RIFT: Clerical work

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One of the greater joys of RIFT is being able to dream up your own classes, within limits, thanks to the soul system. So the other day when I switched back to my Cleric, I was pondering what kind of healer to make for dungeon runs. So far this year I have greatly enjoyed my HoT-happy Druid in World of Warcraft and Scholar’s healing pet in FFXIV.

I thought… why not try to have them both?

From concept to reality took about five minutes. I started with a blank slate on the soul tree and then invested enough points into the Druid to get the greater faerie healer (who can be toggled for single/multiple target heals). The rest went into the Warden soul, which is abundant with heal-over-time spells. It looked solid enough, even if it probably wasn’t a min-maxer type of build. It was what I wanted to play and I was allowed to make it. Makes me grateful to RIFT for that opportunity.

I took my new healer into an expert dungeon and held my own just fine. Spike damage was a little more tricky, but I’m overflowing (a water-related Warden pun) with extra heals, so I can just jam on number keys and usually save the day. The only trick is to keep one particular heal up, as you can stack that HoT up to four times and keep refreshing it every 15 seconds without having to re-apply all four stacks.

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For a DPS counterpart, I made a Cabalist/Druid build, this time with an evil damage-dealing faerie. Lots of good AoE DPS with that mix, and it worked well when I joined my guild for some rifts the other night.

Thanks to the expert dungeons, I got my Cleric from 57 to 60 in practically no time at all (and even got a few new cosmetic pieces). I forgot how brutal the climb is from 60 to 65, but if I am willing to heal, I suppose I won’t have problems finding dungeons to run for the XP.

It’s been a slow and enjoyable reentry into RIFT as of late. I’m not playing it hardcore, but what time I’ve gotten, I’ve had a great experience. It’s made me genuinely want to log in every day, if even for a quick dungeon run, some more tweaking to my dimension, an instant adventure, managimg my minions, or the other five hundred things this game keeps throwing at you. Probably won’t be doing the Unicornalia event, however.

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Going around Sanctum, I stumbled on a kind of really disturbing sight that I think most people just run right by. A “bounty hunter” with various goblin corpses and body parts, some still sticking in bear traps. What do they need these bodies for? WHAT MADNESS IS THIS.

RIFT: I’ve been accepted into the tribe

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So the other night I was hanging around in Meridian, waiting for LFG to pop while doing some AFK activities. Apologies for so many acronyms in the previous sentence, it shan’t happen again. It was then that I got a strangely polite whisper from a nearby player who said that she noticed I didn’t have a guild tag and asked if I might be interested in hearing about theirs.

Courtesy and respect in an MMORPG? Where players usually just thrust unwanted guild invites on you and spam up general chat with misspelled recruitment ads? Color me intrigued!

So I said sure, and she then went further by inviting me to the guild’s home dimension so she could take me on a tour while giving me a pitch. Kind of a get-to-know-you-while-you-get-to-know-me deal. I disengaged from the LFG and agreed.

The guild was the Tribe of the Laughing Tree, a relatively new (35 days old) clan that is embracing the concept of a tribe of Telara natives who live a little more naturally than others. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guild call themselves a “tribe,” but I kind of liked it.

The dimension itself was full of handmade yurts and huts and caves, each of which could be designed by individual members. After a long tour and some light chitchat, I agreed to become the tribe’s newest member.

The guild leader — co-guild leader, actually — said that she was tired of guilds where nobody talked or did anything together, so they made an effort to found this one and spend time getting to know the members. It’s a difficult approach, but one that I applaud. So I guess I’m part of the tribe now!

RIFT: You can’t fight prophetic predictions of your return

I am nothing if not a predictable sucker for the siren’s call of MMO expansions, especially in past favorite games of mine. Just the news of them is exciting and serves to rouse the community and call the old faithful back into service.

Two weeks ago, RIFT wasn’t even on my play radar. Now I’m happily logging in every night. It’s a sickness. It’s a love.

MMO studios that have given up on expansions, please take note of this case study. Even major RIFT updates didn’t pull me back into the game. Sure, they might be great for those already there, but you need something big and flashy to really arrest the attention. When I got the advance heads-up that RIFT: Starfall Prophecy would be coming out this fall, I felt excited for the game itself and personally tempted to jump back in.

