RIFT 3.0 Review

RIFT: Nightmare Tide Review

An excellent expansion offering new content including role enhancements and the minion system.
Great new content
Minions & Nightmare Rifts
Balanced FTP Model
Bugs (Client & Quest)


I started playing RIFT when it released in March of 2011 and enjoyed it so much I wrote one of my first game reviews. RIFT evolved the traditional fantasy-based MMO style by adding dynamic content in the form of world events and rifts, and allowed players to customize their character’s play style by combining souls and switching between soul combinations to play different roles. This allowed an enhanced level of interaction since a Warrior could switch between a Tank or DPS within seconds, and other classes, such as the Cleric could easily jump between DPS, Tank, Healing and Support.

I played RIFT until January of 2012, right after the Ember Island expansion came out, but got burned out as the limited end-game content focused on raiding, PvP or repetitive daily quests. This is a normal story for today’s MMOGs where the end-game defines the longevity of a product, and once it’s been experienced, players often want a break and go play something else. While I did get burned out, I never disliked the game – the contrary, nearly all of my experiences were fun and positive. RIFT always held a special place in my heart, and I always looked back on it fondly.

Once RIFT went FTP (Free to Play), I occasionally jumped back into the game, but was quickly overwhelmed by the fact my character buildouts had changed so much they had to be re-built from scratch. The soul changes were so extreme, I just didn’t feel like putting the time into re-learning the game. Even though I had a wonderful time playing the game before, I wasn’t compelled to “come back” because there were so many other games to play.

Finally in early October 2014, I decided to jump back into RIFT. I had nearly three years of changes to digest, and after playing every major MMOG on the market, I was curious as to how well the game evolved. I was rather pleased to find out they were releasing their second expansion called Nightmare Tide around the end of the month. That gave me time to ramp back up, immerse myself in the world, and prepare for the new expansion – and boy, what a ride it as been. But the big questions remain: (1) is RIFT a good game, and; (2) is it worth a player’s time, energy and money? Let’s dive into this Nightmare Tide Review and find out!

Tarken Glacier at night
Tarken Glacier at night

New Features & Overview

For returning players

Since its initial release, RIFT has evolved in numerous ways. Below is an overview of the enhancements made to RIFT since its inception all the way up to the 3.0 Nightmare Tide release. The list is in the order the enhancements were made between versions.

2011 (1.0 – 1.6) Release, Planar Attunement & Ember Island

Initial Release, Raid Rifts, Video Capture built into the game (includes YouTube uploading), Mobile Authenticator, LFG tool, Wardrobe Slots, Crafting Rifts, Guild Banks, Currency made Bind to Account, PvP rifts, cross-shard LFG, Quest items put in separate bag, Chronicles (mini-instances), Veteran Rewards (subscription bonuses), Planar Attunement (post-50 advancement), New Warfronts, Addon API, Ember Isle (new end-game zone).

2012 (1.7 – 2.1) Storm Legion

Revamp of Items & PvP, New Chronicle, Crafting uses bank items, Huge UI updates, New Raids, Guild Finder, Leaderboards, Seals (a new equipment slot), Graphics updates, Nameplate additions, Steaming Client Assets, Conquests (3-team PvP), Mentoring, Barbershop, Cross-shard friend and chat, Addon API enhancements, cross-faction functionality added (to Guilds, Groups, Dungeons, Instant Adventure, /who), ability to buy game-enhancements (collectors editions, character renames, etc) in-game, Lighting & fog improvements, “Fill Soul” option for roles,  Planar Attunement now account wide (and shared with all characters), Wardrobe is armor-type neutral, overhaul and balancing of combat system (including attack, spell power, crit, block, deflect, etc), Focus removed and now only Hit, addition of soul tree “purposes” or predefined “roles”, crafting overhaul & rebalance, major soul overhaul (for all), level cap raised to 60, new souls added, two new continents (each as large as the initial one), new city (tempest bay), hunt rifts, new dungeons and raids, new warfront, addition of Dimensions (player and guild housing), upgradable items, addition of capes, carnage quests, new chronicle, storm legion crafting rifts.

