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As part of Rift 1.8's release, the third tier of Planar Attunement has been getting tested. This one expands upon the prior two tiers, giving even more bonuses to those who have already completed the prior. Note that this is only for the “plane” trees, and the PvP tree is still lock into its first tier. Also keep in mind that this has not officially been released yet, and is still being evaluated.

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Clarification

Something a lot of players get lost in is regarding to what the system is and what it is not. To help understand the new changes, it is important to understand the direction Trion is taking with it.

The system is designed to allow a somewhat flexible mechanism of “leveling” past the level fifty road block currently set within the game. Rather than stick players at level fifty and call that the end of it, the Planar Attunement system was introduced to give something as a reward for doing what people already do. The system is not meant to cause a massive imbalance between those who choose to farm the experience and those who don't; it's simply there to be an additional benefit. It is often considered as a form of alternate advancement, which pretty much just means that it is another way of advancing in addition to the current system (levels).

As this is true, when looking at the new changes it is very important to realize that while the boosts may seem small, in the overall picture they really are not. To get a huge benefit out of them, though, will require filling up all of the tiers. This would put the player in a state of feeling forced to grind in order to get all the benefits, so it is important to note that the raids and other end game content are in no way balanced around Planar Attunement or any of the bonuses that it offers. Do they help? Sure. But they are just there in addition to everything else you have. Aside from going for the min maxing status, there is no real need to grind your way to the top. Instead, just allow it to come naturally, so as to keep from getting burned out. Also note that the active skills are usually the highlights, although not all players will take them the same. Furthermore, each calling has its own skills and bonuses through the Planar Attunement system, so what may benefit one calling may not be available for another.

The Cost

The cost to fill in all of the skills available in Tier 3 of one tree is 10,250 points, or 103 levels (51.5 million experience). The costs of the previous tiers are 8,075 (tier 2) and 7,325 (tier 1) and must be filled in prior, bringing the total cost of all to 25,650 points per fully filled tier 3 tree. There are six trees in total, bringing the total to over 150,000 total points required, or simply put, a ton of experience! As you can see by this massive number, you really are better off not attempting to grind your way through the tiers. Just keep doing what you do and let it all fall in to place. As you can afford new active and passive benefits, throw them up, but do not worry too much about what you do not already have.

Active Skills

The highlights of tier 3's active skills are Summon Group: (Plane) skills. These allow players to, once each hour, summon their entire group to their location. These skills are only usable at rifts and can only be used in the proper type (so no Earth skill being used in a Water rift), however with the tier 2 abilities that allow opening custom rifts, that really is not an issue (and of course, tier 2 has to be filled in prior so players will already have this) since all you have to do is just open a rift of the type you want to summon to, then summon your group to it. The best part about this is that while there are cool downs to the summon skills, you can get all six, meaning you have that many more to use! Of course, you can also use guild banners and such, so really this is opening up the doors for more of an “you choose how you do it” method to getting your groups together.

The other main skills included are shared with all callings and include:

  • Earth - Metamorphic Rune: Generates a shield that absorbs an additional 300 damage and grants immunity to fear for its duration. It can last up to 2 minutes
  • Air - Tempest Mirror: This deals 301 Air damage to the enemy and stuns them for 2 seconds
  • Fire - Wrathful Flame: Deals 20% of incoming damage back to enemy when hit. Lasts for 2 minutes or until 20k damage is taken
  • Water - Elder Tablet: Restores Mana and Energy over time and increases Strength/Wisdom by 19 for 15 minutes
  • Life - Revitalization Seed: Restores 1663 health over time and increases endurance by 60 over 12 seconds
  • Death - Soul Remnant: Deals 1k death damage and returns 1k health to you

What you will likely notice about these skills is that they are the same items that are obtained as rift consumables. But rather than needing to use consumables, you will always have the skills available. This can save a lot of gold if you are in to purchasing these items usually, but will also save inventory space in that you no longer have to carry a ton of consumables. This means more room for things like potions and other necessary items, rather than wasting space on items that you can otherwise go without.

