First look at Rift's newest raid, stuffed with pirate ships and dragons made of gold

Josh Augustine at

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As you read this, all of Telara's most powerful defenders are busying themselves stomping on balloons and throwing plastic rings at tiny seacaps scuttling inside a fence. The Carnival of the Ascensed is a fun, whimsical event celebrating the game's first anniversary--but it's about to come to a screeching halt, replaced with fire and brimstone as patch 1.8 introduces the next large-scale raid, the Infernal Dawn.

What I liked most about the Infernal Dawn, from everything I saw in my brief walkthrough last week, is how diverse the enemies are. The basic premise of the dungeon, located on Ember Isle, is that dragons are jerks, but not always brightest--as the dragons cause chaos, the Golden Maw (cultists obssessed with wealth and greed) plan to use their armies to take advantage of the situation to gain more for themselves. It's your job to dive down into one of their big lairs and stop them before they organize and mobilize.

In case you didn't notice: they're not happy you're invading their lair.

The cultist's expansive cavern is broken up into three wings: Earth, Fire, and Gold. As you break into the Earth wing, you'll battle through tight caverns stuffed with glowing blue crystals, and have to down the massive baddies that have formed their scary-looking armor out of those crystals. Past that, we get to my favorite fight showcased in the demo, which stars Captain Dreadberry of the Dread Fortune warship.

The dev team said they designed the encounter to play like the fights in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and pirate lore, where the Captain often has an almost-magical link to his or her ship. So you're not so much fighting the captain herself, as you are trying to avoid the chains reaching out to tangle you and the cannonballs being shot at you on the deck of the Dread Fortune. It sounds like a fun movement-heavy fight with a focus on reaction times and quick-thinking, over ability spamming.

Although I'm pretty sure those swords'll do some serious damage too.

Next, you descend into the fire wing through circular corridors leading down with broken stone walkways and lava pouring out of cracks in the walls. Grisly statues and grotesque beasties are par for the course down here. Up first, a 30-foot-tall magma satyr demon will hoof-stomp as many people in your raid as he can before you take him down.

A few more trash mobs later—the team made sure there were less trash mobs in this raid, as they want to keep the action coming quickly—you're facing the Wanton Council, a terrifying group of the leaders of the makeshift kobold, demon, and goblin alliance.

Come on, this is supposed to be a family game! At least put on a loincloth.

Take down those three baddies and you've unlocked the final wing of the game: housed behind two gigantic golden doors that swing open to reveal the largest treasure room you've ever seen. Gold is everywhere, and it's yours for the taking. Oh, well, I guess you should kill the gigantic dragon that's made entirely of gold before you start swiping her stuff. It's going to be tough, though. Being made of gold, you see, has some major benefits when you're in a room filled with nothing but gold.

Moneybags McScaley will be able to teleport around by using other pieces of gold to form her shape and possess her greedy spirit, and can manipulate the gold around the room to wrap up players or bolster herself with extra armor during the fight. The developers described the encounter by asking "What would happen if you fought the sandman?" and the answer appears to be: you would drown in gold and wipe repeatedly.

But think of what she'd go for on the auction house!

Now I bet you thought that was the final fight of the raid. Well, so did I. And then the devs showed me an even more epic dragon fight, as Maelforge burst onto our tiny platform of land, surrounded by lava in the base of an active volcano. The boss mechanics are pretty straightforward dragon stuff, but its' the environment you have to watch out for: the lava will rise throughout the entire fight. Maelforge is able to ride the burny stuff, but our fleshy bodies won't last two seconds in it, so players have to find a safe way to continually climb up the edges of the volcano interior while fighting the dragon and the additional enemies that come out to slow your progress.

About halfway through the fight, you deal a big hit to Maelforge and the first encounter will end, giving you a full set of rewards and allowing to to take a break before continuing into the second encounter with Maelforge, where you deal the killing blow and send his scaly hide packing for good.

Maelforge declined our request for a photo opportunity, so here's the Dread Fortune warship and a lava golem.

In whole, Infernal Dawn will have 7 different bosses, all with multiple phases and complex encounters that often rely on environmental hazards to keep players engaged. Each fight is designed to take about 4-5 minutes for an organized group of 20 players, and the dev team plans to add a new 10-person raid in patch 1.9.

Outside of raid content, new Instant Adventures are being added to Ember Isle (the Kelari homeworld added in patch 1.6), along with a new Looking For Guild tool to help you find some friends to run this new dungeon with when 1.8 launches in early April.