I mean, good on Trion Worlds for not giving up on MMOs or splashy expansions. These days it feels like so many studios are rolling over on developing new titles and pumping up support for the traditional MMO, but not Trion. Say what you will about the studio — and oh boy, everyone certainly has — it still has an obvious passion for the genre.

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So let’s talk Starfall Prophecy for a minute. I honestly didn’t expect a third expansion for the game, as Nightmare Tide kind of flopped and it’s been a good while since NT came out. If nothing else, Starfall Prophecy is RIFT standing up and reminding people that there’s a solid game here that often gets overlooked.

I could have used a new race or two (still the same six? C’mon, Trion…) and the studio’s focus for souls is more in revamping them right now than adding more, but the feature list is pretty intriguing. Big reset button, levels 65-70, new ways to customize gear, looking for raid, ongoing rift assaults, five new zones, and so on. The new legendary powers is a cool way to add more customization to builds.

I’ve already pre-ordered my virtual box (standard edition). There’s an interesting promotion going on that once you do so, you get special currency every day you log in from now to the expansion that can unlock various bonus rewards. Artifact hunting squirrel? Yeah, should be amazing.

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Originally the plan was for me to dust off one of my old characters and continue to take them up to the current level cap. However, after a night of that, I felt like a fresh start was needed to get back into the game and prep for the expansion (which shouldn’t be for months at least, if Trion’s pre-order promotion and promise of dev diary rollouts are any indications).

So I rolled up a new Rogue, Crickety, and started speed-leveling her like crazy. Let me tell you, if you want an MMO where you have the option to jump into a fast (but not instant) lane for leveling, here’s RIFT. All you need to do is jump into instant and intrepid adventures, and you’ll be watching the XP counter fill up like crazy. I kept doing intrepid adventures with the occasional dungeon run when the queue popped, and I shot up from level 1 to 42 within three nights.

And the thing was, doing so didn’t feel like a grind — I was loving the activities. Dungeon runs are still pretty great in this game, and IAs make grouping tons of fun. I love how the intrepid adventures take you into raid-like areas and let you experience the story and atmosphere without having to sport the highest of gear levels.

I mostly stayed support for those first few nights, although once I got enough levels under my belt, I started to experiment with some other builds (DPS, healing). I lost count of how many times over those first few nights that I was reminded of all of the things I loved about RIFT when I was playing more often.

I’m still looking to do some traditional questing in the Planestouched Wilds when I get to 65, but that still may be a while yet once the levels start coming in slower. And while RIFT isn’t going to overtake all of my other interests, it is pretty cool to come back and feel excited about the game as it is and as it hopefully will be.

RIFT: Fluttering back into instant adventures

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Instead of stressing about which MMOs I’m playing and trying to figure out how to carve out the time for them, I’ve started to take a new approach to gaming. Basically, I’m installing games that are of current or past interest to me, sorting out a main character, and creating paths to slip in and out of games easily. By focusing on simple goals and shedding some of the baggage that long-time characters tend to accumulate (side quests, overflowing inventories, extra systems), I’m making plug-in-and-play experiences that take the stress away from jumping into an MMO that I haven’t played for weeks (or even months).

Right now my MMO folder has World of Warcraft, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, The Secret World, SWTOR, Shroud of the Avatar, Marvel Heroes, Guild Wars 2, and WildStar. The other night I added in RIFT as well. It’s a nice feeling to have an array of games at my disposal to meet whatever interest I have, whether it be playing or blogging.

As with most of these games where I’m sorting out a main character of significant levels that I haven’t played in a while, I came into RIFT feeling pretty lost. My bags were overflowing, I had a build that mystified me, and I had no clue where I was even questing.

So.

Simplify, Syp.

Inventory was the first and easiest path to this goal. I sold everything that didn’t look important, banked everything that was semi-important but I probably didn’t need regularly, and kept only a handful of potions and various trinkets. I used all of the artifacts I had and decided to get rid of dimension items unless they were super-rare. I love RIFT’s dimension system and all, but I do not have time for that in a game that I might just be casually playing at best.