If you are worried about obtaining planar charges, the death tree has a skill called Sacrifice Life: Planar Charge that allows you to turn 15% of your maximum health into a planar charge! From the Life tree there is another skill called Planar Surge. Water has a skill called Flowing Charge. Fire's is Flaring Charge. What does this mean? There is no more having to fill up your planar charges before heading in to raids or keeping up with them while you are out in the field. Being able to essentially create your own charges out of nowhere is an awesome addition, and makes life much easier in the game.

Passive Bonuses

The good passive bonuses (other than the ones that are the same as available from tier 1 and 2) include the following:

  • Death - Duration of temporary item enchants increased by 15%
  • Death - Increases movement while Soul walking by 20%
  • Death - Decreases the cool down of Soul walk by 3 minutes

The added duration of temporary item enchants is a huge bonus. This is especially true if you use weapon stones and such, in that they cost a lot. A 15% increase in duration on an item that runs 6 gold is a 1 gold saving per use!

The added speed from soul walking is not really an important boost, just because you usually have to re group after you die anyways. I could see this saving a bit of time when you are out alone, but when it really comes down to it, a better boost could have been put in instead.

The 3 minute decrease in soul walking cool down is a huge bonus. While the normal cool down is an hour (minus any benefits you have already, from guild or otherwise), this means it is a decrease of a minimum of 5%! If you are out and about exploring the Storm Legion zones or you are running a lot of new dungeons, this is invaluable.

  • Life - Increases the duration of buffs (30 minute or longer duration) by 15%
  • Life - Decreases the cool down of Soul walk by 3 minutes
  • Life - Reduces time to mount by 5%

The increase in buff duration here is not too much of a benefit, just because they do not take too long to get up anyways. The difference between buffing every 30 minutes and, say every 25 minutes is negligible in the long run anyways, and a majority of us will re buff long before that timer goes up just out of habit.

The decrease in soul walk cool down stacks with the one from the death tree, further speeding up how quickly you can use soul walk. This is just another positive!

As for the reduced time for mounting, I highly doubt most people will even realize it is there. For the most part, mounting is pretty fast as it is, so a 5% increase in its speed is negligible. This, tacked on with the fact that you can rarely mount up while trying to escape enemies (due to being constantly knocked off the mount), really kills any need for it.

  • Water - Increases swim speed by 10%
  • Water - Increases the duration of buffs by 15%

Neither of these things has that much value. Again, the buff times are not a big deal. The increased swimming speed is even less of one. You really will not be swimming that often, and when you are (rarely) the small amount of speed is not going to make much of a difference.

  • Fire - Duration of temporary item enchants increased by 15%
  • Fire - Increases mounted speed by 6%
  • Fire - Reduces the cool down of Soul walk by 3 minutes

This is probably the best plane over all. You get the boosted temporary item enchant durations (saving you money), the reduced cool down of soul walk, plus you also get a 6% boost to mounted running speed. Unlike the other planes, everything found in the Fire one is valuable and is well worth taking.

Being that you can get all of the planed filled in, it is not as big of a deal but you will usually want to go with this fire one first just so you get the benefits from it earlier.

  • Air - Increases the duration of buffs (30 minute or longer duration) by 15%
  • Air - Increases your maximum planar charges by 1
  • Air - Increases unmounted, out of combat movement speed by 2%
  • Air - Reduces the cool down of Soul walk by 3 minutes

This one has the benefits of increasing planar charges, which is useful but with the active skills to turn health in to planar charges it is not nearly as important as it would be without the skills.

The unmounted movement speed boost is almost worthless. I can not even think of a time that I would be out of combat and still be moving without being on my mount. Even when traveling in Sanctum or Meridian, I am always mounted up. There is no reason not to be. That makes this skill effectively worthless.

You get the cool down reducer for soul walk yet again with this plane, too!

