Field Journal: Seeking instant gratification in RIFT

Let's go away, you and I, to a strange and distant land.
I've always been pretty open about my feelings on RIFT: I have an immense admiration for the mechanical ideas and the sheer effort Trion makes, but the world-building and aesthetic choices put me to sleep. The game firmly belongs in the category of those games I wish I liked but don't.

While I played the game's first 20-something levels (not to mention trying out several alts into their teens) early in its existence, it just could not hold me. Further attempts, such as during free weekends, in the unlimited free trial, and after the conversion to free-to-play, uniformly resulted in my milling about for a couple of hours before getting bored and uninstalling yet again. Maybe if I ignored the world entirely and focused purely on constant activity, I could get into it. Fortunately, RIFT's Instant Adventure system offers just what I need to test that theory.

I started preparing for this entry back when I was preparing my very first Field Journal. It's not a coincidence that I wrote about RIFT's Fae Yule event back then; I was trying the game out knowing that I'd be writing about it again in a few weeks. Said event should be ending on the day this post goes live, but I did get to experience the Fae Yule content for the Instant Adventure system. A little more on that later.

New world order

My chosen character for this, a Bahmi Rogue, was not quite experienced enough to queue for Instant Adventures when I started. At level 7, she was still barely out of the apocalyptic starting area and was three levels shy of the minimum to queue for Instant Adventures. In addition to going through the holiday content on my way to unlock the system, I spent a little time familiarizing myself with some of the other stuff that's been added since I originally played.

Because every fantasy MMO needs fishing.Fishing and Survival (basically cooking plus camping) are new tradeskills that don't count toward your limit of three. You don't even have to see a trainer to acquire the basic skills, though you'll definitely want to go through the introductory quests from the trainers. For one thing, that's how you get your first fishing rod. Shockingly, you can't fish without a rod.

The professions themselves are fairly basic, albeit serviceable, implementations. There's a few mild differences from their equivalents in the likes of World of Warcraft, but nothing much to write about. Crafting in general is nothing special in RIFT, which seems like a missed opportunity given how much love the developers have put into other mechanical areas of the game.

Another thing I learned fairly quickly was that there doesn't seem to be any penalty for falling, though I'm fairly certain there used to be. I guess being Ascended means the laws of physics are subjective for you.

Then there's the wardrobe system. I had a weird experience trying it out in one of my brief attempts to play the game shortly after it was added. From what I could tell at the time, it let me use only specific wardrobe-compatible items, which I did not have. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but even so there was clearly some obstruction to what should have been a nice, clean system.

It now is that nice, clean system, allowing me to use any gear I want, so long as it belongs in the correct slot. Plate shoulders? Cloth hood? Both absolutely fine. I may not have the most impressive outfit around, but I've kept the most pleasingly practical pieces that I've found. Works well enough for me.

The eternal struggle

So, how about those Instant Adventures? They're certainly well-named. First of all, though there is a queue system, the small delay between queuing and being assigned a group seems to give the servers a moment to find the best place for you.

That place may not be on your home server, and it may be below your current level range. Neither of these facts is cause for alarm. Load times were very quick, no matter where I went, and experience gains seemed about the same no matter where I was, thanks to level scaling.

On the other hand, if I was getting bored of the lowest-level zones, I had to be either lucky or on at peak times. In theory, the queue system displays options appropriate to your current level and an option to be placed randomly. In practice, the random option is often the only one available, for reasons not made apparent as I played. The random option is an attractive choice, nonetheless, as gives bonus rewards for the first 14 IA quests per day, on top of the rewards given by default. The downside is that it seems to favor lower-level zones during off-peak hours, probably for the sake of keeping group numbers from dwindling away.

At least the erasure of most of the lines between the factions means having an extra couple of zones available. Getting attacked for being in the wrong spot can still be a problem to watch out for, as I died once to a Guardian wardstone as I was helping take down a boss and didn't realize what was sapping my health until I was almost dead. The lack of friendly vendors also hurts.

Hellbugs in RIFT? Transmedia synergy synergy!
In any case, group size doesn't seem to matter much. Talking is rare, cooperation is incidental, and the demands of a quest scale to fit. It's nice to have others around, undoubtedly, but there are downsides compared to solo questing as well. As soon as you finish one IA quest, another one starts. There are no breathers. When you gain a level, you'd better spend your Soul Tree points quickly if you want to keep up.

Groups will rarely go for rifts or invasions unless the current quest literally tells them to. If they happen to be directly in the path of the group, they might, but it's never certain. No one says anything; everyone simply follows the example of the first person to make a choice either way.

Standard quests can supplement your progress, some more readily than others. Most kill quests have been detached from their original quest-givers, turned into what the game calls Carnage quests, the targets of which often double as goals for IA quests. All you have to do is kill one thing on the list and you'll automatically accept. If the quest was to kill a single enemy, you'll go straight to being rewarded. Even Carnage quests that originally belonged to the other player faction will be available, thanks to the automatic reward system. I did have some difficulty completing many of these, though, due to the tendency of players to spread out to look for things to kill.

There are a few other quests that start out in the field, usually by clicking an object in the terrain or acquiring a special item by looting. These often require going back to NPCs in their camps and towns away from the IA questing areas to hand in. It's best to complete these when you're tired of being jerked and teleported around from quest to quest. I don't recommend picking up any quests from NPCs that aren't right in the middle of an Instant Adventure area, as there's no guarantee you'll be questing in the right area for a while, if ever.

There are in fact only a handful of areas per zone that Instant Adventures cover. There are several quests that can appear in each area, and you'll only trigger a few before being moved on somewhere else. This helps provide an illusion of variety, but keep at it long enough and you'll be seeing the patterns. The Fae Yule event was very helpful in this regard, as the quests it adds to the Instant Adventure system extend the variety available in a zone. On the downside, the list of possible quests specific to the event seems to be exactly the same for each zone except for the differences in terrain.

Of particular note, calling one of the bosses of the Fae Yule IAs "Yulelogon" seemed rather cynical. You'll log on? No thanks; you just made me want to log out.

As I recall, those yellow sparkles are from me getting hit by the nearby Guardian wardstone.
No, Instant Adventures aren't enough to hook me on RIFT. Turns out ignoring the tedious lore isn't much better than trying to find something interesting in it. What it does manage to be is a way to gain levels very quickly. The breathless pace keeps the XP flowing constantly. I still find myself bored and itching for other games before long, but in that time I've gained two or three levels. That's not exactly something to sell the game on, but it does make it easier for me to come back later and see if there's anything worth talking about in the high levels.

Next week, I'm taking a step back to Neverwinter's Foundry. It's time to take a look at it from the opposite angle and share with you some of the Foundry quests I enjoy.

There are so many weird and wonderful destinations to visit within the MMOscape, and Massively's Matthew Gollschewski hopes to chronicle them all for you every Thursday in his trusty Field Journal. Grab your camera and your adventurin' hat and join in on his next expedition, or just mail him some notes of your own.

This article was originally published on Massively.