Hands-On: Rift: Planes of Telara Dynamic Gameplay

| 23 Aug 2010 12:00

Jeez, leaving an interdimensional tear in the world open can be a bad thing. Who knew?

As I mentioned back in my earlier preview, a huge portion of Rift: Planes of Telara is dealing with the titular "rifts." When a tear in the world pops up, it threatens to open into a full-blown rift to one of the other six planes of existence (fire, water, air, earth, life and death) unless dealt with.

Of course, the way to deal with them is to prematurely open them into rifts, and beat up the elemental beings within, so it's six of one, a half-dozen of another.

While that is technically "dynamic content" in that it generates worldwide hot-spots on the fly to attract the attention of players, it gets a bit more interesting if nobody actually succeeds in closing a given rift. Without being banished back to their home plane, the elemental forces slowly spread - as does the influence of the given plane on the surrounding world.

In our short time with Rift, we were only briefly shown what happens when planar rifts run wild, but it was more than enough to spark interest. Eventually, the elemental forces will start wandering away from the area immediately around the rift, interacting with - and wreaking havoc on - the world at large. They'll even attack quest hubs and kill quest givers if not stopped. Of course, players will get quests to drive them back in return ... but the longer the rift is open, the more powerful they'll become, requiring more of a concerted effort on the part of players to stop the invasion.

Of course, it gets even more interesting when multiple rifts to different planes are going wild at the same time. The forces of different planes aren't exactly allies, you see, and so simultaneous invasions will actually lead to the elemental planes fighting each other. Not only does this make the job of the players - closing the rifts - that much easier, but it also means that characters will be able to temporarily ally themselves with a given plane to try to help them achieve victory in the hopes of gaining extra rewards. And then they can immediately turn around and banish their new-found allies, but nobody ever said that the planar forces had to trust you.

Following our look at what happens when the rifts don't get closed, we stepped into the Realm of the Fae, an instanced dungeon meant for mid-level players. To be honest, it was slightly anticlimactic to move from one to the other - not because the dungeon-crawling was somehow bad, but just because the rest of it was so impressive.

Of course, throwing five random games journalists together in an MMOG party is also a bit trickier. Sure, we might have experience with the genre, but that doesn't mean we've spent twenty levels getting to know our respective classes. That said, anyone familiar with MMOGs in general will probably be able to pick up one of the archetypal classes and do fairly well. I stepped into the shoes of the party's tank, a Paladin, and I like to think I was at the least somewhat competent.

A particularly nice touch is that everyone in the party automatically gets the dungeon-relevant quest as soon as you enter a given instance, meaning there's no concern about who has it and who doesn't. In this case, the Realm of the Fae is a zone that takes adventurers through the four seasons - from spring to summer to autumn to winter - as you journey onward.

It's actually a very cool concept for a zone, and each of the sections is appropriately visually distinctive. The final Winter section in particular looks amazing, with heavily-falling snow obscuring how far you and your character can see. It's important that you stick together with your party lest you be separated - and run into some nasty snow-covered surprises.

Though it might not have been as creative as the dynamic rift-based content we'd seen earlier, the dungeon-crawling in Rift is wholly competent. It doesn't do many things differently, but it uses what works and people who like that sort of thing will probably find enjoyment in it. If the developers can come up with more than a few instances as creative as this weather-crawling zone, who knows? It might actually be one of the game's primary attractions.


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