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The Bounty of Souls

William Murphy Posted:
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Let’s talk about one of my favorite parts of Rift this week: the soul attunement system. 

Last week I prattled on about how Rift may not be doing too much to shake up the genre, but that there’s nothing wrong with the traditional approach.  One of the features Trion is implementing to make their fantasy MMORPG stand out from the crowd is the way in which they handle their class system.  Now I know it won’t please everyone (what does?), but to me the way in which Rift allows players to mix and match souls across the four archetypes goes a long way towards lessening the restrictive nature of your typical class-based game.   It’s definitely one of the primary reasons I’m looking forward to launch day.

I find the most satisfaction in MMOs where I have a lot of leeway in how my character is grown.  The ultimate answer is a classless or skill-based system but barring that, simply allowing me to pull from as many different channels of character development as possible will do the trick.  It’s a common feature of superhero MMOs like Champions, City of Heroes, and DC Universe.  But it’s rarely a feat attempted by the more traditional sword and board games.  Rift looks to give players a lot more flexibility in how they perform their specific role, and that diversity comes in the form of souls.

Basically, for those who haven’t been following Rift’s development the system works like this: you create your character and pick an archetype.  These are the basic standards you’ve come to expect from your fantasy MMOs – the cleric, the rogue, the warrior, and the mage.  But once in the game and playing, you’ll begin to earn more and more souls which are a cryptic way of saying “different classes within each archetype.  As you earn them you’ll be able to create several builds and combinations of souls within your archetype.  You can purchase more and more roles, so that at any time out of combat you’ll be able to switch which souls you have equipped… essentially making one character fill the role of several.  It’s a pretty nifty little system that allows for a lot of creativity and exploration of the game’s many skill trees.  But it’s not perfect.

The obvious downside to having so many potential combinations is the balance nightmare it must create.  Still, while Rift will undoubtedly have a strong PvP segment, I’m of the mind that the game’s chief draw will be its PvE.  Additionally, each soul represents a different type of playstyle within each archetype.  For the Warriors some are geared towards tanking, some are geared towards buffing and support, and others are geared towards straight DPS.  To me, though there are many options for players to choose from, this means that for group content players will still be pigeon-holed into specific roles as opposed to really being allowed to mix and match based on their preferences.  Additionally, I worry that each tree won’t have quite enough novelty to make the different souls really seem all that different from one another.  I hear from other testers that the deeper you go into each tree, the more distinct each becomes.  If that’s true, then consider this worry unwarranted. 

In the end though, there’s not really too many bad things I can say about the Soul System.  It’s definitely a unique take on the tried and true class system, and one that will allow a lot of character flexibility so long as players aren’t afraid to experiment and the cost of re-specs isn’t too high.  It’s also going to be extremely handy for folks to be able to switch roles on the fly.  For solo situations one can have a purely DPS build, and then when said player wants in on some dungeons they can switch to a more balanced support role depending on their archetype.  And then they can have yet another build that’s more appropriately slanted towards PvP if they so desire.  It’s just another way in which Rift builds upon the games of the past and tweaks the system to make it its own.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.