After a Week in the Legion...

November 22nd, 2012

I don't typically review games or issue scores on this site, so I'm not going to try and figure out how many stars or what percentage I'd award Rift's new expansion, Storm Legion. Instead, I'll say this: of all the MMORPGs out there right now, the one I'm most enjoying right now is Rift: Storm Legion.

I like the streamlined quest system a lot. It really addresses my biggest complaint about the "quest grind" which is the travel time players spend going from hub to hub. Rift's new quest system provides a single meaningful "breadcrumb" story quest which both carries you through the zone and is provided in sufficiently sparse chunks that it's actually worth reading through. I can't remember the last time I actually read the quest text. I guess the trick wasn't to make the text better, or even to voice it a-la SWOTR.

Along the way (following the breadcrumbs) you come across other quests you can do at your leisure. The key thing here is that you can do them without prerequisites. That means there's the risk of missing them, but I think Trion's come to the realization that this particular risk actually makes the quests a little bit more worth seeking out and doing. More importantly, it means you don't have to do them if you want to skip past an area and you can jump ahead and do them if you find yourself deep in a quest zone after chasing a world invasion.

Switching gears entirely from quests, I also wanted to comment on some of the changes to the class (calling / soul) system. In sharp contrast to the seemingly overwhelming tide of simplification (read: dumbing-down) that is sweeping any form of meaningful engagement with games, Storm Legion takes the risk of adding extra complexity and leaving it tucked away for players to discover. Take, for example, the Elementalist.

The Elementalist used to be a pretty bland pet-based soul for mages. You'd get some fairly plain pets, fling some thematic but uninteresting spells around, and otherwise just be rather underpowered. But the new and improved Elementalist is amazing... and it only took a few very slight changes to get it there.

The core of the changes are four "Wheel of the Elements" talents near the top of the Elementalist tree. Each gives you a damage boost to the next element in the wheel: cast an earth spell, your next air spell is boosted. Cast an air spell, boost a water spell, etc. Suddenly your spell usage is less of a predictable cycle; or, rather, becomes a set of dynamic patterns you work your way through. To be sure, there are some definite patterns to work your way through the spell list: casting pillaging stone (earth) right after immolate (fire) makes sense with the new fire -> earth cycling.

But there are other patterns to consider. For one thing, icy carapace, a water spell, triggers fire in the wheel, but icy carapace deals extra damage if you cast an air spell within a few seconds too. So you have two choices: do you go through the wheel, following icy carapace with a fire and earth and then air spell? Or do you go backwards through the cycle?

Going backwards actually makes sense because the exact mechanic is "the next spell of a specific element cast within the next 10 seconds..." rather than "if the next spell is this element..." You can cast an unboosted earth, then fire, then water spell, and you'll be primed to deal extra damage on the next air, earth, and fire spells you cast. You then cast an air spell, getting the extra damage on your icy carapace and consuming your air boost, but giving yourself a new water boost. Doing the reverse wheel takes longer to set up but leaves you with three boosts up at any time. That leaves you in the tactical position to break from the wheel and go in any direction as needed.

There's a few other nifty tricks too. One of your main air spells has a slight travel time: you cast the spell, but it doesn't actually hit the target for a fraction of a second. If you can land icy carapace in that tiny window of opportunity, the cast of the lightning blast will trigger the water boost for icy carapace, then the lightning will land and trigger icy carapace's extra damage.

In any case, I haven't had so much fun with a damage dealing class in a long while, especially considering the dynamic cycles and paths through a relatively small list of spells (only about 8 damaging spells in my build, contrasted with my Stormcaller's bloated cast bars and some 20-odd powers). The elemental wheel has turned a fairly bland and under-appreciated pet class into a very skill-oriented and potentially powerful damage dealer: I'm eager to see how far I can take Elementalist into end-game raiding now!

Posted by: Soulrift

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