There's a lot I'm looking forward to in Storm Legion, but at the same time, I'm apprehensive about the changes that tend to come with the launch of any expansion. The world of Telara is changing, and Crucia is only part of that. In this week's Enter at Your Own Rift we'll look at some of the changes that MMO expansions normally bring and see how they might affect RIFT.
New continent, two worlds?
There's a massive amount of overland content coming to RIFT, and while it will be fun to stretch our legs and explore new lands, it might just mean the emptying out of the old world. If RIFT vets are all out in the new zones, what reason do they have to come back to the original areas? There's a chance of a disconnect between older players who are in the new zones and newer and lower-level players who are grinding along in the original zones.
The IA system has been great for helping new and lower-level players mix it up with higher-level players. It's been the perfect on-ramp that comes close to smashing one of the key barriers to grouping in a level-based MMO. But how will the new content affect the IA participation? High-level players are probably going to want to focus on the next tier of sourcestone, and unless the IA system includes it, there's little reason for them to want to mentor down and run IAs for outdated tokens. Players can still run IAs in smaller groups or even alone, so the system still has value even after the expansion, but it was nice to see huge herds of players running around lower-level zones again, and that might thin out after Storm Legion.
On crowded servers, this might not be as much of an issue, but on lesser-populated ones, what effect will the addition of new cities and the introduction of dimensions have on the populations of Sanctum and Meridian? Housing is a funny bird because if done right, housing will ensure that cities will feel like a ghost town, and that's not necessarily a good thing. EverQuest II guild halls are a perfect example; their amenities and guild perks mean players can get everything they need in the guild hall, rather than in town. Even today, after two city revamps, the capitals in EQII are largely empty, and players aren't able to bond and form a community as well because of that.
On the other hand, dimensions sound as if they'll be a little different from just an instanced zone with decorations. In fact, it sounds as if dimensions have the potential to be places where players can set up events and essentially create their own content. If so, dimensions might become social hubs themselves.
Raise your hand if you're going to try the new soul for your calling. It's natural that pretty much everyone will at least dabble in a combination using the new soul, but does that lead to a scenario in which everyone becomes the special snowflake? There's always going to be a certain percentage of the population that goes with the time-tested, flavor-of-the-month, min/maxed soul build, but in general, there are plenty of players who like to mix it up and try out all sorts of crazy combinations. If one of those souls is always the new one, variety is limited that much more.
I hate gear resets. There's nothing more annoying than spending night after night troubleshooting and figuring out all the puzzles of raid content (and all the player management that goes with it) only to see it wiped clean the first day when everyone can kill a trash mob and loot better gear right off the bat. There needs to be new gear, with new stats, but a complete reset goes too far. It renders all previous raid content irrelevant because players can do better by killing solo mobs and turning in quests.
Fortunately, this might not be the case with Storm Legion. We don't know all the itemization details, but from what it sounds like, ID gear will still hold value even into the mid to upper 50s, meaning there's a more gradual gear progression path between the old and new content. I hope that's the case across the board because the old raid content is definitely worth seeing, and more casual guilds will have an easier time completing it with those extra levels. But raiding, even with the level cushion, still requires a lot of organization and problem-solving, so the gear should reflect that and not be made irrelevant by solo gear from a full gear reset.
Lastly, with the addition of 10 new levels and an extension of the soul tree, the gap to the level cap grows even more. That can be daunting for new players who are trying to play catch up. Leveling right now, especially with instant adventures, is fairly quick and lots of fun. But will it slow down with the additional levels, and will it be harder to level if the IAs do become thinned out?
On the flip side, even when there's only a few players tackling the IAs, they're great experience, and they make the path to 50 much faster. As I wrote in a previous column, it's possible to make significant progress without needing to grind for hours and hours. I have a feeling many new players who were looking to be ready for the expansion have already hit the level cap.
In the end, I'm certainly not anti-expansion, and I'm actually looking forward to the new stuff. But at the same time, expansions often have a huge effect on all of the content and itemization that came before it, to the point that it can feel like disposable content. Hopefully that won't happen with RIFT, and systems like mentoring and IAs (with the option to select the zone you wish to do on the way) should help mitigate the disconnect.
Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.