Standardized Souls for the Aspiring Ascended

One of the joys of Rift, to at least some players, is its soul system.

While there are four classic archetypes, warrior, cleric, mage, and rogue, each of those can be outfitted with three souls, chosen from a list of eight, to create a character customized to your needs and wishes.

Some rejoiced at this unparalleled freedom of choice.

Others were, perhaps, less enthusiastic.

I personally found it interesting, but I am really no longer one of those players who likes to explore that many choices just to play the game.  And our regular Saturday night group has suffered, in part, due to the soul choices we have made.  And remade.  And made again.

But with Rift patch 1.7, help for our issue showed up in the form of preset souls.

The first aspect of that change was that everybody now gets all of the souls for the class right away.  If you hadn’t bought any extras beyond your first three yet, free souls for you!  If you bought them all, well, they weren’t that expensive anyway.

So there is no more “what should I buy, I do not want to waste my limited cash at level 5” issue.

And then there are the preset souls.  For each archetype there are a few choices.

The Rogue Presets

The rogue has two DPS, one tanking, and one support preset.

The nice thing is that the preset isn’t just a matter of point you at three souls for a specific role like DPS.  There is a description of that roles focus, a “how to play” insert, some tips, and a highlight of your key abilities.

I actually learned a couple of things going through the tips, and the call out of abilities is very nice because you seem to get a lot of abilities in Rift.  It isn’t quite at the EverQuest II level of “too many damn buttons,” but you fill up your task bars pretty quickly.

I declined to switch over my rogue to one of the presets, as he already has the huntsman’s souls, though I took note of when I ought to use the blood raptor.

For a sample I grabbed one of my alts, a cleric named Nehru, to see what presets that offered and how it worked.

Cleric Presets

The cleric actually gets one healing, one tanking, and two DPS presets.  I went with the healing preset to compare what it offered up against what Hillmar, my healer for the group runs, had chosen up to that point.

One of the first thing I noticed was that in addition to the information you get on the preset screen, Trion doesn’t leave you on your own once you have chosen a preset.  When you have soul points to spend, the game tells you where to spend them.

Soul Point Goes Here

This is actually one of the more important pieces of the puzzle.  We have sat immobile as a group for minutes at a time after somebody has leveled and is trying to figure out where to put that new point. (That screen shot is not from the healer preset, in case you were wondering.)

You can break with the plan at any time.  You get a warning when you do.

You Don't Like My Pick?

And once you have done that, you are on your own again.

The system appears very much optimized to getting your key “root” abilities as soon as possible.  It bounced back and forth between trees, two points at a time, early on.  But if you think it is losing focus, you can always see the whole point plan the preset is guiding you towards.

Show Me The Point Plan

I ran out and did a bit of solo work with this soul, which probably wasn’t the intention of a healing spec, but it did leave me with enough offense to play.  And, of course, I was well healed, so to speak.

In the end, I did not move the three characters I play regularly to one of the preset roles.  My rogue was already very close to the Huntsman spec as it was, I did not want to give up the beastmaster soul I tacked on to my otherwise reaver focused warrior, and Hillmar the group healer is more focused on healing than the Flame Keeper preset would have him at the same level.

But I still believe that these preset soul choices are a good thing.  Giving the casual player a safe choice and some tips seems like the right plan.

A couple members of the group moved to presets last weekend to try them out, including Earl who is our tank.  Poor Earl has been changing up his build just about every time we play, but now it sounds like the tanking preset he chose will be more solid than what he was working with previously.

We shall see how this latest change works for the team.

13 thoughts on “Standardized Souls for the Aspiring Ascended

  1. Sentack

    This is actually an interesting change of plan for the game. I like the concept in that it gives freedom but doesn’t leave the new player out in the cold, completely.

    I just learned that the game has an “Unlimited up to level 20” trial feature now, so i might give that a go to really get a feel of how the game plays.

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  2. SynCaine

    One of my issues with Rift and the skills you get is overlap. As a warrior, you get 3-4 different armor debuff skills if you select certain souls. This sounds pretty good in terms of tanking/debuffing a boss in a dungeon, until you learn that they don’t stack, and worse, a lesser debuff will remove a greater one. Once I read a min/max guide, the ‘power level’ of my character skyrocketed.

    I know that its important to keep tooltips somewhat short, but when you have so many abilities that basically do the same thing, it would be nice to know which ones are not compatible with others.

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  3. Rohan

    The interesting question here is how good should these builds be?

    Should they be the best possible builds for that archetype? Good builds, but not what the high-end would consider to be the best?

    If they are the best, then the game becomes “pick this, and don’t deviate”. If they aren’t the best, someone who just followed the advice the game gave is at a disadvantage.

    Or maybe they should just be acknowledged as pure levelling builds, and leave endgame on its own.

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  4. Telwyn

    Interesting, I sort of skipped over this helper feature when I read the patch notes. Although I’ve pretty much shelved Rift for now due to lack of free time I’ll have to log on to see how this works.

    Sounds very much like the ‘path’ system DDO adopted (link below) which took the very complex D&D character creation system and gave you a nice easy descriptive path to follow – which continues as you level up unless you decide to go off that path and do it yourself from then on.

    http://www.ddo.com/us/ddogameinfo/73-character-progression/326-paths

    Now if only WoW had chosen something similar instead of nerfing the talent system repeatedly into the ground… :-/

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Rohan – I started writing a bit about whether these might become “must have” roles for guilds and the like, but I really do not have enough data.

    My first glace look at the builds is that they seem to be well rounded rather than specialized. The Huntsman ended up being a lot like what I had already picked for my ranger focused rogue with whom I primarily solo. Meanwhile the Flame Keeper picks were not as healing exclusive as I had picked with my own cleric.

