RIFT Prime – The First Week

3391 wc

2 plat 50 gold for that horse so you better believe it gets a screenshot!

I mentioned briefly that I jumped into RIFT Prime, because of course I did. Everybody was talking about it, so as an MMORPG player, it is part of the rules that you have to join in on whatever the newest, shiniest thing is, especially if there is even the slimmest of possibilities that it might actually be fun.

The short version is: It’s fun, but I don’t think it will last very long. It’s not the fun of discovery and learning, but more the fun of rote clicking and mindless drudgery, perfectly suited for times when you’re bored. By the time you’re reading this, the best part of the experience is probably over, and it will have settled into a long, tedious grind with no meaningful payoff at the end. I seriously doubt that I will play beyond the 15 days of Patron time I got, if I even make it that far. It’s at least as likely I will try to use that Patron time to finally get my level 68 Mage to 70.

When I logged off Sunday night, my cleric was level 23, having finished the Silverwood and Gloamwood zones.

Here was the very first porticulum in Silverwood, c. level 6, on Wednesday. (Shortly before the server came down.) This is where you come out after the Guardian tutorial. It's true there aren't many rifts at this exact location, they start a bit north of here.

Choose Your Class Wisely

I started almost exactly when the server opened a bit after 1:00 PM Wednesday, my time.

The first thing I noticed was that you only get three roles per calling, like in the old days. It’s kind of a shame, because that fourth role usually uses the coolest souls in the game. I found out later that you can unlock the newer souls by spending Planarite at a Souls Vendor in your capital city. It costs 2,000 Planarite for the Storm Legion soul, 20,000 for the next one (the fourth role one), and 50,000 for the one after that. So get ready to grind some rifts. (This is not an account-wide unlock, by the way. It’s per-character.)

I struggled a lot with selecting my first calling, a lot more than I thought I would. Mage is definitely my favorite, but I play a Mage all the time in RIFT Normal, so it seemed redundant to pick that. So I ruled out Mage.

Here was the fishing hub a bit north of the first porticulum, where the planar goods vendors and the horse vendor are. If you stood here, you would have been run over by invasions roughly every five minutes, and probably could have seen a rift up and running, mobbed with people, every single moment of your game time.

I also ruled out Rogue, because I was sure that most of the server population would go with the archer and pig pet, so I didn’t particularly want to do that. (I was right.) It’s a very simple and effective class, but not especially fun to play. I might have enjoyed an Assassin build, as I did when I leveled my own Rogue way back when, but I didn’t see anything like that in the presets, and I didn’t feel like trying to make a custom build.

I considered Cleric, which is a great all-around calling, and in RIFT Prime the only one you can immediately play all three roles of tank, healer, or damage. (The three roles that matter in PUGs, that is.) But … I just leveled a Cleric in my RIFT Normal experiment, so I didn’t want to repeat that experience.

So, by process of elimination, my first character in RIFT Prime was a Warrior. I even went with the Defiants, thinking perhaps finally-finally!-I would level a Defiant character all the way up to level 50, and maybe even beyond!

Or not. I regretted my choice almost immediately. DPS warriors are a bit boring to me. I remember enjoying the Paragon a lot, but there was no dual-wielding preset in RIFT Prime and the modern Paragon is but a shadow of the heady OP soul of yore anyway. So I could only smash people in the face with a two-hander. I got through the tutorial and decided to re-roll.

I can't tell but I'm sure I wasn't more than level 8 doing this rift in Silverwood, Wednesday evening. The file is only 20 minutes older than a screenshot in which I was level 7.

I picked Cleric for my second try. A Guardian Cleric. Again. I figured I would be able to precisely compare playing RIFT Prime against RIFT Normal. The only difference is that I picked the Shaman preset instead of the Druid present. The gameplay is basically the same for each. You smash things over the head with a big mace while a little faerie flies around behind you throwing tiny little heals. As it turns out, this gameplay was pretty similar to the Warrior I had just abandoned, but two-handed maces are cooler than two-handed swords in RIFT.

Unfortunately, you only get two character slots, so you have to choose your calling wisely. Or else delete your progress, which is a really hard decision to make after a certain point, considering the experience point situation which I’m sure is common knowledge by now.

In retrospect, I wish I’d picked Mage, now that I’m over level 20. I would have preferred to buy the Harbinger soul, which is a beast and one I use all the time on live, instead of the Defiler soul, which was a huge disappointment.

Lag Ahoy

Once you’re in the game, everything is basically identical to RIFT Normal, with these exceptions that stood out to me:

There are, in fact, hundreds of people in the starting zones. (Or there were last week. It was less over the weekend.) Bhagpuss predicted this and he was right-his prediction was a big part of why I decided to go ahead and try it out, actually. The population is both a great thing and a horrible thing. There are zone events and rifts popping up all over the place and everyone is doing them. The tradeoff is that everything is super laggy, since the server clearly can’t keep up with the demand of hundreds of people fighting every boss. The other big negative is that there are hundreds of people competing for the same quest resources, so you can expect to spend a lot of time roaming around trying to find those 10 rats to kill. Good luck escorting Scotty through the marsh.

