I realize that by this point most of the front vanguard has already gotten through these dungeons, so this week’s column won’t be just about strategies but about the dungeons as a whole as well as strategy for those who haven’t been through the dungeons yet. Also note that the names of some bosses have been redacted, and I’ll be making an effort to avoid spoilers as much as possible; that being said, there will be some minor spoilers here and there regarding locations. Fairly warned be ye.
wisdom of nym
Playing Final Fantasy XIV over the past few days has been a weird experience for me. On the one hand, there’s so much more cool stuff to do, and that’s awesome. On the other hand, there’s far more stuff than I can get a realistic picture of in a short timeframe, and this isn’t like Ninja, for which I had the time, will, and (most importantly) connection stability to just log in and grind like a maniac.
I have and will have a lot to say about the expansion over the next few weeks, but right now I want to just talk about the early access period. I think a lot of things have been done really right with this particular launch so far, but there are also some missteps in the mix. There’s also some stuff that’s really annoying, and it becomes hard to separate “annoying but inevitable” from “just plain wrong” at certain magnitudes.
Sorry, got a bit overwhelmed there. The point is that it’ll be here, and I won’t be the only one overwhelmed; there is a lot of stuff going on. While you may not be able to jump on and start playing the early access from the moment it becomes available on the 19th, you will at least be in the final stretch during your workday. And if you’re some kind of jerk who works at home, so much the better.
How do you avoid being overwhelmed? That’s what I’m here to help you with. There’s a whole lot going on to prepare for, and I am here to do my best to help you through this intensely exciting time, starting with the advice that no one wants to hear but is completely vital.
The point is that we’re getting our expansion, and it’s going to start soon. And that leads the obvious question of what, exactly, we’re going to be seeing in terms of the story. We know how 2.55 ended, we’ve seen the trailers, and now we’re walking into the unknown. So let’s get into spoiler-happy speculation territory, so I can either be proud of myself or laugh at how completely stupid I was in a few months. Yes, I allow for both with a smile on my face. And if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, I recommend stepping away now with a smile on your face; fairly warned be ye.
On some level, this is a bit of a complaint because we have not gotten a straightforward listing of skills and their effects along the lines of what Ninja got, and I don’t know why the Final Fantasy XIV developers would think that we don’t want one. But on another level, even a full and precise listing might not actually fix things. There’s going to be ambiguity no matter what because let’s be real here: I know what an array of the new skills are supposed to be, but I don’t know them. I don’t know how they play. And at the end of the day, a listing of skills is just a pile of data. Important data, sure, but not a prime source of figuring out how I’ll be playing my characters when the expansion launches.
Expansion mode is that state where your character is as ready for the expansion as you care to be. Sure, you could run more dungeons in theory, clear another piece of content or two… but what’s the point? You’re not trying to catch up. You can get into Ishgard. You are, for all intents and purposes, done with the majority of the game as it stands now. That means that by definition you are not the person that the last incremental patch is designed to address.
We’ve got less than a month now until Heavensward early access starts. So just as I talked about the game’s dungeons shortly after launch, today I want to talk about all of the options at level 50. These are rated purely based on the fun of the dungeon, not rewards, and in all cases I’m talking about the factory-fresh version rather than, say, the downtunings that Pharos Sirius and Amdapor Keep have seen. So let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
All of this talk and thought about new jobs naturally raises the question of what people should be leveling going into the new expansion, though, and that’s a tough question to ask. It’s almost impossible to know right now what the cross-class landscape is going to look like, if indeed it looks like anything. With three new jobs and enough levels for another cross-class action, it increasingly looks to me as if that cross-class landscape has eroded into nothing.
I can also assume that you’ve probably grabbed the Heavensward benchmark by now and played with it, which I certainly have (Extremely High on Maximum, for the record). So let’s talk about that marvelous program with its character creation, and let’s also discuss a bit of that lore we got on the official site not too long ago. It’s all fascinating stuff.
I don’t really agree with the official decision to gate people out of Ishgard if they haven’t cleared the story up through the 2.55 patch, but it was made and I didn’t get a vote there, so it’s kind of academic. The point is that if you’re hitting that level for the first time, you have five major patches of stuff between you and getting to Ishgard in June. So how do you make sure that your fresh character can get all the way up there? Is it even possible?
The answer is most definitely yes, but you’re going to have to put some time in. Most of the gating you’ll have to deal with, though, is a matter of getting the gear you need to take on the later challenges that the story throws at you.
That having been said, it’s past time to talk about what happened during the last patch. I made some predictions, and several of them were wrong, but what we were left with is downright fascinating. It gives us a framework for what comes next in the story while also dramatically changing the landscape of the game, and while there are some people with a great deal of irritation at the story’s twists and turns, I don’t share that dissension. I am psyched.
Again, spoilers past here. You have been warned.
We didn’t learn a lot of details. But the shape of what’s coming is much clearer now than it was before the live letter, and we have a baseline for what to expect in the game when we step through the Gates of Judgement in June. There were some interesting revelations and a few that I think rather flew under the radar, so let’s start looking at where we’re going from here and what we can reasonably expect.