Last week, Karen provided an excellent analysis on Trion Worlds' broad, eight-page State of the Game address as the company outlined its plans for the game's long-term future. This week, we're still going to cast our eyes to the present. As we wrap up the final phase of RIFT's Waves of Madness (how much fun is water bladder throwing, huh?) and raid guilds bang their way through Hammerknell, it's the time to revel in a brand-new content update: patch 1.4.

Yes, another patch. I think people are still in disbelief that Trion is able to pump out updates as rapidly as it has, and the current naysayer theory is that the company is merely polishing up content it wanted to get for launch but had to hold back for whatever reason. There's probably a kernel of truth to that, but it doesn't hold up from what we know. We know that Trion has parallel teams -- up to six of them -- working on live development, which includes world events and content updates. We know that some of the features we've seen in previous patches were a direct result of post-launch player feedback, so it can't all be capping off unfinished projects.

Say what you will, but from where I'm standing, Trion's putting its actions where its mouth is by continuing a hot-and-heavy updating streak without showing any signs of slowing down. It's smart, too; by providing faster updates than most MMOs on the market and giving players incentive to stay, return, and try the game for the first time, Trion's firming up its position as an MMO that's here to stay -- not one that's going to fold up shop when future titles hit.

So let's take a peek through the highlights of patch 1.4 as I offer my award-winning commentary on each of the points!

The Water Saga

First off, I'm not thrilled with the title of Trion's latest epic quest series. Anytime I hear "saga," I think generic anime or the Star Wars prequels, and my skin crawls. It's right down there with the overused "chronicles."

Personal hangups aside, cheerio and hip-hip-hooray for something else to do at the level cap. My main character's charging up through the 40s as we speak, and I'm already trying to figure out what I want to do when I hit 50. Contrary to some players' beliefs, there's definitely more than just raiding and PvP at the endgame, but it's not as apparent as it should be.

Even without knowing exact details, I'm excited to give this quest chain a go -- and not just for the admittedly sweet-looking Crocnard mount. RIFT is sometimes (justifiably) dinged for generic quests that have minimal story, but the game's also shown us that it has the capacity for great storytelling if time is taken to do it.

My only concern is that this won't be easy to complete for casual players, as the official description says that the Water Saga is "aimed at high-level Ascended acting alone and in groups." Acting alone, great. Acting in groups, maybe as easy as queuing up for an expert dungeon or maybe as annoying as trying to cobble together a group of folks who are all on the same part of the chain as you are. We'll see.

The Drowned Halls

This 10-man instance is part of the new "Slivers Across Telara" campaign, dedicated to bringing us dungeons that are just slightly harder to access than normal. As with any other part of this update -- or any others, really -- you're going to get people who aren't interested in such content and are peeved that it's being developed. Some of us are raiders, some aren't, but as a non-raider myself, I have no problem with instances being created for those who enjoy such activities. Part of the State of the Game talked about how the team is developing content for all types of players, not just specific ones. If you feel like complaining about this, then head back to 2004 when World of Warcraft's endgame was, um, raiding or raiding. Or raiding. There also was raiding. I'm happy this isn't the case in RIFT.

I like that this is an "introductory" raid that can help guilds get their feet wet if they're not already into the big ones in the game. Drowned Halls should fill the need for a transition between five-mans and massive raids, not to mention appeal to smaller guilds that simply cannot field a full raid like others can.

My only other thought about Drowned Halls is that we're getting another neat peek into what the world would look like if one of the many threatening apocalypses went through with their threats. It's a strong reminder of why we fight, and allows Trion to unleash the team's collective imaginations without breaking the regular world.

Cross-server LFG

Ooh, now here's a heavily debated feature. On one hand you have players who are fed up with long wait times when they want to run a dungeon, times that can stretch on forever if you're on a lower pop server or logged in on off-peak hours. On the other hand, we have players who feel that drawing players from other servers will erode what community is being built up by keeping LFG PUG runs "in the family," so to speak.

I'm of the former crowd and I'm not too worried about the concerns of the latter -- and here's why. Unlike other MMOs where you're never likely to see cross-server players after that dungeon run, RIFT has the newish character transfer system that opens up the possibility to hop to where your newfound friend is playing. This game just feels as though the barriers between servers are lower than elsewhere, so pulling from multiple shards to form groups doesn't bother me.

Now, I'd really love if Trion would give us a way to track our new friends and communicate with them across servers, especially if you'd like to run another dungeon in the future with them. That would go a long way to easing fears of eroding communities with the rebuttal that it's actually building up a stronger one.

PvP improvements

Although there are a few more smaller items in this patch, I'm going to stop with this last big one. PvPers have complained that they wanted more meaningful world combat, and Trion's at least making initial steps to make that happen.

The studio's latest experiment is what it's calling PvP rifts. Basically, players can open up a PvP rift at rift raid locations and attempt to hold the rift as long as possible against the opposing faction. The longer you hold it, the more sourcestone you get -- but enemies are going to gun for you, because the rewards in it for them are strong as well.

It'll be a fairly limited in scope; only three zones can host a PvP rift, and only one of these rifts can be open in each zone at any given time. So if one opens up, chances are strong it's going to have the effect of putting a huge target for all world warriors.

Without seeing it in action, I like the theory behind this. Assuming that the rewards are a strong attraction, it should create a hotspot for the action that players crave. It helps that such rifts will be announced over the world defense channel, too.

Trion's also going to be adding new modes to warfronts and using these modes to spotlight a different warfront every week. Again, hopefully this will encourage PvPers to all congregate in a similar spot rather than spread out all over the place.

Overall, it looks like a solid patch, although if you're not a PvPer, a raider, or a high-level player, its appeal will most likely be small. Personally, I'm eager to get my hands on the upcoming Chronicles of Telara (ugh, there's that word again), so my fingers are crossed for 1.5!

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.
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