RIFT has a decently-sized raiding crew, and there’s a good reason why– Trion’s raids are large, expansive, beautiful, and for the most part, contain some pretty awesome fights. The game’s raiding community is made up of all types of players– those who enjoy a more casual approach to raiding and scheduling raids, those who enjoy the competitive raiding scene, and all kinds of folks in between. With Infernal Dawn (ID) out, and a large portion of those raiders delving deep into the new fights, there’s one large, looming problem that multiple people from multiple groups have experienced– Infernal Dawn, so far, is just too easy.
This is a problem, and not just a problem for the “hardcore” community, that is, the players at the top of the food chain, with the maximum amount of planar attunement (PA) and all the best gear from Hammerknell (HK). Many guilds who don’t even consider themselves hardcore or serious are having the same experience. The fights in ID so far simply don’t have the same oomph, the same adrenaline-punched feeling of not knowing whether this attempt will be the one, the feeling of knowing those couple hours of wipes were worth it after downing a tough boss and listening to the guild explode over voice chat.
That feeling’s pretty damn amazing, and a large part of the reason most raiders enjoy raiding. Hammerknell had a ton of fights that produced those feelings, and many players were expecting to feel the same in ID. Guilds spent months upon months farming HK, farming PA, and building just the right raid force. And now they’re finding themselves a bit underwhelmed, a bit discouraged, and quite confused.
So, what gives? Why the major difference in difficulty between ID and HK? There’s a number of issues behind this phenomenon, I think, and not any one in particular is the sole cause of the difficulty swerve. It’s more or less the combination of all these factors.
First of all, it’s important for players to remember Trion’s own vision for the intended difficulty of ID. They’ve stated it a few times during the raid’s months of development. Here is the most recent source, which was discovered during an interview with various fansites. Here’s an important tidbit from that interview, regarding the difficulty of HK, and what Trion has learned from it:
“One of the biggest schematic thing from all of this, is what is the right amount of challenge that is going to be hard enough but still fun? We kind of phrase it a little more bluntly in the office when referring to it. We don’t want to be punching people in the face with the difficulty of the content. And one of the other core things that we are really trying to avoid is creating situations where the success or failure of an entire raid can be messed up by one person…”
Remember the guilds that felt some fights in HK were far too unforgiving, long, and overly difficult? Remember the guilds that broke up shortly after HK came out because players were dropping like flies, and it was increasingly hard to recruit HK-ready players? Trion does, and the effects are seen currently with ID. The developers wished to create a more balanced raid, one that didn’t punish individual players nearly as much as HK did, and didn’t cause players to want to throw their keyboards across the room. I think they’ve succeeded in that respect. The real question is: Did they take the balancing act too far?
To really answer that question, a few more points need to be looked at. Let’s look at gear for a second. The gap between T1 raid gear and HK raid gear was huge. So huge, in fact, that players complained of epic trash items being better than relic items from River of Souls and Greenscale’s Blight. This large gap caused a few things– it created natural “gating” to take place at certain fights in HK, that is, guilds reached stumbling blocks unless their gear was up to par, and it also made some fights extremely difficult for players who didn’t have full BiS from other raids.
Trion didn’t want this, and this was evident when shortly after, they adjusted many of the stats on gear across the board. They wanted players to acquire gear across an even level, and didn’t want one or two items to make such a drastic difference. The continuation of that solution? Yep, that’s right. Creating the next raid with a much smaller gear gap. That’s exactly what we’re seeing.
The problem with taking this route is two-fold. Sure, it’s easy for players to step into ID with half HK gear and do fairly well. On the other hand, it makes it a little too easy for players with full BiS HK gear to steamroll the place. It also completely negates any chance of seeing a natural gating mechanism in ID, which is disappointing to many guilds that looked forward to reaching a difficult fight then having to halt progression in order to take a couple weeks and farm gear from the early fights.
Again, I can see Trion’s obvious intention here with the lack of a gear gap. I can’t, however, see that it’s at the perfect level of balance. There should be a natural gear incline, and players should be encouraged to farm the earlier raids a bit before entering the toughest raid on the block.
There’s also the fact that Trion isn’t the only group of people that learned a lot in between the time of HK’s release and now. Players have also learned a lot. Guilds have became solidified, strong teams who are comfortable with RIFT’s mechanics, every soul combination, and every buff and debuff. The longer an MMORPG is out, the more time players have to grow comfortable, familiar, and skilled within its world. Trion may need to take this into consideration the next time around, and realize that RIFT’s players are becoming a skilled bunch, and may need more challenging fights as time goes on.
Planar attunement may also be at fault here, at least partially. Trion may not wish to admit that just yet, but I think it’s important they consider the possibility. The pure stat increments are nothing to sneeze at, and let’s face it– RIFT’s all about stats. Stats do make a difference. DPS timers and the health of our tanks do make a difference. Toss enough minor stat adjustments together, and suddenly, the difference isn’t so minor. And we weren’t even given the third tier yet. I’d personally like to see the stat PA nodes toned down considerably, or replaced with something different altogether.
At the end of this bucket list of sorts, I think that’s what the difficulty loss of ID really comes down to. The loss of a gear gap, combined with PA, the fact that many players are fully geared from HK, and the fact that players are more familiar with the game and thus skilled creates a sort of landslide of factors that are currently making a lot of guilds out there cringe.
Did Trion go too far with many of the intended changes? I think so. Is there a happy, balanced medium, where players can experience challenging raids yet not end up wanting to pull their hair out? Probably, but it’s always impossible to please everyone. Many players are discussing the possibility of Trion adding master mode raids, harder versions of the same raids, in order to please all types of raiders. I guess that’s one possible route, but personally, I’d rather not see multiple versions of the same raid. I’d much rather see new content, with more creativity, and a little better tuning.
It’s also important, of course, to remember that there are still a few fights in ID to check out. Maybe our opinions will change after getting to see them. Here’s hoping.