Well, a system that was actually ready to account for the vast influx of people who wanted to take part in the minigames would have been a good idea, but let’s not get crazy, hmm?
Thematically, the Gold Saucer comes at a highly inappropriate time, since Eorzea is kind of tearing itself apart at the seams while people gamble ceaselessly. But it’s also something that’s both fun and almost infinitely expandable, a feature that will fit well into the game after the initial rush has worn off. So let’s take a look at the Saucer, the many games therein, and how everything shakes down on the average.
The biggest disappointment I have about this game is that you can’t play people in dungeons, which is a shame. It’s the perfect thing to do while one player is AFK! But then, it also works just as well waiting for a queue or a Hunt or whatever. I suppose that letting people sling cards in the middle of Wanderer’s Palace would have been a wee bit jarring, after all.
Mechanically, the game has remained almost untouched from its Final Fantasy VIII incarnation except to swap in new rules that I find both easier to understand and far less obnoxious. Plus/Same are the ones that consistently give people trouble, but they’re honestly not that bad when you take into account the description and the intent behind them.
While there are a fair number of cards available as drops, most of those are available through other means or through content that isn’t particularly difficult to clear in the first place. It’s a nice addition in the sense of being something to fritter away your time with while waiting for other content; I wouldn’t say I find it compelling enough to play completely on its own, but it’s not unpleasant, and the process for earning cards is diverse enough not to be irritating. And hey, if you always wanted to be a card shark…
Before the patch, everyone seemed excited for Triple Triad and completely unaware of the existence of chocobo racing. I can understand the former a little better now, but boy, racing is a whole other ball of wax. And it’d be ideal… if not for the fact that the only place to queue for a race is in the Saucer itself.
I don’t need to tell anyone who’s been playing the game lately that the Saucer has some serious congestion problems lately, do I? It seems to have gotten mildly better, but that’s not the same as “good,” and I can’t imagine that everyone who wants to send birds a-racin’ being crammed into the same area helps matters in the least.
The actual races themselves are a blast, playing out as what amounts to Mario Kart with leveling birds. It’s also very clearly built to be extensible. Like other parts of the games, it uses existing maps in creative ways, and there’s nothing preventing us from getting new maps in future updates or picking up other chocobo breeding options. I consider that very much to its credit.
If we could just queue up from anywhere, I would argue that this is the best part of the Saucer. As it stands, it’s very good, but it misses that crucial benchmark.
GATEs and other attractions
The GATEs are easy to clear for substantial rewards; I don’t know what cutoff point you would hit with Triple Triad or consistent racing results before they become a worse use of your time. Their irregular spawn rate is solid, though, since they work well as something else to do while at the Saucer rather than something altogether farm-worthy. Making the NPCs a bit easier to see during the dance-off would be nice.
The minigames are… cute, but not too engaging. I appreciate the fact that you can grab a few MGP with Cuff-a-Cur, but they’re essentially time-wasters in an area that is all about time-wasters. With their rewards being so low, I admit I don’t see the point except for continuity; upping their rewards would be a bad idea since they’re so low-impact.
Last but not least are the Cactpot drawings, and it is here that I would hasten to remind everyone that the “consolation prize” for the big drawing is based on participation. If you want more change for a losing set of numbers, get more people to play. They’re both good “passive” ways to enlarge your bankroll a little, hardly the central attractions but worth swinging over to pick up whilst you’re racing or being a card shark.
Rewards are a bit on the pricey end if you look at them as something to do this patch, but they’re quite reasonable if you take the approach that this is an infusion of content for the next several months and well into Heavensward. I know that I’m not going to be picking up the Gambler’s Coat tomorrow, bu I also know that I have plenty of time to do so, and it’s not something that’s going to take me a huge amount of time every day to nab. There’s an off chance that you’d win the big drawing, too.
In terms of actual minigames, the Saucer feels a bit empty right now. There are only two worth discussing, Triple Triad and Chocobo Racing. That having been said, Triad is a great way to spend a little time here and there; the races are as insanely detailed as you would expect a system in this game to be. It’s not a major piece of content, and it won’t invigorate you if you’re beyond bored with the game as a whole, but it does make for a welcome inclusion and should help you wile away the hours.
Besides, nothing that allows you to pick up a fat chocobo minion can be easily disregarded.
Feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, same as it ever was. Next week, let’s talk about what was learned at PAX as I head back down from that event and after we’ve seen several writeups about that. Also from me. It’s going to be a busy week.