Posted in RIFT

RIFT: You’re Scarwood Reaching

As I reached level 32 in Iron Pine Peak, I was grappling with immense dissatisfaction over my Druid/Inquisitor build. Sure, I had tons of healing and some DOT damage, but it kept taking longer and longer to kill. Too long, and too unsatisfying. So to mark the end of the zone — more or less — I whipped up a new outfit and respecced to primary Defiler with Inquisitor secondary and a splash of Warden for healing.

So no more faerie (RIP Trixie), but in exchange I received a whole lot more damage AND a taunting totem pet. I’d forgotten that I mainlined Defiler back in the day, but it came back to me quickly as I slipped into its skin.

While I am finished up with the normal Iron Pine Peak questlines, I still have the Saga of the Storm Queen to do. Well, the first of five “arcs” that are done at different level tiers.

One of the steps of this arc is to close out five (5) air rifts around the zone. Minor ones were no problem, but the majors kicked my butt on the boss fights. I forgot that they even came in different flavors! And check out this drake boss — it’s so unlike what you’d see in most MMOs.

New zone time! At level 32, it was time to head to Scarwood Reach and see what trouble I could get into there. Apparently, a lot of it is killing people so hard it makes their bodies flip in gymnastic twirls to reveal striped leggings.

I’ll be honest, Scarwood is not my favorite zone aesthetically. If your thing is giant tree stumps, scraggly little trees, and lots of brown mud and scaffolding, then here you go. It’s all yours. To me, it feels like the Zone of Leftover Art Assets.

That said, it had its moments!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Peeking at Iron Peak

Coming back to an MMO after a long time away involves a process of re-discoveries. It was in the middle of Iron Pine Peak that RIFT jogged my memory by throwing the start of a “saga” my way. These are zone-hopping quest chains that were pretty significant and had their own interesting narratives. Going to put this one, the Saga of the Storm Queen, on the backburner for now and try to figure out why the wives of the local townspeople have gone missing. Oh hey, they up and got murdered. That’s cheery.

Oh man, I remember the first time I came into the gathering hall in this zone. Towering libraries always get me, and this place was just the right amount of “big” to impress me. It has a grandeur that even Sanctum lacks.

Knowing that Crucia breaks free and headlines her own expansion puts a flutter in my stomach as I help the Icewatch try to contain her. Yeah, I’m sure this ward will work.

After a solid month of logging into RIFT, I got my free mount trove — with this incredibly awesome clockwork spider pumpkin whatever thing in it. This might well be the most unique mount I’ve ever owned. Thanks RIFT!

Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t ride my other fun mounts, like my racing snail here. Go snail go!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: I R in Iron Pine Peak

I have a rule in RIFT that every time one of my bags fills up with housing decor, I must take a break to head to my dimension and test all of that stuff out. I keep just the best or the most fitting. It’s a lot of very quick placement (thank goodness this game makes placement easy), but I still feel like my house is coming along nicely. Got a cozy feel to it.

This twisty elevator may be my favorite MMO elevator ever. I like that it doesn’t need to be this elaborate here, but it is — and it’s a blast to ride, because the world slowly revolves around you as you go up and down it.

Welcome to Iron Pine Peak! Every time I’ve gone through RIFT on the Guardian side, I always think of how we get four amazing thematic zones, one right after the other, bing bang boom. The alpine heights here are a treat to explore, and who doesn’t love that sprinkle of snowfall?

Not what I would picture as a “bandit boss,” usually. RIFT has its own style — and underrated mob animations.

A wintry creek and a doofus assigned to standing in the middle of it until someone kills him.

The cozy cabin feels! So hard to stop taking screenshots. Duck and faerie are deeply wishing that I would take them to the tropics after this.

My Ancient Ice Strider seems perfectly at home in the frozen mountains, however.

Posted in RIFT

Why didn’t RIFT do better — and is there any hope for it now?

It was just last night that I was playing RIFT and saw in the 1-29 channel a person announce that they had come back to the game for the first time since 2016. This player expressed much the same sentiments that I did just a few weeks prior: Happiness that the MMO is still around, joy to rediscover all of its treasures, questions about the current state of the game, and concerns about its future.

