Last week, we covered the mechanical issues for about half
of the Final Fantasy XIV
job lineup. This week, we’re covering the other half. That seems rather straightforward, doesn’t it? There we go.
The thing about mechanical issues is that they’re sometimes hard to identify; they’re not as simple as weaknesses or balance issues. A job not dealing nearly as much damage as other jobs in the same role is a balance issue, while a job having to deal with mechanics differently is a weakness (like how Summoners have fewer options to quickly dispatch adds, or melee jobs have to deal with avoiding AoEs differently). Mechanical issues are specifically places where the mechanics of the job are the issue, leading to gameplay that’s disconnected or irrelevant.
But people seem to have gotten the idea from the first installment last week. So with all of these facts in mind, let’s start talking about the other half of the game’s jobs, not first on deck but no less important.
A lot of times, I spread out my time with Final Fantasy XIV
patches, unlocking and finishing up content at a reasonably sedate pace. For whatever reason, that wasn’t my approach this time around. I cleared through all of the day one content that I had any designs on doing right away, which means I’ve already gotten through the end of Sigmascape, the Jade Stoa, and both of the dungeons in short order. It went faster than I expected, truth be told.
There’s always a lot to talk about with these patches and a lot of opinions, which is always fun. But one of the interesting points that I found comes up when I consider how the game divided up its storylines for this patch. I had misunderstood what the patch notes noted about Hells’ Lid as a dungeon and where it fit into the MSQ, and the change in this case makes me very happy for both storytelling here and in the future.
The storyline for Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
was not just about dragoons fighting dragons in snow. But it was
prominently about the great wyrm Nidhogg, the vengeance-driven Estinien, and the way that their conflict played out across snowy Coerthas. So it seems only appropriate that their rivalry has been given tribute in the form of an enormous snow sculpture
as part of the Sapporo Snow Festival
Yes, it’s an enormous wall-sized mural of Estinien and Nidhogg made out of snow, complete with projection lighting after dark to use the sculpture as part of a storytelling exercise. It’s a pretty cool and appropriate tribute to the previous expansion’s storyline, and you can get a taste of what it looks like from the photos below. (We are going to go ahead and assume that you cannot fly out to Japan just to see this. If you can, of course, let us know how it goes.)
My initial plan for this particular column was just to write “woo patch notes woo” but I was informed that this plan had certain problems. For one thing, usually my weekly columns about Final Fantasy XIV
clock in around 1200-1400 words; this one was four. Also, none of them were actually commentary or analysis of any sort. Thus appropriately defeated (for now), I suppose I’ll spend this column actually talking about the patch notes while we all wait for the servers to come back online tomorrow.
Some of what’s on display is actually not all that surprising; we could have ascertained long ago that the dungeon would be tied to the MSQ, for example, because that’s exactly what has happened with every single brand-new dungeon added to the game at the level cap since patch 3.2 (and it was surprising when that wasn’t the case in 3.1). But there are still some surprises in the mix, and some things that are well worth considering as we wait for servers to come back up once more.
We still don’t technically know when Final Fantasy XIV
is launching its next patch, but we can also figure it out. It was always slated for late January, and there’s another live letter this Friday, which means that the patch is almost certainly arriving on the 30th. Considering that we always get patch notes before the actual release, I’d say it would be a bit silly to have a whole preview event the day before patch notes come out, and it wouldn’t really mesh with prior experience.
In other words, we’ve got a little more time before the patch, and there’s more to be seen about what it actually entails, so let’s talk about both our known unknowns and our unknown unknowns as well as breaking down some other bits that we haven’t heard about yet which are conspicuous for their absence. It’s worth paying attention to some of this; that’s my point here.
was the current expansion for Final Fantasy XIV
, we were introduced to the idea that you could meld materia onto valuable endgame gear. It was a big shift, made only slightly smaller by the fact that pretty much every single job required the exact same melds without the slightest amount of consideration. You didn’t really need to think about it except for a handful of cases, and even in places where melding something else might be useful (like melding just enough Piety for Black Mage to get another cast off), you weren’t going to be suffering if you just ignored it.
This has changed somewhat in Stormblood. At this point, melding is a simple game, but it’s more complex than it gets credit for, while also perhaps being a bit simpler than it needs to be. Or perhaps it’s just as complex as it needs to be. It’s a multi-faceted issue, in other words, and one that deserves more nods than it gets.
As we start down the road through 2018, I feel it’s important and appropriate to look at the content in Final Fantasy XIV
that could actually use an update and/or some way to become more relevant in the current environment once more. Surprisingly, that list is not
Perhaps it shouldn’t surprising at that; one of the things that the game has consistently done is find ways to make sure that important content this week is still important next week, even as you continually have new content to experience. The addition of the Alliance Roulette seems tailor-made to ensure that one of the older bits of content is still very desirable to players, and it hits that mark nicely with a big chunk of experience and a bounty of tomestones.
