RIFT Leveling Anew

With all the buzz about RIFT Prime, I wondered if I could recreate a nostalgic experience for free just by starting a new character on plain old RIFT Normal. I wanted to check two things: To see if experience points were withheld from free players at the beginning of the game just like at level 68, leading to hard road blocks that could only be made up by endless grinding or spending cash. Secondly, I wanted to speculate on what RIFT Prime might deliver to me that would be superior to what I was experiencing completely for free.

After this experiment of starting over with my own self-imposed nostalgia tour, I’m more puzzled than ever about RIFT Prime. I’m not sure how a RIFT Prime subscription experience will differ from a plain RIFT subscription experience, or even a free experience. Methinks there is a bit of marketing handwaving hijinks and social engineering going on here.

It turned out that I already had a level 2 Guardian Cleric, so I went forward with that one. I have a level 60 cleric but honestly I have zero memory of it–I have no idea which soul(s) I used to level. This new one is a Druid/Shaman/Inquisitor, which was apparently the preset I picked whenever I made this character. For my test, I didn’t use any of the perks I’d accumulated over the years, with the sole exception of a 110% horse I pulled out of my veteran rewards around level 10 (I just got tired of running–it turned out I could almost have bought a 60% horse around that time anyway, and definitely could have bought a 90% mount a few levels later, because you get crazy gold drops now). I did not use any daily rewards, gifts, or whatever. I did not use any boost potions. I tried not to use anything that wouldn’t have been available to someone starting their first character on a brand new free account (except the horse). In other words, I tried to play exactly the same way I played at launch in 2011.

Now that I think about it, I had a 60% collector’s turtle mount at launch in 2011. Oh well.

If you have not leveled a character from the beginning since “vanilla” RIFT, you will be in for a massive shock because it is almost nothing like the original game anymore. This is not new–it happened many years ago, I think even before the free-to-play conversion. The maps are the same, but they cut down on the number of quests by about two-thirds, and there is almost no chance of dying anymore. Basically everything is done for you now. You don’t have to learn the soul system, you don’t have to find class trainers, you don’t really have to do much of anything but run to the next quest giver, collect your experience points, mash the “auto spend soul points” button, and move on.

This is where I first pondered RIFT Prime. Will it be different in RIFT Prime? Will they restore the “vanilla” experience before everything was handed to us on a silver platter? The obvious answer and my personal prediction is: Nope. The new player experience in RIFT Prime will be exactly the same as it is today, because that is the code base they are running now. They’re not going to roll back the code to 2011 and dump it on a new server. That would be insane. So I don’t think it’s going to be accurate to call RIFT Prime a “nostalgia” or “classic” or “vanilla” experience. It’s going to be today’s experience, with a level cap of 50, on a new server. That doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy to me, considering I can have that exact same experience for free on one of their existing servers. I just did it (at least up to level 22). I predict that as we start to learn more about RIFT Prime, or more likely as people start dropping money on it and playing it, people are going to be disappointed to find out what it actually is–a marketing gimmick.

Anyway, back to my new cleric and the RIFT Normal experience.

At first I simply followed the story quests, and ignored all of the carnage quests and side quests. I didn’t do any rifts (they would have been solo efforts anyway, as much as they were ignored), and I barely interacted with any of the numerous zone events. I ran into my first road block at level 12. I could not accept any more of the story quests at Highglades Lookout, the hub near the Realm of the Fae in Silverwood.

I had to find a way to level up before I could continue, which I accomplished by backtracking to do some of the side quests and carnage quests I skipped. I also found a quest from Bahralt in Sanctum which sent me to a library in Moonshade Highlands that I had never seen before. (Will that be in RIFT Prime? It shouldn’t be.)

From then onward I picked up every quest I saw, not just the story quests. I still ignored carnage quests, though, unless I accidentally initiated them. The next road block occurred at level 14, when I could not accept the next story quest from Thelliam Bedstraw in Quicksilver College. I was able to head back to that Moonshade Highlands library and level up. I also completed a single instant adventure in Shimmersand, which rained crazy experience points on me, and gained another level. (Will those be in RIFT Prime? They shouldn’t be.)

The next road block occurred at level 16, at the little hub outside Overwatch Keep near the Marsh House. I couldn’t accept the next story quest there. I believe I leveled up by going back to Quicksilver College to find more side quests, and I found a variety of scavenger hunt quests that took me into Overwatch Keep.

The myriad quests around Overwatch Keep at the end of the zone gave out enough experience that I had no more issues completing the zone and heading to Gloamwood. I was level 18 when I defeated Kongegoran and completed the Silverwood zone. The quest levels indicate you’re supposed to be level 19 as you head over to Gloamwood.

I did not run into any experience point road blocks in completing the Gloamwood zone, where I reached level 22. I was able to go from story quest to story quest without hindrance, however I did pick up and complete many of the optional side quests along the way, and some carnage quests, too. The last zone quest is level 24, and the mobs at the end are level 25 and occasionally 26. The area up around the final Hag encounter was fairly challenging if you don’t take it slow and easy (which is exactly how I remember it from vanilla RIFT, actually–but back then it was for different reasons).

I concluded that while I wasn’t thwarted from playing for free, as I am at level 68, there were a couple of times when I came up short on experience points playing the way I wanted to play. Fortunately it was reasonably quick to “grind” and make up the experience gap at the low levels, but I’m dubious about it being so quick and easy going forward. After level 50, for example. At level 68, it would take hours of grinding in instant adventures or zone events for me to reach level 69, a process that does not appeal to me in the slightest. I guess I could do some dungeons, too, but I’m not geared for dungeons, plus I’m not anxious to see the state of PUGs after so many years of free-to-play.

After my experiment, I concluded that RIFT does, in fact, shortchange free players from the very beginning, but perhaps not as bad as they do at level 68. I wasn’t surprised to find this out. They have to have an incentive to subscribe (or at least buy the Patron status), and to be honest that’s the best incentive for it.

Getting back to RIFT Prime, I think that’s what they are trying to do: Find another way to nudge people into subscribing. But I’m not seeing why I should play on a “progression” server after subscribing instead of the live server.

P.S. I never realized until writing this post that RIFT is supposed to be all caps.

One thought on “RIFT Leveling Anew”

  1. That was an interesting read. I was thinking of doing something similar but I never got around to it and now i don’t need to bother!

    I was also puzzled as to how Prime would differ from regular free low-level Rift. About the only significant benefit of Prime that I could think of would be a much larger active low-level population. That, in theory, should mean it would be possible once again to do Rifts and Invasions as they were intended to be done – in large, ad hoc zergs. Whether that will happen in practice remains to be seen but if it did I would say it was worth a month’s sub to enjoy that experience again.

    As for the leveling up – I never did it that way even at launch. I pushed way ahead into higher zones as soon as I could survive there without dying. I did quests as and when I came across them but mostly I did rifts and invasions. That wouldn’t be an option now but it could and with luck will be on Prime.

    It all comes back to that. If you aren’t desperate to do the big zerg events then what’s the point? Does anyone really yearn to go back and do the quests? Hard to imagine.

    Even if there are people who do, and even though Trion may well throttle the xp back so that it takes longer to level – most MMOs with retro servers seem to – it’s still going to go past in the flash of an eye. In the early days after launch it only took a matter of a few weeks to hit Level 50 – this time it will be a few days for most and no doubt a few hours for some. Where the long-term interest is going to lie beats me.

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