We get a guided tour of RIFT's first expansion from senior game designer Will Cook.
The team behind RIFT certainly knows a thing or two about producing plenty of new content for players to tuck into. In the eighteen months since Trion Worlds launched its flagship MMO, the game has received ten updates that have expanded the world and enhanced our experience. Yet, alongside these regular bundles of fun, the team has secretly been toiling away on RIFT’s first expansion.
I was lucky enough to get a guided tour of RIFT: Storm Legion from Will Cook, one of the Senior Game Designers on the dedicated team at Trion. Although we barely scratched the surface during the demonstration, it’s clear that there are some grand ambitions that make this expansion more than simply raising the level cap and adding a few new skills. Adding vast swathes of new land provides the team with space to unleash further content updates down the line, and their unique twist on player housing opens the door to a vast amount of player creativity.
With the launch date of November 13th moving ever closer and closed beta opening soon, Trion has already thrown the door open for preorders, offering a range of in-game items to those willing to put their cash down in advance. There’s even an option to pick up the expansion for free when signing up to a year’s subscription. But if you’re still on the fence or just eager to find out more, here’s a glimmer of what to expect in RIFT: Storm Legion.
Our tour started with a look at the world map, showing the game world tripling in size with the addition of two new continents. We’re told that the eastern continent of Dusken houses the Infinity Gate seen in the earlier trailers, offering whoever controls it access to other dimensions. It’s also the site of a war between two rivals – Crucia, the Dragon of Air, and Regulos, Dragon of Death. Their conflict has altered the shape of the land, although to what extent remains to be seen.
The second new continent is Brevane, home of a lost civilization where ruined settlements have been overrun by the encroaching jungle. Cook added that the technology used by this fallen nation will make the current player factions look almost primitive. But why are these two continents so big? “Part of the reason for that landmass is because we plan to continue updating after the launch of Storm Legion and we need spaces to put it. A lot of it is forward thinking.”
With new places to explore and new stories to discover, our characters will also get the chance to reach new heights. The level cap is being raised to sixty, with a range of new abilities added to each calling’s Souls. If that’s not enough, each calling is getting a brand new soul added, with the Warrior’s Tempest and Mage’s Harbinger already revealed. We got to see the Harbinger in action, with this new ‘melee’ mage able to transmute his staff into a broadsword, scythe or double-headed axe in order to deal damage up-close. The new soul also adds more survivability to the traditionally squishy class, with more movement, life leech, dodge and parry. Although we saw Harbinger synergized with Pyromancer in order to get great mobility and some nice ranged abilities, we’re told it also works well with Stormbringer and Chloromancer souls.
Colossal Group Combat
If you’ve seen the trailer for RIFT: Storm Legion, then you’ll probably have noticed a huge being slowly wake and emerge. We were shown the full encounter for Volan the Colossus, a zone event that’s easily one of the most impressive combat encounters I’ve ever seen. Unfolding over a series of locations, players will be able to join in and fight this massive creature without needing to form groups, with RIFT’s contribution system ensuring everyone gets rewarded.
It’s the scale of the encounter that really floors me. The slowly unlocking door, revealing this huge creature that hauls itself into the sunlight is just the start. As soon as Volan starts attacking, it’s clear he has a dangerous arsenal. Defeating him makes use of multi-point targeting, with armor slowly being blown off in pieces. And as he moves toward a nearby city, he drops speed and jump distance buffs, so that players can keep up with his gigantic strides. Describing Volan, Cook added that it’s “one of the biggest things we’ve built to date”
Talking further about zone events, Cook elaborated. “They really celebrate what makes an MMO great, by bringing hundreds of people together to fight the giant bosses of the world. We decided we wanted to give those giant bosses a little more gravitas, and give players an experience that they’d normally only get in an instance.” It’s a fight sequence that affects everything around it – at one point, Volan leaps onto a bridge, with any characters on it being flung off.
The new combat features, like multi-point targeting and destructible armor parts, aren’t being used purely for Volan. “These features are actually going to show up in our dungeons as well. We want to make sure that any features we’re building for our raid bosses or for our colossi are showing up in the other parts of our game as well.”
Living In a New Dimension
Even though we’ve known about the expansion since May, RIFT: Storm Legion has been in the cards since before the original game’s launch, with Cook explaining that it was always part of their planned story arc. It wasn’t until after launch, however, that work on the expansion started in earnest. “We started pulling people off the content team as our tools got better and we were able to build content faster.” Having content and expansion teams working in parallel also provided players with a few unexpected bonuses, as Cook added “What happens more often than not, is that new features that we’re planning for the expansion get put into live, because ‘it’s done, it’s great, put it in now’”.
That said, one of the major new features being included in RIFT: Storm Legion is Trion’s take on player and guild housing. Dubbed Dimensions, this new feature allows a small pocket of Telara to be carved off so that players can add their own objects to it. Describing it, Cook said “We really wanted to give you a chunk of Telara, give you the keys, and allow you to make it your own.”
Once in possession of your plot of land, you’re in complete control of what happens. You can put down a building, natural objects such as rocks and trees, or furniture and decorations. In the early version of the tool that we saw, it was possible to place objects anywhere, and rotate and scale them to wacky sizes, without being constrained to placing items in particular locations. Cook explained: “We really wanted dimensions to be more than sticking things on walls, or sticking things in the spaces you’re allowed to put them.”
Items for your dimension can be gained through almost any route, including raiding, questing, zone events, PvP, artifact collecting and crafting. There’s even the possibility that you’ll be able to trade items for your dimension with others. Friends will also be able to help build your dimension, with a full set of invitation and editing privileges at your disposal.
By far the most interesting part of Dimensions is being able to tie events to items. Cook showed us an object that had a script that could change the weather tied to it. It’s uncertain at the moment, but if players get the chance to create their own scripts then a whole range of creative possibilities opens up.
It’s not just players that benefit from this new technology – guilds will also be able to use parts of Telara to create their own base of operations. As Cook showed us the Golem Foundry (one of the new dungeons being added in RIFT: Storm Legion), he paused in front of a giant beating heart crafted from plant-like material. “A room much like this would be a possibility for a guild dimension. I want to see people turn this factory into a greenhouse, because you can place all those natural assets indoors.” It’s likely that other raid and dungeon boss rooms will be prime candidates for guilds looking to show off their prestige.
Will there be any other in-game benefit, beyond being able to show off your incredible taste in décor to your friends? Cook tells us that’s the easy part. “It’s a lot harder right now to make sure all our assets are well built to be scaled and put in dimensions. Those are some of the logistical issues that we’re dealing with, whereas in-game advantage could be a decision we make closer to launch.”
Keeping the Content Flowing
With all this arriving in RIFT: Storm Legion, I was interested to know how Cook and the team at Trion managed to maintain their aggressive content schedule while creating a new expansion. He explained that it takes “Very powerful development tools, very talented staff and a lot of late hours! There’re not a lot of substitutes for it, but we’ve been very fortunate at Trion on putting out content updates, and that is our focus.”
I also got the impression that there’s a dedication to doing the best for their fans. “We’re working on RIFT full time - we’re not working on another game with the RIFT team. Just like most teams are working up until launch, we’re still working now. This is not something where we put it out, take your sub money, then put out some paltry updates. This is a live game - we’re really trying to earn that sub model.”
Rift: Storm Legion is due to launch on November 13th, with preorders available in a range of bundles, including a couple containing the original game to allow newcomers to join in the action. We’ll also be keeping a close eye on the approaching storm, including the upcoming beta and all the announcements!
Correction: The article originally stated that Storm Legion's launch is November 18. It now correctly reflects the date as November 13.
Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Staff Writer