Based on personal time demands, I slowly disengaged from playing Rift last August and September, and my subscription ran out in October. The Invisible College was still active, but with a small core of players with highly varying schedules, so we decided to essentially park the guild with open membership and distributed officer abilities. Its now guild level 11 (thanks primarily to Random Nerd killing thousands of guardians I suspect).

The last few months I’ve taken a grand tour of MMOs (resubbed to WoW for 4.3; have F2P accounts with LOTRO, DCUO; SW:TOR beta) but nothing held my interest. Over Christmas though I took a quick peak with the free 3 days granted for updating my account details, and then spent a larger amount of time this past Free to Play weekend on Rift.

The amount of improvements and activity Trion has put into the game is astounding. I’ve only missed 5 months, and I can barely recognize some aspects of the game – and things have improved dramatically in areas I found wanting when I took my break.

Among the highlights:
  • Chronicles. Instanced 1-2 man explorations of 20 man raid instances (and a unique scenario). Very difficult to solo; very challenging. I think this is a good way of offering an alternative way to see 'raid' content storywise, without having to tune and offer multiple versions of the same raid (e.g. 10 vs 20 man, easy/normal/hard).
  • Instant Adventures: You instantly join a dynamic, scaling raid group that gets teleported to an open world zone. Shared group quests appear, and your party/raid attempts to achieve them. These are a brilliant idea, as they draw people out of the cities for very simple content… but it scales as the group gets larger, and its in the open world! Suddenly you might diverge for a world raid boss….or stop an invasion… or intercept a pvp rift. Leveling zones are no longer always empty… joe blow warrior is questing, then suddenly a raid group of 10-20 people run through chasing some elite boss mob – it feels like the world is alive.
  • Planar Attunement: slow, minor incremental improvements to your character through XP at the level cap. You can unlock minor abilities like opening select rifts with your planar lure (vs a random rift), or things like 0.2% increase to damage on a weapon type. Nothing egregiously unbalancing in the game, but enough of a benefit to be worthwhile unlocking.
  • Warfronts balanced against gear levels; a new warfront (Library); and honestly I sense a much greater balance to the pvp than when I left – this was a big complaint I had at the time. There’s also now FPS style shout-outs during pvp, such as “saviour!” when a healer saves someone from imminent death, or “jugernaught!” for sustaining huge amounts of damage. I'm still awaiting an "ultrakill".
  • Inscribed sourcestones are much easier to get via a variety of activity, and you can buy much better gear. Its not set gear w/ synergy crystals, but it improves the gear acquisition substantially.
  • Ember Isle. An entire zone for level capped characters (mobs are l52 and/or elite). The storyline seems much stronger and focused, and really captures the ‘Lost World’ theme very well. Just as Iron Pine Peak supplanted Winterspring as my favorite winter MMO zone, so has Ember Isle supplanted Ungoro/Sholazar for me now.

All of this content hit in the last 5 months, as part of the base subscription!

There’s also a new mobile app, now for iphone and android (released this week). There’s some lottery style games, where you can play several times a day to win minor rewards for characters. Also, there’s mobile guild chat – available for free (unlike another MMO that charges $2.99 a month for the privilege).

Viability wise, Rift looks to be in great shape. Trion is expanding to Asia with $85m in venture funding secured and just launched in Russia; they also made $100m last year in revenue (against development and launch costs of $50m). The Faeblight server? There are the occasional login queues once again, and its full of active players. Its not just surviving, its thriving.

I just resubscribed for 7 months (6 months + 1 month free sale at the moment).