I logged back into Rift last night and found my 4 characters just as I had left them. Max Cleric and Warrior, mid range Mage and a started Rogue. I hadn’t logged in for about 3 months and most of the characters had at least 1 soul build that was refunded. This puts me in an interesting spot – the massive skill choices.
Most MMO games put you down a single path and you’re pretty much stuck in it until the game retires or you spend hours/days respecing to another role. I don’t consider WoW’s 4 new skill talent trees as choice. EvE has choice. UO has choice. Anyhoot, back to Rift. With 66 points to spend across 8 trees, you have about 20 spots to put points each and 25 skills to unlock each. You’re looking at hundreds of options per class, which to my knowledge, isn’t replicated in any other non-sandbox game.
I spent nearly 2 hours just fooling around, trying out new builds, reading about it and it got me thinking. As high a the wall is to enter with a good build, you really have a lot of mid-range options for each class. Sure, you’re going to find the super cleric build for solo work but you’re also able to find a variant that will work in 95% of the cases. This is something that I miss from my games, the value of interesting and practical choices and a barrier of skill rather than builds.
Now the obvious argument here is that there are no baseline skills for classes and that will hundreds of options, casual players won’t be able to make heads or tails. Trion has a nifty template system for players to get into the groove for advanced builds and it’s rather straightforward. The templates are not optimal, in fact I would say they are middle of the pack but in their simplicity, you have access to all the skills you need to succeed. If your class can perform “x role” then there’s a template that will give you the skills to do that and playing that template will teach you the actual role through the limited skills. In that I mean that you won’t get a healing template with lots of DPS skill. If you want that hybrid role, you have to make it yourself once you understand the core mechanics.
I plan on spending the majority of my time with my mage leveling up and trying different combinations of skills. I made it there with a Necro pet but as I play I realize I can deal more damage and still heal with some other skills. Tinkering is so much fun in Rift and I realize now how much I missed it.