2013 (2.2 – 2.5) Free to Play

Addition of Planar Attunement Tier 3, Fishing & Survival are automatically granted, daily quests for all gathering professions, ability to visit other shards, new dimensions, GAME GOES FREE TO PLAY (June 2013), Dendrome zone opens, new chronicles, strongholds, addition of in-game “credits” and REX, purchasable slots & bags, currency overhaul, loyalty system, level range of zones shows on map, characters can own multiple dimensions, weapon transfiguration added, macro overhaul & enhancements, new content (raids, dungeons, chronicles), cross-shard instant adventure, new hairstyles, tutorial overhaul, reporting feature (spam & offensive), zone cleanup, new recipes, color-blind toggle added, auctions capped at 200 per player, Iron Pine Peak converted to 27-35 zone, all shards internationalized (allowing different languages), graphic enhancements (shadow rendering, multi-core support), dye previews.

2014 (2.6 – 2.8) Dream Souls

New Dreamweaving dimension profession, Bounty system through artifacts, combat pet skins, performance enhancements, class tuning, premium mounts account wide, patron boosts stack with other boosts, introduction of Infinity Stones (end-game item currency), removal of currency cap, tier 3 raids added, improved terrain handling for mounts, new Dream souls, new portrait frames, time of day adjustments for dimensions, additional UI enhancements, new warfront, ascend-a-friend system reworked, new raids, character name name feature added, new dungeon, pyromancer overhaul, massive auction house overhaul (price histories, buy orders and more), can configure action bars to be shared between roles.

A complete list of changes can be found in this well-written welcome back guide.


This is how you evolve an established game to address a changing and competitive market. Trion has continued to enhance the game, add content, provide expansion packs, and converted to a solid FTP (Free to Play) model. I like how they have made all of the new continents free for all players and only require an “expansion” purchase when it comes to getting things like new souls (Storm Legion and Dreamer). I also believe RIFT was the first commercial MMO to implement a real-time asset streaming system (which allows one to load game assets while playing and is a great technical feat that has now become a standard), and the complete overhaul of key systems (such as the Auction House) paired with cross-realm integration shows Trion is making the right decisions relative to ensuring the longevity of RIFT.

The beauty of the Storm Legion 50-60 content
The beauty of the Storm Legion 50-60 content

Nightmare Tide (3.0)

Trion launched the Nightmare Tide expansion for RIFT on October 22, 2014, nearly two years after the first expansion (Storm Legion). This expansion includes a new end-game continent called the Plane of Water, which is roughly the same size as (if not a bit larger than) the original Mathosia continent, and focuses on level 60-65 progression. The expansion introduces masteries, new gear, an overhaul of PvP, the minion card game, nightmare rifts, many new instances, class changes, and more. After playing through the majority of the content, I can say they have done a fantastic job. The graphics, voice acting, storyline, and design of the creatures is unique, diverse and immersive. They also made a great (and important) call by only having ~10% of the content actually underwater. The rest is on land. This ensures players who hate swimming and fighting underwater aren’t forced to do so, yet it’s just enough underwater content to support the storyline and make the gaming experience enjoyable.

Because the level cap was only raised by 5, the content feels like it takes more time to complete than with the previous expansion because there are only 5 levels rather than 10. The final push to 65 can feel a bit slow, but running dungeons, doing nightmare rifts, and engaging in instant adventure and PvP can make the process more enjoyable. There is plenty to do.

While the low-level player community can be rather adolescent due to the FTP allure of the game attracting all sorts of players, one thing I like about RIFT is that players at end-game tend to be more mature, very friendly and helpful. Even in PvP I have found players to be fun and positive. More than once I’ve been annihilated by a player in PvP using a build I wasn’t familiar with and when I send them a tell asking about their character, they are more than happy to share information on their build and details on how they do so well at PvP. When I encounter them in PvP again, I even get “haha – sorry about that!” after they melt me. This is the sign of a good and friendly community.

Another thing I like about RIFT and the expansion is the unique creature design. The game really has its own look and feel, separating it from the other fantasy-based MMOGs out there. Leaderboards are also done right. Because it’s tiered, players don’t feel like they’re directly competing with the hardcore gamers who they will never catch up with. Instead, a player feels like they’re climbing, progressing and improving, which is a very good thing. While one may never make the gold diamond tier, a casual gamer can become #1 in a secondary silver or bronze tier.

