can admit that now.

The results of the weekend LOTRO marathon

I almost forgot to write a quick follow-up to my announcement that I’d be powering through Moria on my Lore-master this past weekend, what with the double XP and all.

While I didn’t reach level 58, I got close; I went from 53.5 to 57.5 in four days, which is pretty dang respectable.  What’s even better is that I knocked out all of my Moria virtues, including 70 quests and a whole bunch of exploration deeds.

So really all I have left to do in the place is hit 58, finish 2.6.8 (at least) for one of my legendary traits, and get revered with the Iron Garrison Guards (I think I’m 25,000 points away from that).  Another week, and I should be free and clear of this place, crossed fingers and all.

I’m also starting to contemplate what to do with my other toons.  My captain is still waiting patiently in Enedwaith, and I really should finish that zone off and have her running dungeons more often.

I still do want to tinker with my completionist project — to do all of the solo quests in every zone with a character — but I think I’m going to restart it with a Hobbit Warden instead of the Minstrel.  I just can’t get that excited about a Minnie, and I think a Warden would be more interesting to spend that much time with.

And I know I haven’t talked about RIFT much, but I am still playing, and in fact plan to spend a lot of time getting my Mage up to 30 by the weekend.

Monday Night Noob #3: Digital: A Love Story

I was in a weird place last night.  I didn’t quite have the energy to dive into a completely new game, and nothing on the Monday Night Noob list was calling to me.  I even poked around in a MUD for a bit but left soon after.

But a resolution is a resolution, and I knew I had to try something new.  I spent a little time Googling “best free games” and ended up perusing a list of 20 titles that seemed interesting.  Out of these I pulled Digital: A Love Story and went at it.

Like some of the best little indie titles, Digital is something we haven’t quite seen elsewhere because it had the freedom to try new things.  In this case, it’s presenting a story — an interactive novel, really — in the form of old Bulletin Board Systems from 1988.  Or an alternate version of 1988, as I soon found out.

The setup is kind of ingenious.  You start out with a desktop of a late-80’s era computer (pre-Windows, I might add, but not DOS either) with a note from the guy who gave you the computer to check out a local BBS.  Once you dial in — with authentic modem sounds and all — you start making connections with the various people on there… and a girl named Emilia.

There isn’t a whole lot you can do on the BBSes other than read messages and send notes to your connections (although you never see what you write, just what people send back in reply, which has you filling in the blanks with your own imagination).  While it’s slow to ramp up, soon you’ve accumulated a few new BBS numbers, a couple free applications, and are indoctrinated into the wild and wooly world of 1988 hacking.

Eventually something happens — I’m not going to spoil what — and you’ll need to use all of your newly learned skills (and skillz) to get to the bottom of it.  There’s a conspiracy afoot, and you’re out to figure it out while becoming a hacking legend in your own right.

There really isn’t much “game” here, per se, just a lot of things to do to advance the plot (which is fairly linear).  Even so, it’s an engrossing experience.  The second I had to start typing in phone numbers and heard the modem connect and the BBS screens come up, a tidal wave of nostalgia crashed over me.  Even if you’re too young or weren’t into the BBS scene way back when, this is a captivating look at a pre-internet internet with a charming retro current pulling you along.

It was funny that I had a little notepad out and was scribbling down codes and phone numbers for a while, feeling as though I was back in time and checking all of this out for real.  It definitely made me miss that feeling of adventure that logging into a single BBS could provide back when all this was new instead of taken for granted.

As for the story, it’s certainly worth your time and has a few twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting.  As the title of the game suggests, it’s about love — and the connections that are formed online between lonely souls.  It’s not a super-long game (about 1 to 2 hours in length), but is such a unique experience that it promises to stick in the brain for a while after you’re done.