Having characters going through fresh allows me to ask questions from the perspective of someone going through for the first time. And the result is a game that is actually astonishingly well-assembled and relevant at all levels. Heck, the changes to 50/60 roulette and tomestones alone make for a set of relevant dungeons that could easily be consigned to history; I appreciate that immensely.
But having said all of that, I can’t help but notice that there are issues the game is going to have to deal with, probably sooner rather than later. This expansion? Likely not. Next expansion? By that point, definitely. So let’s talk about the problems that aren’t currently there… but totally will be.
Tomestone vendor gates
It is remarkably hard to get to Idyllshire, and it really should not be. Mor Dhona was never all that difficult to reach in 2.0, with nothing stopping you but a few beef gates that might keep you from running right there at the moment you hit 50. Idyllshire, though… that requires you to reach up to level 58 or so in the MSQ, which means clearing your way through a bunch of dungeons and trials.
In and of itself, that’s fine. It made perfect sense in Heavensward, too, when you weren’t going to have any tomestones to spend there until well after you hit 60. But at this point, it’s quite easy to both hit 60 and beyond before ever setting foot in the Hinterlands and have piles of tomestones you want to spend on gear there. You’re faced with some awkward choices to avoid having the stones overflow, something that I’m generally not a big fan of inviting; I don’t like saying that the optimal solution is to not play content for a while until you catch up.
Especially when the gate is, really, arbitrary. The gate blocking you from the Hinterlands made sense when the expansion was new. It makes little to no sense now, and it makes things rather awkward.
I bring all of this up because the gating in Stormblood is notably worse. You don’t just have a later point in the MSQ when you have to head in there; you have to clear the 4.0 MSQ.
At the moment, this is fine. It’s not exactly easy to earn up a lot of Verity when you haven’t yet cleared the MSQ, and odds are you’ll probably be hitting 70 around the same time that you finish things off. So it’s balanced. But imagine where we’ll be when 5.0 rolls around and people can easily be 72 or 73 before they’ve even hit Castrum Abania.
Of course, the bright side is that because of how Rhalgr’s Reach is set up, it’s much easier to change how tomestone gear is available. Making the vendors present at an earlier point alone doesn’t require nearly as much work as just removing an arbitrary blocking gate; all you have to do is just… have our vendors there. Heck, even if the game just centralized vendors more so that you could pick up most tomestone gear in Revenant’s Toll, that would work as well. It’s a simple solution, but based on Idyllshire I’m not sure if it’s a problem the designers are considering.
Alliance raid issues in general
This is something that needs to be addressed a little bit earlier than the other points, especially since we supposedly have a roulette for this slated for 4.1. The obvious point is that, well, getting up to accessing the Labyrinth of the Ancients is beyond a chore for characters who do not already have it unlocked; waiting for four FATEs which can be difficult to solo is a bit of archaic design that the designers seem to realize is not terribly popular at this point. But it’s still there.
The other point, though, is the question of what sort of rewards should be earned to keep people running these. And it’s an important question from someone sitting on far too many bits of Mhachi currency that, at this point, will never be used for anything.
Leveling roulettes and 50/60 roulettes also drop a whole lot of gear that no one particularly wants at this point; that’s not the issue. What is the issue is the fact that poetics alone aren’t going to be enough to incentivize these older raids, and the gear upgrade items are no longer desired or needed. So we need to have not just a few mumbled words but an explanation for who is actually going to be using this roulette, for what we can get out of it that’s still relevant for people either leveling or using it at the cap.
This also needs to be considered when we realize that we’re getting a new alliance raid in 4.1, which will most likely be included in the roulette rotation. Since I’m expecting once-per-week upgrade items from that raid, along with the once-per-week gear drops, the roulette will need to include a chance to get that raid while also giving people a reason to run it even if they’ve already got their rewards.
The obvious reward involves Mhachi matter or some other materia rewards… but that, in turn, leads to a few other issues which I’ll discuss in a moment.
Generally speaking, I think the developers are pretty good about making sure that roulettes and the rewards associated are actually desirable at multiple levels, so I’m not too worried about making an alliance raid per day a useful thing. I am wondering how the team will make that happen, though; it’d be a bit distressing if it just became another throwaway source of slight tomestone gain.
Materia access and power
I was wondering to myself how in the world the game could possibly make Grade V materia nearly as accessible as Grade VI; as it stands, I can easily get four new Grade VI in a week, and that’s not counting the tank leveling queues adding a new one to my inventory. Or the ones I’ve already banked up. Or the ones dropped in instances. These things are not rare, and reliably purchased.
Then again, do we even need to worry about Grade V, when Grade VI is both plentiful and absurdly more powerful? When given the choice between melding +12 Direct Hit and +40 Direct Hit, you would think the latter becomes more desirable due to rarity. But no, it’s easy as heck to get the +40 version, meaning that melds at the level cap are best done with the best materia available rather than worrying about anything else.
It strikes me as a little excessive. Certainly I’m not complaining about the fact that Grade VI is easier to get and doesn’t require hours of spiritbonding, but the net result is that between power and accessibility, Grade VI makes all other materia a complete waste of time. Which is not the way it’s been up to now; you might get more out of higher-tier materia, but melding Grade IV was perfectly acceptable if you weren’t aiming for best-in-slot.
This is another issue that can wait until the next expansion, obviously, since I doubt we’ll see Grade VII before then and the power leap has already happened. At the end of the day, however, I really hope that we do see this sort of creep addressed sooner rather than later. I’d hate to think that Grade VI becomes meaningless when we’re off exploring the next continent, after all.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next time around, I want to start talking about the jobs in the expansion, but using a different format than I did in Heavensward. It’s not about roles right now, it’s about how jobs are perceived.