But there is still some content that’s languishing somewhat. Not just stuff like exploration missions and Palace of the Dead, either (those both need new installments, but traditional roulettes aren’t even viable there). So let’s look at where we can get some updates, expansion, and improvement to some content that’s just not relevant any more.
It’s hard to say whether 2017 was a good year for Final Fantasy XIV
Sure, on one level it seems obvious. The game launched its second expansion, it continues to drive sales, every financial report shows it doing well, players are happy, content is delivered on a swift and regular schedule, everything seems to be going fine. Yes, the game had a good 2017, it has a pretty good year on each outing. What more needs to be said?
Well, a few things. Because this year also brought out some pretty nasty bits of underlying issues that the game has long had bubbling under the surface, problems that we’ve all known were there but sort of ignored for a long time for various reasons. We’ve got another patch coming around, but the year has shown that as solid and impressive as the title may be (and it is), there’s still room to improve.
Here’s how this column got written. Last week, I was talking about new potential jobs based on weapons rather than on jobs that have existed in Final Fantasy
in the past. The very first comment on the article was this wonderful bit by NobleEinherjar
, which was a bipartite comment that started off by discussing the sharp limitations of the Armoury System and the whole “weapon = class” system in Final Fantasy XIV
. It was a nice digression that I thought deserved a response.
About halfway into writing that response, I realized that I was already most of the way to writing a separate column. So now we have this here.
See, there’s an interesting point to be made about the rigid nature of jobs, the limitations that they impose upon the game’s systems, and perhaps most importantly how we got here in the first place. Especially when you consider that when the game launched, you had a class without any particular restrictions on what it could equip, much less with any jobs at all.
So, what’s the ideal raiding composition for progression in Final Fantasy XIV
right now? If you started listing off Paladin, Dragoon, Ninja, Bard, Warrior… well, you get a silver star. You know the trivia answer. You get a gold star if your answer was some mixture of “there isn’t one” and “it doesn’t actually matter.” Even more bonus points if you highly that the world-first clear of Unending Coil most certainly did not make use of that meta.
There are a lot of discussions swirling around pretty much everywhere about how one aspect of another of the game’s balance is off, and the “raid meta” is frequently brought up as an example of why the balance is overall kind of messy. For example, if you look at the meta composition and replace your Machinist with a Red Mage, you’re losing some raid damage! It’s clearly worse, and casters need something to fix it!
Except it’s not clearly worse. In fact, it’s actually fine. So let’s talk a little bit about what the meta composition is and why it doesn’t matter in the slightest, when you get right down to it.
Crafting is really important in Final Fantasy XIV
. That much can’t be denied; the game places so much emphasis on the options available to crafters, adding in extensive new recipes and options for crafters, new content that can only be accessed by crafters (often with important lore and setting details), and a plethora of gear available just for dedicated crafters and gatherers. It’s indisputably not quite as supported as combat, but it is clearly super important.
At the same time, I think there’s some issues that are still running through the game’s crafting systems at a fundamental level, issues that are easy to overlook for a bit but jump to prominence when you take a closer look. Stormblood has been kind to crafters and gatherers on a whole, but it’s inherited some issues from the game’s initial rollout of systems during Heavensward, and some of these things could use a careful examination sooner rather than later.
Let me make an agreement with you, dear readers: this column about Final Fantasy XIV
will not talk about the housing situation in Shirogane at all. If you’re wondering “why wouldn’t you cover that,” the answer is that I already did and you can read the whole feature on that
. (You can also read the follow-up
.) So for the remainder of this column, we’re going to talk about all of the other features of this particular patch, which seems like a better use of our time anyway.
Heck, the whole stupid housing mess was only released with this patch, it’s not like the mechanics or anything are new.
And hey, there’s some good stuff going on with this patch, along with parts that are well worth discussing for where they don’t work as well. So let’s dive right in, starting with the obvious centerpiece of every patch, the continued expansion of the game’s storyline… as perfunctory as it may feel sometimes. Some mild spoilers are possible, so be fairly warned.
Here we are, folks, staring down the barrel of the latest major patch. If you’re feeling a minor set of trepidation simply because that means it’s time to contend with Final Fantasy XIV
housing and all the racing that implies… well, I’m right there with you. But hey, however that turns out tomorrow morning, there’s new stuff to do in the actual patch, and I always do like to pick apart the patch notes when the time rolls around.
The notes are as extensive as ever, of course, so I’m going to be hitting the highlights rather than going line-by-line. The patch as a whole does feel a little bit thinner, but there are some pretty notable changes tucked in there that you either didn’t notice or did notice and might not have internalized. So let’s take a trip down patch note lane.