If one thinks of the quest hubs, camps and villages dotting the world as mom and pop stores, then the capital cities are the Walmarts of RIFT: one-stop shops for all your character's needs. They're both fairly compact, although I found myself preferring Sanctum's beachfront atmosphere and circular layout over Meridian's underground labyrinth.
Because all players will be traveling to and extensively using capital cities during the course of their in-game careers, I figured we might as well take a look at what capital cities -- Sanctum specifically -- have to offer. Jump on our people-mover as we wind our way through the sights and sounds of civilization!
It's tempting, especially for seasoned MMO veterans, to quickly develop tunnel vision in new games. You end up zipping to and fro accomplishing tasks while missing out on all the little details in your mad rush to get places. It pays to slow down and take in the little details, and Sanctum has plenty of these. I set aside a half hour or so just to poke around in the town and complete a few of the quests that are designed to help you get to know the place, and it was time well spent.
There are plenty of captivating locals here who aren't mere vendor punching bags, who hint at a life of their own. Two of Sanctum's more interesting townies include Joseph the Mystic (and his many enchanted squirrels) and Mitch, the Un-Ascended Adventurer. Mitch hangs out in the local tavern bemoaning how no one will take him on dungeon runs because he has only one life. Poor Mitch.
Obviously, trainers are one of the most important resources in Sanctum. While some of the outlying towns and hubs may have various trainers, Sanctum has them all -- the four archetype trainers (who can increase your skill ranks and help you reset your soul points) and the 32 soul trainers. As it stands right now, if you want to get a new soul, you simply have to talk to that respective trainer and accomplish a short quest (usually involving a planar sphere gathered from a rift event).
Money, goods and services are what makes any city spin, and Sanctum is no different. For the entrepreneurs out there, you'll want to make best friends with the auctioneer and his loyal sidekick, Mr. Mailbox. RIFT has a fully functional Auction House that's seen a lot of use even in beta, and this will certainly be a popular spot come launch for all those who want to get the best value for their loot.
Capital cities are also where you'll be able to access your bank, which offers a generous amount of additional storage so that you can adventure without clogged bags. I ended up throwing a lot of the planar currency (like motes of soulstone) in the bank as I saved up for the rare loot from special vendors. No need to be lugging that around!
I definitely swooned a bit -- just a bit! -- when I saw a dye vendor. There have been some complaints about how many of the characters look identical in early game armor, which is why it's nice to have access to fairly inexpensive dyes to create a distinct look for your toon. You can only dye each piece one color, but most of your armor is dyeable.
In RIFT, there are three gathering professions (mining, foraging and butchering) and six crafting professions (apothecary, armorsmith, artificer, outfitter, runecrafter and weaponsmith). Naturally, each one of these has a respective trainer, and all nine trainers are accessible in the capital cities. I've always wondered what these master teachers do all day when they're not being pestered by novices. I imagine it's a lonely existence of being used for what they can teach, not what they can make. Alas.
Porticulums are also known (to me) as Narnia doors: glowing gateways that transport you to portals you've discovered around the world. Porticulums are absolutely vital to master due to just how much you'll be traveling to Sanctum or Meridian. While this instant-travel network can't get you everywhere in the world, there's at least one portal per zone to get you well on your way.
Branching off from Sanctum's main circular path is a little sub-village that contains most everything PvPers will need. There are guides to the warfronts, vendors for special loot, and a feeling of belonging to the roughneck elite of the game.
Speaking of vendors, there are plenty of faction vendors hanging out in the city with rich storehouses of loot for the taking -- if you can pass their "You must be THIS respected to get all the goods" measuring stick. You'll notice that several quests are tied to one faction or the other, and here is where all your diligent work pays off.
I forgot to take a picture of the Artifact Master in town, but trust me, he's there -- and he can't wait to meet you. By the time you get to a capital city (usually in your early teens), you'll undoubtedly have accumulated a number of artifacts that you've been throwing into collections. Have no idea what these are about? That's what the Artifact Master is for.
When you meet him for the first time, he'll give you a quest to pick up three artifacts around town and put them into a small collection. It's fairly simple, and once you've completed it, the Artifact Master will exchange that collection for a goody bag of random prizes. The bigger the completed collection, the better the rewards, so you'll always have to judge whether you want to put a certain artifact into a smaller collection to get rewards more quickly or a larger collection for delayed gratification.
Once you hit level 20, you'll definitely want to drop everything you're doing and get thee hence to the mount vendor. Speed matters in RIFT, and a faster mount will get you to the action that much more quickly. Mounts are pretty affordable -- the beginning one costs a little over two platinum, which is certainly doable if you don't spend all your cash on potions and bags.
After your basic level 20 mount, you'll be upgrading to better models at level 40 and then again at level 50. Of course, those cost substantially more, but the payoff is worth it.
Questions? Ask the RIFTperts!
We still have a month and a half ahead of us until launch, and there's so much to talk about this game it's hard to even know where to begin. However, we're sure that many of you have questions about RIFT, whether you've already pre-ordered or are still deciding whether to play it or not.
So ask away! Karen and I will take these questions and do our best to give you the inside scoop in future columns -- just put them in the comments below!
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.