Wisdom of Nym: Four years since Final Fantasy XIV’s relaunch

I find it kind of wild to think that when I wrote my last Final Fantasy XIV anniversary column, we hadn’t yet actually heard of Stormblood yet. Obviously we did hear about it a couple of months later and it’s dominated the discussion cycle since then, but we were still just speculating about the game’s second expansion when we hit the three-year mark. Now it’s here and we’re all looking to its first major patch. So by most metrics anyone would care to use, things are going well.

What was once shocking or surprising has now become mundane, and what was unexpected is now the most expected thing in the world. Another expansion is going to come out in a little under two years, we’re going to get more reliably paced patches, the game is going to continue on as it has to this point. Is there nothing interesting to say about all of that?

Of course there is.

The year that was

We fought and we won, for a time.Even though Stormblood only came out in June, we’ve been waiting for it since October, and arguably a little earlier than even that. The result is that the last two patches were less about “how cool is what’s happening right now” and more about “how cool is what happens next going to be,” which puts a bit of a damper on the experience. The 3.5 series in particular felt like endless buildup for a big payoff that never quite happened, and so while the 3.3 conclusion was a solid wrapup, we spent a bit of time wandering with less direction story-wise.

Tragic? Arguably not; it set things up and avoided the major meandering problems of the 2.x patch quests, so I can’t find it in my heart to complain too much. But gosh, I really didn’t much care about what happened with the Warriors of Darkness, and it was rough going making the Far Edge of Fate feel moving instead of tedious. We were awaiting a big reveal, and instead we got rather mundane progression. Good for managing expectations and ensuring that we don’t expect a stunning reveal with every pre-expansion story bit, but still a bit perfunctory along the way.

Stormblood itself, though, covers a multitude of sins. It’s a whole new expansion of content, and to my surprise, it actually does journeyman service toward correcting a large chunk of what Heavensward did wrong. That’s not a tremendously long list, but it’s clear that many of the bits I mentioned as problematic last year were actually examined and addressed. We have a three-dungeon Expert rotation again, we’ve got crafting and gathering classes with more refined and enjoyable systems, we have an expansion that feels new and fresh in ways that Heavensward didn’t while holding itself to the same high standard.

It also, ultimately, tells a pretty firm story about what we should expect for future major system changes and unlikely they are outside of expansions. Which is good to know, if a bit on the slower side.

While the last year or so has been a bit quieter and a bit more about managing expectations, the payoff for all of that is, well, payoff. So I can’t find myself too upset about the former when the latter is the end result.

There is another shore, you know, across the far side.

What happens next

Everyone has pegged the game’s next major patch as happening in early October, and we’ve got a live letter coming up very soon that’s likely to provide confirmation of exactly that. Then we’ll have 4.2 in late January, we’ll see 4.3 in May, and we’ll be looking forward to 4.4 very soon while speculating about the third expansion around this time next year. That’s what we all see coming, right? Right.

A bunch of stuff is slated to arrive with 4.1, too; we’ve got another new dungeon coming, more story after the wide-open field of the expansion’s ending, the Return to Ivalice alliance raid, and doubtlessly some other secret things we don’t know about yet. (I hope new egi glamour, too.) Also, Shirogane housing should be opening some time around then, so we can all look forward to the awkwardness of that rush. (It won’t be fun.) Plenty of stuff to keep us occupied through the end of the year, in short.

The two after that will be, well, what we’re expecting. More Omega, new gear sets, new lore, new story, and so forth. There will be new things to do and new ways to do old things (that raid roulette, for example), and we’re going to do most of them because the rewards are generally pretty well tuned.

Making the next year work

Brave new vistas await.While I’ve usually opined that there’s something unique about making a game work this well for this long, the fact of the matter is that FFXIV is now at the point where its behavior is expected. No one is surprised when it continues to roll out steady updates that work well and have a nice assortment of content. It’s expected.

As always, the biggest challenge for the game becomes threading the needle, keeping what works consistent while also avoiding the stagnation of doing the same thing for all eternity. Heavensward introduced some new content wrinkles with exploration missions, map dungeons, the Deep Dungeon, and two different raid difficulties; we should be getting exploration missions soon, and the other two have already carried forward, so now it’s a question of when we’re getting more Deep Dungeon and what other new stuff we’ll be exploring.

We’re also hitting a dangerous critical mass, in a way, with the sheer amount of content available in the high end obviating the low end. The fact that we have level and story skip potions can be a bit worrisome, but not for the usually quoted reasons of “oh, people might not know how to play.” It’s a memory of how other games consider the current expansion relevant and everything else secondary, resulting in the older content being a complete wasteland.

