Enter at Your Own Rift: A tour guide to beta four

It was once again a busy weekend in RIFT, and I eagerly rolled up my sleeves to get to work exploring. This beta event contained a lot of great game changes and new content. First, the level cap was increased to 27, and two new hunting areas were made available: Gloamwood for the Guardians and Stonefield for the Defiants. In addition, two new dungeons were open for play: Darkening Deeps and Deepstrike Mines. But one of the most exciting additions was PvP instancing, as players finally got to try out two new Warfronts -- The Black Garden and The Codex.

In this week's column, I'll give a wrap-up of my beta experience. Read on to hear more about Gloamwood, Warfronts, Darkening Deeps, and a lightbulb moment that I'll never forget.

I kicked off the weekend in Gloamwood, a spooky, spider-infested settlement on the Guardian side. I was all set to check out some solo quests but immediately changed gears when rifts opened up all around me and I spotted a giant Werebeast attacking the city. I had logged in just as a major event was beginning, so I joined one of the raids forming up and followed along as we jumped into battle. Raids have a limit of 20 players, and there were at least four or five that had formed, so you can imagine the crowds of players making their way over the narrow streets and bridges of Gloamwood Pines. The Werebeast had a knockback and a rough AoE, but players began to figure out his cues and eventually took him down.

Since my adrenaline was pumping, I figured I'd relax with a little peek at PvP Warfronts. There were two available this weekend: The Black Garden and The Codex. The Black Garden is for players level 10 and up, and the objective is to seize a relic and protect it from the opposite team. The longer you hold the relic, the more damage you absorb, so your teammates have to be quick to snag it when you die. Teams gain points both by holding the relic and by killing other players. The Codex involves control of certain control points on the map and is for players level 20 and up. From the looks of it, Warfronts are cross-server, and happily, my queue times were pretty short. The Black Garden seems to be a 10-man instance, while The Codex is much larger, with a cap of 20. The scenarios might seem familiar, but what really made it fun was sampling out different soul combinations to see what they do in a PvP setting. One of my guildmates, named Fidgets, discovered a healing soul that was actually pretty destructive. His Cabalist has an ability that places a sigil on the enemy. Under certain conditions, it explodes, causing damage to three enemies nearby. You can imagine the fun he had tagging players with the sigil and watching the fireworks show that ensued. I don't normally opt for PvP, but I can definitely see myself joining guild groups and running these regularly.

Later in the weekend, I joined up with some guildmates to visit the Darkening Deeps, a group instance aimed at players level 22 to 23. We were a tad small for it, with most of us only level 20-21, but we figured we'd give it a try. The zone is an enormous chasm lined with goblin villages and encircled by a winding ramp that spiraled along the pit. We had a choice of heading up the ramp or heading down, and we figured we'd head toward the bottom. We regretted our decision, though, because as we fought with the goblins on the ramp, we were attacked from above by ladel-wielding goblins who were tossing fireballs down on our heads. We backtracked up top and continued on but eventually got stymied by Michael Bringhurst, a werewolf that was just a bit too strong for us. We were outdone by our low levels and the power of moonlight. We meant to go back when we were higher, but we'll have to wait for another beta weekend to try again.

To wrap up the weekend, I decided to teleport over to Stonefield to see what the Defiant hunting grounds were like. As it turns out, I ended up having one of the most amazing "lightbulb" moments ever. Rift invasions are fun and dynamic, but I've always viewed them as NPC-driven events. The invading mobs that come from the Rifts and attack our Wardstones are just AI-driven, computer-generated mobs, or so I thought. But as I arrived in Stonefield, I realized that the Guardian wardstone that I had just ported to was actually a target for all the Defiant players running past -- just as the Defiant wardstone outside Sanctum was a target that I repeatedly attacked and destroyed. And if the Guardian wardstone out in Stonefield was a target for the Defiant, that must mean I had the power to attack any Defiant wardstone in their territory! I couldn't do it alone, but I had a planar flare that would summon a Guardian army to attack any wardstone I was close enough to target. It was too tempting to pass up, so I inched up to a small quest hub, targeted the wardstone, and stood back laughing as my Guardian forces engaged the Defiants.

Unfortunately, I had a low-level flare, and my little level 20 army was eventually wiped out by the higher-level Defiants. Adding insult to injury, messing with a wardstone (I soon learned) flags you for PvP for four minutes, so the hunter was now the hunted. I was far enough away from the quest hub to not be pursued by the NPCs, but with about a minute left on my PvP flag, a Ranger spotted me and began sniping at me. It was the longest minute of my MMO life as I ran halfway across Stonefield, healing as fast as I could. I had only a sliver of health left as my flag wore off, but I had a huge laugh as I razzed the Ranger and scurried away, thankful I survived. I can't wait for next beta so I can stock up on high-level flares, rally some guildmates, and spend a night chipping away at wardstones. I've been thoroughly enjoying RIFT beta, but this makes me see the game in a whole new light, and the fun factor just went up to 11 for me.

Before I wrap up, I have one more community site for you to bookmark and visit. It's called RiftIRC, and it's been around since April 2009. Its staff has weekly chats every Friday with members of the development team and fields a community of over 100 players. Make sure to stop by if you have any questions about the game or want to chat with other players.

Once again, I had a very enjoyable weekend in RIFT, and I'm already looking forward to the next event. I did do some livestream video of my time in game, which you can view on the Massively Channel, and I'll definitely do that again for the next event, so keep an eye out for the MV Guide. In the meantime, death to the dragons!

Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.
This article was originally published on Massively.