    I suspect that for raids or high end instances these builds would not be specialized enough. And there are only four presets per archetype, so there are a lot of potential builds, like a healer with shaman shielding powers, out there to explore.

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  6. bhagpuss

    I started to comment but then it turned into a post over at Inventory Full. Can’t trackback in Blogger though.

    I agree with SynCaine above about duplication of skills. I really only noticed it on my Warrior but there it was a real problem. The Warrior was the only Calling I felt the need to Macro, too. Very unintuitive.

    I also agree on the tool-tip thing. Rift’s tool-tips are ridiculously small and hard to read, especially on the fly.

    As for ability proliferation in EQ2, next time you feel like taking a run over there you might look at the Beastlord. They get a fraction of the abilities of any other class and the bars are very clean and easy to navigate as a consequence.

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  7. pkudude99

    @TAGN — when you said “Hillmar the group healer is more focused on healing than the Flame Keeper preset would have him at the same level.” in your post, and then more or less repeated it in your comment above. . . .I’m curious as to what your current spec is vs the Flame Keeper spec suggested for your level. Could you maybe do a post comparing them?

    The reason I ask is that in the screenie you have for a level 17 Flame Keeper (which I know you’re higher than 17, so I assume it’s not actually your Hillmar) it looks to me to be absolutely perfectly Heal-focused. But then, I’m a big fan of the Purifier and strongly advocate that it should get the primary points up to at least 32, and then “catch up” Sentinel points should be added in afterward. In your prior posts, you seem to prioritize toward the Sentinel side of things instead. That’s why I’d be curious to see what your idea of a “more healing focused” or “healing exclusive” build is.

    The 34/32 Purisent has been “the” endgame healing build for quite a while (and it’s what I run, though I use a 33/33 split) and so I’m glad to see that the devs incorporated that build into their pre-sets since it is such a good build.

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  8. HarbingerZero

    I really don’t get it to be honest. Rift is the only MMO that I have ever capped in. I am not a min/max guy or even a theoretician who constantly grooms builds. I never fretted over where to put points.
    Probably because the souls are very obviously each tailored to a role. Want to heal? Pick a healing soul and put all your points into it until you can’t put any more. When you have some leftover, put them in whatever you think would be fun to have. Not brain surgery. And in all the time I put into the game, I never heard a single person complain about not understanding the soul system or worrying about their builds effectiveness.

    So, I assume this push comes from end game raiders and PvPers who are absolutely desperate to max every drop of DPS or threat from the system. And quite frankly, Rift’s soul system was built to give those people the middle finger. Caving into them now indicates a change in design philosophy.

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @pkudude99 – You assume a lot more enthusiasm for soul tree research than I possess. The clue was me saying presets were good.

    @HZ – For solo, I am with you pretty much, though there are less than optimal routes. For building a group that works well together, there were clearly wrong choices.

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  10. Aufero

    @HZ – Interesting, I get completely the opposite message out of the new system.

    Rift’s soul system seemed to me (while I was playing) to be aimed at min-maxers who like to theorize about the effectiveness of different builds. There were enough combinations of souls and abilities to keep just about anyone busy testing new builds for months. (In fact, my interest in the game wore off about four months in, just about the time I felt I’d explored all the possibilities of the soul system.)

    The new suggested builds seem aimed at players who were annoyed, worried or confused by the plethora of possibilities. I met quite a few of them while I was playing.

    I don’t think this is a change in philosophy so much as an acknowledgement that not everyone wants to worry about that stuff.

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  11. Vatec

    @Rohan/HZ

    No, I’d say the new Purpose system is aimed directly at people starting out who don’t want to go through the hassle of researching builds or making (what they may consider to be uninformed) decisions. None of the builds presented are “optimal,” though all are certainly “functional.” They absolutely are not endgame builds, though you could use them in expert dungeons and not totally embarrass yourself.

    Fact is, a lot of players just want to play. These builds let them do that.

    I’m guessing a lot of their exit surveys have cited “overwhelmed by soul system complexity” or some variant thereof. Unlike less competent MMO companies (Funbine and Turcom, for example), instead of completely trashing the game trying to implement a “one size fits all” fix, Trion has found a way to bolt on a solution that, shockingly enough, has absolutely no impact on those who don’t want or need it.

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  12. HarbingerZero

    Eh, two final comments.

    #1) One is that it is the pure number of combinations that makes it difficult to min/max. Reducing the combinations and/or the complexity of individuals souls gets you where Funbine and Turcom went – along with EQ2, WoW, and…well, just about everyone.

    #2) Two is that I’m looking at this “bolted on” modification within the greater stream of changes that have been made to souls. Each update seems to have either simplified how the soul works, or worked to make it more *efficient.* But if you want a good system for people to piddle with, efficiency is death, because its a reduction in options and combinations…at which point, see #1 above.

    That’s where I was headed. In my head at least. (-:

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  13. Vulpis

    Hmmm. I love free-form build systems myself as opposed more restricted class-based systems, both for online play and tabletop (GURPS and Hero System, go!), but on the other hand…I can definitely see the argument for those overwhelmed by too many choices…especially the people coming in from the aforementioned restricted class-base systems. This is a *nice* way to handle it…unlike some other systems, it doesn’t take *away* the ability to go fully free-form in order to give you guidance, and doesn’t lock you into completely railroaded archetypes either (Champions Online, I’m looking at you..). Heck, even I’d probably take one of the presets to try out a new soul mix, and then break away from it later once I’d gotten a feel for the basics of how it plays. Trion just keeps doing an amazing job with this stuff it seems, providing flexibility enough for lots of play-styles without taking away much if anything from others.

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