. . . some seeming anomaly drops out of the darkness, and falls . . .Last night, my lovely bride and I returned at last to Rift, over which we bonded, and during our original run-through became engaged and got married. Rift, for many such reasons, will always havea special place in my heart.
~Edwin Hubbel Chapin
That's my rose-tinted theory of Rift. In practice, though, we both lost interest soon after reaching max level in the autumn of 2011. I dabbled a bit in it after that, since I'd a paid 6-month sub right before, but we never really played seriously again.
As you probably know, Rift went free to play a couple weeks ago and was inundated with lookie-loos. Scooterz and I held off. Between RL busy-ness and other games, we didn't have time for queues. Then last night she decided it was time to jump back in and see what had changed. Much like Syp, we decided to start new Defiant characters to get our "Rift-legs" back. I went with a Cleric and she, a Rogue, falling into our old Callings (archetypes) and roles.
A significant difference from when we first started playing was that, rather choosing a first Soul (sub-class) after reading about them early in the tutorial section, you pick a trinity role—called a Purpose—as part of the character creation process. This purpose fixes your initial three souls right off the bat. Then, as you level up, that Purpose provides guidance for picking abilities and talents. If you want to deviate from that suggested build, you can. But you get a warning that it will invalidate your Purpose. It has a bit of "training wheels" about it, but I suppose there were enough complaints from bewildered new players during the past couple years that at some point they decided they needed training wheels. I just went with the suggestions rather than go off on my own. After all, if I wanted to do my own thing, I could just play my formerly max-level Cleric.
Even though the intro cinematic is still the same, reflecting that nothing from that past has changed, the tutorial itself has been greatly streamlined. They've reduced the number of different quests, and therefore the time spent in the tutorial; while at the same time increasing the XP received for completing the quests that remain. So your character is still roughly the same level upon leaving the tutorial as at launch. Also, whereas before there were some hostile mobs (that will automatically attack when you approach), now you don't encounter truly hostile mobs until you happen to be following an enormous overpowered golem.
All this streamlining was vaguely disappointing, perhaps only because I know what had gone before. I even wrote the longest single vignette I've published on this blog based on my experience with the original Defiant tutorial. A lot of understanding of the world—at least from the Defiants' point of view—is lost. On the other hand, with the changes to the in-universe politics (thawed relations between the factions) and apparent defeat of the Big Bads, maybe some of that lore is no longer necessary. By the time I was done with the tutorial, it was pretty late, and I was already pretty tired. So that may have affected my opinion of the process.
I didn't get very far past the tutorial before needing to hit the hay last night, but I saw enough to know that the former "welcome area" quest hub is largely vacant, as well. I'll continue on at least to Meridian (the Defiant capital) to see what else has changed and to see if it's an improvement. The Instant Adventures are intriguing, they sound somewhat like the Renown (heart) Quests of GW2, a looser style that (hopefully) helps get the player involved in the local story in a more organic way than traditional MMO quests.
More to come. . .