To coincide with Trion Worlds' announcement that Rift will enter closed beta on Dec. 3, Editor-in-Chief Darryl Gangloff shares his experiences with the fantasy MMO from Trion's recent Gamer Day.
Trion Worlds just announced that the first closed beta event for Rift: Planes of Telara will be held the weekend of Dec. 3-6, which makes it the perfect time to share my hands-on experiences with the fantasy MMO at last week's Gamer Day event. Trion invited a group of journalists and fans to its Redwood City, CA office to try out the alpha build, and it turns out the team has made numerous improvements to the game in preparation for the closed beta launch. One of the most noteworthy changes is the addition of completely revamped starting areas for the Guardians and Defiant, which beta testers will be able to see for themselves in a couple weeks.
Let me back up a bit in case you're unfamiliar with the game. The Ward that protects Telara from other planes of reality has weakened, and mysterious rifts are breaking through to wreak havoc in the world. Whenever a rift appears (like an air rift from the Plane of Air, for example), it creates an event that dynamically changes as players interact with it. Telara is being torn apart by these rifts, and both the Guardians and Defiant wish to save the world. Of course, each faction holds different beliefs, so they end up fighting with each other as they try to keep the end of days from becoming a reality.
That's just the tiniest sliver of the intricate lore found in Rift: Planes of Telara, but it's a good starting point. Stop the end of the world. I can handle that. Now let's dive into those new beginning zones!
I decided to start my day as a Guardian, and my first order of business was to select a race. I had three choices: Mathosian (the humans of the bunch), High Elf and Dwarf. I decided to embrace the fantasy setting and went with the elf. It is worth mentioning that each race comes with racial abilities, like the High Elf's increased MP/energy regeneration. Next up was my calling: Warrior, Mage, Cleric or Rogue. I always tend to lean toward casters, so I picked Mage and headed over to the character creation screen.
The customization options are plentiful. You can change everything from your facial features and hair to your height and markings. As an elf, I could even resize my character's ears, which is a nice touch. I decided to make them as big as possible and then randomized a name to see what the generator would suggest. That's how Killan, the Guardian High Elf Mage, was born.
In Rift, you play as one of the Ascended. Your character has been resurrected to fight the forces of Regulos, the dragon god of extinction. In the case of the Guardians, you've been brought back to life by the Vigil, the five gods who created Telara. This faction is all about honor and devotion to the Vigil, so the starting zone truly has a fantasy vibe to it.
When you first start your adventure, you're going to need to pick your first soul. The Soul Attunement system is one of the major features that sets Rift apart from other fantasy MMOs. Each calling has access to a variety of different souls, which can be mixed and matched to create unique combinations that can be changed regularly. As you level up, you'll ultimately be able to attune up to three souls at a time.
Sound confusing? It may seem a little daunting at first, but Trion actually did a great job adding a soul tutorial system to the new starting zones. My Mage had to talk with NPCs to learn more about my first three soul possibilities: Elementalist, Pyromancer or Warlock. Basically, I could choose one of those paths to have access to specific spells and abilities. I went with Elementalist and discovered that I could summon an Earth Elemental combat pet right from the start. Looks like I made a good choice!
As you level up, you'll gain soul points that allow you to strengthen your abilities. The system is similar to World of Warcraft's talent trees, but with an important difference: you learn new spells and abilities by going deeper into a specific soul tree. If I want access to more Elementalist spells, I'm going to need to add more soul points to my Elementalist tree. Of course, the other main distinction from WoW is that players in Rift can add or remove specific soul trees as they gain access to new souls.