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!
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.