Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chronicles and Experts

Over the past couple of days I’ve been dipping my freshly fiftied rogue into some of Rift’s endgame activities, Chronicles and Expert dungeons.  When I say dipping, I mean it, I’ve done one Chronicle twice, one expert dungeon, and attempted a second Chronicle (unsuccessfully) a couple of times.

First up, Chronicles.  I did the single-player “introductory” Chronicle that is essentially your reward for reaching max level.  You enter your own instanced version of Sanctum with fireworks going off, NPCs cheering you by name and kneeling as you approach, etc.  The dialog was a bit cheesy, and if the NPCs really knelt every time some ascended schmuck reached level 50 they’d never stand up, but it was nice to feel like “hey, the NPCs noticed!”  Something goes wrong of course, and you end up fighting a bunch of level 50 bad guys that are swarming over the city.  It all culminates in a boss fight against a giant monstrous death creature with nearly 70,000 hit points.  In contrast, my rogue is just shy of 5,000.  It was an impossible fight, but the boss charges right at you when he spawns in, so there wasn’t much I could do.  Round 1 went to the boss, no question, but I soul walked and tried again.  Having time to see what was going on rather than getting charged, I realized that the boss didn’t attack normally.  All of his attacks could be avoided by moving out of the way, at which point the fight became nothing more than a protracted dance of me dodging around until an opening came to attack.  Eventually the boss went down and I cleared the instance.  The rewards were pretty good, a nearly epic quality rare weapon, and a very nice leather breastplate.  Overall, a decent experience.

The next day I ran the same one again.  Without the quest based rewards it ended up being a lot of time for very little return, and of course I’d seen it already so it wasn’t terribly engaging.  I decided to try one of the other two Chronicles, both of which are “recommended” for 2 players.  I’d been soloing group quests for ages though, so I wasn’t too concerned.  I should have been.  I was able to solo the normal packs and patrols without much trouble, but I couldn’t solo the bosses, even with consumables.  Someone in better gear surely could do it, and I bet my cleric would have a pretty good chance, but my rogue couldn’t pull it off. 

Although you can queue and be automatically grouped for dungeons, that function doesn’t seem to extend to Chronicles.  I’ve never seen anyone looking for partners for the Chronicles.  Which means either people only do it with guild mates/friends, most other players have the gear to solo them, or people just aren’t using the content at all.  I have to admit to being a little puzzled – why would you go around advertising your new “solo” instances, and then only make one instance that is solo, and two that require duos?  The next time I play I’ll bellow in chat for a partner.  We’ll see how much I get laughed at.

I think the Chronicles would have been better off as content tuned to the hard end of solo play with the option to bring a second person if you really want to.  They could do that by simply nerfing the mobs and bosses by a small amount.  Overall I’m kind of disappointed with the Chronicles.  I hope they add more solo ones in the next patch, or retune the 2 player ones, OR add the ability to queue for Chronicles and automatically pair people up.  If I could almost do it as a solo rogue, two players of any role should be capable of clearing it.

On the flip side was the pure group content – Tier 1 Expert Dungeons.  Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.  There was no drama, no dps e-peen stroking, no gear questioning, spec querying, or bossing around.  No rage quits and no real complaints about us going too slow.  Maybe that only happens in the Tier 2 experts.

I went as a Bard of course, I haven’t gotten a position in a dungeon group through the queue as anything else, ever.  I don’t mind though, as Bard is pretty interesting to play in dungeon groups, and can be unbelievably beneficial, especially in groups like the one I had last night.

We had a mage healer, which is not bad in and of itself.  He was pretty squishy and managed to die on a trash pull when the tank’s taunt failed.  Luckily my Bard was there barding away, and had just enough healing to keep the tank alive for the fight, then rezzed the healer after the fight was over.  After a few more battles the healer declared he was changing specs to get more dps and help us move through faster.  He had been primarily Chloromancer, but switched to (I believe) primarily Necromancer, though he didn’t bother to summon a pet (I have no idea why).  The reason I think he went Necromancer is that his health suddenly started going down ALL the time, whether the mobs were hitting him or not, and Necromancers have a big heal spell that drains hit points from the caster to heal the target.

I started to have to focus on healing almost all the time, as now the healer’s hit points were constantly dangerously low, and he was trying to dps so not always paying very good attention to everyone else.  The healer died a few more times as we worked our way through the dungeon, but each time I was able to use my various Bard cooldowns to burst heal through the fight and keep everyone else alive, then rez the healer.  We did wipe once when the healer got himself killed early in a boss fight and I couldn’t heal strongly enough to make up for it.  Bards have pretty weak heals, but they’re group heals and easy to use.  Not so good against the focused firepower of a boss though.  I soulwalked and rezzed the whole group from that one too.

If I’d been playing a dps role instead of the Bard, we would have wiped at least 5 times.  If anyone had dared complain about my dps I would have laughed my head off at them.  The Bard may be a stagehand to the healer’s rock star (all work, no glory), but it was very satisfying to know what a key role to our success my little Bard played.

As to the dungeon, it was Foul Cascade, one I’d done a few times while leveling.  It was actually pretty interesting.  There were more bosses for one thing, some of the boss fights were different than on normal, and there was a huge encounter at the end that was completely different from the normal version.  It was interesting, and has me wanting to check out the other experts to see how they differ as well.  There was plenty of loot all around, but I don’t really care about that.  I’m not “gearing up” for anything, I’m just playing tourist.  Still, I think I’ll do a few more.

Overall, my impression is that Rift’s “endgame” is in better shape than WoW’s was, but could really use more Chronicles that are solo accessible.  I like the idea of them, but the implementation needs more work.  There's also way too much grind, but then endgames seem to require grind to last more than a couple of weeks, so I guess that's just par for the course.

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