Earlier in the month I was moaning about the Storm Legion expansion for Rift.
I had not been actively avoiding the game. But whenever I was looking for a game to play, I would get to Rift, give a little dejected moan internally, and move on to something else.
I just wasn’t that into it, and I was trying to figure out why.
Thinking on it, I came up with three possible factors. They were, put simply, the character/class/soul revamp that went in just before the expansions, the change in how quests and story flow were handled, and the general increase in landmass that came with the expansion.
Nice theories. They seem reasonable.
And certainly the first one, the class revamp, was a big pain in the ass. Having to go back and relearn how to play your character… and the multiple roles on your character… was a big deal to me. I have managed to get healing sorted out on Hillmar, my cleric, and I think I have his DPS soul working. But my warrior and rogue characters are still pretty opaque and my mage is probably dead to me at this point.
But still, are these the things that were keeping me from logging in?
I decided to push the point, force myself to log in, and get through the first zones and levels just to see what I could see.
What I did after the cut.
Ah, into Storm Legion.
I did not want to take Hillmar out for fear of getting too far ahead of the regular group, so I picked one of my other characters.
I went with Sanperre, my warrior. I redone his soul after the revamp and brought him into Storm Legion, but he was barely cutting it. That was probably because I was not playing his new soul choices correctly. So I decided to cheat.
On my Storm Legion post, pkudude99 commented about several things, including his own warrior build and posted a link to how he had configured it and the macros he was using. I decided to take that wholesale and use it, in the hope that it would at least get me past the “playing my class” issue.
And it seemed to work.
There is a macro each for single target builder, AOE builder, single target finisher and AOE finisher. So those four buttons, plus charge, to rush an opponent and that skill that pulls one two you and I was good.
I also went to the auction house and found the best weapon I could for him. Due to a rather slim selection, that ended up being a one handed mace, so he had that and a shield. Fortunately as an armor smith one of the things he can make is shield spikes, so the enemy takes damage with each block.
Thus equipped, I headed to the Cape Jule zone.
I chose that zone because my warrior had already worked his way into Pelladane previously and I wanted to start in a fresh zone. I had initially started my rogue in Cape Jule, where he died horribly and constantly, so I also figured it would be a good ability to play the class.
With a warrior and the build and the equipment upgrades as they came, I was actually able to get through Cape Jule pretty handily.
Being done there left me just shy of level 52 and put me on the road to the next zone, City Core. However, when I arrived at City Core, I found things started off a couple of levels above me. In Rift, that can be a problem.
So I took the hint and went back and finished off Pelladane as well.
That put me just over the level mark into 53 and opened up the next zone, Seratos.
Done with that, I have some observations on the Storm Legion expansion so far.
Each of the two zones has their own story and quests that lead you through it. Each wraps up in a final fight or event that basically finishes things up for the zone, but leave the overall tale of the expansion still going. For example, Crucia comes along when you defeat her champion, promising more conflict to come.
There is an achievement both for finishing a certain number of quests and for finishing the story line.
My problem is that the first time through a zone, unless the story is really strong and told more through what you do than what is written in the quest text, I tend to lose the thread of the story amongst the mechanics of getting things done. So many “kill this, collect that” shopping list entries later and suddenly I realize that things have come to a head.
Post Cataclysm Redridge in WoW is a zone with a really strong story that forces you to pay attention. For all of its flaws and reliance on pop-culture references, I remember what happened there still, and I only went through it once. Cape Jule and Pelladane are not that strong. Not even close.
But missing the story is more my flaw than the game’s I suppose. And generally I have to do a zone twice to pick up the nuances.
Pacing and Progress
The problem with easy and quick progress is that it is addictive and sets expectations. When I ran my last character through Rift to level 50, the levels seemed to fly by. That is gone with Storm Legion.
And since I did that run to level 50 just before Storm Legion came out, the change was jarring. The slow pace was part of what made me feeling like I was doing things wrong.
But slow is not necessarily bad. I cannot, on one hand, complain about out-leveling zones in one post and then turn around and whine that leveling takes too long in another, and expect to be taken seriously.
So, feeling that I need to choose one over the other, I will take the pacing that Storm Legion offers. It actually seems to be about right so far if you want to see the whole expansion in one pass. I had to do Cape Jule and Pelladane in order to be ready for the next zones. That is probably as it should be.
