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.
Two things are going to gate your way through the post-50 MSQ: item levels and content. The former is a bit more important only because there’s a minimum level for the highest end of content available pre-expansion; if you haven’t hit item level 90, you won’t be able to queue up for Keeper of the Lake, Steps of Faith, or the Chrysalis, all of which are necessary to clear the scenario. And no, forming a full party doesn’t change that; you still need to hit that minimum.
Fortunately, there are ways to start moving around that, starting with the fact that you can go trawling the market boards for stuff, possibly after doing some of the MSQ portions.
There are several quests in the 2.1 series that reward items like Tier IV materia, which is something you want specifically because it can sell for a lot of gil. I recommend picking up quests, checking the market boards to see which piece sells for the most on your server, then clearing the quest and selling it pronto. Odds are high to absolute that you aren’t going to miss it in the future; you aren’t going to have time or space to worry about things like Zodiac weapons at this point in the expansion.
How does all that gil help you? Search the boards for armor and weapons. High-quality level 70 crafted gear is largely out of favor at this point, and you can frequently find it for bargain-basement prices; I picked up stuff from my alt at 30-50,000 gil to boost her up a fair bit right away. It’s enough to get you a foothold in terms of gear, possibly (though not definitely) bringing you to level 70 or nearly there.
That’s important because it’s enough to survive in the first two parts of the Crystal Tower series, which you kick off by talking to the strangely-garbed man for the Legacy of Allag quest. Unlocking Labyrinth takes a fair bit of work, but you can blow through it in an afternoon; once you’ve cleared it once, you can get into Syrcus Tower after a quest that involves nothing more than a few cutscenes and smiles.
Syrcus Tower is important for two reasons. First off, it drops level 100 gear, which is supremely useful for getting your item levels up there. It also drops Sands of Time, Oil of Time, and Unidentified Allagan Tomestones. You want an Unidentified Allagan Tomestone very much; it’s your key to getting a better weapon with a whole stack of Soldiery, which is another important part of filling out your kit.
“Wait a second,” you say, “none of this has to do with the main quests yet!” Right you are, and there’s a bit of a reason for that – getting to level 90 is a bit harder when you’re starting from nothing. Your gear isn’t good enough to reliably run roulettes to get more tomestones, but in order to get better gear, you’ll find the easiest approach is, again, more tomestones. So you have to figure out a way to jump that hurdle first; picking up gear out of Syrcus Tower is very useful, especially insofar as a fairly simple run through it nets you 100 soldiery and a chance at several bits of gear. That initial gil infusion from the main scenario is helpful, but the rest of the MSQ content takes a bit longer to become relevant.
So let’s assume you’re rocking a fairly solid mix of crafted HQ 70 gear for cheap amounts of gil, including a weapon. If you don’t have a 70 weapon, you can try doing a few Garuda/Ifrit HM runs, as most groups will now be able to stomp that content even with a weak member in the mix. Your next biggest expense will be getting an Unidentified Allgan Tomestone weapon, bought with 1300 Soldiery and the aforementioned tomestone.
You could also get your Zenith weapon, which will serve you for most content but will cause you to lag behind as DPS or tank in higher-end content. It’s your call whether the cheaper weapon is offset by its lack of long-term utility; I think you can honestly skip it at this point.
You can definitely clear through all of 2.1’s content, including the King Moggle Mog fight, with a level 70 weapon. I’d even recommend taking that fight before you have a better weapon, since it can drop a level 75 weapon if you’re lucky – not much of an upgrade, but still an upgrade. Farming up the Soldiery to get something better is an ideal time to form a group and start rolling through endgame dungeons with impunity, too; everyone gets bonus soldiery for a first-time clear, so your friends will get extra stones for bringing you through current facerolls like AK and Pharos. Heck, you can often find halfway competent groups in the party finder for exactly that purpose.
Once you do have a better weapon – and there are worse things whilst catching up than chain-running Syrcus Tower for the hopes of that UAT and a Sands of Time to upgrade the weapon, since it’s 100 soldiery a shot – you’ll be in a good place. Your weapon is good enough to handle pretty much anything, and while you won’t be pulling stellar numbers if you worry about DPS, you will be able to manage.
If you’re not already at level 90 by that point, unlock and run through more of the endgame dungeons to pick up more tomestones, although you won’t be able to unlock high-level roulettes until you make your way through more of the main scenario, which you should totally do. A good rule of thumb is to always purchase the biggest upgrade first (so upgrade that level 70 ring over those level 90 pants) and always purchase the most expensive upgrade first when there’s an equal gap. Once you’ve gotten the item level you need, you should be able to clear through most of the story quests with just a little bit of work.
Fair warning: Chrysalis and Steps of Faith are likely to not be fun times, since those are both up toward currently relevant content. But you kind of saw that coming, didn’t you?
Feedback and other suggestions are welcome down in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would have loved to have talked more about the benchmark and such, but I’m going to discuss that and the lore we’ve got next week, let it accumulate a bit more. Until then, have fun in Eorzea!