Wisdom of Nym: Getting ready for Final Fantasy XIV patch 3.5
Fortunately, we're getting a meaty patch first, as you do. So while you might get a little bored with what's on display by the time June rolls around, at least you'll have something to do with reasonable consistency.
As is the tradition before each major patch, I'm taking a look at the patch notes and evaluating what we see therein before the actual patch goes live. It's possible that we might wind up with some other particularly cool additions or some neat stuff might be different when we're playing it, but... at this point, we'll just have to wait for Tuesday.
The first half of the last step
We can be confident, at this point, that we've got a bit more of the MSQ left to go, since the second part is on track for March and will expand the story a bit further. Whether or not we'll get another Steps of Faith-style trial seems a bit more up in the air, although I can think of a few opponents who would fit that villainous role nicely (it'd be a great chance to really throw down against Regula, although he seems to have largely been relegated to appearing in the Warring Triad story). But this is setting the stage for the push into Ala Mhigo, and based on the trailer and the quests, it's going to be a coordinated push with everything that the Eorzean Alliance has.
Most of the other stories look like they're wrapping up nicely; we've got our last push for Hildibrand and the Scholisticate, more conclusions for the beast tribes, and so forth. I'm still not terribly happy with how... abbreviated things seem to be for the Warring Triad, almost perfunctory after all of the to-do that surrounded them, but perhaps that's the only possible way to run things. One thing Heavensward can't be accused of is doing stories by half-measure; while 2.x had four major plotlines (the MSQ, Coil, Crystal Tower, and Hildibrand), Heavensward has had six (the MSQ, Alexander, Mhach, Hildibrand, the Scholisticate, and the Warring Triad). One of those had to start getting edged out a little bit; I just wish it had been one of the ones I find less interesting.
Of course, a lot of people are suspecting that our attack on Baelsar's Wall will not go as planned, which seems likely. Perhaps our midway patch will feature a bit of a running fight against the Empire? Speculation is useless, in this case, but still.
Items from the dungeons look to be pegged at 245, while Dun Scaith's rewards are at 260; all well within expected numbers. I hope something is done to make upgrading old tomestone items a bit less onerous, though, since otherwise 230 gear is pretty unappealing when you could just run a dungeon to get upgrades.
It's unfortunate to note that the item inflation has gotten pretty bad in this expansion. We've gone from having the top end of items beat our levels by 80 levels pre-expansion to 210 levels, and the gap is pretty badly pronounced here. Adding in a wider gap of gear levels has resulted in gear getting pretty absurdly inflated; mass pulls in dungeons have become more common simply because at this point, there's no reason not to just grab huge numbers of things when most tanks can't possibly be dropped by a half-dozen enemies. It's gotten overloaded.
We still don't know what gear will look like in Stormblood, but I'm hoping it will ease off a bit. In Heavensward, we could keep our 130 gear well into 54-55; I'm hoping Stormblood makes 270 more relevant in higher levels. Heck, I'd be happy if my 270 gear serves as a fine entry point for the new endgame. Time will tell.
I also wonder if it's going to be easier to get upgrade items from Dun Scaith or if we'll need to do Dun Scaith, Void Ark, and Weeping City in one week to get an upgrade token. That would keep up the pattern that's been established thus far, but it also can get a bit annoying, especially with how many people still struggle with remembering the mechanics to Ozma... then again, the gear levels are a fair bit higher now. Six of one, etc.
Go PvP already
The slow burn of FFXIV's PvP mechanics has been fascinating to me, because it's a pretty good example of a team trying something, finding it didn't work, and then adjusting it accordingly. In the original incarnation of PvP, ranking was really determined by gear; at this point, ranking is much more appropriately determined by taking part in the rated content, and gear is being steadily made easier to get. Especially now that we've got the GARO crossover event going.
And that's fine with me. There's some really cool cosmetic stuff available by PvP, and I like the fact that it's easier to get now, even for characters who don't look good in the GARO gear or even want it.
I freely admit that my knowledge of GARO pretty much starts and ends with the fact that it exists, but I do like that the event is making suitable (but weird) gear available for players. It's also a really great way to help nudge people into PvP without being onerous. Between the event, the increased reward, and the Freelancer option, people who just want to pick up some cosmetic gear have an easier time than ever registering and going to town. Whether or not it's going to work remains to be seen, but points for the effort, and I'm certainly hopeful.
I can have my bird out for just doing stuff without any restrictions now? Oh, thank you. I'm summoning that bird and I'm going to town. Seriously, the improvements made to chocobos and their use for this patch are excellent and I love them unambiguously; it makes it so much easier to just pop out a chocobo and use them for open-world content, something that's long been a bit problematic because you have to decide whether or not you'll have a reason to use your bird for that long. Now it actually feels relevant again.
And if there were any mechanic to serve as a poster child for never forgetting a feature, no matter how perfunctory, this would be it.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, obviously, it's first impressions of the patch, starting with dungeons and the like! Feel free to leave your own impressions in the comments below, but do be mindful of spoilers.