Rift Update 1.6: Ember Isle - Live Preview With Hal Hanlin

Updated Fri, Nov 04, 2011 by Medawky

There are few cities on the west coast that I would rather spend a sunny afternoon in than San Francisco. Couple that with a chance to sit down with Hal Hanlin and his team from Trion over some libations and a few souped up rigs with the latest and greatest update from Rift playing in the background and that list drops to zero.

Along with some fine folks from Curse, Zam and several other media outlets, we were treated to a feast of new information and some amazing looking cupcakes styled after the volcano that is the centerpiece of Update 1.6’s Ember Isle.  Read on to learn more about the major points of the update and check the two pages that follow for some awesome screenshots and concept art.

Update 1.6 Ember Isle

Ember Isle

The focal point of the update, Ember Isle, is a brand new zone and the crown jewel of post launch development.  The zone is built for well-seasoned adventurers with decent gear and incorporates many of the lessons learned in the 7+ months since the servers went live.  The island itself is huge, so big in fact that according to Hal “It is the equivalent of Scarlet Gorge and Scarwood Reach combined.” During our play session with super-powered dev -toons (invisible and invulnerable) we were able to explore every inch of it and it felt much bigger than that.

Rift Ember Isle

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Hal told us of several important design elements that went into creating Ember Isle, including improvements to mob density; moving through the environment should be easier. There is also a much better pacing of the action; content will start coming to you instead of the other way around.  It was interesting to learn how the development of this zone was based on the feedback from players both in the 7 phases of beta and the live game in regards to how dynamic gameplay works.  Creating a new zone from scratch based on that feedback and taking into account how the game has evolved really makes Ember Isle feel almost like an expansion rather than an update.  The team charged with developing this newest piece of virtual real estate has been hard at work on it for months, and it definitely shows in the attention to detail.

Evolved Gameplay

One of the core concepts that we discussed was that of how the dynamic gameplay elements have evolved, what has worked and what hasn’t.  As a result all of the new invasions, zone events and rifts will have a very unique feel to them. Also being introduced with Ember Isle is a completely new form of gameplay called Onslaughts. Onslaughts are targeted invasions bring the fight to you, and do they bring the fight!

Rift Ember Isle

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The waves and power of the mobs attacking the area you are trying to defend (which happened to be a Sourcewell – where the highly valued sourcestone comes from) is so great that nothing less than a full raid could hope to succeed against them. What’s that you say? You don’t have a full raid? Couldn’t we just have maybe some sort of tower defense system to help a poor soul out? Yes, yes you can.

Onslaughts introduce a new facet to Rift, in the form of upgradable turrets that help fend off the invading hordes by healing you, taunting the bad guys and helping dish out some damage.  Rather than just being easy mode to winsville, these turrets require coordination, strategy and a few friends to help charge them up and keep them active.  New zone events will also incorporate this new form of gameplay, prompting players to pick and choose the areas they want to defend carefully. Wasting too much of your precious planar charges on a set of turrets that the enemy ignores could be fatal to the whole zone.

In addition to new forms of dynamic gameplay, Ember Isle will unveil a new form of daily quests that will be random and interwoven from one quest giver to the next to prevent the feeling of tedium that can accompany them. There will also be new crafting items, new artifacts, new achievements and new titles.

Caduceus Rise

The newest 5 player dungeon will also be introduced in 1.6 in the form of Caduceus Rise.  Set on the isle, Caduceus Rise incorporates the new art style for a stunning visual effect.  The new instance is completely non-linear and has a normal version for players between 47-50, two expert modes and a master mode, each with their own unique surprises for maximum replayability. The instance is huge and looks to be both challenging and rewarding for players of every version with master mode featuring a staggering 11 bosses.

Rise of the Phoenix

Patch 1.6 will also bring us a new 10 player raid sliver known as Rise of the Phoenix. Although it won’t be set on Ember Isle, Rise of the Phoenix will be located in Shimmersand but will still be thematically appropriate as it is earth and fire based.  Sadly there wasn’t a playable version for us to check out during the event but end game folks will no doubt be pleased to have new content to challenge them.

Future Plans

One of the most exciting things we discussed during the tour was that of another new form of Dynamic Content known as Instant Adventure. Instant Adventures will be a load and go system that groups players up for non-instanced challenges in Stillmoore and Shimmersand.  The goal of the Instant Adventure will be random, with various forms of gameplay utilized in an escalating series of challenges that provide maximum adrenaline and minimum downtime.

Hal described it as “Log in, push button, kill stuff, get awesome loot, log out.” Instant Adventures will be dynamic and scale to meet the ever-changing group size, so no fear if a couple people need to drop or a few more log in, the challenges and the rewards will adapt with you.  The dangerous part of this new facet of the game was revealed as Hal described one play session where he was critical of his team for having too little content in a particular area – he was under the impression that his team had blown through it in 20 minutes when in fact it had been an hour and half.  Alien abduction time loss 4TW. Maybe now is a good time to invest in a timer or a large LCD desk clock.

Rift Ember Isle

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Being that the massive volcano in the center of the isle is the prison of Maelforge and another dragon, Laethys, is lurking about - it follows that there is a new raid planned for “the not so distant future.”  The team is also committed to creating and introducing new chronicles in the near future.

With so much content being introduced on such a regular basis, the future of Riftlooks bright indeed. Ten Ton Hammer would like to thank Trion and its partners for hosting this event and we look forward to seeing the continued evolution of Rift

RIFT has different rates dedpneing on how long a period you purchase at a time.1 month subscription costs 12.99 Euros3 month subscription costs 32.97E, averaging at 10.99E a month.6 month subscription costs 53.94E, averaging at 8.99E a month.The game itself is beautiful, very well refined for such a young game. It's less cartoony than WoW, but has many of the same combat features and some similar classes.It's great fun, and this is the game I have been waiting for to drag me away from my 5 year WoW-streak


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