Thursday was a long day. So was Friday, but in very different ways.
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.
The long wait is almost over. Heavensward
early access starts up on June 19th, and it comes with a lot
of changes. Starting with, you know, all those new areas and stories and quests and abilities and…
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.
At the time you read this, you’ll have about 11 days left until early access starts up for Final Fantasy XIV
‘s first expansion — possibly more depending on how the servers manage to hold up under the load. I wouldn’t imagine it’s going to be as bad as things were at launch, as those issues seem to have largely been addressed, but there’s always the chance…
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.
If you’ve been paying attention the last few weeks, you’ve doubtlessly heard a fair bit about the new skills that the various classes and jobs will be getting when Heavensward
launches. You also probably don’t know half as much about them as you might think.
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.
There’s a phrase that gets passed around my house frequently these days, and the phrase is “expansion mode.” I have two characters locked into it in Final Fantasy XIV
. My wife has one. Our constant companion has one. I suspect many of my readers have at least one, possibly more. This is a bit upsetting because you get to that point only if you’re a pretty big fan of Final Fantasy XIV
, but it sort of shuts down your prospect of playing the game for a while.
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.
It’s crazy to realize that Final Fantasy XIV
has added more dungeons via patches in a year and a half than World of Warcraft
has added via patches in the game’s decade of existence. Sure, a lot of those are hard modes, but considering that every hard mode completely redoes enemies, maps, and such, I’d say they’re functionally new dungeons all around. But which one is the best and which one is the worst?
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.
This past week, I did what I needed to do before Final Fantasy XIV’s
launches: I finished the main scenario questline on my second character. Considering that she needed to be Dark Knight more or less a month ago, I think this was very necessary and am glad to be done with it. For those of you wondering about the future, my Au Ra will be leveling and going through stuff after
the expansion launch, in no small part to see how viable things are when trying to clear that big gap between level 50 and the first steps into Ishgard… but that’s another discussion altogether.
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.
Maybe it’s just me, but with the steady drip of information that we’ve gotten about Final Fantasy XIV
‘s first expansion, I find myself sometimes having trouble keeping track of what has and hasn’t been discussed to death. There’s a lot of stuff! And it’s almost universally interesting stuff, at that. At least, it is if you’re almost pathological in your fixation on this game’s lore and such, which I feel I can safely assume you are
if you’re reading this column on a weekly basis.
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.
Let’s assume you’ve just recently gotten to the level cap in Final Fantasy XIV
and you’re ready to start in on catching up to the main scenario before Heavensward
drops. Where do you start?
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.
Let me warn you upfront: If you have not yet finished the last major story patch of Final Fantasy XIV
and you want to make sure not to see or read any spoilers, please, do not
read this article yet. There will
be spoilers. Spoilers will flow fast and furious. Your desire to not be spoiled is both entirely understandable and one that I wish to honor as much as possible, so please, turn back now. I won’t be offended.
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.
I honestly hadn’t expected to learn quite this much about Heavensward
this soon. I don’t know why
I hadn’t expected this, to be fair; we’ve got 67 days as of this writing before the expansion launches, so now is definitely the time to start learning all of these important details of Final Fantasy XIV
‘s first expansion. But somehow I suppose I expected the development team to be close-lipped for a little bit longer, to really build up the mystery, to keep it vague until there was literally no other option or something.
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.
It happened, just as expected. A day after I posted a lengthy column discussing Final Fantasy XIV
‘s last big pre-expansion patch, that patch dropped, and wouldn’t you know it, nearly every single thing that I predicted turned out to be largely wrong, mostly because of carefully constructed misdirection, which is a trick I respect immensely. It made for a more and less
surprising finale, that’s for sure, even as someone who was doing the whole thing on the day that the content game out.
Yes, all of it, on the same day. I was just that tedious.
Obviously, there are several people here who have not gotten through the story just yet, due in no small part to the trial before the conclusion. Since it’s been less than a week, I want to minimize or wholly avoid spoilers in this piece, so I won’t be discussing the details of the story (I’ve got an entire spoiler-heavy podcast to do that), but I will be discussing the Steps of Faith. And even if you don’t like being told the mechanics of something beforehand… well, you should read it anyway.
There is a crack in the foundation of Eorzea’s defenders, and it’s been there for a while. For all of Final Fantasy XIV’s
operation, we’ve been able to ignore that fact, to pretend that it isn’t there or that we’re not really facing something horrid just over the horizon. We’ve faced down one threat after another and convinced ourselves that the land is at least relatively safe. But we’ve never faced a threat like the one about to hit Ishgard.
We spent so much time defending against other threats that the Dravanian Horde never got its due.
The last part of the 2.5 cycle goes live tomorrow, and with it comes the conclusion to the entirety of the relaunch storyline. We’ve already made some pretty big strides, but it’s time to look at what we know will come next, what we believe will happen, and who will be left standing after everything goes cross-eyed. Fair warning: There may be spoilers ahead, so tread carefully if you’re afraid of those.