It was, in a word, bizarre. It was bizarre to see such enthusiasm for an MMO that many had abandoned or forgotten about. It was bizarre to see beginner zones packed with players — several of whom were completely new to the game — doing quests and rifts like it was the first days all over again. It was bizarre for me to be this excited about playing a game that I have played many times over the past seven years.
Now we’re a month in, the initial hype is past, and some reflection and evaluation is required. Is RIFT Prime still worth playing? What’s going on with the progression schedule? How has Trion Worlds adjusted to the feedback and issues unique to this shard?
Strong and confident
Let us begin with my conclusion, because I’m ornery that way. I’ve subscribed for a second month because I am still having a good amount of fun going back through the game. Still, I’m wavering a little bit now that the initial enthusiasm for this project has faded, and I’m thinking more and more what I am getting out of this subscription that I couldn’t on the normal free-to-play servers.
I think that a big part of the appeal here is moving through the game with a community, and that’s where I’m starting to grow concerned. Doing public events in the first two zones was downright commonplace (and a blast, I might add), but they’ve started to become few and far between in the “middling” zones now that I’m approaching level 30. It could be that more people are at the level cap and doing content there, and if that’s the case, then I have that to look forward to experiencing. But that virtual immediancy (is that a term?) is important to me, and I worry a bit when I’m not getting that daily.
Another appeal is a more back-to-basics approach, where we don’t have the shortcuts to level or the slightly overpowered Primalist calling. I’m generally fine with this, although I do miss the group fun of instant adventures. Instead, I’m going through the same questing track and sprinkling that with dungeon runs and rift fights when I can. Now that I have a mount, some money, and some talent points under my belt, I feel more confident in making my way forward.
The seas are calming down
Two overriding problems were at the top of many players’ concerns during the first few weeks, starting with some severe ability lag. Despite Vigil being the newest server hardware that Trion had, apparently it wasn’t good enough to handle the glut of players crowding into zones and doing events. I had nights where I logged off in frustration after not being able to play effectively at all. Fortunately, I’ve seen this situation improve since, and that’s a relief.
The other major problem was that of the XP rate and “leveling gaps” between quests. Trion had initially launched the server with XP turned way, way down for quests and rifts, forcing players to grind to make up the difference. While this may have been pleasing to some, I was among the crowd that was irked at suddenly finding that the next quests available to me were two or three levels higher.
Over the course of a few hotfixes and patches, Trion nudged the quest and rift XP higher to what now, at least to me, feels like a good rate. It’s not flowing in super-fast — and I always worry about those higher levels in the upcoming expansion packs — but right now I’m able to make progress at a noticeable rate and not have to grind or PvP to simply level.
Looking for details
I would say that most of the time I’ve spent on RIFT Prime has been to get to know the game again from a slightly different perspective. It has been years since I slowly went through these zones and stories, and I’ve amused myself a lot by taking close-up pictures of mobs, trying out different strange builds, and finding all of the zone puzzles I could.
RIFT always seems to straddle the line of ugly and pretty for me. Depends on where I’m at in the game, really. Some mobs look ill-defined and washed out, and there are some areas that are repulsive to experience. Yet there is also a lot of beauty in this game, and I’ve filled up a folder with scads of screenshots documenting small and large details, from the spell effects that my Bard puts out to the gorgeous sunsets over Scarlet Gorge.
I’ve made a concerted effort to read and not skip the quest text, because there is some clever and weird writing tucked in among the “kill ten rats” rationale. Rediscovering past favorite features, such as certain well-designed dungeons and the fun of hunting around for artifacts, have enhanced my joy during this run.
Communication and progression
I want to end by saying that over all of this has loomed one thought that affects every play session that I put into RIFT Prime. And that thought is, “How’s this progression server going to, well, progress?”
Here’s where I feel torn in my feelings toward Trion. On one hand, it’s a studio that has a lot of very passionate, very dedicated devs and CMs who care about their games. I like talking with the studio every time I get the chance, and more often than not, a rep does respond when I ping them with a question. On the other hand, it’s a studio that continues to be so inconsistent in its communication and messaging that I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief.
RIFT Prime, from the initial announcement until today, has felt rushed and incomplete in both communication and execution. Instead of keeping the hype and discussion going in the lead up to the launch and after, Trion has handled this in fits and starts. A little here, a little there, but nothing consistent or dependable. A month into this game, and there is still so much we don’t know, including the rather major topic of the progression schedule.
Simply put, we need to know this. As players putting in a regular subscription, it’s of paramount importance that we know what’s coming and when it is coming. Keeping us in the dark makes me feel strung along, hoping that all will be OK but how do I know? I’ve felt genuine anxiety playing the server this month not knowing if I’m going “fast enough” to be ready for when the next stage of the server unlocks.
Trion did respond when I asked them about this, saying that it would be talking about a schedule later this month. While I appreciated the response, I have to say that it is not good enough. Trion, please be better with the communication. Be more regular, more consistent, and let players know what you’re thinking about this server’s development. I’m tired of not knowing, and it is becoming a mental drag to be invested in this server because of it.
I would love to see more dev blogs on the website about Prime and the Live servers. RIFT’s greatest enemy is perhaps its unwillingness to self-promote and inform the community, and that should be addressed.
RIFT, you got me for a second month. We’ll see if you earn month three.