Enter at Your Own Rift: One month in, how's the game?

Snakes -- they're the one thing in RIFT that I absolutely detest, not because they're dangerous or scary, but because they refuse to drop the last snake tear that I need for my critter tears collection. I've killed dozens, perhaps even hundreds, but every time, I walk away empty-handed. Oh sure, every now and then, one will give off that sparkle effect when it has loot, but it's always just the morale-crushing snake skin.

I have killed so many snakes that I could probably string them together and encircle the world of Telara three times. Instead, I'll step away from my snake-slaughter to report on the news from Telara. It's been a month since the head-start launch, and already we've seen several major changes. Read on for a my mini-progress-report on public grouping, security, training dummies, and my incredible shrinking armor.

Hacking issues: The fast and the furious

If the forums are any indication, the swift addition of the coin lock system and the hotfix for the security exploit discovered by ManWitDaPlan seem to have cut way down on the number of hacking complaints. The lengthy threads that seemed to fill the first page have now been replaced with more conventional complaints about game nerfs and class balance. With the authenticator due soon and lots of in-game options to fight back against spam, it will be interesting to see how well Trion combats third-party trading and hacking. Since RIFT is a game based on the traditional monthly subscription with no cash shop, the battle against hackers and RMT is a significant one.

Public groups: Not so public anymore

In the short time since I wrote about the beauty of the public grouping system, I've already noticed a growing number of people turning it off. Several times while out questing, I was disheartened to see that players nearby, who were tagging the exact same mobs and who obviously were on the same quest, had shut off their public group option. Worse, I had mine on, but people still would not group up with me. Even when I was out rift hunting, I found the same thing -- players had set themselves to private and even went as far as to pull mobs away from the rift area, out of sight of other players. Maybe I'm missing something, but the only good reason I can see setting yourself private is that you're doing something with a pre-set group or raid and you don't want the hassle of an unknown quantity mucking things up. Are players really so disdainful of impromptu grouping that they'd prefer to fight over content? In the long run, I can't imagine that's the case, and I would think that we'll eventually see players toggling it on and off more freely depending on the situation.

The state of the starter areas

A quick pass through Argent Glade revealed that the starter areas have thinned out a bit, as is to be expected, but there are still plenty of players running quests and rift invasions. One question that always pops up about RIFT is whether a lower population would cause rift invasions to overrun quest areas and hubs. Ironically, the rift invasions seem to scale nicely with the population of a given zone, but the quest areas have become much more challenging and dangerous. There were plenty of zone events in Argent Glade over the weekend, and players were still forming up large raids to battle them. But when out questing, you have to be a lot more careful now about what you pull and where you choose to fight. It's easy to get ambushed by an add, and there aren't as many players around to lend a hand clearing an area.

Has anybody seen my pants?

My guildmate Anda and I have a running joke about the fact that every time one of us gets an upgrade, we seem to lose a bit more material on our gear. At this rate, by the time we're level 50, we'll be running around with just pasties and a fig leaf. On my list of things I care about in RIFT, this is pretty far down, but eventually, I would be happy to see the addition of an appearance tab, so that I have a bit more control over what my gear looks like. The artifact collector already sells appearance hats in game, so it seems inevitable that we'll see something in the game at some point. If not, I'm going to have to start using my dyes on my bare skin!

Training dummies

As players reach the level cap, they're finally able to test out different soul combinations with the maximum allotted training points. Fortunately, they can get some good data by using the training dummies in town. For the Guardians, they're located in Thedeor's Circle in Sanctum, which is the PvP quest area, and there are several different types of dummies. They vary from normal, to elite, to dungeon, and even a boss practice dummy. For healers, there are even two healing dummies located right at the entrance. I noticed that they have been seeing a lot of use lately, and I'm eager to test out how my soul builds do both individually and with a group. A weaker soul combination might end up being a hidden gem if paired up with a particular support class, and it will be fun to explore that a bit.

A color-blind raid

Last week, I once again found myself trying to undo 10 years of habits. I was running the Ancient Wardstones with my guild and could not for the life of me understand the different colors in the raid window. I'm accustomed to seeing each archetype marked by a different color, so warriors are red, healers are green, scouts are yellow, and mages are blue, for example. But in RIFT, I saw two Clerics with two completely different colors, and a Rogue had the same color as our main tank. As explained by UI Engineer Rockwell, the colors represent the role you fill in a group, based on your soul choices and how you spend your points. Tanks are red, melee DPS are yellow, ranged DPS are orange, healers are blue, and support classes are pink. It already has me thinking differently about group and raid makeup, because there are many more options available and the traditional holy trinity might not be the ideal anymore. For those who want to make some sense of it all, here's a good chart that breaks down the souls nicely.

Now that we've survived launch, how are you enjoying the game? What's surprised you, and what would you like to see changed? Share your progress reports below, and make sure to include your snake tear death-tally!

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.