Honestly, though, the addition of materia melding changes a lot about how the uppermost gearing works, even with tomestones. Materia becomes far more relevant and useful, and it also makes gearing more expensive in every sense of the word. I don’t need to tell you that I have thoughts about all of this, and I think it’s the sort of thing that’s going to have a big impact on the community over time. So let’s talk about these melds, whether or not they’re worth it, and what the ups and downs are.
Let’s start by establishing the basics for those who just know that they’ve got slots on tomestone gear. A full set of gear from Midas or from Lore tomestones will offer you 18 slots, one each for accessories (right side pieces and the belt) and two each for main armor pieces and weapons. (The exception are Gladiators, who have one slot on their weapons and one slot on their shields, but the numbers are the same.) These slots can be melded with secondary stats, and overmelding is not possible, thus freeing you from the permanent hell of crafting and gathering gear in 2.0.
For Lore gear, when the item is upgraded you will lose all of the melds already in your gear.
Aside from the existing ways to get materia, you can also get Grade IV materia as an optional reward from Amalj’aa, Sylph, Sahagin, and Kobold beast tribe quests at the highest rank. You also get a weekly turn-in item from Void Ark to get a free piece of Grade V materia. The weekly item is automatically awarded, same as the Mhachi Farthing. All melding requires a level 60 crafter of the appropriate discipline.
Stat-wise, I ran a quick bit of numbers with Determination and the upgraded Ninja set. The full Scouting set sports about 363 Determination; fully melded with Determination materia, you add 216 additional Determination, or about 60% more of the stat. You should probably not do this as Determination is not great for Ninja, but the point here was stat values and how much you’re adding if you focus in on one stat. I am not diving into the hornet’s nest of formulae which lies in damage calculation.
What’s worth it?
One of the things that you have to consider when melding is that all of your melds are going away. It’s going to take a while, definitely – if you’re not doing Savage, you’re not upgrading until patch 3.3, and I wouldn’t expect that until June at least – but the acquisition of Grade V materia is still slow, expensive, or both. Thus, you probably don’t want to fill up your 220/230 gear with Grade V pieces unless you somehow have them raining from the sky. The stat jump is appreciable, but there is nothing in the game that actually requires that stat jump at this time.
Grade IV materia should serve your purposes quite nicely for the lower gear, which is helped by the fact that you get a fair bit of that just going through the main scenario and can pick up several more pieces on a daily basis. It also provides a significant boost even beyond the natural enhancement provided by having gear far above the “recommended” gear levels.
If you can’t meld everything immediately, however, it’s important to note that the melds are pretty strictly a bonus. It’s going to become far more prevalent as 230 gear becomes more common on players, but for most of the world you only “need” unenhanced Esoterics gear to clear everything. Other bonuses are just that: bonuses. Boons. Benefits. You do not need to be fully melded to clear out dungeons, and the odds are high that you will not ever need to be fully melded to do so.
Is it helpful?
I’m of two minds about the addition of this system. On the one hand, this is additional customization for your gear and character in a game that sorely needs it. You get to make a choice if you want to have your Dark Knight focus on Parry or Determination, for example, making decisions about damage or defense that don’t necessarily require you to wear gear that makes you more squishy. Healers can prioritize different things based on individual preferences, with healers who aren’t comfortable stance dancing get more out of Determination, healers who do stance dance using Accuracy, or both splitting the difference with Spell Speed.
However… when I say that there’s “customization,” it’s not particularly deep. At most, we’re talking about five stats to weigh for tanks (Parry, Determination, Accuracy, Critical Hit, Skill Speed), and there’s a pretty clear set of winners even there. Accuracy in particular is going to be largely irrelevant except for healers, since DoW gear already usually winds up with more than enough Accuracy to handle non-Savage content. Realistically, your job of choice will have one or two stats to choose between… and you will want to choose, since as mentioned above, the state bonus is only sizable if you devote your gear to one particular stat.
That’s without getting into the inherent expense of this particular change – either you’re spending a lot of money leveling a crafter or you’re spending a lot of money tipping people to perform melds, and that’s without asking whether you budget for time or gil to get the materia you need.
Despite all of that, though, I come back around to that first point, that this is customization. It’s not tremendously deep, and I don’t think for a minute that there won’t be a rather unambiguous answer about what you should be melding in any given slot for maximum efficiency. But so long as you understand the basics of your job, it’s difficult to make outright wrong choices so much as sub-optimal choices, and it’s far better to be, say, a PLD with all Skill Speed melds than one with maximized Intelligence via bonus points.
Like almost everything in the game, it’s an experiment and a test for what can be done moving forward. It’s a new way of handling a specific sort of gameplay and addressing a sizable gap in player options and the utility of materia. It’s not yet refined very well, but it at least has an eye toward improvement over time, and it’s the sort of thing that may very well fit into the next expansion comfortably if it’s designed to be present from the start.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to talk about the development plans that have fallen silent and whether or not we’re likely to ever see them happen.