Rift's head start for pre-orders and collector's editions is live, and we're finally playing after dealing with some mild initial patching and server load issues. Check back for updates to see what kind of pithy one-liners Adam's journey through Telara is inspiring him to post. Latest update: 02.25.11 | 1742

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Not sure if you're into Rift's fantasy MMO style? Check out the cinematic trailer for a taste.

02.23.11 | 1422: Install...patch...patch invalid. Whee!

02.24.11 | 2330: Three hour queue, no thanks. My guild sure can pick a server.

02.25.11 | 0800: It’s 8 a.m. and there’s still a queue for my server. It’s four people long, but the principle of the thing is what matters here.

0814: The character creator isn’t bad, but it fails to capture the fullness of my glorious beard. Still, I’m pretty happy with my soon-to-be-mage.

0819: So I’ve been brought back to life as some kind of awesome magical cyborg who consumes the souls of the fallen? Sweet.

0822: Okay, my initial scan of the lore may be slightly off. Even so, the Defiant base is bitchin'.

0825: All of the souls available to me sound amazing. See, souls are like WoW talent trees. You collect them and merge up to three of them (eventually, I’m as newbie as a kitten now so I only get the one) to create your own unique class. Pyromancer, Warlock, Chloromancer, and Archon all seem totally kick ass but they lose out to Stormcaller. Because, well, Stormcaller.

0844: What the hell is this thing? I haven’t even drawn my staff to throw out my first baby lightning bolt and this monstrosity is wrecking a bunch of dudes right here.

0850: Okay, yeah, this is totally giving me the new awesome MMO shivers. Squee!

0925: Too much time spent writing this, not enough time playing. Need to shoot things with lightning.

0930: Twitter integration! Woo!

0953: The one thing that sticks out to me so far is how many little things I appreciate as a long-time MMO player. Like how my racial is a short-cooldown out-of-combat sprint -- it's so much easier to get around as a lowbie. Chat functionality is fantastic. My spells (yeah, Stormcaller rules) interact in interesting ways from level two. The lore is available (and surprisingly not stupid), but not shoved in your face. I'm enjoying the hell out of this so far.

1006: Oh, awesome. If you happen to pull a bunch of guys you didn't think would aggro together and get squished -- not that I'm so much of a newb to ever do that, of course -- you get a once-per-hour delayed self-resurrect. Corpse runs are so 2005.

1038: Made it back through the time portal to stop the apocalypse. One newbie mage against the Destroyer of Worlds or whatever he's called. What could go wrong?

1158: Did some leveling and rift-stomping. The world feels more dynamic than in anything else I've played. Rifts are very similar to Warhammer Online's public quests, yes, but seem to be implemented better. So far I'm joining huge raids in the crowded post-tutorial newbie zone and not doing much more than spamming instants, but that's okay. There's a giant invasion going on right now, with monsters trying to overrun our Defiant defenses at two different locations and rifts spawning all over the place. As far as I can tell, about 80 percent of the players in the zone are running around trying to deal with it. It's pretty awesome. I keep getting distracted from my questing.

Super Bonus Update: Hey, my video finished rendering and uploading! Check out the newbie tutorial rift that caps off the intro zone and sends you to the "real" world below.

1419: Used my free respec to switch to a Chloromancer-focused build, and holy cow it's incredible. Just hit level 10 with it, and I went from "hey this soul is kinda neat" to "I guess I'll kill everything and drain all my health back and never ever die." The skill chains and interactions between abilities at level 10 in Rift are around what you'd get at level 40 in World of Warcraft. I'm loving the combat, the dynamic events, and the overall polish of the game so far. Then again, I was saying a lot of the same things for the first 40 or so hours of Warhammer Online, and look how that turned out.

1544: Dealt with my first major invasion. What happens here is that a bunch of rifts and invasions spawn across an entire zone, and everyone in range gets a public quest to defeat invaders, seal rifts, and eventually kill the boss. In the one I participated in, we had to seal 10 rifts, defeat 25 invasions, kill 1,000 creatures, and then deal with something called Grimnir. This was much better than regular rifts; the monsters were tougher and the number of invaders was better scaled to the number of players we had fighting back. I even died once! I'm still fairly positive on the dynamic content in Rift so far, but I'm curious to see how it balances out once there isn't such a huge concentration of players in just a few zones.

Super Bonus Update 2: Another video finished! Here's a brief look at what an invasion looks like. It's not a rift, with the giant glowing sky blob spawning monsters -- instead, this is a set of elite monsters that come into town and try to kill everyone. It's nice to see the dynamic content not being limited to rifts themselves, even right away in the newbie zone.

1633: Guess what a group of opposite-faction level 20+ characters were doing in the newbie zone! If you said anything but "spamming emotes and killing questgivers over and over," turn in your MMO card right now because duh. Oh well, I've been wanting to make it out to the capital city for a while now. Meridian is pretty cool, and holds all the stuff you expect: bankers, class trainers, profession masters, daily questgivers, faction bosses, etc. One cool thing: guild weekly quests. You can pick one of a couple -- there's a PvP one, a dungeon one, and what I think is a rift-focused one -- for your guild to work toward collectively for the week. Neato.

1701: Torched a major water invasion. This one was close. Three of our four Wardstones fell to the invaders before we could finish off the boss. Between all the different combats taking place across the whole zone, we must have had over a hundred players working together toward this one. Awesome stuff. Going to try to get some more game in tonight and put together a big post on my overall thoughts after a day of Rift, so check back tomorrow for more.

Super Bonus Update 3 (1742): More video! This is a small slice of the water invasion I was talking about just now. Looks very different from the death rifts I'd been fighting previously. I love how I get to pump out a ton of passive healing to my whole raid just by beating on enemies with thunderbolts and spore waves and keeping my debuffs up. Chloromancer is so much fun.