Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s Steps of Faith

The future is dragons, as is the present.
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.

Freaking dragons, man.The Steps of face reality

Steps of Faith is, honestly, probably my favorite trial yet. Like every trial, it’s an extended fight against a single opponent with everything else serving chiefly as a distraction, but the whole thing serves as far more of a setpiece than normal. The trial is based not around dodging and swapping targets but upon a changing environment and a steady war of attrition against an enemy disinclined to take you on directly.

It is also a fight that a lot of people insist upon ruining because they want to learn it simply by doing it without ever so much as glancing at a strategy — or being told the strategy by others who know it.

This is an attitude that has always bothered me, chiefly because it’s telling other people in a random group that your time is more important than theirs. Everyone else wants to just clear this, but you want to figure out how to do the fight totally on your own because that makes you a sufficiently special snowflake who figured out this complicated thing without anyone helping you out, which is… better, somehow? It’s like trying to figure out how to make a car entirely on your own without using any of the numerous extensive books published about how to make a car, discarding the hard work others did to give you important information going in.

This would be bad enough if we were talking about a more conventional trial, which frequently means that the person who wants to just learn by doing dies in seconds and leaves the rest of the party down a member. But it gets worse because the Steps of Faith is much more involved than that. You can quite easily fail at Steps of Faith within the first two minutes of the trial, but you still have to fight it out to the bitter end. Every “learning” attempt is a huge chunk of time wasted.

It’s one thing if that wasted time and those mistakes are in service of actually learning how to do things, but stumbling around blindly and hoping to understand where you need to go and what you need to do isn’t likely to give you much in the way of insight. It’s more likely to make people frustrated and bored.

Wanting to try the new content to learn it is fine. Forming a group with the explicit purpose of learning totally by doing is fine, even. But that’s something to be done with your personal group, not the people you bring together via the duty finder. The minimum you can do as a member of a group is to try not to be the reason that the group fails; that means reading strategies beforehand.

The Steps of Faith, actually mechanically

Like so many of the challenges I like in this game, the Steps of Faith is heavily focused around teamwork and asks a lot of the DPS. It also asks for flexibility in the group in general, since there are several things that need to be done and the group should be ready to switch who is doing those things at any given moment.

Tanks have the simplest job: grab the adds as they spawn and yank them under Vishap’s belly. Under the belly allows cannon to open fire on them while keeping the tanks safe from Vishap’s feet and avoiding his frontal cones. Dragging them ahead of Vishap – or worse, behind – creates far more opportunities for damage that you don’t need to take and potentially breaking the cannons early.

DPS, meanwhile, needs to man the pairs of cannon along the bridge or deal damage directly to Vishap. The cannon are placed in pairs all along the bridge, so at any given moment you’ll have two cannon firing at both the adds and Vishap. The adds aren’t worth trying to DPS down directly; just catch them in the cannonfire. Use the snare on the cannon to lay down slowing fields for Vishap as much as you can, and use the stun ability on the big dragon turtles that show up, just as in Stone Vigil Hard.

Make use of the barriers, darn it.The majority of the fight, then, follows that format: two DPS on cannon, firing at Vishap and the adds, breaking away from the cannon before Vishap destroys them, falling back to the next pair and firing again; two DPS directly on Vishap, doing their best to just keep damaging him; healers healing; tanks tanking under Vishap’s stomach. As the big guy reaches each barrier, all DPS swap back to him before rushing to the next pair of cannon.

Past the first barrier, there are also intact towers with dragon killers at the top. The dragon killer can fire at only one specific spot, but it deals a lot of damage to Vishap, so it’s important to have someone run up and activate it when Vishap is in the danger zone. The first one can just be fired as he walks by, but the second two coincide with him using his breath attack, so you need two players to click the towers to snare Vishap, then someone needs to fire the Dragon Killer. (You can have just one player clicking both towers, but someone else needs to be in position for the Killer.)

A lot of what makes the fight work is in having players willing to put their own egos down. If you have four people who know what to do, you can clear it without too much trouble. There’s just no space for trying to be the lone hero. Someone needs to get to the dragon killer, someone needs to be on the cannon, and if there is no open cannon, then you need to focus on adding to DPS on Vishap. You need to morph to what needs to be done.

It’s a great trial. It’s possibly one of my favorites, the sort of thing that I’d love to see more of going into Heavensward. But it also highlights a particular mode of thinking that makes content a great deal more difficult than it needs to be. Trying to avoid any form of information going into the content is going to make people fail more than once, get frustrated, leave, and so forth.

Again, an attempt doesn’t fail until Vishap either dies or reaches the end of the bridge. This is why it’s important to make each attempt count: Each one takes a fair bit of time, and if you screw up badly early on (by having no one on the first four cannon or only one person or having too many adds still up), you can fail right then while still having a long time left to go. Know the content you’re going into and don’t try to fake it.

Feedback, as always, is welcome below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. I didn’t get to story or the handful of other things added in this patch, but that’s probably for the best; that’s all stuff to be discussed in the next installment of this column.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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