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.
Heavensward is an expansion for Final Fantasy XIV.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So let’s correct this now and talk about these dungeons. The level range for things was adjusted after my initial preview, and we have a similar leveling arrangement to how things were in Heavensward, but I honestly like this batch more. Part of it is familiarity, sure, but I remember feeling like the first two dungeons in Heavensward were kind of clunkers even when they were new, compared to really enjoying the heck out of everything in Stormblood. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t high points and low points, but… well, let’s just get to it, yes?