  • Earth - Increases falling height before taking damage by 6%
  • Earth - Reduces the cool down of Soul walk by 3 minutes
  • Earth - Increases your maximum planar charges by 1

The falling height damage reduction is not worth too much. A 6% increase in how far you can fall before you start to take damage really does not benefit you too much. In any situation where the height is a concern, you are either going to live or die regardless. The chances that a 6% difference will actually save you are almost non existent.

Conclusion

I think it is important to state again that while the planar attunement bonuses can be nice, none of them are going to make or break the game for you. Nothing here will really increase your chances of winning a PvP match, nor being successful in dungeons, raids or any other end game activities. Some of them can help save time or money though!

This tier has come up with some awesome benefits, though, and it goes to show that you can be quite surprised by what the future holds. Many of us had the feeling that the second tier would be the best just because it looked like Trion was running out of ideas on what they could give as bonuses, but they once again opened our eyes to how awesome their planning is. The hard work of balancing between want and necessity has been paying off, and it shows in this update. The only problem with this is getting the majority of the player base to better understand that wanting something and needing it are two very different things. Because the game is not, and hopefully will not ever be balanced around the planar attunement bonuses, it is safe to say that anything that is within them is there just for want. If content was to be created that revolved around the system, however, that would change.

There is a case where I think the planar attunement system could be the focus of new content. This is if there were new instances or something created where only those that maximized their planes would be able to enter. This would create an entirely new problem, however, in that it would bring back the feeling of being forced to grind in order to stay competitive. Even if the only bonus for going through all of this work was something like a costume or something, it would still create a rift between players that feel they are being left out due to having to play more casually due to work or other reasons that cut in to their game time. You could, of course, argue that no matter what is added or changed there will be players both for and against it. While this is true, Trion has been proving to us over and over that they are paying attention to both sides of the arguments and are making the best decisions they can based on the input they are given. What this requires from the players is to start being more open about things they like and dislike. It often brings us back to the saying “silent majority vs. vocal minority.” If the minority of the players is the one that is actually voicing their opinions, then it really does not matter what the majority of the players want. You can not make judgments based on everyone's voice if people are not willing to speak up, because then it would just be a guessing game and you would never get anywhere.

In a very real sense, this is where the planar attunement system is right now. Many people have complained about it because they feel it is unfair to the casual players. At the same time, some of us (like myself) love the way it is and believe that if you have more time to put in to the game, you should be rewarded accordingly. I like to look at it as being like anything else. Take, for example, a job. If you and your friend work at the same job and for the same amount of pay, but you work 40 hours and he works only half that, you will earn twice as much as he does. This is the same way a lot of games work, in that the more you play the more benefits you earn (in the game). Sure, games are not jobs, but the analogy really works for just about anything. And I know that people hate thinking about MMORPG's as being like a second job, but at the end of the day that is how they are designed. They are created to suck you in and keep you busy while you keep working at and grinding towards getting the best stuff. A popular saying for this is that it is the “carrot on a stick” model, where you are like a horse that is trying to catch the carrot. Right when you think you have it, and are very close to it, it jumps away from you and you have to begin chasing it again. In the form of MMO's, the carrot is the end game content. As you work your way through all of the content in the hopes of finishing everything the game has to offer, a new addition is given. You then start putting all of your time and effort towards getting that new addition completed and then something new comes yet again. This will continue happening until one of two things happens: either the game shuts down due to lack of players and funding, or you quit due to boredom or some other reason.

The simple fact is that when we are dealing with MMO's, there is never going to be a true “end.” If you view the planar attunement system as helping show that this is true, it helps to better put it all in to perspective and help you realize that in the grand scheme of things it is really meaningless. It gives something new to work towards for right now, but even if you max it out and get it all completed, something will come along right after that you then need to shift your focus to. Instead, following a more casual approach and just trying to have fun will greatly impact your gaming experience and will make the games much more enjoyable. So please, when you are for or against some big changes in Rift, take in to consideration the fact that no matter how much you want to complete what is already out there, you will never get it all completed anyways. And when you do, you know that a problem has occurred and that is when you should be scared about the future of the game.

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