I believe RIFT also has the highest number of Achievements of any fantasy MMOG on the market, and when I say the highest number, I mean by a longshot. World of Warcraft, for example, has roughly 2,300 achievements. RIFT has 34,127. Even at end-game, I’m constantly getting achievements, which is very rewarding and enjoyable.

Excuse me sir, do you know the way to Margle Palace?
Excuse me sir, do you know the way to Margle Palace?

Plane of Water & Instances

The new continent provided with the expansion is called the Plane of Water, and the overall design is very well-done. The graphics blend beautifully with the creatures, the quests are fun and engaging, and the overall theme is diverse and innovative. There are three new zones:

  • Goboro Reef is the starting zone for the expansion and has a number of underwater regions. It’s broken into two major sections, the Southern Coral region and the northern hybrid Desert Coral region. Haunting Sirens sing in the distance as you explore the realm, and you meet a rather interesting character that is carried to the end of the storyline.
  • Draumheim is broken into three regions and is the first zone in the game that contains an active city (the new end-game city called Margle Palace). The Northwestern region is another variation of “coral plains” and the southeastern region is akin to ocean-carved canyons. The city is crazy fun. You get to kill mimes, tax collectors and clowns. That alone makes this game worth playing!
  • Tarken Glacier is an expansive frozen wasteland and the end-game zone for the expansion. There are overrun research stations, giants tossing victims from cliffs into the jagged snowpacks below, and a lot of investigation-related tasks.

They also added 6 new dungeons, 1 chronicle, 1 sliver, 1 warfront, and 1 raid. The new dungeons (Citadel of Insanity, Glacial Maw, Gyel Fortress, Nightmare Coast, Return of Empyrean Core and Return to Iron Tomb) are very challenging. All three zones have daily reputation quests, and Margle Palace has the weekly quests (which reset every Wednesday).

Another very nice change is the addition of depth arrows to the minimap; you can now see if a mark is above or below you. A little change that has a great positive impact.

Manugo. This faction and “game” will bring a smile to your face as the developers at Trion make fun of the driving force behind MMOGs.

Character, Class, Currency, Crafting and Equipment Changes

Tears into space are a big deal in Nightmare Tide
Tears into space are a big deal in Nightmare Tide

The expansion raised the level cap from 60 to 65. At this time, it takes about 50 hours to get from 60-65 without using any bonus XP potions. Leveling can be streamlined by skipping side quests (and mainly focusing on story) and taking XP positions, but the content is so rich and the quests so enjoyable, I recommend everyone goes through at a normal pace at least once. For those of you who want to rush through the content, Seatin has created a great video overview on how to do exactly that.

When a character reaches level 61, instead of receiving soul points to spend, they gain access to class Masteries. Each level (61-65) opens access to selecting one of four class enhancements (based on the base class, not the souls). Masteries can be changed anytime the character is out of combat, allowing for quick adjustments. Some masteries are passive, some are active, and some are a combination of both. Masteries are role based (and saved for each role), so you can choose the best combination for each role configuration.

There have been numerous changes to nearly every soul, but the one that received the biggest overhaul was the Reaver (Warrior) which had its root abilities rebuilt from the ground up, making it a DPS soul and not a Tanking soul.

The new end-game Currencies include Void Stones and Fragments of Horror. They also added Abyssal Crusader’s Marks. These currencies are used for purchasing the new end-game gear and item upgrade components such as Abyssal Crusader’s Accelerators and Voice Source Accelerators. Old currencies (such as Infinity Stones) are still in, but Trion plans on removing them and converting them to Planarite.

Planewalker Water Attunement has been added to the game, and is required in order to use certain planar gear which drops throughout the new zones. Two new Earring Slots have also been added, but both the Attunement and Slots can only be unlocked through the Store or by purchasing one of the Nightmare Tide Collectors Editions. While I can understand unlocking the earring slots, I think the addition of the Water Attunement was a very poor choice solely designed to compel players to spend money because the amount of void stones it costs to purchase (100,000) is pretty ridiculous. There’s really no reason for it to exist and it’s ultimately going to frustrate players who didn’t purchase a collector’s edition.

Character health has been bolstered significantly. While tanks may not notice much of a difference, most other builds now have roughly twice the hit points.

