To echo what TAGN said today (and to cross-link for maximum blog traffic whoring), Rift does officially launch today, even though it might as well have launched last week. It would also be sadly humorous if Trion overestimates the demand today, and those 30 new servers end up not being needed, since they somewhat botched the head-start server count. I mean, the pre-order price was identical to the standard price, so if you were going to buy the game, why not last week vs this week? That said, I expect today to be a rather silly/busy day, and if I’m able to log in and actually play tonight, that will be a surprise. Sucks that today is also LoL patch day. Good timing gaming industry, thanks.
Aria and I were able to run the first Guardian instance this past weekend, Realm of the Fae, and it’s not bad. It’s no Deadmines (the original), but it’s not The Stockades either. The pulls are somewhat simple, with only a few patrolling mobs and some spots where you could get 2+ groups (though to be fair, I was the tank, and well, I’m kinda good, so maybe the average WoW kiddie running the place has a tough time. We will see when my apprentice tanks it later this week). The bosses are nothing overly complex, but each one has his ‘thing’, and they all fit the instance well. The ‘ending’ of the instance after the final boss has a nice twist, I will say that.
The standout of the instance though is the final area, which is a giant snowstorm that blinds you with its intensity. The low visibility effect from the snow is spectacular, and really sets you on edge thanks to the patrolling mobs. Living in the North East, and having a few white-out storms this season, I can guarantee you that the effect is quite genuine. The overall ‘changing of the seasons’ theme of the instance is well done as well.
The instance was also the first real opportunity to switch my souls from questing/dps to tank, and yet again highlights how well refined and polished Rift is. The switch is simple and gets all the little things like hotbar mapping right. If implemented halfasses, switching souls would be viewed as a pain, but in Rift it’s quick and enjoyable, reducing the usual “I can only dps, LF tank/healer!” themepark problem.
Tanking itself is slightly different in Rift than it was in WoW or WAR when I played them. The overall goal is still to grab agro and not die of course, but at least for the Paladin soul you are also working hard to keep the mobs debuffed and your party buffed, all while keeping your dps as high as possible. Even at level 18 you already have a good selection of skills. Some open up others (the base warrior combo system), some are reactive (after a block, when you get crit, etc), and some are situational (AoE damage/taunt that has a decent cooldown). I’ve seen some complaints that the global cooldown (1.5sec?) is too slow in Rift, and that it makes combat feel sluggish, and while that was perhaps the case in the 1-10 level range (I personally did not notice it), tanking at 18 was never a question of waiting for a cooldown, but deciding which skill to fire off next.
The decisions you are presented are somewhat interesting. You have a few standard attacks that either buff or debuff while also building combo points (3 max). One of the ‘finisher’ moves for the Pali is a pretty strong debuff, but it only lasts for 6 seconds. Some quick math reveals that you could fire that off and be back at 3 combo points in 4.5 seconds (the finisher itself does not trip the GCD), leaving you 1.5 seconds for ‘other stuff’ and still keeping the mob debuffed continuously. Yet even at 18 I already have four different ‘standard’ attacks, and those buffs/debuffs are all on different timers, and each one helps, be it increased block %, increased armor, decreased mob power, or increasing the damage a mob takes from other sources. On top of all this you have reactive skills that more often than not are ‘better’ than standard attacks (more damage, better buff/debuff) that don’t build combo points, and longer cooldown abilities that also bring something unique or powerful to the table (stuns, big damage, etc).
Point being, you not only have something to always use, you have a lot of somethings, and this opens the door for player skill and more tactical gameplay. In the beginner instance this might not make a huge impact since you can out-gear or out-level it anyway (our group was basically ‘at level’, with a good group mix of tank/healer/healer/dps/dps, and the instance felt decent if slightly on the easier side), but certainly for end-game instances and raiding, and the major rift events, this will all hopefully reward those who play their class well.
As with almost everything else in Rift, the quick-glance view seems very familiar, but the details stand out and feel better than what came before.