Looking back at the journey, 1-50 [RIFT]

Last night, I stayed up late (and consequently overslept) to finish something I started on just over three months ago. I dinged level 50 in RIFT. This wouldn’t normally be an occasion since most of the world has already been 50 for a month or two, but there’s something we need to understand: It is extraordinarily rare for me to hit the level cap in a game. So rare, in fact, that I’ve only ever done it one game — WoW, albeit a couple times over. And I’ve played just about everything. In every single circumstance, I peter out about midway through. But not RIFT. In homage to the last 50 levels spent running with the bulls of Telara, I thought to do a little retrospective and reflect on the highs and lows of hitting the level cap in Trion’s fledgling MMO.

In the Beginning…

In the beginning, there was Freemarch and only Freemarch. Then Regulos came in and crapped up the place. That was where I came in. Or more accurately, that was where I checked out in my time-traveling air-shimmer and popped out at Ark of the Ascended.

As an introduction, Freemarch is a decent zone. It’s big and varied with lots of rift activity. Leveling through here on my cleric never felt like a slog, though, it did last a long time. Iron Tombs came in at level 17. I was blown away. The orbs and ghosts near the end? Fantastic. This is what we see in the first dungeon? Sign me up for more, baby. And I did.

By the time I was midway through Stonefield, I knew that I was stuck. RIFT was fly tape and I was the ever-sucking fly. Mosquito. Whatever. In short, from that point onward RIFT held me close to its chest and wouldn’t let go.

The Best and Worst

My favorite zone is definitely Scarlet Gorge. It’s big, beautiful, and has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore and get lost in. You also get the excellent ‘Plop!’ achievement. I think what really endeared me to this place was that in the first few minutes of being there, I’d seen more rift activity than I’d seen in a week in Stonefield. I came in to my home base being under attack. And it didn’t stop. Over and over again, I’d find myself detouring either to avoid or circumvent rifts and invasions. On a purely aesthetic level, it’s also one of the only “red desert” zones I’ve ever really cared for. The epic story quests were also very good and kept me moving forward at a steady clip. All in all, I feel like this zone could have gone on another 5 levels for as much as I cared. I liked it.

My least favorite zone, without a doubt, is Droughtlands. It’s drear, dead, and bland. I’ve never been a fan of zones that look unnaturally bereft of life. Before anyone jumps in, I know that, well, that was kind of the point. There’s some bad stuff happening in Droughtlands and naturally it was up to me to save the day. Except by the time I got there, I was still high on Scarlet Gorge and seeing the desperation exuding from those scaly-looking trees… well, let’s just say it’s a good thing it wasn’t actually up to me to save the day. I think “meh” sums up my feelings there pretty well. Two-State Solution: Give the Defiants half and the rift monsters the other half. The Guardians can fight it out for that corner where the polluted waters like to sit and talk about the better qualities of 10w30 over 10w40.

Instances, Roles, Group Play

As a grouper, I wanted to be a tank. I got halfway there. In the open-world, I started off as DPS, switched to tank around 18, and eventually gave up and stuck it out as DPS. In instances, I still tanked unless someone else wanted to. The reason I let open-world tanking drift away is because, honestly, I got a bit lazy. As a rift/invasion tank, you spend most of your time taunting off of the other five or so aspiring meat shields in your raid, all while hoping a healer realizes that even though your taunt only sticks for .2 seconds before someone overwrites it, you were in fact still a tank and needed their love. Instead, I could just pull out my single-target build, pew pew away, and get similar rewards with less frustration. Maybe frustration is the wrong word. At times, I quite liked the threat wars — and it didn’t hurt my contribution any. Still, it was simpler for everyone to keep the tank numbers down and play DPS.

