Coming “really, really soon” to RIFT is the MMO’s fourth major update of the year, Into the Wilds. Patch 3.4 is so big, in fact, that Trion Worlds considers it an expansion-worthy update in all but name and for the fact that it won’t be raising the cap past level 65.
RIFT Senior Development Director for Design Simon Ffinch jumped into the test server build for 3.4 with me, fielding all sorts of questions about Into the Wild’s new zone and class while bubbling over with enthusiasm for the massive project that is about to cross the finish line. How will this update change the face of the game while providing an entirely new leveling experience for players? Ffinch had answers and then some (seriously, the guy really likes to talk about his game!).
The wild, wild… east?
RIFT’s world map has always contained a few inaccessible blank spots that the development team left open to fill in at a later date. Two of these patches of land that have been on the map from day one will open their doors come 3.4: the warfront of Bronze Tomb and the eastern region of Planetouched Wilds.
Astute players will notice that Planetouched Wilds is bigger than it used to be. A lot bigger, in fact. According to Ffinch, the zone was ripped out of Mathosia by a “cosmic rhinoceros” and taken on a long journey that exposed the region to the forces of the planes, infusing it with power and enlarging it to five times its original size. To those on the outside, the journey took place in a split-second, but to the Bhami who lived there, the region’s trip lasted thousands of years.
This level 65 zone lives up to its name in all respects. It’s an attractive landscape of rolling planes and blowing grasses that is broken up by a jagged crystalline canyon that runs through the region like an artery. Players will discover that not everything here is quite the same as the rest of Telara; for example, you can jump “crazy high” and witness rocks floating in the air for no apparent reason.
A new three-act narrative takes players through the backstory and current struggle of the zone and its peoples. Ffinch said that the studio invested more into voice acting this time around than it ever has in the past, especially with two key NPCs that will follow players around. One of these characters is Khar, a Conan-esque leader who’s a bit of a jerk but who also has a pet lamb named Mingy.
Even if a player is at max level, there are plenty of rewards to encourage zone exploration. New cosmetic sets, mounts, dimensions, artifacts, and gear upgrades are dangling for daring souls (pun intended) to pluck.
The barbaric feel of the land is echoed in the newly discovered Primalist calling. If players choose to purchase the calling, they’ll be treated to a new set of six souls that can be mixed and matched to create any role, only with a different twist.
Ffinch said that Primalist has been in development “for a long time,” and represented the desire for the developers to create a class that wasn’t pigeonholed into the current four archetypes. While the Primalist has strong ties to the Bhami, any race can become one.
Most all of the Primalist’s skills are impacted by an ever-present meter on the screen that vacillates between “fury” and “cunning.” Depending on where the meter is at, some skills are more or less powerful or aren’t even available to use.
Before you ask, yes, Trion has plans to add more souls to the calling, although no details or timetable were given for this.
And that’s not all!
As I mentioned earlier, Into the Wilds is a truly sizable update to the game that isn’t merely confined to one new zone and calling.
Ffinch rattled off a list of all of the content that players will find when 3.4 goes live this fall. This includes additional crafting recipes, a new five-man expert dungeon called Rhaza’De Canyons, more artifact sets with a new integrated system, and, according to Ffinch, “The most devious puzzle I’ve ever put into the game.”
RIFT’s raiding community isn’t being ignored with this update, either. Mind of Madness, a challenging 20-person raid, will hit the scene. It boasts “spectacular mechanics” and should keep raiders busy for a while to come.
“We’ve done what’s fun for us as developers and for our players,” Ffinch explained as a rationale behind the update.
Hints of the future
Of course, I couldn’t let Ffinch go without asking for a few hints as to the future of RIFT. We talked a bit about expansions and whether or not RIFT would be returning to them after Storm Legion and Nightmare Tide. He was cagey on the subject but didn’t rule out (or confirm) any plans for future expansion packs. Ffinch did comment that it was interesting how the MMO industry functioned on a pendulum that kept swinging back and forth between being attracted to and ignoring the expansion model.
He did say that there are definitely plans to do more with the popular minion system, although it was too early to talk about what those would be. Past that, Ffinch said that the team was “actively working” on the next steps for RIFT.
“We have plans that go a very long way into the future of RIFT,” he said. “We have big plans taking RIFT forward.”