Just like Scott Hartsman hinted at in Episode 1 of the Soulrift Podcast, the 1.6 update for Rift added a bunch of great content in the form of Ember Isle. The premise is simple: produce a zone full of content tuned for level 50 characters who have cleared out most of the "old continent" content and probably done a bunch of expert dungeons and collected a set of epic gear. The result? It's awesome.
Rift felt, by and large, a little undertuned; it was too easy. Getting to 50 meant coasting through content, killing mobs you can basically trip over and loot. Ember Isle is a refreshing change of pace: those monsters will kill you if you get overconfident. It strongly encourages grouping up instead of soloing. But it's just the right balance, in my opinion, just the right level of challenge without being obnoxiously treacherous.
Ember Isle also expands on two core mechanics: questing and dynamic content. As far as questing is concerned, the isle sports the typical set of quest hubs, but there's also quests scattered all over the place. Tons of extra quests that you only find while you're exploring around the world. It breaks up the tedium of questing by allowing players to pick up new tasks all over the place instead of always trekking from hub to hub. Even better? All these scattered quests either turn in instantly upon completion or turn in at single central quest hub. So even though you go all over getting quests, you don't have to re-trek all over turning them again again. Brilliant!
The dynamic content has also improved considerably. Throughout Ember Isle are sourcewells at the center of little adventuring hubs. These wells and surrounding turrets can be upgraded and defended by players. Instead of having to wait for a zone-wide invasion, each sourcewell comes under intermittent attack, so players can engage in the "defense against invasions" game all the time. The invasions themselves are also much more dramatic, with more stages, more interaction throughout the world, and even bigger and more exciting foes. Brilliant!
They also added a new dungeon, Caduceus Rise... but I haven't checked it out yet. Here's where things sort of fall apart. Caduceus Rise was mixed in with the other T2 dungeons, which means if you want to check it out and still get the rewards for doing a T2 dungeon (the Mark of Achievement is arguably the only good reason to do a T2 dungeon) you have to queue for a random dungeon. So, odds are, you'll just keep doing all that old boring content over and over again, hoping that you might end up in the new place... No thanks.
I think Trion should just give the same rewards for picking a specific dungeon as well as going through the random dungeon rotation. There's no reason to force people to do crap dungeons. Also, get rid of the T1/T2 distinction: just have one pool of expert dungeons all providing the same rewards. Give me a chance to re-play some of those fun dungeons that are currently doomed to useless T1 status!
OK, issues apart, great patch. Thank you Trion. Looking forward to the Christmas event, hopefully it's less painful than the horrid third phase of the pre-Ember Isle daily quest involving teleporting around the world and waiting 5 minutes for loading screens...
By the way, that brings up another issue: has the game been performing worse and worse with each patch? Now I'm starting to crash far more consistently every time I change zones (100% of the time when I recall to Meridian) and zones take a lot longer to load. Hrm... Maybe next patch should focus on improving performance rather than adding more content...