(Guild Wars 2: Icebrood Saga – ArenaNet)
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly before, Rift is one of my favorite MMORPGs. Sadly, I don’t expect to revisit Telara anytime soon, given that the game has long since transitioned to being free-to-play and entered what is effectively a maintenance mode. Another MMORPG has caught my eye, however; I just can’t seem to keep my hands off of Guild Wars 2, especially given ArenaNet recently launched their latest Living World event, the Icebrood Saga. After spending hours reliving my adventures in Tyria, I realized that many of the reasons that I had originally fallen in love with Rift were clearly apparent in Guild Wars’ sequel. Had my favorite MMO been living under my nose all this time? Did my frustration with the changes to the class and skill system in Guild Wars 2 keep me from realizing its brilliance? Either way, let’s jump straight into the top 5 ways that Rift lives on in Guild Wars 2.
5. Group Quests
Let’s get the obvious items out of the way, shall we? Rift’s namesake mechanic involved temporal rifts opening up in the wilderness, each requiring a group of adventurers to overcome and fight back the oncoming horde of baddies. Players didn’t need to join a group or invite strangers into their own party to participate as a community to overcome a common goal. Guild Wars 2 picked up where Rift and other MMOs (Warhammer Online comes to mind) left off, allowing players to jump in and out of quests simply by completing their objectives while sharing rewards with nearby players along the way. Not only does this create a more welcoming and accessible world to play in but it creates a more streamlined experience than the more traditional fetch quests of old.
Although Guild Wars made a name for itself just fine without a persistent open-world environment, ArenaNet shifted their focus drastically with the sequel to emphasize exploring Tyria. Similarly, Rift implemented plenty of features to keep players from AFKing in their faction’s major city waiting for dungeon queues to pop. Whether it was open world puzzles, group events, or artifact hunting, the ascended of Telara always had some reason to explore the world. This seems like an essential part of any MMORPG, but what Rift and Guild Wars 2 accomplish that many other MMOs fail to do is provide a reason to explore outside of the main leveling experience. It’s an open world out there, so it makes sense to have plenty of things to do in it.
3. Armies of Invaders
In addition to the portals opening up all around Telara, Rift shook things up by having armies of enemies attack nearby towns and cities to disrupt the leveling experience. The idea of world events isn’t new, but when a giant world boss and their army of minions march on your home for the first time, it shows just how cinematic group experiences in MMOs can be. Guild Wars also embraced this as a part of their group questing mechanics. While most quests involve helping out a local farmer or harvesting resources, some involve nearby enemies laying siege to quest hubs or a zone boss killing low-level players en masse. These kinds of moments are what MMORPGs are all about, and the sense of scale and purpose just can’t be matched in other games.
MMORPGs, more often than most other genres, carry a lot of baggage from bygone eras. Some games embrace the silliness of endlessly slaying monsters on the hedonistic treadmill we call “grinding,” while others prefer not to shy away from the fact that levels as a concept are outdated. Rift and Guild Wars 2 are definitely the latter, despite the fact that both include level caps that come close to triple digits and leveling experiences that could take a few months to complete. Rift’s answer to the question of leveling was to implement a mentoring system to allow players of different levels to scale their stats to something closer in power level to make adventuring together more fun and engaging. Guild Wars does something similar, except that it is done automatically upon entering a zone, creating a seamless world that most other MMOs fail to achieve.
1. Back to the Action
When you think quick, simple fun, you probably don’t think of MMOs. Some developers have put significant work towards ensuring that isn’t the case, however. Rift, especially later in its lifespan, developed many features under the philosophy of getting players into the action as fast as possible. Their answer, among other things, was to include an Instant Adventure button that quite literally instantly teleports the player to another place and gives them a specific objective to complete with another group of adventurers. Tired of instant adventure? Try some of the singleplayer story content or instanced PVP. Crafting, costumes and other sideshows fill out the usual suite of features for a theme park MMO, but providing content is clearly not the same as guiding the player through it, which both Rift and Guild Wars 2 do spectacularly.
I hope you enjoyed this short romp through memory lane. If you’d like to read more posts like this one or if you remember a specific MMO memory that has stuck with you, feel free to let us know in the comments below.