The next step was to clear out my quest log — empty! — and then create a one-size-fits-all build. Man, I have missed RIFT’s soul system. It’s so liberating to mix-and-match them and then decide how you want to build a character. I went with a pretty straightforward Druid/Cabalist/Inquisitor build that gave me the best pets and a ton of instant-cast DoTs (some of which hit groups of mobs, solving my AoE needs).

My Cleric is only 57, so while I had grand visions of taking her right into Planestouched Wilds, I think I need to get her to 65 before that can happen. So the best avenue there is to park my butt in Sanctum and take advantage of instant adventures, intrepid adventures, and the odd dungeon run for gear and XP.

I ran a few instant adventures to get the creakiness out of my system and refamiliarize myself with RIFT’s format. Naturally, it all came back splendidly. Time to kill was a little high, but that was probably because I kept my healing pet out (a faerie named Fluttershy) instead of pulling out some better DPS pets. I can totally see logging in for a few adventures every day or two becoming the new normal for me. Having the options to play the way I want to play, even with only a little bit of time, endears a game to me greatly.

Five MMOs I’d be playing if I had all of the time in the world (which I don’t)

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I don’t care who you are — there ain’t none of us who have the time to do more than either scratch at the surface of a handful of MMOs or really dig deep into one or two of them. Even if you’re so “fortunate” as to have few responsibilities and copious amounts of free time.

Well, unless you’re this lady from NCIS, who apparently figured out how to beat all MMOs:

“You hold the high score in virtually every massively multiplayer online roleplaying game!”

Man, that clip never fails to crack me up.

While I certainly wouldn’t trade my job and family for something as frivolous as having more time just to game, it doesn’t stop me from creating impossible hypothetical situations in my mind such as, “If I had as much gaming time in a day as I wanted, what other MMOs would I play?”

As it stands now, I’m pretty contained into three games: Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, and The Secret World. I feel like I have a great balance going and can dip lightly into each of these to pursue various goals. But if I was to add more to the pile without concern for time, here’s what I might tackle:

Elder Scrolls Online

This is probably just because ESO has had a good run of news lately, but I’ll admit to always being attracted to/impressed by MMOs that have fleshed out content offerings, have a thriving community, and are showing signs of future growth. ESO has all of these in spades, and perhaps if I had gobs of time, I could end up liking this game as much as any other MMO. My one and only foray into it was rough and unimpressive, but first impressions aren’t always spot-on.

Fallen Earth

Yeah, Fallen Earth probably doesn’t have many years ahead of it or great amounts of future content, but it’s pretty much the best post-apocalyptic MMO out there and one that I had a great time playing. It’s also a total time gobbler, so that’s kept me from heading back into it. I just miss riding my horse across the irradiated wild west and blasting mutated hermit crabs with my shotgun.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

It’s been a very long time since I played this regularly, but I still haven’t come across an MMO that’s quite like this one. The focus on dungeon runs, the dual campaigns, the free-form character creation, the dungeon master, the passionate community… these are all speak in favor of DDO’s worth. And Turbine keeps adding onto it, too. Probably more content in that game right now than I could get out of it in a couple of years of hardcore playing.

EverQuest 2

I and all of the fortune tellers and industry analysts in the world couldn’t tell you what Daybreak has in store for the EverQuest franchise at this point (if anything). The premature demise of EverQuest Next is still rippling out across the MMO community, sending the impression that the lineage of EverQuest has come to a sad end with Landmark.

Yet there’s still EverQuest 2 and it’s still getting expansions and some dev love. This has always been one of those MMOs that I feel that, in a parallel universe, I would be totally into. It certainly checks all of the boxes of my wish list, has a vibrant playerbase, and is so packed with content at this point that it’s almost intimidating to consider playing. Which is probably why I don’t.

RIFT

I’ve always seen RIFT as a “safety” MMO. If I’m disillusioned or burned out on whatever I’m playing, there’s always RIFT to go back to. Good comfort gaming: lots of features, regular updates, and that sweet, sweet soul system. I think back to the first year or two of playing this game and trigger all sorts of nostalgic love for the fun I had in the game. I never stick around long when I do go back, but I usually have a great time.

So what about you? If time wasn’t a restrictive factor, what additional games would you be playing (if anything)?