Some of the masses of people running-running! on foot!-to the zone event boss in Silverwood on Wednesday evening. (This was still around level 8.)

How does that compare to what I experienced in RIFT Normal a while back? Well, in RIFT Normal, there were also zone events and rifts in Silverwood, albeit not quite as many. The rifts were completely ignored, because nobody needed the experience points or the planarite. But there were a respectable number of people doing the zone events. The problem occurred when the final zone boss showed up. It always died in roughly 30 seconds. Unless you happened to be standing where it spawned, there was no way to get to it in time.

In RIFT Prime, however, there is plenty of time to mosey on over to the boss on your slow-motion 60% mount and join in the circular firing squad. At least for now. When RIFT launched, it did not take long before high-level people started camping on the low-level zone events and blasting the bosses in 30 seconds, too. It seems their plan to combat that now is to automatically mentor everyone down to level 20 when you enter Silverwood. But still, if everyone is level 20, the bosses will die quickly. (And we can assume that lots of people will be coming back to Silverwood, and every zone, to do every event for the planarite.)

Mechanics Changes

In terms of gameplay changes from RIFT Normal, the biggest thing I noticed involved breathing underwater. You can’t hold your breath for very long, just like it used to be in the old days.

I believe this was one of the ever-popular major fire rifts in the fae areas near Sanctum. I think I was level 10 here, on Thursday.

I also felt like I was a little more vulnerable to damage during the tutorial phase of the game. I ran around like I always do at the beginning of RIFT Normal-completely oblivious to the mobs, running around with no regard whatsoever for my safety-and much to my surprise, I almost died. Thinking back on it, I think more of the mobs were red instead of the yellow that they are on live. Once I got out into the real world, though, I didn’t notice any real combat differences from my RIFT Normal run. (@Syp mentioned something about the mobs having more health, but I haven’t noticed that. Time-to-kill seems the same as it was on live to me.)

One other important change: You can’t sell off your junk loot by bringing up the Store UI anywhere. You have to actually go back to a vendor to sell your junk again. I did not miss this hardcore feature from vanilla RIFT.

Otherwise, the gameplay is pretty similar to RIFT Normal.

Experience Grind

Unless you count experience points, that is. There is a very, very noticeable lack of experience points to be found in questing. I assumed when I played with Patron status, I would be gaining considerably more experience points than I did in my RIFT Normal experiment, and I would not encounter any road blocks as I merrily ran from quest hub to quest hub, staying right at the level of the quests I was doing, or even above them from the extra rifts and zone events. But that’s not the case at all. I am consistently 3 or 4 levels below the level of the story quests. If anything, I’m gaining less experience points than I did as a free player. (I have confirmed this by comparing screenshots of live XP rewards with Prime XP rewards.)

Here we are killing zone boss Cinderon, something that I did probably a dozen times or more. I am level 10 here. Notice that my raid is full of 20 people, yet you don't see many purple names on the screen, so there were \*many\* raids full of people there at the time, and the game couldn't even render them all. I am level 10 here, on Thursday, and still didn't even have a horse.

At first I wondered if it was because I only purchased a Patron pass, and didn’t actually subscribe to play. But I always thought that a Patron was a Patron regardless of how they got there, and Patron rewards (ie. bonus experience points) would be delivered regardless. Anyway, based on Twitter and forum posts, I’m definitely not the only one seeing this experience point deficit.

The deficit doesn’t really start to become a road block until you get up around level 14. When you get to Gloamwood, it’s your constant companion. I finished Gloamwood at level 23 (one level higher than I did in my live experiment). The next quests in the next zone are level 27 quests. (And that is after doing countless rifts, invasions, and a few dungeons.) I don’t think I even want to login anymore until they address this issue, because gaining 4 levels by running dungeons is going to take a while, and dungeon PUGs aren’t very fun right now.

Other people are complaining about the XP, but I definitely remember it taking quite a while to level when RIFT launched, and I definitely remember having no choice but to run rifts and events to make up the experience points that were not given out by quests. Scott Hartsman seems to confirm they restored the old leveling curve:

I didn’t expect the XP nerf, but I can understand why they might do it. For one thing, there are probably a lot of people out there like me who fully expected to level all the way to 50 and then abandon the server completely, all within their 15 day Patron time. That wouldn’t be all that great for Trion. I actually think they messed up by allowing any Patron to access Prime, and it’s probably why they always say you have to subscribe, even though you don’t. If they make the leveling very slow, it will force people like me to give them real money (or use up more gems) to keep playing past 15 days, if I get invested in it. (Based on how it’s going so far, though, I won’t, but others might.)

I also don’t think it would help the server health if the entire population leveled to 50 within the first two weeks, as could very easily be the case with the RIFT Normal experience curve. On Friday, the third day of RIFT Prime, I ran from Silverwood over to Freemarch, passing through Gloamwood and Scarlet Gorge, and I saw a bleeding edge of players already working through Scarlet Gorge, the third zone, which would put them about halfway to level 50. Gloamwood and Stonefield, the second zones, had sizeable populations in them. That was with the very slow leveling curve in place.