As a cleric, I never felt useless. As a calling, they are incredibly versatile and every tree offers some utility to the group. They also offer some of the strongest souls for to fill out the trinity in any given situation. Tankwise I went Inquisitor/Shaman/Justicar. Single-target was Inquisitor/Cabalist/Justicar. AoE was Inquisitor/Warden/Justicar. See a pattern here? Oh, and PvP was Inquisitor/Cabalist/Purifier. They all worked pretty well. Single target through out some decent numbers, the tank build was, well, a tank build, and PvP was majorly added by the Purifier’s main heals. What I really loved was the AoE spec, though. With this thing you could take down 3+ mobs at a time, all on your level. If they were under your level… I think my biggest pull was 8 mobs. It dramatically increased my leveling speed from 38 (when I got it) to 50.

Favorite instance? I don’t think I have one. They’ve all been fun. I’ve yet to see Realm of the Fae, Abyssal Precipice, or Charmer’s Caldera. (WTH is a caldera, anyways? And don’t wiki it. Off the top of your head, the definition of caldera. Go.).

The Curve

Not RIFT but still...

The leveling curve wasn’t that bad. 1-20 was pretty much a breeze, though I still feel like there’s a dramatic slowdown once you hit level 10 Defiant side. With that minor hurdle overcome, the game really seemed to set into a nice groove. I could get a level in a few hours, usually, up until about the mid-thirties. Then they stretched out little bit by little bit until quests seemed to hardly move the XP bar at all. That’s when I was glad I had an AoE spec. I was able to put away quests in just a few minutes each, and by level 45, I was running around Shimmersand with 20 of so complete markers in my quest log.

The bulk of that experience came from kills, however, and you should probably expect the same — which is good news for you old school folks! To put it in perspective, it took roughly 465k XP to get from 49 to 50. Quests at that level were still giving out the same XP they’d given for roughly 20 levels: 4850. That’s a lot of quests, yet, killing on-level mobs was good for about 700-1000xp each. See how AoE speeds things up?

There are a couple of strange things with RIFT’s leveling game. I was oddly perplexed at the lack of incentive there is to get players into dungeons while leveling up. You go in one time, do the quests, and get a big chunk of XP. The next time, you get only a fraction of that because all of the quests are done and completed (save the boss-kill one). Trion is making strides with this, though, so we’ll see if it gets ironed out.  Then there’s the immense slowdown from 45-50. These levels seem LONG. Compared to the others, you’re doing LOTS of quests. On the plus side, you can get that XP much quicker by blending your questing with rifts and invasions.

Overall, the pacing is a little stilted, but not bad. I made it, so obviously it’s better than most others I’ve tried.

Final Thoughts on Dinging 50 and Digging into the Endgame

So the question becomes: What now? The leveling is done. When I hit there, it struck me. I had no idea what to do next. Thankfully my friend Gavin was there to point me towards some reps to work at between T1s. This is an area where RIFT could definitely improve. There is more to RIFT’s endgame than just dungeon running, and much more required than just that, too, but there is little if nothing pointing you towards it.

I have to admit, though, I’m already thinking of what character I’m going to roll next. I’m thinking mage, over on Ferrel’s server mayhaps?

My plan going ahead is this: Do all the things I put off while leveling. My armorsmithing is in the 180 range, and I’d love to be able to make some nice epic gear, so doing my dailies is becoming a priority. I’ll also be looking into organizing set dungeon runs with my guild and pull a little bit more of my weight as an officer. Apart from that, there’s artifact collecting, mount hoarding, and vanity pet starving. Not to mention PvP, which I’m extremely interested in doing. With a guild the size of Immortal Council, getting some pre-mades geared should be a lot of fun. At the five or so hours I play a week, that should keep me occupied for a good long time.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with my time in RIFT so far. I like to call myself an MMO nomad but that’s just a nice way to say I have gamer-ADD. I like to take part in the latest and greatest, whether it’s a patch or a full release, so I often lose interest with a game temporarily only to take it up again when the shiny wears off that other thing. That didn’t happen here and the fact that, here, less than 24 hours after capping-out, I’m considering making another character to do it all over again is a testament to how much fun combat is in this game.

In short, I’m in it for the long haul and, rather than feeling like I’ve closed a chapter in m RIFT career, I feel like I’ve opened a bunch of new ones. That’s how a game should feel at the level cap. That’s good design.

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