Back in July, I noted that the game was at a really flush point, with plenty of content and plenty of motivation to steamroll along. Now, however, we’ve gone in the other direction, plummeting down until the next few months start pulling us up once again. I touched a bit in that column on why this was inevitable, but I want to talk a little bit more about why this cycle is probably one of the worst places for the game, even if we’re not exactly hurting for content compared to a few months ago.
When I wrote about this before, I noted that this would be the patch where we all knew that what we were doing was going to be focused more upon what was coming up next than what we already had. It’s not exactly a mystery that we’ll be in Ala Mhigo in the next seven months or so, and that means that any endgame work right now is mostly marking time. We’re catching up, making sure our main jobs are ready for the expansion, and…
Well, hold up. What are our main jobs going to be?
Multiple new jobs (meaning at least two) will be included in the expansion, but as of right now we know nothing about them. We know the name of one, but the problem is that it’s the one that can most convincingly fit into any possible role slot. That’s the whole point. It is ridiculously plausible for Red Mage to be almost anything, and without another job announcement, we can’t even make the bare minimum predictions we could make about Dark Knight. It hasn’t even been formally announced yet, which is just annoying.
This is contributing to a sense of malaise. On the one hand, we know that everything we’re doing right now amounts to a holding pattern until we move into the next stage. We know that we’re going to find out who the Lady in Red is, what her deal is, and so forth. We know we’re going to be finding out more about other jobs. But we also quite pointedly know that we don’t know any of this yet. We don’t have vital information that would have an impact on our planning for the future. It’s all bent toward looking forward, but what “forward” is hasn’t yet been made clear.
Furthermore, in this particular expansion, plot threads have been very efficiently wrapped up in advance. Before Heavensward came out, we had several plot threads still in play so that it wasn’t quite clear what route we would be taking. At this point, however, not only has the Dragonsong War been cleanly resolved, but the entire Warriors of Darkness plotline has been snipped off just as firmly. That’s not to say that there are no threads left to be resolve, of course, but it does mean that there isn’t a sense of several things in motion and all sorts of threats. It feels far cleaner, and thus just a bit less engaging on a whole.
The Alexander story is wrapped up, too, which is the other big dramatic part done with, and the conclusion to that left something to be desired. At the risk of sounding snarky, I’ll say we’ve gotten a lot of payoff and not enough setup for what comes next.
Of course, none of that ties into content, exactly… but there, too, the itch has started to creep in. If you’ve been playing the same job all through Heavensward (and while I don’t have stats here, I would say that’s pretty likely), your abilities have remained entirely static for a bit over a year now. The most recent dungeons, while good dungeons in their own right, don’t really offer a whole lot of things we haven’t had to deal with in the past. It all feels familiar. Stable. Like something that we’ve worked over to the core.
Which, you know, is actually what it is.
Is there anything the game can do about all of this? On the one hand, no, not really. This is just the nature of the beast; there was never a situation where players weren’t going to be dealing with some elements of this. We cannot realistically fault the developers for not providing enough interesting content fast enough to satisfy the playerbase; heck, the past few installments have been really good in terms of content. An excellent job has been done, and the delay we’re experiencing now is more or less inevitable.
At the same time, I think some of the problem does come from not actually revealing enough about the expansion yet and leaving players to just guess about important things until December. Just saying “yes, Red Mage, it’s going to be an X” would at least give people who really want to play Red Mage a chance to stock up on appropriate gear and the like. As it is, we’re preparing for something without knowing what we’re preparing for.
Of course, December isn’t that far away, and with it comes the second fan festival and more information about the expansion, as well as more information about what’s coming around the bend with patch 3.5 (and if you don’t think that’s going to be focused on bridging the gap as 2.5 did, I don’t know what to tell you). That’s going to help; we’re going to be more firmly into the territory of knowing what we’re being excited about. Right now, we know that the future has stuff to promise, but we can’t begin to do much more than stare at it in longing and hope.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, yes, I really am hoping to get into the lower floors of the Palace of the Dead. There’s no reason not to, after all.