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Conquest in RIFT Needs Revision

I’ve been playing a lot of Conquest (CQ) now that I’ve hit 50 in RIFT. Three faction PvP is a good idea and I’m happy to see Trion taking on the design challenges that come with it. That said, the way that CQ is currently implemented is functional at best. That’s a problem considering that it’s been incentivized as “the way” to progress at level 50. With Guild Wars 2 coming next week, these are the biggest problems I see with the system as-is:

1. It’s Confusing

“What does it all mean?!”

When you first enter Conquest, the game offers you nothing in the way of direction. You simply are, in the middle of a keep, with possibly a portal or two in front of you; what they mean or what they’re for meaning nothing. You open your map to dozens of multi-colored points that also mean nothing. So naturally, you follow the raid — assuming some of them are in the keep for you to follow — and hope to learn the game that way. And you probably will after a half-hour of trying to piece together a strategy that doesn’t exist. There needs to be better direction here.

Also, despite there being multiple raid groups on the map at any given time, you can only see the one you’re in. Players need to have a way to see where everyone else is so they can make informed decisions on where they should go.

2. There’s only one strategy… and it doesn’t work

Right now, the only strategy that exists is “follow the zerg.” If you don’t follow the zerg, you die. CQ makes that painfully apparent the first, second, and third times you try it. After that you’ve probably given up. Following a large group is a good way to stay safe, earn favor, prestige, XP, and shards when you cap control points. Sounds like a great way to progress! In practice, however, each team is doing the same thing. In one big circle, three teams roam capping extractors and losing the ones they’ve captured before. It keeps things balanced. Too balanced. Ask anybody who’s spent time there and they’ll tell you, matches almost always hover at with two-to-three teams in a 1-3% tie.

Other strategies come out in play. People shout them like in all battlegrounds. Unfortunately, the game-mode trains players to follow the zerg for their own good. Players trying to move in small groups quickly find that extractors have far too much HP (~400k or 50x that of an average player) to “whittle down” before their defender-zerg runs to their defense. No amount of /1 shouting will change that. Rebalancing will.

Four of us tried to cap an undefended extractor. We didn’t even get it halfway down before being thoroughly trounced.

3. Matches last WAY too long

CQ has two win conditions: One team must capture and hold 60% of the map for ten minutes or a kill-counter of 5,000 must reach zero. I’ve played quite a few matches now and I have only once seen a team hold the map for those ten minutes. Most times they never even reach 60%. In those majority cases, the kill-counter must hit zero before the final, PvEvP phase begins. 5,000 kills doesn’t sound like a lot in a three-faction battle but it is — oh, how it is. To put it in perspective, after an hour and twenty minutes today, 3,400 kills remained. At that rate, the match would last over four hours. More often, it’s in the three hour range. Regardless, that is WAY too long when CQ is very obviously intended to be a primary progression mechanism for players at the level cap.

Idea: Cut the kill-count in half. You still get the large scale PvP without the “my eyes are bleeding” strain of three hours spent running in circles.

4. It’s too heavily incentivized

Conquest is by far the quickest way to earn XP, favor, and prestige. By-frickin’-far. To put it in perspective, one warfront is likely to give you 600-1300 favor and a pittance of prestige. One round of CQ can net you 15-30k favor and 5-15k prestige. Really. Most of my planar attunement levels have been earned in there as well, but I haven’t paid enough attention to give you a number on that one. All I can say is that it’s not unusual to level up twice in a single match.

That’s great progression but players are feeling forced to play even when they don’t want to — and I don’t blame them. Want to be competitive in PvP? Conquest. Want to get the perks of planar attunement? Conquest. Want to get some of the best enchants in the game? Conquest.

Overall, I think the game mode has a lot of merit and a lot of potential, but there are serious design issues at the moment. Given how much of a selling point CQ was for this patch, Trion needs to be on their game and responding to players’ concerns. How about you, what do you think of all this?

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