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.
Have I really not talked about the dungeons of Stormblood
yet? That’s unexpected. Usually I would have mentioned them by now, I talk about these things a lot. Yet here we are and I haven’t really given a deep look at any of the dungeons through the leveling experience up to the top. It is, frankly, a shocking realization, and it’s all the worse that I spent a lot of time thinking (and working on) columns on more esoteric elements of Final Fantasy XIV
before remembering this obvious one.
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?
I’ve been gathering, crafting, and fighting my way up in Final Fantasy XIV
in preparation for 4.1. Not that I haven’t been enjoying the game on its own, of course, but it seemed likely that 4.1 would bring a new set of beast tribe quests, more stuff to nab from the 24-person run, plenty of new main scenario lore… you get the idea. It seemed like the sort of thing I’d want to be as prepared for as possible, in other words. And here it comes in just about a month! That’ll be nice.
Of course, the lengthy anniversary broadcast didn’t reveal everything we’re going to be hearing about for the patch; it was more of a tease than a full rundown. But we can derive a lot from that tease alone, so let’s talk about what we’ve heard so far for patch 4.1. We’ll know more around the middle of the month, but we’re here now.
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 first time, it was all about the jobs everyone thinks are garbage now. The second time, it was all about the jobs everyone thinks are great now. And this time… well, it’s about the Final Fantasy XIV
jobs no one seems to think about much at all. Or they’re in the middle of simultaneously called spectacular and awful so that it all averages out into the middle. In other words, these are the jobs that tend to escape the notice of players.
That makes these jobs a little harder to talk about, because they’re not in the midst of any sort of perception shift. In at least one case, we have jobs that have basically just maintained their position in the game’s overall makeup across expansions, yet they haven’t seemed to change enough for people to really notice what they’re doing now. Are they good? Bad? Neutral? What’s going on with these jobs? Let’s talk about it.
Last time around, we looked at the jobs everyone thinks is deep in the loser category in Final Fantasy XIV
. Some of them are really in a bad place, some of them just seem to be in a bad place due to perception, and some sort of have both going on at the same time. But now it’s high time for us to look at the other side of the coin, the jobs that everyone thinks are just doing great
The funny thing is that in this case, I feel there are fewer jobs where the reality is that the job isn’t that good but just gets perceived that way; it’s more a case where some of them are being seen as outright overpowered when they’re really in a pretty good spot. But enough of the hand-wringing; let’s move on to the jobs that everyone sees as being the absolute winners of the expansion thus far, and examine whether they’re really so great.
It took me a very long time to cap out everything in Final Fantasy XIV
was current. Until the moogle questline was introduced, my crafting jobs languished pretty badly. I could have gotten more materials and worked on them, but some of that required leather, and since my options were farming that myself or sending out retainers on ventures… well, that meant leveling Warrior, I didn’t want to bother, it didn’t happen. It took a long
By contrast, right now with Stormblood, I’m already halfway done with the leveling of combat jobs. My overall goal of leveling everything to 70 plus all of my alts should be done by mid-November. I know that later today, I’m going to be getting at least two more levels, maybe more, and I’m well on my way to my goals. And I’m not bored or putting in the time, I’m excited.
I’ve seen this sentiment going around from other people, too. There’s a general sense that leveling and just playing is much more fun with Stormblood. So what’s the difference? Why is it that now leveling up seems like less of a chore, when the usual methods of leveling quickly (FATE trains) have basically dried up to nothing?
The biggest problem with jobs in Final Fantasy XIV
isn’t always mechanics. Sometimes it’s a matter of perception. With 15 jobs to play in combat roles, some
of them are bound to be seen as worse than others… and it’s really
easy to see some of them as worse when they’ve actually been brought closer to the middle rather than being horribly undertuned.
I cautioned extensively against people making balance predictions based on early preview mechanics before, and in the case of the jobs most frequently cried about as being dead, that turned out to be right on the money. (Surprise, White Mage isn’t on this list!) Now that we’ve actually been playing the expansion for over a month and have Savage information to look at, we can make a more comprehensive picture of which jobs are seen by the community as being good, which ones are bad, and which ones… just sort of are still there.
But let’s start with the losers. Because that makes a fun headline. Who’s on the downward path, and are they actually bad/worse, or just not as good as before?
One of the bright sides of having so many alts (specifically, six of them) in Final Fantasy XIV
is that I’m getting a picture of things that would otherwise remain largely invisible. It’s easy to miss certain issues on a character who has been playing since 1.0, simply because… well, at that point you have
things. You don’t need to ask certain questions, because those questions have been answered, those problems solved, those bits of content unlocked.
Having characters going through fresh allows me to ask questions from the perspective of someone going through for the first time. And the result is a game that is actually astonishingly well-assembled and relevant at all levels. Heck, the changes to 50/60 roulette and tomestones alone make for a set of relevant dungeons that could easily be consigned to history; I appreciate that immensely.
But having said all of that, I can’t help but notice that there are issues the game is going to have to deal with, probably sooner rather than later. This expansion? Likely not. Next expansion? By that point, definitely. So let’s talk about the problems that aren’t currently there… but totally will be.
It’s pretty clear that the Final Fantasy XIV
team (and the localization team specifically) are pretty huge fans of Hamilton, to the point that I’m surprised that the Emperor didn’t specifically burst into a song from the musical
in the ending sequence. Especially because it’s… kind of a relevant question at this point, once you’ve seen the end of the MSQ.
So what does come next?
Obviously, this column will feature spoilers, so consider yourself fairly tagged. But I think this is a relevant question to ask because this expansion is, in its own way, a very different animal from its two predecessors right out of the gate. The relaunch ended its story in a place so open that it could really go wherever without a problem, while Heavensward ended the 3.0 MSQ with obvious points for continuation. (It helped that the obvious thrust of the expansion took a sharp left turn around level 55.) In the case of Stormblood, though…
Yes, I’m avoiding saying more before the cut. Spoilers down below, people.
A reader recently sent in a letter asking Justin to explain why he (Justin) had never really connected with Final Fantasy XIV despite giving the game the ol’ college try. I can’t answer that question, obviously; I’m not Justin and don’t presume to know how his mind works, and given his pathological hatred of elves, I’m not sure I’d want to. But I can point out some of the little things that make me fall in love with the game all over again on a regular basis, something that’s hitting me hard as Stormblood ups the bar significantly from the level established in the game so far.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of the game, and I have been for years. But there are a lot of reasons for that, and some of them are just reasons like these. Every time I duck back into the game (on a daily basis, yes), I notice something I missed before, and half of the time it makes me smile. So let’s look at the little things that make me adore this game.
We’ve certainly remarked several times on Massively OP how much like an MMO Master X Master is, even though it firmly checks the “MOBA” box on its census form. With so much similarity and bleedover between the gameplay genres, is there something that MMOs can learn from this title?
Occasional Hero seems to think so and has pulled out three lessons from his experience, including altaholic pride: “As someone who loves playing an army of alts rather than a single character, I really like the idea of a game with a whole bunch of characters that I can switch between as I feel like it. It’s one of the reasons why I love Marvel Heroes so much, despite the fact that the gameplay revolves around doing the same content over and over. And the reason why playing a bunch of different characters/classes is fun in a game like Marvel Heroes or Master X Master is that they each have a unique gimmick.”
Join us for more interesting MMO discussions from gaming blogs after the break, including a strange revival for EverQuest Online Adventures, a new way to experience World of Warcraft, and first steps into Secret World Legends!