RIFT: Storm Legion Expansion Preview from E3 2012

RIFT is getting bigger. Much bigger. Biggerer, even! Our E3 team got the details on Trion's upcoming huge expansion at E3 2012 and previews the size, scale and scope of Storm Legion.

This year’s E3 is yet another major event for the folks at Trion Worlds. While the big push is on Defiance, which is playable for the first time, you can see a ton of influence in its gameplay ala Trion’s flagship title, RIFT. Fellow Team Hammer member, Ben, will be whipping up his impressions of Defiance, but at first glance it would be easy to dub that title “RIFT with guns.” There’s obviously a lot more to it than that, but I don’t consider that surface level assessment a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

Comparisons to RIFT are a good thing because itÂ’s one of the most polished and complete MMO experiences weÂ’ve seen launch in recent years. And to build upon that success, Trion also announced this week that the game will be seeing its first true expansion later this year, Storm Legion.

RIFT Storm Legion Screenshot

Design director Simon Ffinch was awesome enough to give us an overview of what the expansion will entail. While the beans on that particular chili were spilled as a standard press announcement earlier this week, weÂ’ll still go through each one here to expand on whatÂ’s already been highlighted as bullet point features, as well as interject some thoughts on why this has the potential to be one of the biggest and best MMO expansions weÂ’ve seen in a very long time.

If you think about it, true MMO expansions are a dying art form, and one that relatively few developers have done any real justice to for half a decade. Why do I feel RIFT will pull off something cooler than your typical tacked on endgame extension?

First off, thereÂ’s the sheer volume of content being added. The original game consists of a fairly enormous land mass. The expansion will literally triple the playable real estate of Telara, which is a great thing. Most of the time, MMO e-packs consist of maybe a smaller continent, island, or random moon thatÂ’s due to explode in the future. The fact that Trion is going in the exact opposite, bigger-is-better direction hints at some great things for Storm Legion.

RIFT Storm Legion Screenshot

One aspect would be the scale of world events. One we were shown during our presentation this week makes King Kong look like a LEGO minifig by comparison. What I loved about how honking huge the boss was is that the fight didnÂ’t devolve into the lame God of War formula of some giant dude / creature / hair monster that leans over the side of a building and forces you to smack its fingers or something equally lame.

Instead, players will be able to move freely around the boss at all times. One awesome spoiler I managed to squeeze out of Simon is that players will be able to earn a special achievement at the very start of the event.

As it kicks off, the boss jumps down into from atop a massive platform, squashing anyone or anything standing on the ground below. Positioning your character there and getting squashed will award you the “Wrong place, wrong time” achievement.

RIFT Storm Legion Screenshot

I’ll admit that I’m a massive sucker for that kind of thing, but I also think it’s a good thing when game developers remember that games are supposed to be entertaining. Watching progress bars slowly move and smacking giant loot piñatas is all fine and good, but it’s often that type of little touch for pure entertainment value’s sake that becomes the more memorable part of the overall experience for me.

Another cool part of the Colossus fight is that you can use small launch pads that will send your character flying through the air around the boss. Time it correctly, and you can even snag a temporary buff that will help with the encounter. However, you wonÂ’t automatically be granted this kind of thing simply by displaying your acrobatic prowess. The boss has 13 distinct pieces of armor, and destroying them is how you progress the fight between stages, but the whole thing comes with a twist. The order in which you destroy the armor pieces will allow different things to happen, such as making it possible to gain the buff mentioned above.

Along with the additional 10 levels the expansion will add, there will be 4 new souls as well; one for each calling. (While Simon couldnÂ’t talk about the specifics just yet, IÂ’m going to cast my vote for one called More Necromancer, because necromancers rule. This is a law of the MMO omniverse, for those of you just joining us.)

RIFT Storm Legion Screenshot

Player housing will also be hitting the game – another older MMO staple I’m elated to see making a resurgence even if only in a single game for now. How these things will be accessed remains to be seen, but after a bit of prodding I got an interesting reaction, if not an outright confirmation, when I asked whether increased crafting levels might also include any new crafting that would be specific to the player housing system. If it does, score one more point for Trion.

Honestly, itÂ’s one of the great tragedies of the MMO industry that no other developers have picked up the player housing ball in EQ2, complete with robust crafting integration, and run with it. For now itÂ’s hard to say if that kind of depth will be part of the player housing package in RIFT, but we can always hope.

RIFT Storm Legion Screenshot

While many of the finer details for Storm Legion remain under wraps for now, Team Hammer walked away from our appointment impressed by what we’ve seen so far, promptly adding Storm Legion to our “one to watch” list. We also felt it easily deserved a nomination for our Best of E3 awards (which we’ll be presenting following the event) in the Best Expansion category.

So be sure to check back for the verdict in our upcoming Best of E3 awards, and as always, keep your internet dial set right here on the Hammer Channel to get all the latest info on the shiny new Storm Legion expansion for RIFT.

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