‘Storm Legion’ focuses too much on endgame

by Cody Franklin

04_17_13_Entertainment_RiftSL1_cred_TrionWorldsWhen “Rift” launched in March 2011, it differed greatly from traditional massively multiplayer online game standards and inspired millions to pick up the game. For me, “Rift” offered a fantastic escape from the staleness the genre had settled into. Yet, with the release of the game’s first expansion, “Storm Legion,” there came many more changes. These changes have made the land of Telara a very different place and, for me, the change was simply too much.

Leveling in “Storm Legion” feels almost antithetical to that of the base game. “Rift” featured a vast amount of well-designed quests almost anywhere the player went. In “Storm Legion,” quests are an afterthought. The absolutely beautiful and interesting zones feel barren of life with just a few sprinkles of complex quests. Players are left to rely on far too many “destroy 10 banners”-type quests, as well as the Carnage quests, which are hundreds of quests that involve killing no more than 10 creatures of a certain type. It’s poorly designed and boring compared to the great quests of “Rift.” “Storm Legion” is especially disheartening given how epic each zone feels; the atmosphere of the game is one of the best I’ve encountered. Yet, the feeling is often ripped away when you realize there’s so little content to support each zone.

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The lack of quests seems like a symptom of a greater problem: a near complete focus on the end game. It feels as if the designers felt most players didn’t care about leveling; thus, they did the bare minimum to provide a fun experience for the leveling process. Instant Adventure speeds you through boring “kill 10 boar” quests with other players, while the fun and exciting rifts lay untouched, because almost no one frequents the zones.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the developers hadn’t opted for such a grind-centric model for the expansion. While “Rift” often had you encounter several weaker mobs you could quickly dispatch, “Storm Legion” forces you to tackle a single strong mob with plenty of health at almost every encounter. The fast-paced combat is thus transformed into a slow, dull experience. Likewise, achieving a level is quite a feat, as the time it takes to level up has been greatly increased. Achieving the single level from 50 to 51 took longer than the five levels from 45 to 50.

Again, this wouldn’t have been as bad if the leveling experience had been given proper attention. But in its current state, the grind often feels overwhelming. It’s as if the developers believed most players don’t care about leveling and, thus, they need not put much effort into it; yet they massively increased the time needed to level as if they thought players did want to take their time in these lower areas.

It’s a shame, really, because the game seems to be a fantastic experience at end game. I had a chance to sit in on a few of the world boss encounters players can look forward to at level 60 and they were some of the most impressive experiences I’ve had in an MMO. The fight against Godzilla-sized creature Volan was particularly spectacular. Yet, getting to the “real game” at the end when these fights occur is quite bothersome and may have many players giving up before reaching the finish line, as I did.

Overall, “Storm Legion” is hard to judge. It ultimately comes down to play style; players with the ability to sit through an often-tedious grind to get to what appears to be a glorious end game may find  “Storm Legion” to be just what they’ve been looking for. But for players searching for depth in their leveling and fun now, rather than later, the game may prove too stormy an experience for them to become a member of the “Rift” legion.