Apparently, Naoki Yoshida thinks about it a fair bit, since it’s getting something of a rebirth with the contents of patch 3.1. A big deal was made of the fact that the explorable company airship islands will include aetherial gear up to level 210, which is… interesting. And it raises a whole lot of questions and speculation, none of which has unfortunately been shared in any reliable English formats as of yet and might not exist in Japanese formats, either.
I don’t speak Japanese, so I’m speculating a wee bit on that part.
What we know for sure about these islands is that they can be queued for as a solo player or with a small group, that they aren’t instanced (or at least you can see multiple parties on them), and that they feature big monsters you kill for treasure chests. None of this answers lots of central questions, starting with the very simple question of what it would mean to queue up for entering a non-instanced area in the first place.
Will there be multiple instances that support multiple different parties? Will a single alliance enter the instance but not be expected to stay together? Does “queue up” in this case just mean sitting in party finder and hoping, which would be the worst of all possible worlds?
We have another month to find this stuff out, sure, but I think this would be important information to present at the outset when we’re discussing wholly new content that doesn’t have a direct analogue in Final Fantasy XIV whilst also bringing to mind systems from Final Fantasy XI that were really best left banished to the land of wind and ghosts. Notorious monsters exist in FFXIV already, they’re called Hunts, and they haven’t really worked all that well in any incarnation.
The current state of Hunts is better than it has ever been, but it’s still not good. And if you think that the current system has turned into a massive cluster of players spamming abilities at enemies they never see, then it’s not going to get better when you have an entire landmass dedicated to doing nothing else.
Between the high potential item level of rewards, the promise of new vanity gear from those rewards, the ambiguity about the party involvement, and no word on the level of coordination required… at this point, those islands to explore feel remarkably uncomfortable on the horizon. My fear is that they’ll turn into yet another case of hunts, locked out of the existing currency grinds while still encouraging players to just spam whatever can be hit in a blind rush to claim treasure chests. Rather than being a case of exploring new continents in the sky, they could turn into an ersatz loot piñata.
For all I know, that’s the intended purpose because we haven’t been told more.
With everything about the patch very much shrouded in secrecy, it’s hard to know what to expect. I do like the idea that unwanted gear can be turned in for points and points can be exchanged for gear; I do wonder about the exchange rate and the worthiness of that exchanged gear, though. Is it just reliable and better versions of what is found normally on the island? Are situations being created wherein you might have to ask about keeping one set of gear with crap stats but a great look because that’s totally random?
Let’s be honest here: Looks are going to be a bit more of a deciding factor than stats for a lot of people. Level 210 gear will not be hard to get through weekly Void Ark runs, and while you could randomly get a piece that’s perfectly statted to be best-in-slot no one in the world is going to be relentless checking each piece to see if it has marginally better stats unless they’re in Alex Savage and already have equivalent gear to swap around.
So whom is this content targeting? How much coordination is actually required? What sort of reward structure are we looking at? Was it really a great idea to add more randomly generated items into the game when we already suffer through a fair bit of randomness every time we step into the game anyhow?
I don’t know yet. It could be that this is going to be treated fully as a fun romp for vanity, gil, and assorted items. It could also be a tedious and soul-crushing process, or it could be tuned to be on par with Savage content for larger groups, which will turn a large number of people (including me) off from it. I tend to doubt that possibility, but at this point I can’t outright discard it.
All of this ultimately leaves us with a lot of ambiguity that could stand to be cleared up, and it gives us questions about the patch that don’t seem to be getting answered. There are so many possibilities about what we’re going to be dealing with, about whom this content is supposed to please, that I’m left sort of unclear as to its purpose. Traditionally, the content in the game has been added with what seems to be a clear purpose and overall thrust; these islands seem to be an attempt to bring in a weird sideline to the existing setup while providing a very similar set of requirements.
But maybe it’ll be great. Maybe it’ll wind up balancing out to what amounts to an in-game roguelike experience, which would be pretty keen. All I know for sure is that it’s a whole lot of randomness tacked into a game that’s already having issues with major amounts of randomness, and we’ve heard more about this and Lords of Verminion than we have about the new dungeons or story or even about the Void Ark. So it’s obviously meant to be important, and yet all of the answers we get seem to just compound the lack of information.
Maybe we’ll get those questions answered at the next Japanese live event. Or maybe we’ll just have to wait for the patch notes yet again, which is something less than ideal.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to email@example.com, just as I do every week. Next time around, I’ve got magic classes to discuss in the overall class schematic, as well as a bit of wistfulness to indulge in about the days when everyone played Black Mage and no one played Summoners. These days it’s precisely inverted. Oh, casters.