Trion is kicking off a new ZAM-exclusive series of articles that focuses on the lore and gameplay of Rift.
Traversing Telara is an exclusive series of articles from Trion Worlds that explores Rift's lore and gameplay mechanics through the eyes of one intrepid adventurer. It's a great read and a fantastic introduction to the world of Telara. Even if you're a veteran of Rift, you might enjoy hearing about the game from another perspective! Read on for Issue #1: Epic From The Beginning!
Epic From The Beginning
Rift is epic, right from the beginning. I'd seen that when I first saw the game on demo screens at the Penny Arcade Expo, but I didn't realize how quickly new characters in this game would go from their first steps to grand, epic status.
Rift has a clever way of making players' characters into heroes and novices at the same time. All player characters come from the ranks of the Ascended - slain heroes from a grand war against evil - brought back to life to continue the fight. Each character must relearn his powerful skills and abilities but each character has also already proven himself in a previous incarnation. Each character is thus loaded with the inherent expectation to do great deeds - to level up into a hero of truly legendary status.
That built-in destiny makes every Ascended feel like a big deal to the NPCs milling about the game world. The starting-area NPCs are excited to see you. Instead of starting as one of a thousand newbie adventurers with a lot of potential, characters begin Rift primed for power. As one NPC put it at the beginning of my Defiant character's journey, "This is going to be a strong one."
Even those starting areas are epic, loaded with armies of undead monsters, the sky full of arcing fire and searing magical blasts, no matter which faction you play. Whether you're a devoted and zealous Guardian or a willful and individualistic Defiant, you trek across fantastic battlefields and war-torn landscapes toward a grand confrontation with the game's epic story - a confrontation in which you play a major part even before you hit level 7. Even as a new Ascended, expect to make a mark on the realms of Telara.
Powers of the Ascended
Ascended of different but similar types belong to both factions, the Guardians and the Defiant. Although each faction creates Ascended through different means, be it the intervention of the gods known together as the Vigil or the activation of magical engines created by mortal hands, all Ascended harness the souls of great heroes lost in war. By installing those souls in their earthly bodies, an Ascended can gradually manifest powers that the soul had mastered in its previous life.
An Ascended harnesses up to three souls at a time, combining each soul's tree of powers - from roots to branches - to form a unique amalgam capable of confronting the forces of destruction and changing the fate of Telara. Some souls naturally complement each other.
All souls fall under one of four callings: Warrior, Cleric, Mage, or Rogue. Each calling contains eight kinds of souls to choose from. Each calling requires an Ascended body to house those souls and those bodies are drawn from the heroic dead of the two great factions of belief in Telara: the Guardians and the Defiant.
The divide between the Guardians and the Defiant runs along a line of belief. Both sides want to save the world, but each faction believes in a different salvation.
To understand both factions, I'm playing a character from each.
The Guardians are the chosen of the Vigil - the gods of Telara. Their Ascended are drawn from those who died during the disastrous final events of the Shade War. This civil war between the Aedraxis and Zareph, the twin princes of King Jostir the Ancient, has scourged the lands of Telara. Late in the war, Aedraxis, corrupted either by a greed for greater power or a fear of losing that which he had already, opened a rift to the Plane of Death and allowed the powers of the dreaded Regulos the Destroyer into Telara. Zareph and his loyal followers - knights and sorcerors and heroes of many kinds - fled the death rift to regroup and recover before taking the fight back to the monsters of Aedraxis and Regulos.
It's there, under siege by forces of destruction, that a Guardian's tale begins. Returned from death by a great, winged being in service of the gods known collectively as the Vigil, Guardians battle to restore Telara and the Vigil's sanctity. Their zeal is fueled by Messengers of the Vigil, agents of the now-missing gods who aid the living in their battle for Telara. In the words of one Messenger, "Walk the path of the Vigil and you shall never walk alone."