Last week one of our readers was kind enough to send me a trial code for last weekend's "Allies of the Ascended" event in Rift. I spent the weekend investigating the crafting system in Rift and I put together this overview/review for those of you who are interested.
My overall impressions of the game are pretty lukewarm. Having tested four other MMOs now, I'm getting to the point where I recognize "borrowed" ideas. The graphics in Rift remind me a lot of Aion. Some of the animations are kind of clunky, specifically the running animations for characters and mounts as well as the critter animations. Combat is the standard MMO button mashing affair - I've even gotten to the point where I mentally refer to some of my Rift spells by their WoW counterpart (lol!). Rift uses the same quest/foozle leveling mechanic that most MMOs rely on for leveling. So far I've seen two distinguishing features in Rift: the talent system and the rift events.
The main change they made in the talent system is to boil the actual character creation down to four primary types. Then you select three talent trees for your character to further customize yourself and when you spend talent points they can go into any of the three trees. Personally, I don't see this as a huge departure from other MMOs. Perhaps if you're the type of player who likes to hop around on alts alot this would be a strong perk. But in terms of the overall dynamics of the MMO style of gaming, this didn't feel like a huge change to me. No matter what game I'm in, I'm going to play a healer so giving me three trees to wade through isn't a huge draw to me.
The other big feature that Rift brings to the table is the rift events. This is basically a random event that occurs at different locations during the day. Once the "invasion" starts, anyone in the area is prompted to join a public raid group to quell the invasion. Those who stick around until the final "boss" mob is killed will automatically receive a goodie bag with some random currency tokens and a couple of other items that are often crafting ingredients (something like our chaos orb). My take on this system is that it combines the random epicness of a Scourge style invasion with the automated grouping of a battleground like Wintergrasp. I see the appeal in this for players who want to be a part of a big PVE group event without the organizational hassles of WoW-style raids. I don't think this feature is particularly revolutionary in the MMO world, but I think Blizzard would do well to consider implementing some form of "public quest" style PVE content in WoW.
The crafting content in Rift is pretty standard fare. You start out questing in newbie areas and I was not able to find any crafting trainers during this time. I finally found some gathering trainers at level 7 in a town called Divine Landing. You might be able to get there a bit quicker if you really push forward, but I suspect they don't intend for players to start crafting until they reach level 5. Rift has three gathering professions: Mining, Butchering and Foraging. Mining obviously deals with ores, butchering lets you skin dead mobs and foraging lets you harvest herbs and wood. Yes, Rift has wood gathering! The other professions you can pick up in Rift are Armorsmith (plate/chain armor), Weaponsmith (bows/guns/melee), Outfitter (leather/cloth armor), Runecrafter (enchants), Artificier (jewelry/wands/staves) and Apothecary (potions).
Each player can learn three professions, which is nice. I grabbed Foraging and Mining up front so I could collect materials while I quested. I got skill points for harvesting nodes and a few points early on for processing my ore and wood. The gathering trainers both offered me a quest to collect some materials and turn it in for XP. I'm not sure if these were daily quests since I didn't stick around at the lowbie area. When I got to the next town there was a fully complement of profession trainers and I picked up Weaponsmithing as my third profession.
Weaponsmithing has a fairly standard skill progression with new recipes learned every 10 skill points. Rift also follows the typical difficulty ratings for recipes where they start out orange, then change to yellow, green and finally gray as you level beyond a particular recipe. From what I observed you will normally get about 10 skill points from a recipe before it changes difficulty on you. There does not appear to be a level requirement for training higher tiers of skill in a profession. I was unable to move above 75 skill but I suspect that was due to my trial account status. The trainers didn't have any level requirements listed on any of the higher tiers of training, so it might be possible to level all the way to 300 skill without leveling your character much.
All professions except Apothecaries come with a "salvage" ability that allows you to destroy your crafted items and salvage them for parts. This only applies to the items your profession can make but I discovered that it can be used on loot/quest items too. As a weaponsmith I was able to salvage a quest mace my character was using, but not any of the armor. It looks like they designed the salvaging ability to let anyone disenchant items that fall into their crafting specialty. My salvaging efforts would generally turn up 1-2 metal bars and/or a few metal scraps that I could combine into a special type of metal. I also got wood when I salvaged bows, which made sense since wood was used to make the bow. I thought the salvaging was a nice feature and something that would be handy when grinding skill points. In an ideal tradeskill scenario you wouldn't need to grind skill points on worthless goods, but clearly the Rift designers opted to go with the salvaging idea as an easier path.
Most professions require the use of specialized work stations such as forges, work benches, etc. A good number of the towns I visited had these stations, but this setup does prohibit you from crafting in the field. Also, most of the recipes seem to require vendor materials to craft. Almost everything I made as a weaponsmith called for flux or grinding stones. Based on the wares the other trainers sell, I suspect this is the case across the board. You can expect to spend at least 100 gold on training and vendor supplies to progress through the Novice level of your profession. Prices scale up from there with the highest recipes costing almost 9 gold each.
You also have the ability to add extra ingredients to recipes to create a better quality item. These ingredients can be bought from vendors and I think some are also rewarded from rift events. I'm not completely confident on how that all works but I know the interface allows for it and I did do a few test items myself. I'm just not certain about the full implementation because I ended up with some items that I was unable to use this way even though they were marked as crafting ingredients
From what I've seen Rift also offers daily crafting quests for each profession. I only had weaponsmithing as a tradeskill, but I assume other professions have quests as well. Each quest tasks you with making 2-5 crafted items and turning them in for a few vendor tokens, a goodie bag and a small amount of XP. The goodie bag has ingredients appropriate to your profession, metal bars in my case. The interesting thing about the daily quest is that they appear to offer more than one if your skill is high enough. Once I leveled past tin and got into copper weapons, the quest giver had a new daily quest for copper items and still let me take the quest for tin items. Assuming this holds true all the way up, you could end up with as many as seven different daily quests. This would be a pretty beefy way to rack up tokens. The vendors who sell recipes have token prices up to 300 for rare/epic patterns.
In conclusion, Rift has a crafting system that is comparable to existing tradeskills in other MMO games, but nothing special. I don't think it's compelling enough to attract new players in and of itself, but it should be reasonably enjoyable to players who plan to play Rift anyway.