Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV 4.1’s squadron dynamics, alliance roulette, and materia
Of course, if that’s exactly what you wanted from it, that’s all more than good enough. Still, while I hit most of the big points this week, I wanted to spend this week skirting around the edges a bit. So let’s dive back into the parts of the patch that are out but haven’t yet been discussed seriously, starting with the arguably biggest feature that I haven’t really touched on at all.
If you asked me if I’d like to run Halitali again, but this time in complete silence with people who needed to be told how to handle every single mechanic, I would have told you that you were full of it. And now, having actually experienced that… well, I think my initial reaction was justified. So that’s something.
I don’t really dislike the squadron missions, but one of the things I was worried about is that they wouldn’t provide much in the way of motivation to breathe new life into squadrons. It turns out that this was largely accurate; other than having your emotes, there’s not much to them. If you’re a veteran of the game, they’re dungeons you will have run countless times, and they don’t offer you much in the way of enhanced experience or anything. They’re kind of nice for cheesing a dungeon requirement for your challenge log, but that’s it.
That’s not to say that the feature is bad; far from it! As far as I can tell, this is the early version of a system that has more potential for expansion in the future. Starting here allows us to do more with squadrons in the future, and the way that it’s set up now makes sure that it doesn’t deform the higher-end game badly. There’s lots of potential to expand here; it’s just that the present version is a bit underwhelming.
You can, of course, cheese some stuff rather badly here by abusing a minor bug, but that’s both likely to be patched out and not really relevant past 60, making it a minor footnote more than anything.
In summary, the squadron dungeons are still cooler as a concept than in practice. But the improved customization is a nice step in a positive direction, and I look forward to doing more with the feature in future dungeons. It’s just a bit on the underwhelming side now, unless you’re trying hard to get your members leveled up for promotion missions.
By contrast, here’s a feature that I thought was going to need some significant rewards to make worthwhile… that got them. For a run no longer than a normal dungeon run and often significantly easier, you can get enough experience to clear a third or more of your level… or a nice chunk of tomestones. And DPS queues are not only fine, but frequently faster. It’s kind of nuts.
A few things contribute to this. For one thing, I swear that the raids themselves have been downtuned a little bit. For another, your gear sync is almost certainly putting 90% of the alliance at very high levels, which also helps. And when some of the raids in question (like Syrcus Tower) were already low on mechanical complexity, it becomes that much easier to bull rush everything.
This has rather effortlessly found its way into my daily roulette rotation, and it has made my leveling process significantly faster all around. There are limitations to it, and part of me is a bit sad that the majesty of these areas has been somewhat diminished in the process… but for players who never saw these areas at all, I think I’ll take the version that’s slightly less overwhelming instead of the one that no one ever sees.
Plus, it’s another chance on a lot of cute minions that could be rather frustrating to get when everything was relevant. I’ve never had good luck on rolling for minions.
How materia was won and where it got us
At this point, combat materia before grade IV is irrelevant. Grade IV itself isn’t perfectly easy to get, but you barely even need it on anything other than leveling gear, because you can remove it with perfect reliability. Even Grade V is quite reliable to remove; I’ve only lost one piece after a huge number of yanks, and between that and Mhachi matter I expect I’ll have enough combat materia to last me well into the next expansion and beyond. The entire dynamic was changed pretty substantially with the expansion anyway, but at this point it’s even more pronounced.
Consider that you get a free Grade VI of your choice upon completing Rabanastre. Consider also that a full set of armor will require 18 pieces for full melding. With a little bit of consistency, it’s not hard to get that set; based on the reliable extraction rate, you’ll keep most of them when upgrading to the next tier. And if you thought to prepare ahead of time and have a stock of Grade VIs lying around now, well, it just becomes silly not to use that highest tier.
This isn’t exactly a problem, but it does change the dynamics rather significantly, much like the new glamour prisms on grand companies do. A part of the economy that the game had relied upon for a long while is no longer functioning. There’s the vague possibility that we’re going to see another tier of materia introduced before the end of the expansion, but at this point materia availability has finally caught up with the space to slot materia on tome and dungeon gear.
And the rest
I find it a little odd just how much of this patch was partitioned out for the future; both the new PvP mode (and associated potential rewards) and the new run-your-face-against-a-cheese-grater challenge were pushed out a little bit, which is unusual. You might think that’s an effort to extend content a bit more, but the fact is that most of the developers seem well aware that the new challenge content is not going to be seen by the majority of players and isn’t intended to be.
That’s the downside of what I mentioned when I said that the game integrated itself rather seamlessly. On the bright side, it means that the game is really still the same game you’ve been playing since June, just with several enhancements. On the other hand, if you were eager for things like exploratory missions, deep dungeon content, or the like to really breathe in some new life… well, you’re going to be waiting until late January or early February for the next patch.
Ah, well. They can’t all be flawless.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to talk a little bit about crafting and gathering, both where it is and where the game is heading with it in the future.