So perhaps the best thing to focus on for this year as we keep moving forward is to give us reasons to look back as well. On a whole, the game is generally very good about it with only slight missteps, but now that you can literally hop past all of the base game (and the new jobs encourage that) it can be easier to lose sight of the past. We can only hope that this isn’t a constant trend but another option, that people still have just as much reason to explore the sub-50 game as we do to explore the newer areas.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. As an aside, I’d like to note how grand it is to have been writing about this game straight from its initial launch, through the relaunch, and through all of the subsequent expansions; I always get nostalgic around this point about the simple fun of having seen everything grow, change, expand, and improve. Thank you for four marvelous years since the relaunch; I’ll be back next week to talk about what we’ve got coming with the next major patch for the game.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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7 Comments on "Wisdom of Nym: Four years since Final Fantasy XIV’s relaunch"

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Carebear

There was a hint by Yoshi that in 4.1 items will stack to 999. If that is true then is the biggest thing in 4.1!

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Jeff

Stopped playing shortly after Heavensword came out. But recently decided to dive back in. Wish I hadn’t purchased the heavensword expansion when it came out though as I didn’t really play much of it and now it looks like the latest expansion includes it. Oh well. The latest one will probably have some sort of sale before I am ready for it.

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Mr Poolaty

4 years and still don’t hold me like FFXI did..
Only graphically does this hold a candle to FFXI
The over the top QoL is nice but it shouldn’t be a handheld roller coaster…
Don’t rush to grind anything because the amount needed will be halved in 6 months.

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Chris Moss

I still think about FFXI, almost every day. I started that game back in 2004…. It’s like a drug I wish I could start over all over again

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Alexander Dragonfang

The content graveyard and half baked ideas have piled up quite extraordinarely during these 4 years. Too much has been done to “bring new playres” but very little has been done for older subscribers.

During its first “celebration” i was mostly positive about the future. Heavensward made me doubt, and now entering SB, i only see the wrongs of this game getting deeper and deeper and a design philosophy that fails to see the shortcomings of the game.

The game still restricts your gametime, still ask for enourmous ammounts of time to achieve anything, still punishes your progression in one part of the game if you dedicate your time to another, still makes all your progress meaningless, powercreep is all over the place.

Not to mention the terrible storyboard choices that have been made, the decision to give us othard now instead of waiting for a future expansion, definetly chewing more than they can swallow, made both parts of the story feel incomplete, unapealling, rushed. Same goes for the characters, main postergirl is nothing more than to a point i belive they finally managed to make a character able to beat Lightning in that department and with less character growth than Hope. And when your characters are beating XIII ones at being bad characters, you really need to start reconsidering stuff.

Too many open ends still remaining, the evil guys come and go without relevance, we just solve everything through Deus “fuck you thats why” Machina, and i don’t see how patches are going to solve this. SE really had a chance here, a theme, war and revolution, and instead of focusing they decided to spread too much and try to do a bit of everything, resulting in jarring plot cuts from one location to another without much connection and making everything feel far less urgent than it should, the main problem was Othard, we should have just went to Ala Mhigo.

Anyway, i don’t see a bright future ahead unless they really steer the wheel and start taking feedback into account. And that means more than reddit/main forums levels of QoL borderline “weeb” suggestions. Something needs to be done about the powercreep, the content graveyard, the raids which have been reduced to mere trials by now and the general writing of the game filled with uncalled for cliffhangers that are too forced (that leave no one hanging, lets be honest, they pull it only ONCE during 2.55 and never again) and the constant introduction and then dispatch of enemies. Is almost as they don’t know what characters they have and they roll dices to pick who is the next bad guy and good guy.

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rocketskates69

You said ARR would fail. Then you said HW would fail. Now SB?

Doomsayers.

This game has done nothing but get better and better.

Yeah, I seen your type. You skip all story and give us your shit opinion on it.

You’re one of those people that sub for a month or two and quit for 90% of the time till the next xpac or raid.

Content graveyard in a game that has only one major complaint, TOO MUCH STORY. TOO MANY QUESTS. Hmmmm.

It’s only a content graveyard because your narrow minded and refuse to see all the content.

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Alexander Dragonfang

I just said i had a positive outlook during ARR and a more reserved one during HW? Go ahead. I read/watch all the story, in fact im very deep into lore too.

Its a content graveyard because: Look at previous raids, look at the diadem, look at verminion (and gold saucer in general), look at older PvP modes, look at leves (which im probably one of the few players still using COMBAT leves consistently to get achievements), look at older lv50/60 dungeons, aquopolis now. Look at the piles of gear being discarded/put in retainers since its become irrelevant.

The only reason PotD has not became a graveyard is thanks to people still leveling classes (RDM and SAM) through it mostly. But wait for the SB alternative and see it become empty.

And thats the problem, instead of supporting the features they add, they just add them and then drop them, and the only time they came back to “revitalize” a feature, was with the Diadem, and they did the cheapest possible thing they could… FATE grinding.

Is a content graveyard not for the lack of content, is because its content is dead.

wpDiscuz