Ten levels of RIFT: A guide to your first day in Telara

With two RIFT beta events under my belt, I was given the supreme honor of creating a guide to the first 10 levels of the game. Naturally, I fell apart under the stress, assumed the fetal position for a couple days while whimpering about "frame rates," and then was prodded into action by our editors. That's quite literally "prodded," mind you -- Massively purchased a pair of cattle prods last year at a police auction. It's going to be years until the scorch marks fade from my spine.

The purpose of this guide is two-fold. First, we want to give anyone who's interested in RIFT but couldn't get into the beta a chance to vicariously experience RIFT's newbie path. Second, while RIFT is careful to hold your hand during your first steps into Telara, there are always a lot of things that can be easily missed while one is partaking in the wonders of a new virtual world. So this guide is here to share a few tips and pointers that beta testers may have missed.

What are you waiting for? Roll up a new character by hitting the jump!

Character creation

While most every aspect of RIFT's character creator adheres to the industry standard, there is one notable deviation: no choice of classes. Instead, you'll be asked to pick an archetype -- Warrior, Rogue, Mage or Cleric -- to guide your future destiny. This plays into the soul system, which we'll cover in the next section.

Aside from choosing your archetype, you'll be asked to pick a faction (Defiant or Guardian), one of three races for each side, your character's looks, and finally, your name. One thing to note is that RIFT has racial bonuses, a small handful of passive and active abilities that give you advantages in certain situations and sometimes synergize well with archetypes and souls.

Level 1: Welcome to hell's guided tour!

Whether you've chosen to ally with the Defiant or Guardian, your first day in Telara will be amidst war, chaos and world-rending destruction. Take a minute to ooh and ahh over the visuals, but don't let the noise and explosions fool you into going faster than you need to at this point. Instead, take time to familiarize yourself with the UI (which will seem mostly familiar if you've played any number of MMOs at all) and get a feel for your character.

I'll get this out of the way up front: During RIFT's initial 10 levels (and for a time beyond that), you'll be more or less confined to a very linear, very guided experience. You may want to wander off and forge your own patch, but the game doesn't allow you to do much of that until later. If this grates, then just grin and bear it until you earn your metaphorical wings.

Your first quest contains an incredibly important choice: your first soul (out of a handful of the eight that fall within your archetype). Seeing as how you won't be getting your second soul for a little bit, choose wisely but don't fret it too much. Eventually you'll have access to all of your archetype's souls. The soul you pick will give you a couple starting abilities, which should be automatically placed on your hotbar.

Speaking of the UI, here's a quick cheat sheet for some of the important shortcuts you should memorize:
  • B to open all of your bags (you initially start out with a 20-slot backpack)
  • C to view your character, equipment and stats
  • L to open your quest log
  • M to open the area map
  • I to open collections (these include artifacts, mounts, books, pets and titles)
  • P to access your abilities (you can drag these down to the hotbar if they aren't there already)
  • H to look at your achievements
  • N to access your soul attunement window (where you can pick souls and invest soul points)
For the remainder of your first level -- which should breeze by within minutes -- merely follow the quest breadcrumbs and get a handle on how your character fights.

Level 2: Movin' on up to the east side

Level 2 will pass by just as fast, but the game will still use this time to continue to expand your RIFT education. A trap that's easy to fall into with RIFT is to assume that this MMO is so much like others you've played that you overlook the ways that it diverges. For example, you may not be on the lookout for artifacts and books in the world (or if you're an EverQuest II player, this may be an unbreakable habit) to add to your collections. Artifacts can be as small as tiny balls of sparkly light, while books tend to be tucked away in unlikely places -- as well as out in the open. Some of the funniest artifacts I saw were tears from critters that you kill (you monster!). Make sure not to just grab these but right-click them when they're in your inventory to add them to your collections.

In fact, it's good to encourage your explorer nature early on, because I've found a lot of goodies that the devs have placed off the beaten path. In the first beta, I ran behind a house to find a weapons rack that gave me a green axe that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

Another good habit to cultivate in your early levels is to save, save, save your dough. You shouldn't have to spend money on anything at this point, such as potions and soul point respecs. Instead, your goal is to save up 30 gold so that you can purchase your second role as soon as possible. What's a role? It's basically a custom template of your soul tree, and by having two of them, you can swap between abilities and functions at will.

By now, you'll have a couple soul points to invest in your tree, so hit N to pull up your attunement window. Put your points wherever you want, and notice how you automatically gain a new ability in the "root" of your tree. Save your soul template, and then make sure (if the game hasn't already) to open your abilities window and drag down your new skill.

