Enter at Your Own Rift: The curious case of planar attunement

Rift Shipwreck
Over the weekend, players finished off those last crumbs of the RIFT birthday cake and celebrated six months of fending off planar invasions. But already on the horizon is update 1.5, Ashes of History, and with it comes new ways for level-capped players to keep busy. One of the major features to arrive is the new Planar Attunement system. Players who are level 50 will be able to use any earned experience toward attunement points, which will grant new abilities and stat bonuses. In many ways, it resembles the AA systems used in EverQuest and EverQuest II, although there are some noticeable differences.

The testing continues, and there are still tweaks to come with this system, but there are several questions surrounding the addition of the Planar Attunement system. In this week's Enter at Your Own Rift, we'll look at some potentially tricky issues when it comes to RIFT and AAs.

Grinding AAs

The big question, of course, is how long will it take to earn a planar attunement point? And will there be a cap on the number of points you can accrue? There are six different planes, meaning several options when deciding where to spend the points, and from the looks of things, spending points in one particular plane eventually opens up a new "ring" of abilities, almost like a spider's web. EverQuest had an AA system that allowed you to train anything as long as you had the points, while EverQuest II's system caps the number of points you can get, meaning that you can't purchase every ability available to you -- you have to make decisions on where to focus your AA points. Also, EQII allows players to begin earning AA points early on, which is different from RIFT, which only offers Planar Attunement at level 50. Also, as of now, RIFT players can only see their available choices in the UI window, so there are many abilities that aren't visible yet, which is a bit different from the AA systems in EQ and EQII.

Weapon specialization?

Several of the attunement abilities give stat bonuses that are based on what weapon you wield. A Mage, for example, might get a spell power bonus if he's wielding a wand. That has the potential for some major headaches because if that player ends up winning a powerful staff, his planar attunement selections won't give any benefits. Potentially, a player will be forced to forego a nice upgrade because he's married to a Planar Attunement path that requires a different weapon type. And with the constant swapping of soul builds and weapons, these PA paths don't seem to fit well at first glance.

How does it complement or clash with the souls and the fact that they're so fluid? Will players be able to save and swap out multiple Planar Attunement specs, as they have been able to do with souls? EQ and EQII never had to address this issue because the classes were more set in stone. Even with EQII's betrayal system, players don't switch their classes nearly as often as RIFT players swap souls. So AA lines were pretty set in stone as well, although in EQII, you could switch between two AA specs using an AA mirror in your home.

If you look back at the AA systems in EQ and EQII, both included class-defining abilities that helped make each class stand out from the others. Planar attunement on top of an already fluid soul system brings up some interesting questions.

RIFT Stillmoor
Lore and lures

What really piques my interest about Planar Attunement is how it ties in with the overall theme of the game: rifts. What exactly does it mean for those level 50 Ascended to "attune" themselves with the planes? From a lore perspective, it almost sounds as if players are growing closer to the planes -- does that mean that the PA system will eventually allow players to travel to the planes with enough "attunement?"

Also, one of the first abilities that players select allows them to lure out a rift of whatever planar type they've trained in. This brings up all sorts of questions about how these planar lures affect the larger world, and how the system affects rift invasions overall. Justin recently mentioned that the rift invasion system needed a little pick-me-up, so it would be nice these new lures are part of something bigger.

But this also raises the question of whether your planar choice has any larger meaning in the world of Telara. Is Planar Attunement like faction? And if you choose a different plane to attune yourself with, will that make it harder to do things with your friends and your guildmates?

Other abilities?

According to the test notes, any experience that a player earns will go towars Planar Attunement. So you don't just have to run adventure content; you can do other things like craft or PvP. But so far, the abilities that have been revealed are pretty much just combat bonuses and stat buffs. There are a few non-combat perks, but those are things like improved mount speed or faster swim speed. Will there be abilities for crafting and PvP bonuses? It would seem that if the Planar Attunenent system allows for multiple ways to gain points, there should be multiple options when it comes time to spend them.

Overall, the Planar Attunement system has lots of unanswered questions, but it's going to bring a nice change, and just at the right time. Six months in, hardcore players are beginning to run out of content and are looking for new things to do. And more casual players who might have hit a wall with progression will suddenly have a nice little boost to make things more manageable. If the Planar Attunement system is anything like the AA systems of EQ and EQII, it will be a great addition to RIFT.

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.