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There's a Storm Brewin'

Som Pourfarzaneh Posted:
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Anyone who's been playing or following Rift for the past year and a half since its launch will know that Trion Worlds hasn't been content to sit on its laurels and let the game fend for itself.  The Rift team has been ambitious in their update schedule, and the game has seen a huge amount of content additions, tweaks, and new gameplay modes in free updates since release.

Trion is upping the ante with the upcoming expansion, Storm Legion, which will add 2 new continents to the world of Telara, an increased level cap of 60, 4 new class Souls, 7 dungeons, 3 raids, 1 Chronicle,  Grandmaster crafting, Dimension player housing, a new version of dynamic content called Hunt rifts, and a ton of more features.  We were invited to take a look at Rift's first official expansion this past week, and I came away impressed - if not surprised - at the range of content, design decisions, and variety of gameplay options in Trion's latest offering.  Read on to find out more!

New Continents, Souls, Dungeons, and Dimensions

Our tour of Storm Legion was captained by Design Producer Hal Hanlin, Design Director Simon Ffinch, and Senior Producer Adam Gershowitz, along with several other members of the Rift team.  Storm Legion, as will be familiar to fans of the Rift story and lore, will focus on taking the fight to the dragon Crucia, who is making her move against the weakened Regulos.  The expansion's two new high-level continents, which will more than triple the land mass of vanilla Rift, are meant to reflect what the world could look like if the planes had conquered Telara over the Ascended.

These continents will offer a bunch of new Instant Adventures, and are in line with Trion's intent to offer more control to players for how they want to level up and play.  Quest hubs, for example, will be present as per usual, but will be reserved for more important story quests, rather than just being exclamation point farms.  There will be more quests out in the zones for players to discover, and instead of having a bunch of kill missions at each hub, Trion is introducing the new Carnage quest system.  Carnage quests come up automatically when you start attacking mobs in a new location, and you'll get experience and rewards for cleaning house while out adventuring.  Additionally, Trion will be implementing a server-wide event when Storm Legion launches, at which point players will be able to choose from two locations on the new continents and can switch between them at any time.  These locations will each have a more prominent gameplay focus that will cater more to either combat lovers or explorers.

A big draw of Storm Legion will of course be the four new souls, each of which is designed to fill certain gaps in Rift's Callings, while introducing new gameplay options.  Warriors will be getting the Tempest, a ranged DPS soul with lightning-based magic attacks, blast abilities, buffs, and more.  Mages can look forward to the Harbinger soul, which is melee-based and summons special weapons that have completely unique weapon graphics and will give you buffs and level up with you.  These weapons also have different synergies with other souls, too, in the sense that a Lightning Blade will link well with DPS souls, while a Luminous Axe will support solo and healing builds.  The newly revealed, action-oriented Rogue soul, the Tactician, is all about gadgets, and brings ray AoE Torrent attacks, Remote buffs, Core totems, beam attacks, and more to the table.  Torrents are targeted, line AoE abilities and Remotes are gadget-based buffs, while Cores are support totems, and beams allow you to link with a target and then hit other targets in between the two of you as you run around.  Finally, the new Cleric soul, the Defiler, is still being kept secret.

Trion has been cleaning up other souls as well, like making the Bard more easy and fun to play, while expanding the Soul Trees and Purpose system - Rift's versions of ability trees and preset builds, respectively.  Soul Trees have become a lot bigger, with two new "branches" for each tree, more abilities in their "roots," and passive "gift" bonuses that are earned through spending points in a tree.  The Purpose system is likewise expanded, and you'll be able to autofill points in trees and "train all" abilities at class trainers.  Finally!

Our tour took a look at Tempest Bay, a new city zone, which is an open urban environment that has more nooks and crannies to explore than the existing cities, and we also got a chance to see a few of the expansion's new dungeons.  Prominent among these is the level 60 Tower of the Shattered, an indoctrination station for Crucia's Storm Legion.  Tower of the Shattered features Rift's new dungeon stealth mechanics, where you can earn 1-hit kills by approaching mobs without being seen and attacking from behind them.  Trion wants these dungeon spaces to feel like they exist on their own, and that players are invading self-regulating spaces, rather than having instanced environments feel solely player- and event-focused.  Additionally, we looked at Empyrean Core and the Crucia raid, which will both be included in the launch version of Storm Legion, with the Regulos raid to be released shortly thereafter.  Notably, all of the dungeons and raids, along with quests, dungeons, lore, and achievements, will all work together to tell the expansion's story, which is a mechanic that Rift players will be familiar with.

Another feature that will be coming with Storm Legion is that of Dimensions, which are kind of like player housing with a particular Rift twist.  With Dimensions, you'll be able to own a slice of Telara, in the form of an instanced version of an in-game location.  You'll be able to access these rather large spaces right from your user interface, and can decorate them simply by dragging Dimension-specific items out of your inventory.  From there, you can rotate, move, scale, and multi-select items to your heart's content, and the game's world textures allow you to blend objects together to make new and interesting shapes out of your items.  For example, let's say you have two rocks that you want to place in your Dimension.  Rather than having two identical rocks sitting boringly side by side, you can drag one rock into the other, which will automatically shape the two objects to each other, creating a new form entirely.

