Enter at Your Own Rift: The "must-see" list for beta five

RIFT 's fifth beta, The Battle of the Ascended, is upon us, and this time around, we see double the number of servers and waves of new players. With launch day just around the corner, there are many who are ready to give this game a serious look. There's a lot in the game that will feel familiar to any veteran MMO player, but there are some features that might cause some sideways glances. Those entering Telara for the first time (and even those who have participated in past beta events) should check out this list of "must-see" goodies during this week's beta!

Enjoy the newbie life. First off, as you roll up a character and enter the starting area, it will probably feel pretty familiar. But before you yawn and resign yourself to a lonely path of rat-killing and errand-running, take heart. When you head out into the open world of Telara, you'll be facing constant danger, so enjoy the relative calm while it lasts. Your main focus should be on getting a feel for the soul system and learning the background of your faction choice. When choosing your first souls, remember that if you use shift and right click, you can get a view of the soul trees. Spend some time shopping around, not only to see what unique abilities each soul has, but also to plan out what souls you're going to try to match together. Some souls can really complement each other well. But don't worry if you have second thoughts about your choice, because you can purchase the ability to swap different soul combinations later on at your class trainer.

When you're completing your starter area quests, take a bit of time to absorb the lore. Even if you're not a lore junkie (sheepishly raises hand), each faction has a great storyline behind it, and there are some interesting plot twists as you head out to the open world. Don't be afraid to explore, too. If you roll Guardian, see if you can find some hidden artifacts for some nice buffs. If you roll Defiant, make sure to buff yourself on any sourcestone lying around. There are also a couple of small, scripted events with some of the locals, so if you have an eye for detail, you'll have a great time.

Put down the quest journal and find some rifts!
Devote at least one play session entirely to rift hunting. No solo questing allowed! I'll admit that I was hesitant to switch gears and run around closing rifts because I felt that I'd be missing out on all the nice experience and gear that comes from solo questing. I quickly learned that I was wrong and that rift hunting is a viable path to leveling and gearing up. The great thing about rifts is that they're very inclusive. I joined up a pickup rift raid one evening and had a lot of fun following the wave of purple dots on my map as we traveled from rift to rift. I ended up with some nice experience and loot and had a surprisingly enjoyable time with... strangers! If you've been traumatized by PUGs whose members scrutinize your GearScore, harass you for not falling into line, or berate you when you have to leave, rift hunting is the perfect therapy.

If you do solo quest, don't be afraid to join up with people nearby who are on the same quests. I know this is a common issue any any MMO, but if you team up with people to knock out quests, you can get updates and experience so much faster than going it alone. In RIFT, several of the named mobs give quest updates even when you're not grouped, but not all. And you don't need to be standing next to someone to get credit for a kill. I was grouped with someone who ran back to a nearby quest hub to do a turn in, and she got an update for the next quest from a mob I was killing off in the distance.

Visit Realm of the Fae. If you can get to level 15, grab four others and traverse the hedge maze to the portal out in Silverwood. If you haven't checked it out in a previous beta, you must see this zone. It's a gorgeous journey through the four seasons, complete with bacchanalian fauns, blinding snowstorms, and an impressive final encounter. If you've been following the lore in Silverwood, you'll especially appreciate how this zone progresses the storyline of Prince Hylas. There are several group instances available in beta, but this one is the first one you'll be able to level up to see, and it's also one of the most visually stunning of the ones showcased so far. If you're a Defiant, this zone is a bit harder to reach, since it's in the Guardian area, but with a teleport item from a planar merchant and some good map reading skills, it is possible to get there.

Show some love to a nearby wardstone. Those pretty crystals you run by are an important part of the game. Run past one and you receive a nice buff. Let one get destroyed by an invasion and watch your vendors, class trainers, and quest NPCs disappear along with it. So take some time to care for it. You can get wardstone buffers as a reward from running rifts, or you can purchase them from a planar vendor with sourcestone currency. Targetting a wardstone allows you to use the buffer to heal up the wardstone, or if it's at full health, give it an upgrade. A well-buffed wardstone will eventually gain protective turrets that fire on attackers, and a fully buffed wardstone will have a protective soul that hands out an even better buff to players.

If a wardstone does fall to enemy invaders, don't despair. You can summon reinforcements using a planar flare, which is rewarded via rifts or purchased from a planar vendor. Take note of the level flare you have, because the higher the level, the stronger the army that you will summon. There is a cooldown on flares, but more than one player can target a wardstone and summon an army, so a small group of players can overcome the odds and quickly turn the tide.

On a side note, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, grab a few flares and head over to the opposite faction's hunting areas to go harass their wardstones. If you're looking for a change of pace from protecting your home city, go track down some rift invaders as they attack your opponents' cities and quest hubs. Just keep in mind that you will be flagged for PvP if you do attack an opponent's wardstone!

Kill a cute fuzzy creature. Yes, it's a guilty pleasure, and you'll get hit with a buff that scolds you for your meanness, but you have a chance of looting a tear from any "cute" animal to add to your collections. In addition to the tears, there are dozens of lootable items and clickable shinies that you can pick up add to your collection journal. When you complete a collection, you can turn it in for some experience and a reward. And according to the patch notes, there should be several new unique rewards for completing collections, so go kill a bunny and click some shinies!

Acclimate yourself with planar foci and planar currency. During previous beta events, one question that constantly came up in open chat is, "Where do I turn in my orb/medallion/mote of sourcestone?" Those are different types of planar currency, and they've been given new names. The basic currency is planarite, and there are also more valuable types given out for massive invasions and special rift events. They've also become virtual currency and you can find them in your character window. You can spend this currency at any planar or rare planar vendor, as well as special faction merchants in each major city.

One of the items you can purchase is your planar focus sigil. It's basically a container that lets you plug in special planar essences that add to your stats or enhance your character. The essences are given out as rift rewards, but you can also buy some special ones from planar vendors and faction merchants. You can also upgrade your basic container and purchase one with more slots to make it even stronger. Only one planar focus sigil can be equipped at a time, but you can really build a nice upgrade with the rewards from rifts and good faction with the merchants. And yes, there are a few fun items as well. My personal favorite is the nico lights, which when used, give your character two lightsticks and some amazing dance moves.

The best approach to the game is to shrug off the mentality of "this is my mob; that's your mob. This is my quest update; get in line." RIFT gives several opportunities for friends and strangers alike to get together and get something done without having to worry about levels and classes. For once, your peers really are your allies, rather than an obstacle to your individual progress. So go hunt some kittens, poke around in every nook and cranny, and group up! Enjoy beta five and make sure to share your discoveries 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.
This article was originally published on Massively.