PvP gear has been removed and the PvP Planar Attunements have been changed. Valor nodes are now Endurance nodes and Vengeance nodes are now Attack Power/Spell power nodes. All gear is now PvE.

Toughness has also been removed from tank gear (and converted to Hit), Parry is now Guard (which acts as a damage reduction bonus to players around the tank) and Deflect is now Block.

New Armor and Weapons were added along with new costumes. New Mounts were also added including water & amphibious mounts that allow the player to easily transition between land and sea without being dismounted.

They added 6 new Notoriety factions with 3.0, the Atagarians, Cerulean Rhenke, The Ghar, the Manugo League, the Onir, and the Pelagic Order. Each one has different items available which include Runes, Essences, Companion Pets, Minion Cards (discussed below), Mounts and Capes. All of the available items can be reviewed in the RIFT Store under Equipmsent, Pets and Wardrobe. Each Notoriety has daily and weekly quests a player can complete to increase their standing, and once standing is achieved, a player must spend plat, credits, planarite and/or void stones to purchase the items. Many of these items can also be upgraded, which require end-game components such as Void Source Accelerators.

A character can now mentor upwards and join friends who are higher level than they are. This is called sidekicking.

Savant crafting was added, allowing Crafting skills to reach 450. Instead of adding end-game resources that can only be harvested at 450, a player can harvest the 375 nodes and get special items from them when they hit 450. Numerous end-game crafting recipes were also added, which include new daily crafting quests.


Now you can send little minions on missions to gather loot!
Now you can send little minions on missions to gather loot!

Trion added a new card game within RIFT called Minions which is actually a lot of fun and very well implemented. A character acquires Minion cards (which are account-wide) and can send them on quests that last either 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 8 hours or 10 hours. The rewards include attainium crystals, artifacts, notoriety, dimension items and keys, resources and minion experience. There are a total of 5 minion slots. The first one is free, and the other slots can be purchased for credits.

Minion cards have a mixture of elements and/or attributes. There are 6 elements (Air, Earth, Water, Fire, Death and Life) and six attributes (Artifacts, Assassination, Dimensions, Diplomacy, Harvesting and Hunting). The attributes define what type of items can be found. While 6 and 6 may not seem like much of a variation, there are more than 45,000 combinations, and the values come in different “levels” for each minion, so even though a player may have two level 10 minions who specialize in fire harvesting, one may be better at fire and the other better at harvesting. Minions are awarded Aventurine upon completion of missions (which are rewarded between 1 and 6 stars based on on the level and element/attribute match) along with whatever rewards was tied to the mission. Aventurine is used to send your minions on the 10 hour “ultra” missions which offer the best rewards, or to accelerate missions currently in progress.

Stamina is a key attribute which can limit the use of your minion. All minions start off with either 10 or 12 stamina and missions take anywhere between 1 and 10 stamina to complete. Stamina regenerates over a 24 hour period. Being online or offline has no impact on stamina regeneration.

The best reward potential is computed through the sum of the requirements and level. For example, if you have an adventure that requires harvesting in water and send a minion who only has water (but at level 10), the “value” will be 10. However, if you send a minion that has both water and harvesting at level 7, the value will be 14. When you get a 6-star complete match, you can find some great loot.

There are also “hidden” minion cards that are outright crazy; some of them having skills for all attributes – but they are extremely difficult to get.

The minion mini-game is quite fun and addictive. A player quickly finds themselves looking to acquire new cards and manage missions so the little guys can be working on 8-10 hour quests during the day and night, and then playing the 5-15 minute quests during play time. The minion system is fantastic for collecting artifacts since the little buggers can return with members of any collection. At this time I don’t think they can return usable gear or boxes that contain gear (I haven’t seen any), but the results are still well worth sending them out regularly.

A detailed minion guide can be found here.

Nightmare Rifts

A new type of creepy and challenging rift has been added. Nightmare Rifts can be opened anywhere with the right lure, and while they follow in the footsteps of Great Hunt rifts from Storm Legion, they are designed to ensure participants are very active. There are five ranks of difficulty, 125 bosses, an unlimited number of stages, and 9 power-ups which can be strategically used. On top of potentially good loot which includes essences, nightmare-specific consumables, caches and artifacts, the player also earns notoriety and can obtain void stones. They also have unique mechanics which the player must learn, which includes Nightmare Power (which empowers the mobs with more health and increases their damage), Residual Energy Orbs (you can run over them to receive the buff), a Breather stage (which gives a bit of downtime to allow a bio-break, etc), Insanity Debuff (which can stack and teleport you out of the rift), Shielding systems (making it very hard to kill the mobs), and a number of other mechanics.

