Enter at Your Own Rift: Leveling the achievements way

Enter at Your Own Rift Leveling the achievements way
In this week's Soapbox on Massively, I explained why I admire achievement systems in MMOs. Today I'd like to continue that discussion with a specific case study in RIFT. Consider it a companion piece.

When I came back to RIFT last month and started a new character, I had a choice as to how I would level back up through the game. There was the traditional questing path, pursuing dynamic events, running endless streams of dungeons, engaging in (shudder) PvP, or queuing up for instant adventures. I decided to blend them all together like premium yogurt and use the achievements system as a guide.

I don't tether myself to achievement systems in all MMOs I play, but RIFT's makes it fun and natural. It's easy to parse what's left to be done on a zone by zone or system by system basis, and the little noise and graphic that pops up makes me feel like a good doggy, indeed.

It's turned out to be an incredibly good decision. I've had so much more fun this time around than the first, greatly in part to achievements nudging me off the path well-traveled.

Enter at Your Own Rift Leveling the achievements way
Useless fluff... or is it?

RIFT's achievement system is as straightforward and streamlined as most every other part of the game. Zones, PvP, dungeons, crafting, and other systems all have their own categories, and within those are achievements tied to specific accomplishments. Some are ludicrously easy to get (whee, I got a pet!), while others might be out of my grasp until the end of time.

A majority of achievements do nothing more than give you a "well done, mate!" notice and a few more points for your score when you trigger them. A few, however, offer up more substantial rewards, such as planar achievement points and titles. The latter are usually top priorities for me (just ask me about the week that I spent repeatedly trying to master the bugged Mushroom Soup achievement due to "the Shroomer" title), but all are fun to get.

Maybe achievements are seen as fluff by some, but I think they work hand-in-hand with RIFT's dynamic content toward the same goal: to break us of bad habits and stale routines that have been cultivated in MMOs over the years and to help us see that there's more to gaming than rushing to the next quest hub.

A Dwarf in Silverwood

My adventures in achievements began with a lowly Dwarf Cleric in Silverwood. Armed with my previous experiences in the game and some additional research as to all of the new changes, I set out to make my fortune and glory.

Beginning with Silverwood, I adapted to a different way of going about my business. Once I was out of the tutorial, I pulled up the achievement list and took note of everything I wanted to accomplish before moving on to the next zone. This amounted to pretty much everything on the list except hunting down rare spawns (way too time-consuming) and completing artifact sets (ditto).

I didn't want to be obsessive about this from the get-go, but I figured it helped to have in mind the achievements that were easier to accomplish along the way than back-track to finish later. One example of this was the Spelunking in Silverwood achievement. This requires you to go to the bottom of four different caves. So I just kept my eye out for caves, and if I saw one, I tackled it right then and there. A little work along the way paid off in spades later.

By the time I finished up all the quests and the major storyline, I turned my attention to unfinished achievements. This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable times of any zone because the possibilities were numerous. It was a big scavenger hunt, and I was hot on the trail.

Enter at Your Own Rift Leveling the achievements way
My favorite achievements so far

So as a level 42 Dwarf, I've finished most of the achievements in Silverwood, Gloamwood, Searing Gorge, and Scarwood Reach (I'm taking my time, OK?). Out of all of the ones I've done, here are my favorites and my reasons:
  • A High Point (Silverwood): One of the things that I love about RIFT is how accessible the world is. The mountains aren't just there to be impassable barriers; they're challenges for the aspiring platformer. In Silverwood, you can actually navigate your way to the mountain range that separates the zone from Moonshade Highlands. Without a guide, you'll just have to run up and down the tippy-tops of the mountains to find the single highest point in the zone. When I found it, I really did feel as if I were on top of the world. And bonus: There's another achievement nearby!
  • So Much Fun, I Did It Twice (Silverwood): This is an incredibly easy one to get. You just have to go to the Sanctum bridge and jump off the left side, then the right side, landing in the water so you don't take damage. For a couple of minutes' worth of effort, you get the feeling of being a daredevil as well as a nifty "Base Jumper" title.
  • Trophy Hunter (Gloamwood): I kind of stumbled upon this one when I killed a mob that dropped a quest item. It turns out that there are seven such mobs in the zone, and each one drops a trophy to be returned to a game hunter in town. Happily, none of the mobs is a rare spawn, and I quite enjoyed trying to find these on my own.
  • Lovers Leap (Scarlet Gorge): There are a lot of achievements that involve jumping from high places in this game, but this one is kind of charming. At the top of Scarlet Gorge is a little sign (it's among the spiders) telling you that you've found Lovers Leap. If you jump just right, you'll plunge down into a pool, take no damage, and nab this achievement. I do so love suicidal jumps.
  • A Barrel of Laughs (Scarlet Gorge): All of the zone puzzles have achievements tied to them, and this one stands out more than others because it is a tricky little sliding puzzle that you can't cheat your way through. It just takes a bit of time and perseverance, and you get a title and a goodie bag as a reward.
  • Give 'Em Enough Rope (Scarwood Reach): Whew, this one almost had me. Basically, you have to do a high ropes walk across many, many spans -- and not drop. For those in the class with vertigo and a phobia of heights, like yours truly, it is not the easiest thing in the world to do. I actually made it on my first try, to my stunned disbelief.
  • Bare Knuckled (Scarwood Reach): Here's an excellent example of how achievements have broadened my horizons over my first run-through of the game. I had no idea there was a pit fighting area in the zone, mostly because no quest had led me there. But with the achievement in mind, I went down to engage in a series of one-on-one battles with humorously themed characters.
Obviously, I've barely scratched the surface in my return to the game. Even so, I'd love to hear about your favorite achievements and the stories you made in getting them!

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.