For all of the time I’ve been playing it over the past month, two thoughts keep zooming through my head: RIFT is an incredibly fun and well-done MMORPG… and it makes no sense why it’s not doing a lot better today. People are *hungry* for good MMOs, and we’re not getting many new ones that offer full-service packages the way older titles did. In fact, older MMOs like Guild Wars 2, LOTRO, and the like are doing pretty well even with reduced staff and funding from their glory days.

So why not RIFT?

Well there are a few obvious answers. Gamigo’s not thrown any real development or support for it since acquiring the title. But there were signs it was struggling even before Trion sold it off, with the RIFT Prime experiment — a Hail Mary, even — barely running a year from 2018 to 2019. The last expansion was 2016’s Prophecy of Ahnket and the last really significant patch was Update 4.2 in 2017, which added four new souls and a new zone.

It’s unclear how poorly RIFT was doing prior to the 2018 sale to Gamigo (egads, has it been four years already?), but it wasn’t the headliner that it used to be for the studio. Gamigo actually put money toward Trove and ArcheAge since the purchase, but RIFT’s existed more or less in an maintenance mode since then.

And I guess that’s a small blessing, because “existing” is better than “being shut down.” People have predicted RIFT’s closure every year since 2018, but it’s still here.

Does that give us any hope? Probably not. There are only four scenarios that I can envision where RIFT makes a significant comeback, and each are more unlikely as the last:

  1. Gamigo decides out of the blue to hire devs and start pouring a lot of money into active development of RIFT. It promotes the game, maybe even re-launches it, and starts cranking out content again to give the impression of an active title.
  2. Gamigo sells RIFT to a studio (maybe even a Broadsword-like assortment of former devs?) who actually care enough to work on the game again.
  3. Word-of-mouth and community love spur renewed interest from the wider gaming audience.
  4. RIFT dies and an emulator project recreates and relaunches the game with more content, a la SWG Legends or Realm of Reckoning.

I mean, there are stranger things that have happened in this industry, but I don’t see any of those as strong possibilities. More like, RIFT will continue to truck on as it is until it isn’t making any money for Gamigo and gets shuttered.

Along with the demise of WildStar, RIFT’s degrading slide into obscurity is such a waste of a genuinely great game that really deserves a second shot. Maybe I’m shouting into the void here, but I believe it.

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Scoping out Scarlet Gorge

With Gloamwood good and done, my Cleric moves on to the American Southwest. Er, Scarlet Gorge. Same thing.

The abrupt shift in tone and setting from “werewolf forest” to “wild wild west” was always a lot of fun to me, even if it made zero sense. For one, I liked being out into the bright sunlight again. For another, not enough MMOs create biomes from the American Southwest (in my opinion).

And it’s not a straight-up cowboys riff, either. The whole zone’s population has been nearly wiped out by the Endless Court — just witness those piles of murdered corpses everywhere — and a lot of strange stuff is afoot. It’s more like “weird west,” what with ghosts and wizards and out-of-control elementals.

Fighting skeletons, ghosts, and witches under the pale moonlight creates a delightfully spooky atmosphere. They’re no challenge for my Clericness, of course. Clericosity? Clericonica?

As my Cleric hit level 27, I started to get into the groove of laying down DOTs and smacking everything with my big green spheres (because this is the internet, I can’t use the word “balls” without triggering the juvenile). It never quite gets old loading up on a ton of quests to do in the same little area. The insta-pop quests — carnage and the like — add to the number nicely without making me accept a ton of quests from a hub.

Scarlet Gorge is a very short zone compared to what’s come before. It’s not just smaller size-wise but it’s also halved in terms of content designation. The northern part gets the Guardian stuff, and the southern the Defiant (IIRC). So after just two quest hubs and a lengthy battle through a fire rift for the final quest, I was done with this red-rocked realm. On to Iron Pines Peak!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Unmasking the hairy conspiracy of Gloamwood

With Silverwood done in RIFT, my Dwarf Cleric moved into one of my favorite zones in the game — Gloamwood. AKA “that Halloween zone” (at least that’s what I call it in my head). Darker skies, rustling bare tree branches, and the howls of werewolves await…

RIFT always had a unique style for many of its structures. I liked these puffy gnome-cap houses that you find in Gloamwood’s main town. Anyway, starting out at a literal crossroads. Spider-killing, anyone?

