Enter at your own Rift: Checking out Update 1.3

The calm before the storm. That's the best way to describe the RIFT screenshot above. As I puttered around and wasted time trying to frame my screenshot from the ideal angle, working that nomad model to his full potential, I was seconds away from a zone event opening up on my head. Instantly, about 50 gigantic desert warriors emerged to attack us for their leader's amusement. And for the next half hour, Fortune's Shore was overrun with warriors, stone golems, and dog people.

Fortune's Shore isn't the only place to experience chaos and danger, though. Whatever the Dwarves did in Hammerknell, it's finally caught up with them -- and with all of Telara. Abyssal and Endless Court forces are posing a real threat, and the Ascended are now tasked with repelling the invasions and charging back into Hammerknell.

In this week's Enter at your Own Rift, we'll look at a few of the changes from Update 1.3. Read on for a look at tithes, character transfers, trial servers, and towering colossi!

Transfers vs. trial servers: The RIFT farm system?

Free transfers were part of the new update, but in an interesting twist, there was an additional announcement that certain servers would be designated as "trial" servers. These servers will essentially be used to deal with the flood of players during special trial events or promotions, which should help prevent long queues. I actually have a character on Dimroot, which is currently flagged as a trial server, and when I logged in, I was met with a message that basically said, "Please transfer off this shard soon."

It will be interesting to see what the effect will be on the communities that end up being tagged as trial servers. Will we see populations empty out, turning the servers into ghost towns, or will we see guilds and communities stick it out and become the equivalent of EVE University, helping new players get into the world of Telara? And will trial players who end up subscribing eventually transfer over to a non-trial server, or will they remain to build up stable communities of their own?

The other issue is that, at least for now, non-trial players cannot create toons on a server that's tagged as trial. That will hamper guilds that are already on those servers and don't want to transfer, since it means the pool of candidates to recruit from will be limited to trial players, who probably aren't as invested in RIFT as subscribers (literally and figuratively.) Not surprisingly, this change has been met with mixed feelings, and the communities on affected servers have some tough decisions to make right now.

Zone events and heroic moments

I ran several zone events this past week, and with the buzz around Update 1.3, there seemed to be many more events running than usual. The continued changes to the minimap and world map make it much easier to identify where zone events are held, and even if you miss that, there's a channel message broadcast to level-appropriate channels that announces when and where a zone event is about to begin.

As the event unfolds, the zonewide text cues have become a big help as well. At launch, it seemed like the waves of invasions moved too quickly and wardstones fell too fast, so players couldn't reach those calls for help in enough time to be of any help. But now, you can get a better idea of which wardstones are in need of protection and be close enough to it so that when a call does go out, you can reach it in time.

Those calls are actually pretty important now because more often than not, rift invasions are pretty quiet (and I'm certainly not complaining!). I've been on a few rift runs where one or two people have tossed out directions in the raid channel, but for the most part, the events resemble some sort of borg-like flash mob that moves together and grows larger as the event progresses. There's no identifiable leader, yet somehow there's an organized unity as everyone quietly moves from sealing a rift to defending a wardstone to charging out and meeting invaders head on.

But there's also room for freestyling in a rift zone event. I've done repeat runs of the same type of zone event, and each one played out much differently. One time, I followed the herd and realized that our unannounced strategy was basically to hope we could reach the objective before all of our wardstones fell. It's no surprise that we failed.

The second time, things seemed much more calculated. There was a large force moving from rift to rift, but a few of us peeled away from the herd to keep an eye on one of the wardstones. Sure enough, several waves of invaders made their way through a nearby rift, and they had us greatly outnumbered. We were nearly done completing the objective, but it looked like there would be no way for our small group to fend off the invaders. I had one charge left of my Bless the Wardstone ability, but that probably wasn't going to be enough.

And then came the Han Solo moment, the one when he swoops in to clear the way for Luke to finish off the Death Star. As I blessed the wardstone, two other players tagged it as well, making it a transcendant wardstone and basically turning the tide of battle. It bought enough time for the larger force to finish sealing rifts, and it helped us spawn the colossus and win the event. (And we did all of it without someone spam-barking orders!) My small group got to play the hero, and we didn't need to run a highly scripted raid instance to do it. All in all, the rift zone events are getting better with age.

Tithing: Not as bad as it sounds

Guild banks have been a bit delayed, but it's nice to see that they're finally here. What surprised me most, though, was the new guild perk: the tithe. When I saw it, my initial reaction was, "Guild tax? No thanks." The subject of requiring members to pay taxes is one that often gets bandied about by guild leaders, but few actually implement the idea -- partially because it can be a drama magnet, and partially because it's a headache to actually track.

But unlike its namesake, the tithe ability isn't a tax (and it certainly isn't a tenth of someone's earnings!). It's actually a buff that adds a coin drop on top of what would normally drop, and that extra amount goes to the guild to help with soul mending. Players still pocket the same amount of cash, but the increased coin drop helps pad the guild's coffers. It's a nice perk, although I'd love to see the guild have the power to use that coin however its members want rather than just limiting it to soul mending. Then again, I am probably the type who would end up making the most use of it, since I tend to find danger pretty easily.

Overall, I'm looking forward to seeing how the Waves of Madness world event plays out. I've had my hands full dealing with soggy villagers, and I'm hoping that the last few phases of the event are long enough to allow everyone to see them. In the meantime, I'll be busy with my stash of treasure maps, which seem to drop like candy from the rifts. Any moment now, I expect to see Johnny Depp come sauntering in!

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.