Level 3: Johnny Quest

Hopefully by now you'll be getting into the groove of the early game. Again, there's no need to rush, as speedsters will miss out on the foundation of lore that Trion Worlds gives in these initial quests. Some of these quests will require the use of special items, which can be accessed by hitting the button on your quest tracker to the right of the screen.

Don't get lulled into complacency by the simplicity of these quests, either. For one thing, there are achievements for how far you go in the game without dying, so it would suck to miss out on that by not paying attention as you run into a mob mosh pit. For another, named enemies often wander the world and give out better-than-average loot if you can down them.

As every level gives you a new soul point, get into the habit of opening up your attunement window and spending that point as soon as possible!

Level 4: We can make him (or her) better, stronger, faster

Level 4's soul point should give you an additional ability -- so make sure you put it on the hotbar!

As you chew through the introductory zone, your most important mission is to be upgrading your character's threads. Quests (and occasionally drops) will reward you with better gear, not to mention additional bags. One of the reasons I advise not buying bags early on is that you'll be getting them for free from quests and drops -- I had four additional bags by level 8.

Starting at level 4, make sure to talk to your respective archetype trainer to purchase new ranks of your skills. If you forget to do this, you'll end up with weaker skills that'll hinder your advancement!

Level 5: Everyone hop on board the soul train


Here's the moment you've been waiting for: the quest to get your second soul! Unlike your first soul, all of the rest of your souls will now be accessible by you. If you truly hate your first choice, pick something else and reinvest your soul points into that for now. Otherwise, choose a soul that complements the one you already have.

Now your soul attunement window will show both souls. Note that you don't have to spend any points in the second soul to get at least one benefit from it. Those "free" abilities can add a splash of utility that your main role is lacking, such as a pet or a heal.

You should also have your first buff at level 5, if not sooner. It almost goes without saying, but make sure to use your buffs (they're on generous timers) and keep them up as long as you play.

Level 6: Baby's first rift


Around this point, you'll be getting ready to leave the beginner zone, which means that you'll also experience your very first rift. Yes, it's OK to take a lot of pictures -- these suckers look darn cool. Lowbie rifts are fairly simple, however; there are a couple waves of enemies that pour out of them, followed by a big boss that needs some defeatin'. When you've finished, remember to click on the loot bag on the right side of the interface to get your just rewards.

Level 7: Dare to achieve

Once you're into Telara proper, it's time to start paying attention to some of the other systems that the game will throw at you, such as achievements. In fact, if you can make it to seven without dying, you'll get the "Cautious" achievement that also gives you a title.

Gathering and crafting is up for grabs here, and I recommend that you try at least one or two. Gathering is super-easy (you can track multiple types of nodes at once), and you get not only some nice pocket change from the mats but XP as well if you complete the quests your trainers hand out. You can have up to three gathering and crafting skills, so you'll have some room for experimentation.

Level 8: Rocking the ruby-red rifts

Pay attention during your journeys, else a rift will take a big bite out of your butt -- or you may miss out on the fun entirely. Rifts, invasions and footholds show up on both your minimap and the larger version, and they're always a good excuse to drop whatever you're doing and head on over for a massacre. Seeing as how an invasion could take over your current quest hub and make it impossible to turn in your tasks, you have a vested interest in helping out.

Not only do you get normal XP and loot from rift creature kills, but rifts award a special currency -- Motes of Soulstone -- that can be bartered at vendors for rare loot.

Level 9: Life and death, Telara-style

If it hasn't happened yet, it will -- death, I mean. It's not the end of the world (yet), but death in RIFT comes with an interesting twist on the death penalty. Everyone has a largely unseen stat called Soul Vitality that begins at 100%. Each time you die, your Soul Vitality takes a hit until it eventually goes down to zero. Any deaths after this will cause you to incur some pretty heavy stat debuffs. Because of this, it's good to get in the habit of chatting with any Healers you find, as they can restore your Soul Vitality to full.

Around this level, you'll talk to your first Porticulum Master, who gives you the ability to soul travel as well as allows you to bind yourself to a certain location for speedy recall. Hearth, map, port -- it's pretty much the same thing.

Level 10: I wear grown-up pants now!


Although you're only about halfway to your capital city, a mount and your third soul, hitting level 10 is a sweet feeling. By now, you have a good deal of soul points for your attunement trees and can even consider multi-classing a bit. If you haven't already, buy a second role and have fun trying out new builds.

Special note

During our recent interview with Scott Hartsman, we were informed that there would be several changes to how players accumulate souls and soul points. There should be even more points coming your way to experiment with, and Trion is going to allow players to choose two souls from the get-go instead of one.

That's it for the starting journey! While not overly complicated, there's a lot to process in 10 measly levels, so make sure to pay attention and take your time, especially if it's your first.
This article was originally published on Massively.