Hey Mr. Skeleton, mind if I desecrate your grave? You do? Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll let you have two free whacks with your pickaxe there and then we’ll have a proper throw down. That’ll be a fun way to pass the time.

As I uncovered the Great Werewolf Conspiracy (again), I dinged 24 and was able to slot my greater faerie healer. To celebrate, I whipped up a new outfit — with blue leaf wings, why not. I’m not usually a “wing” kind of guy, but I’ll make an exception here. Don’t mess with this dwarf, people. She has the power of chlorophyll!

And I’m going to need it, too, because Gloamwood takes everything up a notch. Oh, it’s not that difficult, but the story is intense and surprisingly well-done. If you like twists and turns in your MMO narrative, then you’d do well to examine the overarching flow of the storyline in this region. To simplify:

  1. You’re made aware of a goblin threat that you work hard to eradicate
  2. Coming back to the town, everyone throws you a huge fireworks party and hails you as a hero, making you think that everything is over and done
  3. But there’s a much greater threat out there, and the goblins/fireworks were a distraction
  4. There’s actually a hag turning the nobility into werewolves and vampires hiding in plain sight
  5. You confront the mayor over this, uncover the conspiracy, and confront then hag…
  6. …and she then turns you into a werewolf! At least for a while.
  7. Then you confront her for a second time and clear out the infection from the zone.
  8. THEN you have to return to the town and root out the remaining werewolves.
  9. Finally, the real celebration breaks out.

It’s pretty awesome and I loved re-discovering it. I had forgotten most of these steps until they happened, then it was like, “Oh YEAH, I remember this!”

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: An infestation of hellbugs

This week in RIFT found me at level 18 and still working my way through Silverwood’s many questlines. These zones never skimped on quests, let me tell you that!

Silverwood’s a great zone if you want to start out your heroing career by beating up on elves and faeries. It’s coming at me with a flower! Quick, kill it with extreme prejudice!

It was always a tradition of mine to get the achievement for climbing to the highest point in the zone, so I made sure to add that to my RIFT bucket list. I can see my dimension from up hereeeeee

Defiance may be dead, but you can still fight their hellbugs in RIFT. Away with you, you cranky beasts from the netherworld! Or at least have some decency and put on pants!

Scotty growing big and getting revenge on his schoolmate bully is a fan favorite moment. “Scotty, you’re so mean!”

I’ve never heard people talk much about the mob design in the game, but I’ve always found RIFT’s creatures to be wonderfully (and strangely) detailed. Lotsa personality in them, even in a lowbie goblin. With a spike hand. And ear-antlers? And one blind eye.

Even as I hit level 20, I’m still not done with Silverwood. A few final setpieces remain, including this organic fae fortress that can’t withstand the awesome power of my duck.

Level 21 and the final fortress of the zone. Have I mentioned how brilliant I think Silverwood’s quest flow is? It takes you all over the place but always feels organic. In any case, I complete the (easy) puzzle and wrap up the place. Thanks for the memories, zone!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: How to train your dragon to fetch your paper

I figure that if I’m really going back to RIFT, if I’m really giving it a shot, then I have to play as a Dwarf. It’s my personal tradition, and so I quickly re-rolled and scooted through the beginner zone just to play a shorty.

Here’s our 2022 dream team: Syperia the Cleric, Widdershins the faerie, and DUCKLAR the magnificent. Let’s go pluck some feathers, my friends!

Man, this moment of hopping up on my ice strider and seeing a rift open in the distance triggered a near-euphoric flood of nostalgia. Almost drowned in it, I did.

Once I got to Silverwood, I paused to make a nice adventuring outfit from my very extensive wardrobe. I love that the stuff you unlocked a decade ago is still hanging around, ready to be used.

Some people call RIFT an ugly game even to this day, but for my money, I don’t see it. I always love the colorful creatures, effects, and atmospheric lighting.

While doing more quests and a couple of rifts — with other players, I might add — I found myself at the mage’s college. Here, I bumped into series’ favorite Scotty. I’ll admit it, the nostalgia twinge hit hard once again. Love you, Scotty!