There are also items designed to accelerate the progression of a Nightmare Rift, allowing for players to take a leap from (for example) stage 20 to 40.

A detailed overview of the Nightmare Rift system can be found here.


Every game has its issues, and while RIFT is a great MMO, it has a number of problems that need to be addressed by Trion. A number of these problems didn’t exist two years ago, showing the expansion of the game is outpacing the implementation of server load balancing and client rendering.

Technical Issues

Stop tempting me!
Stop tempting me!

There are major Lag issues with RIFT. It will often come out of nowhere, causing a 1-2 second delay during combat which can be very frustrating. It’s server-side and can happen even when no other players are around, so it’s definitely a load issue. There is also a new end-game world event in Tarken Glacier that is so bad the lag often lasts up to 10 seconds between ability execution, making the event nearly impossible to play and complete.

I’ve have more Crashes with the RIFT client than any other MMOG I’ve played recently, and certainly more than I did two years ago when I last played RIFT. While the client may only crash once or twice every day or two, the fact that it does crash at “random” intervals shows they have some issues to work out.

The Graphic Issues are the most common problems with RIFT. The Client seems to degrade over time, losing its texture drawing ability and rendering very slowly in the new content. Even with a 780GTX and the latest WHQL drivers I have to restart the client every few hours.

In addition to the above graphic problems, I’ve occasionally experienced Sound Problems where after a period of time, the sound will begin to stutter. This seems much less common than the other issues and only happens every few days, but it requires a client restart.

The Mount Terrain Navigation can be quite terrible, shooting the player off cliffs, or making it very difficult to access areas to gather artifacts. Next to the “super slide jump” that pummels your character into a pit, the inability to “forward jump” from a stationary position is frustrating and should be addressed.

Gameplay Issues

One minor annoyance is the fact the game doesn’t play any sort of sound FX or show any sort of real notification when a minion completes a mission other than the glowing minion head below the minimap.

RIFT also disables Zone Chat in many areas, making it very difficult to collaborate with other players in the zone.

There are numerous bugged quests. While most of the bugs are with side quests, one key story quest doesn’t display the portals properly, making it nearly impossible to complete (here’s a guide: Extinction of Sanity Portal Quest Guide). Another quest will guarantee you die as soon as you re-enter the instance after running back to your body. While I’m confident they’ll be fixed over the next few weeks, it can be very frustrating for players who are going through the end-game content.

Now THIS group is ready for some PvP... except that guy... and that guy...
Now THIS stylin’ group is ready for some PvP… except that guy… and that guy…

Recommended Enhancements

While RIFT is a fantastic game, there are a few enhancements that would make it even better.

  1. While many players enjoy the housing feature of Rift (known as Dimensions), they are severely lacking in feel and functionality. For example, there are no NPCs or “living entities” one can place in their dimension. This is important because even if a dimension is beautiful, it feels lifeless. Guild Dimensions also serve no purpose because they don’t operate as any sort of hub. Trion needs to take a note from EverQuest 2 where houses can have living creatures wandering around and guild halls can function as functional centers for all members. Another issue is there is no easy way to preview dimensions based on the available keys. You can look at other people’s public dimensions, but the list isn’t based on what keys are available for purchase. The best way to browse available dimensions is to look them up via Google. They should add the ability to not only preview dimensions while browsing the keys, but also draw a border around the hard edges that limit where you can place objects for open-range dimensions (such as Moonshade Pools). This website has a gallery of the available dimensions.
  2. With the release of 3.0, the fantastic level 60 end-game content of Storm Legion has become moot. This includes the dailies, great hunts, and the extended storyline. This is a common problem with MMOGs. There is so much great content at 60 it’s a shame for it to go to waste. Trion needs to come up with a way (and reason) for players to either go back and experience (and complete) the content, or figure out a way to weave it into the new end-game content.
  3. Related to the above issues, large-scale zone events in the mid to upper level zones (30-59) are also an issue as nobody really does them anymore (there’s just no incentive). It’s sad to enter Stillmoor and see what was once one of the most popular events start, only to find 3-4 people trying to participate and then give up. It’s a shame these great events are going to waste.


