Got Soul? Got Class!

Warning, incoming Rift discussion.

I am enjoying Rift immensely, so much so that I’ve let my WoW account lapse into inactivity (meaning, not paying for it at the moment, something that was easy, since my old debit card expired at the same time I got Rift, so I just decided not to update the payment info with the new card). That hasn’t happened for a very long time, so it’s rather astonishing to think about.

One of my personal biggest draws to it is the class system. You guys are all aware what a sucker I am for a good class system in an RPG, and Rift has one of the more innovative ones. I’m going to go into a bit of detail as to how it works, and what I’ve personally done with it on my level 24 mage.

I’ve already covered a bit of the basics in an ealier post (http://thebmatt.com/2011/02/15/362/), but I’ll rehash again. The game gives you four classes (known as “Callings”) to choose from (Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, and Mage), but within each Calling, you have a choice of 8 “Souls” to pick from. They’re known as “Souls” because in Rift’s storyline, the players play “Ascended”, heroes returned to life (by the Gods if you’re a Guardian, and by techno-magic if you’re a Defiant) and imbued with the Souls of fallen warriors of Telara’s past. Each Ascended has three Souls “active” within himself at any one time, essentially making him three times as strong as an ordinary being in this world.

In terms of game Mechanics, what this means is that upon character creation, you choose your Calling. During the initial storyline of the game, you choose the three “souls” that you will be imbued with. Each of these souls functions like a Talent Tree in World of Warcraft or Diablo, meaning you’re given a tree of abilities and attributes, and you spend points to unlock them, but instead of having a pre-determined three for your class like in those games, you get to pick your trees.

Each tree is built around a thematic class in it’s own right, and each has a different playstyle. Let’s take a look at each of the souls available to just the Mage calling.

Pyromancer – Pyromancers are all about fire, and they play similar to how you would expect a Fire mage to play: Front-loaded damage with some minor Damage-over-time effects plus a good amount of area damage.

Elementalist – The Elementalist is one of two pet classes the Mage has, summoning creatures of the various element types to battle their foes. They also have elemental themed magic of their own, but their primary source of power is their pets

Stormcaller – The Stormcaller focuses on weather-related magic, using the cold of winter and lots of Lightning. They build up several debuffs on their foes, and then once those are in place, unleash deadly lightning until they need to reapply them.

Necromancer – Necromancers focus on summoning undead minions and using various debuffs to augment the minion’s damage. Without those debuffs applied, the undead minion does only a fraction of it’s potential.

Warlock – The warlock studies the magic of Death (itself an elemental plane), and focuses primarily on Damage-over-Time spells as well as draining away enemy health. Unlike WoW, they have no pets.

Chloromancer – Chloromancers are mages who study the magic of plants and nature. They are the only healing soul available to the Mage, and they heal by transferring the damage they do to their opponents into heals for their allies. They do not posess the raw power the other souls have, but they make up for it with their healing prowress.

Archon – One of two support souls available to the mage, the Archon is a buff specialist, dealing damage to their foes (and occasionally themselves) to provide additional power to their allies. This soul is difficult to utilize on it’s own, but does very well in a group

Dominator – The other support Soul, Dominators focus on using magic to overpower their foes’ will. Dominators are control specialists, able to force their enemies to move how and when they want them to, and damaging them if they do not. As with the Archon, the Dominator is a Soul more sorted to a group role.

So as you can see, you have a wide varity of options available to you to mix and match from. Selecting a good combination is key, and can make a lot of difference in effectiveness. Let’s take a look at how this works, and some good combinations, again using the Mage calling as an example.

When you choose a Soul, you gain access to that Soul’s Tree. The Soul has two parts, the Tree and the Root. The Tree is where you spend the Soul points you gain as you level, and by doing so you get benefits to your existing abilities, and in some cases learn new ones. The Root is where you get the base abilities of the class. As you spend points in the tree, no matter where you spend them, you unlock new abilities. Each tree has a set of 1-3 abilities in the root that unlock just for choosing the Soul.

Soul points are gained at a rate of one per level, with an additional point every third level. Additionally, you cannot have more soul points in a tree equal to your current level. From this, you can start to see a pattern of how you choose your soul combinations.

1. The Primary Soul – This is the soul you want to play primarily as. You’ll be building points in this soul every level, and get access to most of the Root abilities.

2. The Secondary Soul – This is the Soul where you will generally spend the extra point you get every third level. You will choose this based on wanting abilities or Soul tree talents that compliment your primary soul that are available early in the tree or root.

3. The Tertiary, or “Zero-Point”, Soul – This soul is chosen only for the base abilities you get for choosing the soul. Likely you will spend little to no soul points here.

As an example, for a high damage soul such as the Pyromancer or Stormcaller, a good build is to choose Elementalist as a Secondary Soul, along with Chloromancer as the Zero-Point. Elementalist gives you access to an Earth Elemental pet to tank for you, as well as a mana-recharge ability to quickly get back in the fight. Cholormancer offers you the Radiant Spore ability that helps heal both you and your pet, giving you extra survival while soloing.

Conversely, let’s take a look at the Necromancer, a strong pet class with many options to heal your minion and you. The Warlock works very well as a Secondary soul, due to the Sacrifice Life: Mana ability, which allows Necromancers to convert their health into Mana. The Dominator works perfectly as the Zero-Point soul, offering the Polymorph ability to remove one enemy out of the fight for when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. The Archon, which provides an additional Damage-over-Time ability that also buffs your Endurance, is another potential option.

These are just a few of your options to pick from for just ONE of the Callings. And, if you don’t particularly like your choice of combinations, as early as level 13, you can complete a series of quests to unlock the other five not chosen during the starter quest chain. From this point, you can simply pay a trainer to reset your soul points and create a new combination. And if you want more than one, you can also pay the trainer for a new Role, which allows you to store another combination of Souls to switch between in the field. You can purchase an additional three of these, allowing a character to have four soul combos at any one time.

I absolutely love this system and the high degree of customization it affords. Coupled with the game’s very detailed character creator, and it’s more and more unlikely that you’ll ever run into a character that looks or acts anything like yours.

Rift is by no means perfect, but the developers have shown that they understood the mistakes other MMOs have made, and have built Rift to incorporate as many of these good lessons as possible. If they keep doing this, the game will last a very long time indeed, and I hope to be there to watch it for a long time.

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