Doing rifts still feels epic, but the paltry rewards — even after killing this monstrous fire dragons up here — don’t make it worth my while. Back to questing I go!

To help clear up room in my inventory, I hastily dumped a whole bunch of dimension objects in my housing space (while deleting ones I’ll never use). It’s weird, it’s cozy, it’s home!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Against my better judgment

What a weird feeling it is to consider an old favorite MMORPG that still exists but could be shut down at any moment. There’s that internal tug-o-war between not wanting to risk any more time and interest in a game that could go belly-up soon and wanting to take advantage of the time that’s still left, knowing that you might regret not later on. So it is with RIFT. Ever since Gamigo bought it and pretty much abandoned it, I’ve tried my hardest to ignore that it exists. Call it a survival mechanism. Close off that path to caring, and it won’t hurt as much when this downhill slide goes off a cliff and crashes onto the rocks of cancellation.

But against my better judgment, I’m back — at least for a short spell. The advantage of being a blogger is that even hopeless game journeys are still worth it for the post material alone. It’s not in vain! And, honestly, I was curious what kind of community still existed here.

It was very eerie to see my previous characters on the select list — most without names, since they’ve been reclaimed — but I went ahead and made a new Cleric for the classic leveling experience. Along for the ride is her faerie, Widdershins.

What was absolutely wild was the familiarity of RIFT that came crashing down on my head when I logged in. This game, perhaps more than other MMOs, is such a gourmet feast of sight and sound triggers. It’s so slick and easy-to-use that I wish it would be the standard for most MMOs. I spent the first half-hour sorting out the deluge of initial mail and finding a friendly guild (through the ever-so-helpful guild finder). Hey, there are still people playing! That’s something, at least.

As I went through the tutorial, two thoughts competed for my attention. The first was the reminder that despite its fall from grace, RIFT remains a very well-made and fun-to-play MMO. It’s really got the full package, and the ability to create your own build from three talent trees is a ton of fun right from the start.

The second thought was that RIFT truly deserves a second chance under better management. I’m at a loss as to how this might happen, as Gamigo is likely to bleed it dry and then discard it without any further development. But if a different studio could get ahold of it, if some sort of active support could happen, and if a fresh start server could be rolled out (preferably without IAs and some of the more questionable F2P practices), it could see a renaissance. It’s not out of the realm of possibility; plenty of MMOs have had second starts under new management.

Or perhaps Gamigo simply gives up and hands the source code over to the community. A volunteer dev team can’t possibly do less than what Gamigo is doing for RIFT right now.

In any case, by the end of the Guardian tutorial, I was fully tooted and revved up for a full questing journey through this old favorite. I started working on a build that will utilize a faerie pet and lots of instant spells and DOTs for agile casting.

Posted in RIFT

Is there a tiny shred of hope for RIFT after all?

The last time I wrote about RIFT, it was to say a mental goodbye to a game that I figured was on its very last legs, being run by a company that was no longer promoting it or developing for it. But since then, two things of note have happened:

First, the game didn’t shut down as a lot of us were expecting. I mean, it still may. But after the layoffs this past spring and Gamigo shuttering Defiance, we all figured that was it. Yet it didn’t happen — it’s still running.

Second, in a recent investor report by Gamigo parent company MGI, an announcement was made about RIFT having “a first great update” in the first quarter of 2022. This raised ALL the eyebrows, not just because no further details were given, but because RIFT was mentioned at all and in a positive way. So now we have a ton of questions, such as

  • Is Gamigo smarting from its loss of ArcheAge and investing more into its other MMOs?
  • What does this update contain?
  • Who’s actually developing it, as they laid off pretty much all of the devs (to my knowledge)?

One YouTuber speculated that this may even be a fresh start server or scenario for the game, although I can’t quite make this work in my head. If RIFT was to get an actual fresh start, it’d need to be with a new company and an established dev team.

But hey, new content is new content… and a very tiny sliver of hope where none was to be found previously. I’m not going to make much of it, other than keeping an eye on it and wishing RIFT the best. I’d love to one day come back to the game, but that’s only going to happen if I sense that there’s an actual future in it.