There's nothing more fun than bringing a group of friends into a
dungeon and crawling through it, figuring out how and what to pull, and
solving the puzzle of boss encounters. Last week we got to do just that
at the Trion Worlds base in Redwood City, California. We had the chance
to play through Deepstrike Mines and Darkening Deep in the upcoming
MMOG, Rift: Planes of

Allow me to get the obvious out of the way first. As the game is still
in Alpha, this should not be viewed as a strategy guide, but rather as
a preview of how the game plays in a group. Some of the content you are
about to read could be viewed as a spoiler, as to really get a feel for
the experience I will be discussing several encounters. That being
said, I will try to outline it without giving away too much of the
puzzle. It's far too much fun to not try to figure it out on your own.

style="width: 640px; height: 400px;"
alt="Rift Cloudbourne Battle"

Cloudbourne battle in
Rift: Planes of Telara

As soon as I logged onto the pre-made level 30 warrior which was a mix
of the Paladin, Reaver, and Warlord souls (read more about Rift's soul
system href="">here)
it became very clear that I was going to be challenged in our dungeon
run. Many of the abilities on my hotbar made sense, but they weren't
necessarily choices I would have made for the build. The character felt
like "another person's toon," and I was just going to have to figure
out what I was going to use and what I was going to ignore. So I picked
some of the abilties that looked like they would be useful, dragged
them to my top hotbar, and ignored the rest. I didn't want to be
overwhelmed, after all.

There was an odd number of press and community representatives at Trion
Worlds' Studio, and as luck would have it, that meant that my team was
short one player. Feeling confident in our leet skillz, the four of us
shrugged, and set forth into Deepstrike Mines. We were equipped with 2
warriors, a rogue and a cleric.

To be clear here, even though we were at home base of Trion Worlds, we
did not have a developer walking us through the dungeon. It wasn't a
guided tour. They were watching us, but they weren't giving any secrets
away. They wanted to see how we reacted to the real gameplay experience.

style="width: 640px; height: 400px;" alt="The mobs of Terminus"

The mobs of Terminus

After zoning in we composed ourselves, distributed what buffs we knew
of, and set forth into the mines. The first few kills were a little
bumpy as we had yet to figure out how healing worked in the game, but
after my first death accompanied by a cry of desperation, our cleric
found her footing and was good to go.

The following pulls went more smoothly. We were becoming accustomed to
our taunts, our heals, our AoEs and our crowd control. Soon enough we
were feeling quite confident that we were going to blow the lid off the
dungeon in record time. It was a boon that the game is designed in such
a way that everything just makes sense, at least to an MMOG player.
Combat mechanics were familiar, controls were classic, and after a
short time in the dungeon we were all a little surprised when we
suddenly realized we knew what we were doing - without having been
told. This kind of intuition is important in a new game as there are
few other things more frustrating than being blocked from having fun by
complicated obscure controls and mechanics. We want to start having fun
approximately seven seconds after logging in for the first time, and
with Rift, that's possible.

Onward our stalwart team trudged. We made
our way through winding bridges and ramps, clearing the dungeon of
baddies who stood in our way. The pulling and combat was easily
understood, but that doesn't mean it was trivial. Every mob placed in
the dungeon had meaning. This wasn't a style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft href="">Dungeon
Finder group. Monsters were placed strategically and
thoughtfully. The encounters took consideration and couldn't just be
barreled through; AEing the entire instance. Some mobs could be pulled
individually while others would come in a group. We had to be aware of
wandering NPCs lest we became overwhelmed with more than we could
handle. The fights against the regular mobs lasted for 30 seconds to a
minute each, so massive pulls really were not an option. It was a
refreshing experience to have to give the monsters their due
consideration again, as that has been disappearing more and more from
recent MMOGs.

Finally we came across our first mini-boss. This baddie was surrounded
by lesser guards. There was no way we could single pull the target, and
when we tried to separate them we found out they had a leash and would
reset if we tried to make it too easy on ourselves by splitting them
up. We then knew we'd have to fight the group together, and as our
rogue informed us they were immune to crowd control, we figured out our
offtanking strategy. This first boss did require a bit of thought, but
we didn't find it too difficult and ended up downing him without a

Our egos fueled, we steadily moved on deeper into the dungeon. We
cleared more enemies and collected quest items, and eventually we came
across our second mini-boss. This one wasn't going to just roll over
for us. He had a lot more fight in him than the previous one.

style="width: 640px; height: 400px;" alt="Group Terminus battle"

Group Terminus Battle

I charged to engage and combat was going well. His hit points dropped,
and suddenly there was another monster set upon us. We decided to
ignore the add and continue punishing the boss. Just then, three more
NPCs appeared, but instead of attacking, they formed a magical barrier
around the boss. We continued our onslaught, but it was to our demise.
The group wiped and we were left wondering what we did wrong. This was
our first in a series of tricky boss encounters. We attempted several
strategies after that, and finally figured out the secret upon the
fourth or fifth attempt.

Every mini boss we encountered required a different strategy. Some were
familiar from other games, some were almost trivial, but others were
both unique and quite challenging. Only one group out of the 20 of us
were able to defeat the final boss in Deepstrike Mines, and that was
after a good 30 minutes to an hour of figuring out strategies, wiping,
and trying again. Their final winning battle took 15 minutes from
engaging until boss defeat.

My favorite encounter was probably found later in Darkening Deep. The
fight pitted us up against a werewolf who knew nothing but how to pwn
players. I was grateful to have a particularly bright warrior in our
group during that run as he reminded us that werewolves are more
powerful in the moonlight. I won't say more than that, but once he
pointed it out, the strategy became a lot more clear.

Rift: Planes of Telara
group play is a refreshing challenging experience that really
emphasizes teamwork, without complicated controls that will have you
stunted before you even begin. We spoke about the thought behind the
dungeon design later with Creative Director Scott Hartsman (you can
check out the interview href="">here)
who confirmed nothing is designed in the game with a "spray and pray"
philosophy. Every encounter, every ability, and every environmental
ornament is placed with reason. This is the kind of game for
adventurers. This is the kind of game for strategists. Ultimately, Rift
group play is a brilliant success, and I can't wait to see more.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our RIFT Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016