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I Got Soul, and I Am a Soldier

Paul Crilley Posted:
Columns Chronicles of One Telaran 0

Welcome back, my fellow Telarans! This is the second article about my experiences playing Trion Worlds’ MMORPG, Rift. Last week, if you’ll recall, (and why shouldn't you? Clearly it was the most important article to appear anywhere EVER!), my dwarf warrior Caedryn was about to step into the wild blue yonder to put his boot imprint on the faces of bad guys.

So without further ado, I step through the funky, pink portal…

… And find myself in a graveyard.

A ghostly soul drifts past me. I’m so hopped up ready to fight that I try to cut it in two with my sword. Nothing happens, though. Stupid ghosts. They should watch where they're going. I look around the graveyard and see much more likely targets attacking innocent NPCs. But first things first. There is a woman just ahead with a huge exclamation mark bobbing above her head. Using the impressive deductive skills I culled from reading and re-reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, I deduce that I’m supposed to talk to her.

I’m right. Fayne has my first quest. She wants me to kill the Ashen Defilers that have taken over the townspeople and free their trapped souls. (Ah, the earlier ghost makes sense now. I magnanimously take back my insult about stupid ghosts.) I must say, Fayne has a touching amount of faith in me considering all I'm wearing is some cheap leather that makes me look like I've just stumbled in from a bondage film set.  But I accept the quest and set about my task with much gusto. The Ashen Defilers are nothing to Caedryn’s mighty prowess and they fall before him like teenage girls fainting at a Justin Beiber concert.

"Hahaha! Die, you skinny, easily-killed creature!"

While completing this first quest, I level up. Which means I have points to assign. I hit the N key and am taken to the Soul Tree screen.

Which I suppose is as good a time as any to discuss the versatility of Rift’s soul system.

You start off with your basic soul. As you know, I picked Warrior, but you can also pick Cleric, Mage, or Rogue. Each of these classes has access to nine different souls that will bring different abilities to the table. For instance, I can go the traditional route as a warrior, picking the souls that will give me strength and melee combat advantages. Or If I'd prefer to be nimble and quick, wielding two one-handed swords, I can pick the Paragon soul.

"With a finely tuned mind and body, the Paragon wields two weapons to perfection, devastating his or her enemies. Paragons specialize in dealing consistent damage in melee combat and can also do damage at range."

Or I can combine fighting and magic by choosing the Riftblade soul.

"Riftblades are Warriors who can enhance their attacks with elemental magic, allowing them to cast bolts of force across the battlefield."

The other souls offer different options, but the point is, even though I pick a warrior, which is traditionally associated with sword and armor, I can still tweak that warrior with a bit of two-weapon rogue ability, or wield battle magic like a mage. This is a huge plus for me, because there’s nothing worse than playing a game for hours and then deciding you don’t want to go through the whole game as a fighter who can only use swords. Maybe you want a bit of magic as well. If that's the case here, I can change one of my souls to closer suit my needs.

Each of these eight souls has a “Soul Tree” attached to them. These trees contain all of the traits and special abilities the soul mastered during its life. As you level up, you are assigned soul points that you can use to activate or advance these traits as you see fit. The higher up the tree you go, the more powerful the abilities. But there's more tweaking here. The Soul Trees have two levels, the branches and the roots. As you advance up the branches by putting your soul points into special traits, you automatically unlock “root” abilities as well. These roots are the base abilities of the soul that all players have access to.

As you level up, you will eventually have access to three souls and their attendant Soul Trees. That’s quite a lot of tweaking, but the shear amount of options gives players a lot of leeway in how they approach the game. I sometimes get overwhelmed trying to decide with brand of coffee to buy. But it's a cool problem to have. (The tweaking thing. Not the coffee thing. That's just annoying.)

I only have the one soul at the moment, the Champion. I decide to give my dwarf small-man syndrome and pump all my points into increasing his strength. I pity the fool who calls Caedryn shorty. To quote from the best movie EVER, He will "strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

I have just decided that in my head Caedryn will speak like Samuel L. Jackson. Because, really, everything is so much cooler if you imagine him saying it. "Soul Tree". You see? It's true.

Now that I'm level 2, I'm feeling a bit cocky, so I decide to head down the hill to see what Ardenburgh has to offer. (Turns out, smoke monsters, thralls, people getting their souls sucked out of their bodies. You know, the usual.)

Ardenburgh's urban renewal project wasn't really going according to plan.

I fight my way through the starting zone quests, destroying Defiant machinery, meeting the King of the Dwarves, Borrin Gamult, plus Cyril Kalmar, the very first warrior to be Ascended by the Vigil. I level up fairly quickly here, and I soon have access to my next soul. I pick Beastmaster, because a companion beast is a very handy addition in the early stages of the game when your character is still low level. I call my new best friend Fido.

Remember folks – a slavering, murderous, jackal-type pet is not just for Christmas. It's for life.

My final soul is more of a dilemma. I’m torn between Warlord and Paragon, and it takes me about ten minutes to finally decide on paragon. I like the idea of being able to wield two weapons, so am thinking of pumping my soul points into those aspects of the soul tree to see what this adds to combat. Now I have my three souls it’s time for the final quest of the Starting Zone. To kill Aedraxis and banish Regulos back through the Ward. I’m not sure if my character is ready yet, but there are no more quests to be had, so I grit my teeth and head for the Rift hanging in the distance.

The battle is easier than I expected. (But I suppose this is still the starting zone.) I am helped in my fight by the heroes of the Shade War, Cyril Kalmar, Borrin Gamult and Shyla Starhearth, but it’s me who has to destroy the body of Aedraxis once it’s all over.

And that’s it. The Mathosian Civil War is over. The game is won.

That was easy. What now? Build a house? Settle down? Become a tavern owner? Ah, no, silly me.  A cool little cutscene follows, filled with portents and bad omens. It’s not all over. In fact, it’s just beginning, and after the cutscene I arrive in the main game, some twenty years later.

Next week, we're finally into the proper game, and we'll chat at great length on the wide open world and those silly Rift things everyone is talking about.  Check back then!


Paul Crilley