I admit that it helps that planar attunement levels still come pretty often. That gives a small sense of advancement while you are watching that main experience bar crawl along.
It took me a while to take these in stride. I went from trying to knock them out as soon as I got them, to avoiding them if I could, to trying to pick them up as soon as I found them but not stressing over getting them done. Inevitably the story line drags you through the mobs you need to kill. And the fact that there is an achievement for finishing all such quests in a zone clicked with my OCD nature.
Controls Points, Scattered Quests, and Hunt Rifts
Along with traditional quest lines from NPCs, there are the quests you pick up in the field from objects on the ground. If carnage quests are on-the-fly kill ten rats quests, then these are their collect ten widgets brethren. And they are fine as far as they go. The only thing that bugs me is that until you pick them up, every possible collectible piece for the quest appears on your mini-map as a “quest here!” icon. So you look like you are wandering into the quest hub from hell. I get why they chose to do it that way. Design is often a compromise. But that means it won’t always sit well.
The other regular activity each zone are what I would call control point battles. There are daily quests… a few in each zone… to go to a particular point, clear it of bad guys, revive the source stone and defending equipment, and then defend it from bad guys seeking to wipe it out. 20 waves of such will satisfy the quest.
The initial problem for me was that you need planar charges in order to revive and power everything up. Since I did not do much on Ember Island before Storm Legion, the only way I knew to get planar charges was to close rifts. That is a slow way to build them up.
So I generally avoided those daily quests until I discovered the crystals around the control points which, when slain, recharge planar charges. A quick jaunt over to one and I could be full up with 9 planar charges and on my way. And then the control points were much easier. They were also pretty much the only point at which I interacted with other players.
There were not many other players to be seen in these zones on the Shatterbone server. A couple now and again, but I mostly felt like I had the zones to myself. But the daily nature of the quests and the fact that they reward you with source stone currency meant that there were public groups to be found.
And then there were the hunt rifts. I found out that those… and killing the harbinger that appears… seem to be group activities. And the lures cost 10K palanarite. I’ll save those for the right moments.
Equipment and Crafting
Going through the quest chains meant getting equipment upgrades, so I figured I would just skip crafting for the time being. My warrior does mining as well as armor and weapon smithing. I gathered ore whenever I could, to level up the mining, but just stored that away. Gathering professions seemed to advance more slowly than before, so I used every opportunity to mine. It is a good thing that there were a lot of constructs that could be mined after being slain, as ore nodes alone wouldn
Or I did until I checked on what I could make. The plate armor items my warrior could craft were noticeably better than what I was picking from quests. So I started in on that. However, materials quickly became a bottleneck. I got up a couple of tiers, but then started needing higher level leather, which was extremely expensive at the auction house. Likewise, when I looked into weapons, I ended up needing wood from foragers which was simply not available. And the usual alternative, getting out alts to harvest, seemed like a less than profitable goal, as I would need to get their harvesting level up quite a bit. That would mean spending time on that rather than pushing through the zones.
So I opted to stick with gear from drops and quests for the most part.
As for the look of the gear, I think the Storm Legion plate armor is pretty decent.
It certainly looks better than the chain cleric gear Hillmar has picked up. That makes him look like a giant lawn gnome. Fortunately, the wardrobe slots let him hide that.
The Zones Themselves
The most embarrassing thing about the first two zones is that I have trouble telling them apart. I went to the wrong portal more than once from Meridian or Tempest Bay. Neither had a character that made them stand out from the other. Green grass, hills, some mountains, a shoreline… it all sort of melded together into one composite mental image.
Only the mobs distinguish them, and even those are not that different. Storm Legion soldiers make up a large number in either of the two zones. And I couldn’t place the zone where a given mob was if asked. I got out my rogue, as he has the butcher skill that lets him harvest leather, to see how much work it would be to get him up to striped leather. I had a 50/50 chance of just guessing the right zone, the one with the skinnable rhinos nearby, and I guessed wrong.
Now however, I am through the two initial zones, up to level 53, and facing two new zones. And one, Seratos, looks as big on the map as the two zones I just finished.
So far, Storm Legion isn’t as bad as I was thinking it was. But neither is it as exciting or distinctive as I had hoped. I suppose I will see if the expansion can pick up the pace with the next two zones.