Another seething mass of people with zone boss Mar'Kul at level 12.

So I’m on the fence as to whether I would consider the slow leveling a “bug” or a “feature.” The only thing I will say is that the current Prime leveling curve more-or-less matches my memory of RIFT at launch-whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent is up for debate.

In any case, they are “looking into it.” If I had to guess, they will increase the XP given out by rifts and zone events, rather than changing the questing XP rewards.

Dungeons give out tons and tons of experience points (every dungeon I completed gained me a level). But the queue for DPS is just as long as it always was. And I now know that clerics are pretty terrible at dungeon DPS. I would play with other soul combinations, but buying roles is hella expensive. (The third role costs almost 4 platinum!)

Also, there is a weird split in the population: Half the people are veterans looking to speed run for the fast experience points, the other half are people who have never played RIFT before and don’t know how to do anything. The result is a lot of wipes and abandoned dungeon runs. I’ve tried Darkening Deeps four times now, and the first three times, the tank got one-shot by the first boss. The last time, we got to the spider boss before having to abandon the run because if the healer got cocooned, the tank couldn’t stay alive long enough before we broke him out. No, nobody knows how to do “support.” All dungeon problems are assumed to be solvable with more DPS.

You can also do PvP for XP, but PvP is no more fun today than it was in 2011. It’s not worth the pittance of XP you get for running around in circles pretending to care about whether it matters one whit whether your team wins or loses.

Here is zone boss Inhibrius at level 12. There was no trouble at all completing achievements for the different bosses. I'm pretty sure some of these zone events are new since 2011, actually.

Quirks

On the first day, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, people were spending insane amounts of money to buy fish on the auction house. I spent a few minutes fishing and sold almost a full platinum worth of fish. It was ridiculous. Sadly that money faucet disappeared quickly and the express train to my first horse derailed. I had to earn the rest of the money the old fashioned way by questing and selling boring old tin ore.

You know how people stand in front of the bank showing off their sweet new mounts that they paid a lot of cash for, or (occasionally) worked a lot in-game for? In RIFT Prime, people were doing that with their first, most basic 60% horse. It was hilarious.

Someone showing off their sweet new mount in front of everyone in Sanctum.

Somehow people are getting Valmera mounts long before they should be able to buy them at level 25. I can only assume they are drops from dungeons or some other source. Or there’s a bunch of dirty, dirty cheaters out there. :)

Didn't get that from a dungeon at level 12, that's for sure.

Queues are abundant.

This queue on Saturday actually started out at around 50 minutes, but apparently the screenshot key doesn't work at this point in the game.

Why Drag It Out?

I’m a bit baffled why progression servers run for so long. RIFT Prime is alleged to run for about a year. I mean, the fun part is largely over after the first week. Why drag it out? I think it makes more sense to spin up a new server once a month, and close the old one at the same time (or maybe run the old one for a month longer before closing it). Move the characters to a live server at the end, where you can continue if you really want to.

Useful Information

Instead of dropping cool gear, the bosses in dungeons often drop wardrobe sets. Occasionally you get cool gear, but that is mainly from the dungeon-related quests. More often I see wardrobe sets.

Incidentally, the vendor who sells souls (on the Guardian side) is near the throne, in front of Shyla and Cyril. I am pretty sure I am the first person on the entire Internet to write down this information and publish it for people to read in a convenient format. It costs 2000 Planarite for the Storm Legion soul which gives you the fourth role for your class. I didn’t get to 2000 planarite until I was over level 20. It’s even more impossibly insane amounts that you will never earn for the later souls (20k and 50k). You have to buy the souls for each character, it’s not an account-wide unlock. This is probably the secondary explanation (besides XP) for the continuous swarms of groups streaming across the zones from rift to rift.

Addendum

I wrote most of this post before I read Bhagpuss’s post this morning. (I actually wrote most of this post last week, but today was my next available publishing slot.) I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be more cynical than me. :) I added more screenshots to show that somehow-I can’t even fathom how-he must have missed the seething masses of people doing rifts and invasions. For me, they were everywhere. There were constant, uninterrupted streams of people running and riding from one rift or boss to the next, all through Silverwood and Gloamwood, every minute I was logged in, Wednesday through Sunday.

Here we are trying to kill an Aelfwar Idol with 10 million hit points, which took a good 15 minutes. I even recorded some video of this particular event. I was level 13 at the time. There were probably close to 200 people here. It was unbelievably laggy. :)

The only other thing I can figure is that my suspicions might be correct: If you didn’t start on Day One, Hour One, you’ve already missed everything that was great about RIFT Prime, and if you start now, you might as well start on RIFT Normal.

P. S. How is every other blogger sitting on mountains of free gems? I also went through the free-to-play conversion and I’ve always had to buy all of my gems. It’s a conspiracy!

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