Eye of the Storm

We ignore all weather warnings, instead rushing headlong into the Rift: Storm Legion beta.

It started with news of storms to the east. Torrential rain hammered the coastline; wind picked up the sand and etched away at your skin. No-one but the foolish and desperate would dare to sail in such treacherous weather, and yet someone did. A shipwrecked vessel, said to be indescribably alien in design, landed off the coast of Freemarch. Who would captain this craft through such a terrible storm, and why? 

So began my foray into the second beta weekend for Rift: Storm Legion, the first expansion for Trion’s fantasy MMO. Since first hearing about it on the E3 Stream and going eyes-on at Gamescom, I was eager to find out if the team would meet its earlier grand vision. Would the developer create a roaring hurricane, or would it be a storm in a teacup? While it’s important to remember that this is still beta, Trion does seem on-course to deliver a strong update to its flagship game.

Even with the second beta event finished and a third one approaching, the live game refuses to stand still. What started as a simple harvest festival has shifted to an autumnal storm, as Crucia’s minions from the plane of air assault cities across Telara. It is under this dark cloud that Queen Miela Aurentis set sail from the eastern Kingdom of Pelladane, to warn both Guardians and Defiant of the impending Storm Legion threat. 

Storm Legion starts out as a three-way battle, with Crucia’s Storm Legion, Regulos’ hordes of undead, and the player-led Ascended competing against each other for control of the Infinity Gate. This ancient technomagic marvel from a lost civilization has no clear purpose, but the theory is that whoever controls it can open a portal to the elemental planes beyond and the armies they contain. Such an outcome would be disastrous for Telara, which is why Guardians and Defiant are starting to work together.

Despite releasing eleven content updates since the launch of what’s affectionately described as ‘Chocolate Rift’, I’m told that the development team had steadily built up a list of features that were too big to tackle in a single patch. Arguably one of the biggest, each new character Calling is gaining a ninth Soul. Although it can be argued that these new souls are partly to plug gaps – the Mage calling gains a Harbinger soul for melee combat – there’s also a side-effect of creating new twists or combat styles, encouraging players to roll new characters. A great example is the Tactician, a new Rogue soul that comes armed with a Flamethrower and a boatload of increased mobility.

I’ve always been a spellcaster at heart, so shunting my Mage over to the beta server seemed like the best way to experience the new content. While I generally play either a Pyromancer or Necromancer-Warlock, I decided to pick up an extra build slot (Rift allows a maximum of six different soul builds) to try a Harbinger-Pyromancer blend. To make setting up characters simpler, the build window now includes Purposes – pre-made templates designed around a particular play style. 

I was expecting Harbinger to push against years of spellcaster-instinct that told me being in melee as a mage is wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised. Part of that was due to being able to morph my stave into all manner of arcane-infused slicers and dicers, giving the class a paladin-esque feel. New mobility skills also help with blipping in and out of combat, making me feel more like a sword-swinging illusionist.

While the encroaching storm is one beginning, the new dungeon – Exodus of the Storm Queen – is another. This prelude to the full expansion opens on October 30th for preorder players, and continues the Crucia quest line in Iron Pine Peak. Set in the Chancel of Labors, this challenging new adventure reveals how Crucia breaks free of her icy prison. It’s worth experiencing, not just for the grueling boss fights, but also because of the sizeable chunk of lore it delivers. Once Storm Legion goes live, this region will also host portals to the vast new continents of Dusken and Brevane.

Next Up: A Brave New World and Dimensional Shamblers on Page 2 ->

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