With a few reservations, Nightmare Tide has been an amazing expansion. Trion has taken RIFT forward in so many areas:
- The amazing storytelling.
- The interesting and engaging quests.
- The finely crafted and well-designed world.
- The incredibly helpful minions.
Despite the one minor hiccup I experienced getting from level 64 to 65, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Then I began what I call the "endgame experience." RIFT has always had a lot to do at max level. The artifacts have always been a favorite of mine, as they give me a reason to go out and explore this huge world. There's probably thousands of artifacts out there for you to find. It's almost a bit daunting actually.Thank the lord for minions, who have made this a bit simpler. Dimensions have not changed much from the previous expansion, but in my opinion, they are still one of the most feature-rich housing systems in any MMO. Admittedly I am not a big "decorator", but for some odd reason, dimensions just speak to me. I spent quite a few hours designing my new home and sending out my minions to get me some new decorations. I have my own little corner of paradise, complete with palm trees, a pool, and a diving board. My other home is a bit less conventional.
These are the positive aspects of Nightmare Tide's "endgame experience". But for all of the steps RIFT has taken forward, I felt there was one giant step taken back: the gear grind. Yes, this has been in pretty much every MMO ever, but to me, RIFT has always felt a bit less grindy than most. Nightmare Tide changed that. You may have noticed that I took a week off since my last article. That's because my first goal after hitting 65 was to get enough gear to be able to run expert dungeons. This took me some time to accomplish. I did regular dungeons, traded in reputation items, shopped the auction house, and EVENTUALLY I was granted admittance as a healer.
Warning: Rant Incoming
As I mentioned last week, regular dungeons in Nightmare Tide were embarrassingly easy, but I had heard that experts were much more difficult. UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. Attempting to heal expert dungeons in entry level gear is essentially a lesson in masochism.
Here is the hard truth:
Monsters hit far too hard, tanks have too little health (through no fault of their own), and entry level healers simply can't keep up. Now I'm not trying to sound like I'm tooting my own horn here... but I kind of am: In my MMO healing career, which spans over a decade, I have never had an issue healing a dungeon or raid. Nightmare Tide marks the first time I've had to bow out of a dungeon because I simply didn't have enough healing output to keep the tank alive. Congratulations, RIFT. For the first time ever, I am afraid to heal. I was told by several group members that once I got a few pieces of new equipment, healing would be much easier. Many dungeons later, I have only received one new piece of equipment. Fortunately for me, completing expert dungeons give me currency to spend on upgradable, expert gear. Unfortunately for me, this gear takes an absurd amount of this currency to buy.
Now perhaps this is just me ranting about my experience. Perhaps I just stink as a healer and don't have the required "l33t skillz". Perhaps I'm just incredibly unlucky with loot tables. Who knows?
So just for kicks, I decided to see what would happen if I queued as a DPS/Support (which meant I needed to go out and obtain some different gear by the way... go figure). It only took an hour and a half to get into a dungeon. I know this is a common problem among non-tanks and non-healers, but in Storm Legion I was able to queue as a DPS and I never had anything longer than a fifteen minute wait. For comparison, I queued again as a healer and was met with an Insta-queue. To me this speaks to the larger problem: No one wants to heal these dungeons. I'm betting I would find the same goes for tanking, but lord knows I'm not going to attempt to acquire different gear just to test this theory. World of Warcraft recently went through a rebalance of numbers to make damage and healing less "spiky". I think RIFT might be in need of the same treatment.
Lastly, my RIFT guild is not a raiding guild. Over the past few days I have attempted to get ANYONE to take me on a raid. I have been told on several occasions that my gear quite simply "isn't good enough". And I truly don't feel like revealing my "reviewer" persona in game so that some guild will take pity on me and drag me along. Normal players do not get special treatment, why should I?
Now don't get me wrong. In no way do I want the new content to be too easy. I believe this happens a lot with new expansions. Players complain about the difficulty, the developer responds by rebalancing, and when that happens, it usually results in the challenge level taking a nose dive. I don't want this. I just believe Trion might need to take a look at the type of difficulty being presented. Is the game testing the skills of the player and their knowledge of the class? Or is it simply testing their gear? There has to be some middle ground. Find it, Trion. Please. Until then, this life-long healer is refusing to heal.
Overall, RIFT: Nightmare Tide is a mixed bag. The leveling process, the new world, and the story are all amazing strides for the game. The minion system truly shines at endgame when you are working on collecting artifacts and decorating your dimension. But sadly I feel the endgame is hampered a bit by an overly gear-focused dungeon/raid system.