RIFT is a unique balance of easy gameplay and complex mechanics in a rich fantasy world of strange creatures and dynamic events. It’s free to jump into and has a massive amount of content paired with customized soul configurations offering varying play styles not found in competing games. While RIFT is certainly not a “next generation” MMO and it does embrace the traditional model, it does this extremely well, creating an enticing gaming world for those who are looking for a fantasy MMO. Try RIFT if you haven’t; you won’t be disappointed. If you are thinking of returning to RIFT, I recommend doing so as well – the game has changed (for the better) over the past few years, and despite its shortcomings, with all of the content, features and customization extending beyond Nightmare Tide, it’s probably one of the best fantasy MMOGs on the market.

Creepy Nightmare Rifts await you!
Creepy Nightmare Rifts await you!
  1. > RIFT also disables Zone Chat in many areas, making it very difficult to collaborate with other players in the zone.

    I assume you mean the bug where you leave /1 when you port within a zone and are not put back in. This can’t be intentional. You can rejoin /1 manually (/join “Goboro Reef”), or by porting out of the zone and back in, or by switching shards (right-click your portrait).

  2. In your Recommended Enhancements section:

    #1 is not entirely true. You can view dimensions in game by opening the dimension interface and searching for the dimension you’re interested in.

    #2 Trion does have a few things in place to create a want for players to experience the content. For instance, a “hidden” minion card is gained by having a title from an achievement in Bindings of Blood: Greenscale. There are other hidden minions, and they have talked about possibly adding more. I wouldn’t mind seeing something to cause a want to go back and do dailies and other things though (such as offering Void Stones for those as well).

  3. Actually, I’ve had it lock me out of zone chat for no reason; I can’t recognize a pattern, but per your feedback will keep an open eye and try to manually correct it.

  4. Great review and I’m really happy that you’re enjoying the minion system! On my end it was very fun to work on and we have a good list of additions and improvements we plan to add to it.

    “One minor annoyance is the fact the game doesn’t play any sort of sound FX or show any sort of real notification when a minion completes a mission other than the glowing minion head below the minimap.”

    Thanks for the suggestion; I’ve added that to our to-do list!

  5. To address recommendation number four:
    From today’s patch notes:
    * Reduced the PVP healing and absorb penalty from 85% to 70%.

    Basically, healing was doubled in power in PVP today (from 15% effectiveness to 30% effectiveness). If you try again now, you should have a significantly different experience with it.

  6. Thank you for the feedback Amber! Kudos to the RIFT team for all they’ve accomplished. As an individual who has worked in the MMOG space, I understand the time, energy and effort that goes into a project of this magnitude. Keeping a MMOG growing, balanced and “financially successful” is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the entire technology sector.

  7. Thanks for the update! I’ll remove #4 for now; the change has definitely impacted things, but I’m not sure it’s for the better. Scion battles between groups can now take 10+ minutes (or “lock” for the duration while folks run crystals) and it’s near impossible for most DPS to 1v1 healers (who can often also heal other targets at the same time). Last night I had 2 opposing members try to nail me again and again, but were unable to. It must have been very frustrating for them. Also, when the other team has more healers (i.e. 5v3), there’s no competition and it’s often impossible to kill any of the opposing team members. The change has also incited players to group up, and it’s drastically slowed down the weekly PvP completion quest (i.e. you get far fewer kills per warfront). Perhaps diminishing returns based on the number of healers would help with the balance? (i.e. if a team A has 3 and team B has 6, Team B’s healing is only 60% effective — giving them a slight edge in numbers, but not the huge difference they would have otherwise)

    Changes like this hit hard, so it’ll be interesting to see the impact over the next few days/weeks, etc. I’m sure your team is running the numbers and keeping a close eye on things as well.

    Thanks for taking the time to review and comment; always a pleasure to hear from a dev — keep up the great work!

  8. >A character acquires Minion cards (which are account-wide)…
    I believe this is limited to the cluster (NA, EU, PTS).

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