Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s unenhanced dungeons

One of the many things I like about Final Fantasy XIV is the fact that its scaling difficulties for dungeons don’t simply mean more health and damage. Stone Vigil (Hard) is not a more punishing version of the exact same dungeon but a separate experience with different tuning, different encounters, and so forth. It means that a new hard mode is itself a new dungeon by its very nature.

At this point, though, we have hard modes for most of the dungeons in the game, with another one coming out with the next patch toward the end of the month. So today, I wanted to look at the dungeons that have as of yet not been announced, to speculate about both what comes next and whether or not these dungeons could even fit another dungeon out of them. That includes the dungeons that have languished because they’re not exactly new to the second version of the game, which are… different, too. It’s all complicated.

It was another time for us all.

The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak

Toto-Rak, much like its other leveling siblings, is a holdover from the 1.0 days, one of the repurposed dungeons that worked very differently before the Calamity. Back then, dungeons were one-boss affairs with scattered loot on the path to the boss, with the process to unlock the secret and best boss being a point of contention for some time. That’s the official reason why we haven’t revisited these dungeons, that they were functionally remade once already for the Calamity.

While the lack of a hard mode for Toto-Rak does make something of a hole in the otherwise nice array of dungeons, revisiting this seems to be a justifiably low priority. Really, what else is there to be found in here? The Garlean presence is long gone, and it never really manifested in any meaningful way. Otherwise, it’s just insects and a touch of the void. There’s more interesting stuff in the Shroud.

Cutter’s Cry

Here’s a dungeon, by contrast, that I’ve long wanted to revisit. Cutter’s Cry supposedly was the bane of a well-known band of heroes, which seems like an odd status for a lower-level dungeon, especially when that band of heroes was supposedly wearing Darklight gear. There’s room for more beneath the shifting sands, and I’d love to actually explore it.

Dzemael Darkhold

I was really hoping that we’d get to take another trip through Darkhold with this expansion, but alas, we saw very little of House Dzemael and certainly nothing of this irritating and obnoxious dungeon. It’s a rarity for Ishgard in the sheer amount of voidsent, but it doesn’t have much interesting going on therein; still, a “reclaim the tunnels” push would be very interesting, especially if it came from the High Houses. Or from disenfranchised Duskwights who we’re helping to establish a new stronghold, hint hint.

Aurum Vale

No one likes Aurum Vale. It seems odd to imagine anyone would like Aurum Vale even on a revisit. Like all of the 1.0 dungeons, it has a theme designed to lead to a single sort of boss, and the actual dungeon sort of stumbles looking for a theme or identity. Much like Toto-Rak, there’s more interesting stuff in the area that takes precedent over a revisit here.

Ride that dungeon boss!


I really thought we’d get Snowcloak (Hard) with 3.4, but this also belongs to another interesting category of dungeon, the dungeon so tied to a specific part of the story that reintroducing it requires a lot of answered questions. Still, I think it’s set to be a nice hard mode dungeon with the next expansion; there’s time enough for other things to move into the cave network, and there’s more things to fear aside from heretics.

Keeper of the Lake

This one is helplessly tied to lore, yes. There are no two ways about it. But in some ways, it’s actually easier to handle than Snowcloak; there’s a Garlean salvage operation, and starting players at the top of the superstructure would give plenty of reason for us to climb down and fight back against another big Garlean weapon. It might not work as a focal point, but it’d make a good hard dungeon to coincide with an increased focus on the Empire.

Dusk Vigil

Probably the blandest of the Heavensward dungeons, Dusk Vigil is thematically all over the map, with a combination of undead horrors and natural arctic wildlife infesting it. It also feels far less open than some of the other dungeons, with very few alternate paths even available for players to explore, but I’m sure there are more secrets lurking within its halls. Again, it might make sense to wait until the next expansion for a hard mode, just to avoid overload, but once we’re further from Ishgard…

Sohm Al

Here’s a tricky one in the current story environment. The most tricky one, I’d argue, because once you’ve cleared the dungeon you technically traverse it any time you climb to the Churning Mists. It’s not one of the dungeons that’s really tightly in the grip of the main story, and I’m sure there are things lurking in the caves, but much like the dungeon itself it feels rather forgettable.


The Aery

Ah, here’s where we see the downside of having the dungeons that are super-invested in story progression once more. Sure, it was kind of odd when we’d run, say, Brayflox’s Longstop and have a whole lot of encounters that really had nothing to do with the overall thrust of the story, but it meant that the dungeon made sense when being converted into telling a new story. What new story can you tell with something that was literally Nidhogg’s lair? The best I can think of is something in the next expansion about the last remnants of the Horde trying to rally, but even that feels somewhat perfunctory.

The Vault

Be very worried, because whenever we go back to the Vault, it’s going to be bad. It was bad when we went there the first time. If we’re going back, it’ll have something to do with an outright invasion, I suspect.

Or it’ll be another training scenario-type dungeon with the Temple Knights. But that’s boring.

The Aetherochemical Research Facility

There’s plenty more to be explored here, I’m sure, and if we steer clear of the lowest levels I can see this making a very convincing hard mode for 3.5. It does feel a little unnecessary, though, when we have so many other routes to research Allagan technology. It’s also such a perfunctory dungeon that it’s easy to forget it even exists.


Oh, this one is an easy candidate for a hard mode – it’s just floating out there, it’s not terribly well-guarded, there are tons of alternate routes possible, and it’s a piece of real estate that could attract pretty much anything that can fly. Heck, it could even serve to cap off a conflict involving the Vanu Vanu once again; the dungeon involves the fat birds, sure, but it’s only peripherally concerned with fighting any of them. Lots of ways for this to fill out.

It's me. I am the word.

The Fractal Continuum

While we no doubt have exhibits left to be seen, Fractal is visually hard to distinguish from the research facility; that alone makes it harder to sell as a hard mode, just because these two already feel like remixes of one another. Having said that, I think it’d be fun to browse the other available exhibits at some point; there’s some great lore in the midst of Fractal. Plus, it’d be a fun place to deal with if, say, some flying enemy was crashing through it with little regard for the history.

Saint Mocianne’s Arboretum

Dungeons like this are, I think, where the designers leave themselves presents. You could do almost anything with another trip through the Arboretum, and we barely scratched the surface the first time through. There are several alternative paths suggested right away, all sorts of new plant life that could occupy the area, and plenty of reasons for many enemy types to show up.

The Antitower

Please, just turn it right-side-up. Please.

No, really, that alone would make another run through here feel novel. Story-wise, it’d be a little tricky, since it was so resolutely tied to a specific part of the story, but justification is not impossible to come by. Heck, it’s probably easier to come by than it would be for some other dungeons.

Well, I guess you guys can ransack my stuff again. But only this one extra time.

Sohr Khai

This one, for example! It’s going to be nigh-on impossible to explain why this would be a dungeon to explore again when it’s so distinctly set up for a specific purpose in 3.3. A lot of Heavensward dungeons, as you’ve no doubt noticed, have that problem; they’re so tied in with what’s going on in the story that there’s little space to branch out and really explore what else could occupy the dungeon. In many cases, there’s not much else that can occupy it.

So what are we actually going to get next? I don’t know. I do know, though, that we’re slowly running out of dungeons to revisit, and we’re doing so a bit faster than new ones are being created. Xelphatol looks like it’s going to be ripe for revisitation in the future, of course, but past 3.5 it’s going to be interesting to see what starts coming back around again.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around, a reader sent me an interesting question about server population, roleplaying, and the state of server dynamics, which I think is well worth discussing and unpacking.

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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