What kinds of items are available to decorate with?  When Storm Legion launches, you'll be able to use objects like tables, chairs, trees, rocks, music boxes that change the Dimension's BGM, sky boxes that alter the instance's firmament, a dimensional bartender NPC, and hundreds of other items, with more to come.  Our tour guides even showed us an intricately well-designed boat that some of the team had built from wooden planks, tables, bedrolls, cannons, and other spare parts.  Storm Legion will offer guild Dimensions as well, and the player housing UI will have its own social features, such as allowing permissions for your friends and even the public.  You'll also be able to name your Dimension, but the Lair of Sominator is taken, so don't try it.

Playing the Tactician and More

My main in Rift is a Rogue, so I immediately chose the same class in our hands-on preview to check out the new Tactician soul.  Our characters were placed in the Ferric Harbor area of the Kingdom of Pelladane, one of the earlier zones in the new continents.  I immediately took a liking to the new area, which was dark yet colorful, with roiling clouds, overturned shipwrecks, and an arcane lighthouse shining in the distance.  Ferric Harbor is thematically similar to other regions in vanilla Rift, while feeling more open and with much more detail and eye-catching lighting effects.

The build I played was called a Flame Trooper, based on 31 points in the Tactician soul, 40 in Nightblade, and 0 in Blade Dancer.  I took to this build quite easily, and liked how mobile the class felt with the addition of abilities like Infernal Torrent and Glacial Torrent, line AoE skills that make movement and combat more varied and fun.  I found a nice rhythm in plopping down a damage-dealing Necrotic Core or healing Curative Core, hitting a gadget shield buff like Barrier Remote, and running circles around mobs using Torrents, Nightblade abilities, and ranged combo finishers like Empyrean Ray.  The Tactician also offers a new form of buffs called Engines, such as Curative Engine, which heals the Rogue when hit, and Necrotic Engine, which deals damage to a mob when the Rogue is hit, but also increases damage of the class's Bolts and Primers while decreasing damage done by Torrents.  All in all, I like the way that the Flame Trooper played, and felt that the Tactician has the potential to fill in some of the gaps in mobility and support that I've been looking for in the Rogue calling.

I also noticed a few things about the new areas and the game in general that are worth noting.  It's refreshing to see exactly what the Trion team had promised about quest hub design being approached differently, and I got to experience the new design first-hand.  Gone are concentrated locations of NPCs chomping at the bit to give you tasks; now, when you enter Ferric Harbor, you'll see a few NPCs milling about, with only one of them sporting that tell-tale exclamation point over her/his head.  This will be a story quest that will send you off into the world, where you'll find more quest-givers to assign you tasks, as well as automatic Carnage quests when you start attacking mobs, and secret quests if you take exploration seriously.  It's not the biggest evolution in the MMO world for sure, but the change in the approach to quest hubs does mix it up a bit.

Different quest hubs are of not much good if the quests aren't fun themselves, of course, and I'm happy to report that the activities in the starting zone of the Kingdom of Pelladane were varied enough to be compelling.  One quest required me to take over an Iron Centurion Enforcer to destroy Storm Legion Emplacements, which basically meant that I took the reins of a big metal monster thing that gave me a new skill bar with a couple of destructive abilities.  Another story quest took me to an Air rift to confront Crucia herself, and allowed other players to participate, which was pretty epic.

I also got the chance to play a little bit of the other new souls and with Dimensions.  The Harbinger Mage soul has a nice suite of magical weapons to choose from, and has abilities like Phase Step, which allows you to teleport behind up to 5 enemies and do damage to each of them.  The Tempest, on the other hand, adds ranged magic skills to the Warrior calling, along with abilities like Jolt, a HoT self-heal.  As for the Defiler - we'll just have to wait until Trion opens the floodgates of info.

Even for a person like me, who's not generally into player housing, there's a lot to be excited about with Dimensions.  You can teleport to one of your Dimensions right from the game's UI, and it's honestly super cool to have your own in-game location as a private instance.  It's also very easy to drag things right out of your inventory and use the game's tools to move them around, scale them, rotate them, and create either a well-designed home for yourself or a crazy hodgepodge of random items.  I took a look at 5 different Dimensions in our preview, and was impressed by the diversity and size of the locations, and also like the potential afforded by the new Dimension social features.

More than Just More Ol’ Rift

If you're a dedicated Rift player, you've probably already got Storm Legion on your radar and have experienced all of the substantial updates that Trion Worlds has brought to the game so far.  If you're like me, and have been away from the game for a while, you might be pleasantly surprised with how different Rift feels now, and delighted by small convenience features like the ability to use quest items right from your quest tracker UI.  If you're one of the few MMO lovers that haven't yet tried out Rift, who are you?!

In any case, whatever you know about Rift, Storm Legion aims to build upon the progress made by Trion through the vanilla game and its successive updates.  The initial areas in the expansion feel like Rift with a whole lot more, which is a great amount of potential for an already top-notch game.  The Rift team has recently pushed update 1.10 to the live servers, with 1.11 on the way, which will start the ball rolling on Storm Legion, and we'll be able to get our hands on the new content pretty soon and see exactly what Trion has in store for us.

Thanks again to the Trion Worlds team for showing us around Storm Legion! What are your thoughts on the details we’ve uncovered? Share your opinion below!


Som Pourfarzaneh

Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.