You had me at Bard

I haven’t been entirely honest about why I’ve taken up Rift in some of my past articles. Yeah, Rift is all that: new, shiny looking, a solid package, interesting talent combos, more cooperative and epic events, zomg-awesome dyes for your armor. But it was none of those things that actually won me over to start playing the game. Rift’s major selling point for me was the bard class. BARDS!!! THEY GOT BARDS!

Fucking finally.

That utterly under-represented class in fantasy MMOs, oh I love it so much! I don’t know what it is exactly, I’m not a musician in real life (I play the flute a little but who doesn’t), but there’s something incredibly appealing and romantic about playing a bard in online games. I think it’s the whole imagery: that wandering hermit with the lute on his back, that solemn and thoughtful storyteller in your adventurers party, playing his tunes steadfast in the midst of battle, bringing courage and hope to the hearts of his allies, filling his enemies with dread from afar. Bards are subtle, bards work their magic in different ways. Bards make any camp fire a cosy place.

Notice what’s wrong with this picture? I’m not playing a bard in Rift, I’m playing a pyromage. I’m really sad about it too and wonder whether I should give things another go. Unfortunately, when testing bard for a couple of levels, I didn’t enjoy Trion’s interpretation of them at all. For one thing, bards are part of the rogue/hunter archetype in Rift which are mehhh physical DPS. Now, I could probably live with the melee thing since a bard (in my head) is likely to swing a dagger or mace of sorts, once the enemy has closed in on him. Avoidance certainly works there too. But a hunter / archer / pet class?

Yet the worst thing wasn’t that creating a bard forces you to combine with these subclasses: the really off-putting part in my opinion was combat itself (to be fair, I did only play the bard solo). Playing your tunes is super-hectic: wooops, there’s your lute, it’s gone so fast you can easily miss it (when buffing)! It doesn’t sound really swell either. And then, once you actually go offensive, you’re literally shooting the enemy with notes and staves as if they were just another projectile, arrows or fire bolts. Eugh! Okay, music IS waves but like this you’re really pushing the whole idea of tunes harming the opponent “physically” which is silly.

My bard in FF11

I liked Square-Enix’ take on bards in Final Fantasy XI: There were flutes, harps, horns and cornets to equip and songs to learn in abundance, usually working as AoE in a small range, beneficial to specific classes only. This would force you to move around often and play different tunes for different people. And bards used MP – their abilities were associated with a magical force, rather than stats such as strength and dexterity.

It’s all a matter of preference – and maybe also one reason why we don’t get to see bards too often in MMOs; they’re a tough class to place and give their own spot to in a classic combat setup. Great for lore and role-play, tricky for mechanics and balance?

Anyway, maybe I should really give bards another go in Rift. It feels wrong not to play a class that comes with such unique appeal and there’s always that chance that I judged things prematurely. That said, I haven’t actually run into that many Rift bard blogs or posts so far, I’ve yet to find someone passionate enough to convince me. We’ll see.

5 comments

  1. I looooove my bard. I never thought I would play one, either. The whole concept seemed kind of lame to me — music as a weapon? Running around luting things in the head? Yeah, okay, whatever.

    I started one in RIFT mostly to see just what was up with this “rogue healing” nonsense, and quickly grew to love the spec. They are kind of meh when soloing, although you never die, but they are GREAT fun in PVP or instances! I have a million buttons to press, I feel like I’m making a real difference to the team. I also think it’s a spec where smart players really shine.

    I played a holy priest for six years in WoW, and barding reminds me a lot of that. :)

  2. I’m always a support class. They’re so much more interesting to me for some reason, but I don’t usually play as a bard since they aren’t often done well in the games that have them.

    This post really makes me want to play one though…

  3. @Liore
    Hmmm, your words are tempting. :)
    I’ve played a holy priest all through WoW myself and indeed loved the class because it was more diverse and interesting to play than most others. Bard does appeal for the same reasons – and I heard they are pretty OP in Rift PvP at the moment. I just have to get over the fact that I’m playing a ‘melee bard’. I also wish there was more to the music they play and instrument choices etc. but maybe that’s still to come?

    @Gilded
    Hehe, well I’m with you there. I played a red mage / bard in FF11 which is basically the ultimate support spec but at the same time supporters are usually also strong soloers with a wide variety of abilities and great self-sufficiency. that’s what I like because it comes closest to my “ideal player” who can do pretty much everything, depending on what’s required.

  4. I’m smiling from one ear to the other when i read this :D

    There were musical instruments in Asheron’s Call 2 when they gave it a go back then. I remember that as being quite funny because you could actually play with eachother. There were different instruments in the same way as you describe in FF but you couldnt equip them, just use them and they would play one out of a few tunes, and they would match up if you were playing together with another player closeby.
    Only for amusement though, nothing beneficial for the game other than making it more awesome. :)

  5. @Lily

    That sounds very awesome indeed! I don’t mind if you can’t play entire songs in combat, but it still adds a lot if you can do so outside. I remember how I used to love using Epona’s Flute in Zelda Ocarina of Time! =)

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