It’s happening again. Once more, I find myself making the proverbial climb to the heights of RIFT’s level tree. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been there before too. In RIFT or elsewhere, you find yourself asking questions and making plans about what you’ll do next, contemplating that old adage of “the real game begins at the level cap.” With chronicles, experts, raid rifts, raids, and progression PVP, there is a lot to consider, to say nothing of the game’s other options. Today, let’s look at those things. And while we’re at it, let’s have a gander at the Bindings of Blood update and see if we can’t pull a few hints at what it might mean for the game, shall we?
You know, as much as I’ve come to dislike it, that old saying about the game only beginning once you’re done leveling is actually pretty true here. RIFT is a content packed game, in leveling and out, but once you’re done it’s like the world has opened up before you. It’s the theme park paradigm where piling onto the top means players just through with leveling have whole heaps of content to explore. Piles of 5-mans here, a hobbit-village of chronicles there, and an ominous set of raid-like mountains just over the horizon. In between there are fields and rivers of high-end PVP, dimension building, gathering, crafting, and fighting back the hordes sweeping through in zone events.
There’s a problem with all of this, though. As players work through the content, more needs to be added. The players at the top continue to climb and consume content, demanding that more be created. It is a wave of content consumption; one big tsunami of players on the curve with each successive curl becoming smaller and lapping more quietly at the shore.
Joining the game now means being a player on the curl rather than the crash. It is the same problem faced by any theme park MMORPG. The question is: how does RIFT hold up? For a game that just celebrated its third birthday and more high-end content additions than most other games in twice that time, shockingly well.
Still, as a new 60, it’s probably best not to expect to jump into raiding from the start. There’s a build up as you progress through lower levels of content, proving your worth by earning gear and getting your hands dirty with new mechanics. RIFT gives players lots of options here from chronicles, to 5-mans, to zone events for world currency. Raiding isn’t hard locked but trying to jump in without the right gear is not only pointless (your damage and survivability will be handicapped) but burn bridges with more judgemental players. No one wants that, so this is how I’m going about it, mostly solo.
My first step is going to be to propose to, and marry, the LFD tool. It’s all about gear, folks, and dungeons -- both in drops and in vendor currency -- are they way to get it. The quicker you get it, the quicker you can move past it. Some may hate that paradigm but I love the thrill of the chase, so I’ll be queueing for dungeons as a tank non-stop until I’m eligible for experts.
Every now and again, maybe I’ll queue for a chronicle. The word around the internet is that these can be hard, however, and I’m more interested in speed. Chronicles will be the rare treat.
When I’m not in a dungeon, I’ll be chasing Infinity Stones. Infinity Stones are the new platinum as far as many vendors are concerned. Maybe the designers, too, because Trion makes it rain these little gems. Zone events, daily quests, hunt rifts, and carnage quests all reward them and they can be used to buy gear and rift lures. While the World Gear Merchant has a few items worth equipping they're prohibitively expensive to upgrade (though you can and they will approach expert level gear), most of my stones will be going toward lures.
Here's where the theme park problem comes in. Standing at the top of my levels, decked out in expert gear, my natural urge is to catch up on all that I’ve missed. I want to see those early tier raids! Before Storm Legion, I was several months behind the curve and faced with the same situation. I would market myself, play during peak hours, and only rarely find a group willing to run the older content. If they did, it was a ramshackle group of players like myself, mostly too quick to drop at the first sign of trouble. Talking this over with my guild, the problem may be even worse now. This problem, and the abandonment of lower tier content, is the reason the raid finder exists in World of Warcraft today. That isn’t to say there aren’t groups and guilds out there. They just might be harder to find and I’m already established.
Trion offers us a few alternatives. Reputation gear, the hallmark of MMOs immemorial, is always an option and one I will likely take up. Much easier (and more fun) are raid rifts. I have always loved these and they continue to be a regular pastime for pick-up groups and for when my guild just wants to do something together. The barrier to entry is far lower, though you can’t just take a nap at the keyboard, and the rewards easily help bridge the gap to more organized content.
You could just buy your way there, if you have a hole burning in your pocket. That’s the other option. Prior tiers of content are available for purchase but, to their credit, Trion has built the accessibility wall low enough so that it’s never really necessary. It’s a shortcut, but one that, in my opinion, definitely shortens the life of the game. Play. Enjoy. Only buy if you have serious time cramps or have already seen the content.