Telara is a world locked in turmoil. Six elemental realms threaten this world, and Telara's salvation depends on two opposing factions. On one side are the Guardians, warriors and champions reborn by the will of the gods, not for their virtue but for their military prowess. On the other are the Defiant, beings from the future that have seen the gods fail and have traveled back to succeed in their place. We had the opportunity to witness the threat of the elemental planes firsthand and take a closer look at Rift's dynamic, as well as hostile, invasions.
Each invasion begins with a simple tear. A tear represents a weakness in the fabric of space between Telara and one of the elemental planes of earth, air, fire, water, life, and death. They can happen anywhere, and if left unattended, they will open into a rift that deposits otherworldly horrors upon the world. These creatures will then converge on nearby villages and other non-player character hubs in an attempt to overtake them. When assaulting a quest hub, the invading force's goal is to destroy that area's ward stone, a device that keeps tears from forming locally. With the ward stone gone, enemies will establish a foothold using their own version of the ward stone. All NPCs in that area will be killed in the process and won't return until the players have managed to drive the fiends back.
To combat these invasions, players may either trigger a tear before it opens, thereby gaining the element of surprise against the invaders, or let the tear open on its own and deal with it then. In the first invasion we saw, a small group of players had gathered to close a rift caused by the life plane. Above them, a massive, fungal growth hung suspended in midair at the rift's epicenter. From it poured waves of giant, moss-covered toads and other twisted beasts of nature for the players to combat. Each wave had a time limit associated with it, as indicated by the small icon assigned to our display when we approached the rift.
Completing a wave under the time limit netted higher rewards for those involved after the rift event was completed. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and once finished, players were rewarded both as a group (based on speed) and individually (based on level of contribution). Generally, any given rift will be easier to deal with if the tear is opened prematurely by a player rather than on its own, and the payout will be higher as well. Creatures from the different planes will also attack each other, so opening a tear near an existing rift can give you an advantage. However, it can also backfire because you have no way of knowing what elemental plane you will be opening into until you've already done so.
While some smaller rifts can be dealt with by a single player, in high-population areas, massive zone events may be triggered. These events spawn a massive number of rifts that blanket the entire zone, drowning the whole area in chaos. During our demo, the elemental plane of life was once again leading the charge. Instantly, all players in this zone were signed up to combat this threat. On the map, a large group of markers indicated where the rifts were happening, and highlighting one showed where their forces were headed. Most were covering one central location, and when we arrived, we found a large group of players already gathered to help defend.
As with the smaller rifts, this massive event had its own special objectives. In this case, the players had to successfully close a certain number of rifts to win. The entire encounter lasted roughly 12 minutes and ended in success for the players--who were rewarded handsomely for their trouble. Zone events are designed to play similarly to your typical raid, but they can be completed in less time and are a bit more forgiving. While large-scale raids are typically reserved for the highest level players, the zone event we witnessed occurred in a lower-level area and gave those players a taste of the endgame action. Rift is planned for a March release, but you can get an early taste by signing up for the open beta next week.