Ember Isle Impressions
This past week marked the launch of Rift’s largest free update so far: 1.6 – From the Embers. Trion Worlds have been extremely quick to give Rift more and more content post launch earlier this year, but by and large the majority of the updates have been new instances for the players to mine for gear (and one hell of a cool alternate advancement system). But From the Embers brings something altogether needed and exciting to Telara: Ember Isle. Formerly the home of the Kelari, it’s one massive zone filled to the brim with quests, dungeons, and daily content galore aimed squarely at the level 50 players who want something more to do than just queue for dungeons or Warfronts. In terms of broadening the spectrum of options for veterans once more, Ember Isle really ups the ante on what most games would call a content update. It’s more of a mini-expansion, and from what we’ve seen exemplifies the team’s best work to date.
AN ISLAND OF BADDIES
For our time spent so far in Ember Isle, Suzie and I wandered around as our level 50 Guardians (myself a Sentinel, and she a Beast Master). One thing that was immediately noticeable was that enemies are a bit tougher than you may be used to as a normal level 50. Everything’s tweaked a bit higher (around level 52 or so) in order to make sure that Ember Isle actually provides players a challenge. They do hit hard, and thankfully being the healer made it easy when we were together, but solo players (especially ones not geared out) beware.
There are quite a few re-used enemy models, but also quite a few new ones to be had. Little fat midget looking guys with fu manchu beards and naked yellow-orange skin will be some of the strangest things you’ll take the fight to, with massive flying dragon-like creatures being some of the most intimidating. It is nice to see how Trion learned from earlier mistakes and made the mob placement a bit more spread out, making traversing the island easier to do when you’re just trying to get from point A to B. Though bear in mind, you will want to keep your eyes peeled and glance at the mini-map often enough.
The Wanton Maw (Earth and Fire planes joined forces) are on the island in full force and when they’re not busy attacking one another, they’re busy running amuck throughout the jungle landscape. If you’re not careful, a leisurely fight against one mob will become a losing battle against five or six.
TONS TO DO AND LOOT TO BOOT
Once you arrive on the island, you’ll notice a handful of quests waiting for you. These introduce you to the lore and area, but you’re quickly swept away to other reaches of the Ember Isle. Folks, this place is huge. In comparison to the other zones in Rift, it’s probably as good as three times the size of your average area. If you haven’t saved up for that high speed mount yet though, don’t worry. There are fast-travel stones littered throughout the place, and you’ll be able to use them to get around much easier… and you’ll use them a lot when doing daily quests.
One of the best things about this update for the solo adventurer, is the addition of plenty of new quests, more than a few being daily repeatable content. They literally cover the gamut of the island, and if you’re like me you’ll rarely if ever be able to do them all in one day. At first glimpse the reputation rewards are close to par with some of the game’s best gear too. Enough to make you stand a chance in Warfronts where the competition is more decked out than you, but then again I could be wrong. We’ll have to see how I fair after I’ve obtained a few of the pieces for myself.
A PORTENT OF THINGS TO COME?
What is probably most engaging about the Ember Isle addition is that it almost seems like the first step towards a true expansion for Rift. I can see Ember Isle being one of several new zones in a retail expansion; maybe even the first one players are directed to at level 50, eventually shuffling them off to another new zone if Rift’s mysterious boxed expansion raises the level cap. What’s more is that the zone just feels refined. It feels like the summarized experience of all the designers after working for years on Telara, and honing all the knowledge of their toolsets into this one zone. It’s massive, gorgeous, diverse, and interesting on a level that I wish all the zones were.
But what do I want next from another big content update? How about some new low and mid-level zones, guys? Let’s give us alt-o-holics more choices when leveling up eh? Hey, maybe you could throw those in with a new race and some new classes/souls… or is that an expansion I’m describing? I can’t tell anymore, Trion’s adding too much to their game for free.