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RIFT

Storm Legion preview: Rift's continental ambitions, plus we have 500 keys to give away!

Pretty, pretty expansion.

Since Rift’s launch in February last year, Trion’s popular and very warmly-received MMO has received almost constant updates, the development team releasing major content patches every two months. While any two of those updates combined would be more than a match for any other game expansion, Trion are now about to introduce Storm Legion, their own idea of what constitutes an expansion, and it’s big. This weekend, a beta event will give players a chance to explore the Eastern Holdings, the City Core and Seratos, as well as try out the Dimensions and Hunt Rifts, and we’ve got 500 beta keys to give away. Yes, 500! For a chance to claim yours, and to find out more about Storm Legion, read on.

First of all, if you want to get your hands on one of those keys then all you need to do is head over to our Facebook page
and give us a Like. Once you’ve done that, send us a private message
asking for a Rift beta key and we’ll send one your way. Be as quick as
you can, because it’s first come, first served, and there’ll be a lot of
people keen to claim theirs. This looks like it’s going to be one heck
of a big beta.

You
see, to stand out from all those content patches, Rift’s first
dedicated expansion has to offer something pretty special. Trion aren’t
messing around and, since Rift is full and could do with loosening its
belt, Trion are tripling the size of the world. That’s just for
starters.

In
that context, that ambition seems spectacularly mad. Not only are the
team adding two new continents, Brevane and Dusken, but each of these
continents are larger in terms of raw landmass than the single continent
that Rift released with, and that’s a continent which, over the past
year and a half, has been steadily filled with everything the team at
Trion could think to put in it. Brevane and Dusken will continue the
story of the two remaining dragon gods in Telara’s world, Regulos and
Crucia.

The
very first area in Dusken is a twisted warzone of a beach, evoking
Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha landings, only warped through the lens of
MMO fantasy games. This is an area for pure killing, with players
attempting to cutting a swathe through the eponymous Storm Legion, and
the story quests splinter off into Carnage missions, kill quests
triggered when you dispatch a certain type of enemy.

But
Storm Rift also rewards different styles of play, giving players a
wider choice of what they can do and when. Brevane is much more
welcoming, with the lush greenery of Cape Jule offering much more than
just combat. Rift’s artifact system, where you’re tasked with scouring
the surface of Telara for glowing points before putting them together in
sets, comes back in full force here.

You
only have to look at what Rift has become in the last twenty months to
see how much emphasis Trion putting on that choice, with the
introduction of systems like Instant Adventure, which pits players
together in a quickly generated arc of quests across any of the games
zones, or Conquest, the new three-way faction PvP. Scott Hartman, the
Executive Producer on Rift and the Chief Creative Officer of the whole
company, explained to me exactly how the company’s thinking has adapted
over time.

“Early
on, when we were playing with prototypes a year ago, we realised that
having fewer story quests, but having them be more meaningful, really
changes the way people play the game,” he said. They’re used instead as a
spine through the zone, something to guide you but never lock you into a
constant rinse and repeat of monster slaying and quest completion.

He
also showed me two new dungeons, one for each of the continents.
Instead of merely rushing you through a static dungeon where each boss
waits patiently for you to come and slaughter them, Trion are attempting
to make these places feel alive and busy. One was an indoctrination
factory for the Storm Legion, and as you travel through its bowels,
jumping from air vent to air vent, you gradually witness the ordeals
that each new recruit goes through before they emerge a fresh faced,
brainwashed servant of Crucia.

The
additions aren’t limited to geography, either. Each of Rift’s four
classes is getting a new Soul, a subclass that offers up a whole slew of
tactical options for players, and all but the Cleric’s were on show.

Warriors
get the Tempest, an appropriately lightning-themed ranged subclass that
hurls out electricity both in bolts and bombs. The intention is to give
the Warrior something to do from range, before closing the gap and
letting rip with the rest of their abilities, and it works well as a
straight DPS nuke.

The
Mage, however, gets the opposite, being newly augmented with the
Harbinger Soul which brings magical melee weapons into their hands. Each
of these combines with a different kind of Mage attunement, so that a
giant spectral axe will enhance your healing spells, while a huge
ethereal scythe might boost your necromancy. The most impressive thing
about the Harbinger is how it adapts the rest of your abilities to work
in a melee context. It lets you charge nukes that would have previously
been suicide to try.

The
Tactician is the Rogue’s new Soul and, appropriately, it’s the most
tactically interesting. Instead of focusing on the Rogue’s pure damage
potential as the majority of its current Souls do, it offers some
lateral utility, with a series of area-of-effect buffs, ranged
abilities, and, most exciting of all, a handful of different flavours of
flamethrowers that spew burning liquid, healing or necromantic magic.

More
impressive is the overhaul that all the previous Souls are going to be
receiving. During a hands-on session with the game, one of the
developers informed me that the change list to the classes alone was
dozens of pages long, and a good chunk of the current Souls feel like
they’re brand new. Trion are hitting reset on a huge section of the
game, pulling it in line with everything that they want out of their
MMO.

The
developers are clearly passionate about their game and this is
evidenced in all the planning they’ve been doing. Trion have ensured all
the tools are in place for them to iterate, and iterate fast, and
that’s what they’ve been doing since Rift’s launch, all culminating in
Storm Legion. It’s not only a new playground for players to enjoy, but
also for Trion themselves. Now they’ve got some space to fill, to add
new dynamic events to, to pack with more dungeons, to populate with
everything they’ve been developing since February last year.

If
Trion can pull off everything they’ve shown for Storm Legion, it will
not only be the biggest update that Rift has ever seen, it’ll also be in
the running for the largest expansion any
MMO has ever seen. That’s not even mentioning Dimensions, Rift’s take
on player housing, which we’ll be previewing shortly. The sheer scale of
all this is beyond impressive, and testament to how robustly Trion have
built their game, so that creating new content and new systems is as
easy as they can make it, and as fast as their players could ever want.

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