The last letter from the producer had a few more tidbits covering elements of the patch, although a lot of it centered around Lords of Verminion and exploratory missions without adding a lot to our existing knowledge of those features. So let’s take this last moment before the launch to speculate a little more about the patch and consider the future, and then you can expect a survival guide to said patch next week.
Making materia matter
One of the more interesting tidbits from the live letter came near the end and also had, well, virtually nothing to do with the upcoming patch. It was all about 3.2 and the changes that would be made to crafted gear and materia, including the addition of materia slots on tomestone gear. This is at once a good thing and a very, very worrying thing, and we’re too early in the cycle to claim either one with absolute certainty.
I’ve opined before that we don’t have much in the way of character customization right now. Adding in the ability to bake some secondary stats onto gear is a great way of adding some customization, which is what materia was originally meant to do in the first place. Yes, in some cases there are jobs that overwhelmingly favor one stat above and beyond all others (hello, Scholars who want that crit), but there’s still space to add a little more variety. It means that two characters with the same gear needn’t play in an identical fashion, and it offers space for things like adding some Determination to your tanking gear because you don’t need to slot for extra parry or block.
The problem is that the materia system, as it exists now, is another system deep in the throes of the randomness that has long plagued the game. Bond with an item, then randomly hope that you get the stat that you want. Gods forfend that you wind up with Ice Materia V; no one has ever wanted that, and most likely no one ever will.
And all of that is without even getting into overmelding.
In theory, I liked the idea that you could either earn gear through tomestones or buy and upgrade crafted gear to similar levels without that methodology; in practice, it hasn’t happened. So I’m really behind the idea of making materia relevant all around, but we could use some systems in place to avoid things devolving into complete festivals of randomness. I believe 3.1 will set the stage for this a bit, since it’s a known plan; we’ll have to see just what is listed among rewards for dungeons and exploratory trade-ins.
Cosmetic items in the store
It’s interesting to me that this is happening at all, but it’s also something that seemed inevitable from the announcement. For a long while, the only items that have been added to the game’s microtransaction store have been old event items; it seemed like we would eventually get new cosmetic gear added to the store that was completely different. And frankly, I’m fine with that.
The game’s attitude toward cosmetic equipment, at least thus far, has been fairly consistent. Seasonal items are there for the first year’s outing, then they move to the store (and those who earned the achievement for a given year can re-purchase said equipment). Cosmetic equipment from previous games in the franchise are either collector’s edition items or veteran rewards. Adding Minfilia’s outfit simply means that cosmetic equipment based on major NPCs will be in the cash shop; that makes the possibility of outfits based on Cid or Garlean armors, for example, far more likely.
I can understand people who really don’t want to be prevented from receiving items based on cash flow, I really can. However, the only store-only items that have been added to the store after the store’s launch were the metallic dyes. Meanwhile, the main game has added tons of new items, models, mounts, minions, and so forth. I’m not terribly concerned about the long-term implications right here.
Quality of life and speed of leveling
I just finished getting Paladin up to 60, and part of me was honestly tempted to wait until 3.1 ushered in some much-needed quality improvements for leveling subsequent jobs. High-level dungeons giving experience rather than absolutely nothing? More rewarding dungeons in general? Oh, please, yes. It doesn’t exactly ameliorate how things were, but it does make life easier now.
Of course, there are a lot of nice elements being added in 3.1, and one of the ones I’m looking forward to the most is probably also going to be the most pointless. It seems silly to assume that the Gold Saucer minigames based off of 1.0’s gathering minigames will provide any sort of substantial income, but I’m still excited for them. I liked those minigames, and while the game’s current stat-based approach is more functional, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t still some element of missing the good old days. (For a given definition of “good,” I suppose.)
House sharing is another important feature, as is the reclamation of unused houses; I have my eye on a few plots that I know have been untended in basically forever, myself. There’s no word yet on whether or not we’re getting any new areas, or at least no definitive word. Reclaiming the stuff that is no longer being used is very good, but it’s not going to fix the larger problem of too many players and not enough space for houses in the wards.
Upgrade items for armor, accessories, and weapons will apparently be gated by another currency, which I think is a much more straightforward way of handling things than the previous weekly quest. In a four-boss run, having each one provide an automatic coin for the first kill of the week is easy enough to do, and it keeps players going back to the Void Ark. If they weren’t going back already for that nice-looking armor, that is.
There’s a lot of little bits here and there that indicate that the team behind the game is still learning and still trying to come up with better ways to do things than it’s done in the past. This is a good thing; the game’s biggest problems are usually things that need to be edited and tweaked, not entirely thrown into the garbage. Being iterative can be a good thing.
Feedback, as always, may be left down in the comments below or mailed along to email@example.com. Next week, as promised, it’s going to be a patch survival guide and overview; the week after that, it’s first impressions of the first week with the patch, naturally.