By contrast, right now with Stormblood, I’m already halfway done with the leveling of combat jobs. My overall goal of leveling everything to 70 plus all of my alts should be done by mid-November. I know that later today, I’m going to be getting at least two more levels, maybe more, and I’m well on my way to my goals. And I’m not bored or putting in the time, I’m excited.
I’ve seen this sentiment going around from other people, too. There’s a general sense that leveling and just playing is much more fun with Stormblood. So what’s the difference? Why is it that now leveling up seems like less of a chore, when the usual methods of leveling quickly (FATE trains) have basically dried up to nothing?
More roulettes and options
When Heavensward launched, you realistically had one option for leveling via group content, and that was the leveling roulette. It was slow, it was once per day, and it didn’t really offer much of an experience boost. You’d still do it because it made sense, but it didn’t exactly light anyone on fire. It was good enough for what you needed (experience) but not terribly compelling.
At this point, though, your options for daily quick content are leveling, 50/60 dungeons, and trials. By the time you get level 50 (and all of the new jobs start right there), you have all three options available, and they provide an aggressive stream of experience. And that’s just for the starting point. You have Hunts available that provide useful and welcome rewards out of the gate rather than gating everything behind some vanity pets and upgrade items to very slowly bring your uncapped tomestone stuff up to par. You’ve got FATEs that can spawn with experience bonuses. You can even dip back into Palace of the Dead if you’re so inclined.
While FATE grinding was always efficient, it was never really very fun. It was spamming AoEs and watching things die. By adding in the random experience boost, the era of the FATE party seems to have largely died off in the open world; it makes more sense to jump in on a FATE that seems particularly rewarding rather than just circling and hoping. And when you have so many other options for leveling? You’re more inclined to do different things, to queue up, to get into other bits of content.
This, then, is definitely a part of why it’s more fun to level up now. Even though we don’t have the beast tribe quests that I am sure will come along with patch 4.1 (and probably will work like Heavensward quests by allowing you to sync the quest to your level), you have a surfeit of options that allow you to make real progress on an aggressive timetable. That alone encourages more play and more leveling.
Better class play
I have no doubt that Machinist was better in terms of actual damage output in Heavensward. But it’s a lot more fun now.
There are a lot of threads about how most jobs have wider “dead zones” for abilities than before, but the big difference I’ve noticed – which is very relevant in dungeons – is that pretty much every job gets a quicker introduction to its core gameplay mechanics. That means that lower-level dungeons feel less like playing a hopelessly reduced version of the job and the meandering middle portion is usually bypassed fast enough that you don’t notice the dead zones too badly. You can do stuff.
More to the point, the addition of job gauges has, at worst, just refined what you already do with the job. In most cases, it means that the gameplay focuses more around enjoying the feel of the job and less about exploiting obscure timing rules. There’s less emphasis on precise timing for oGCD abilities and more emphasis on the strategy involved in execution, planning your next move, figuring out your rotation and making the most of it.
Put simply, the whole thing just feels more fun. There are jobs that I feel have lost small bits of what made them fun along the way, but even those jobs feel more fun to play overall. Monk might not have gotten a massive overhaul, but the subtle shifts to it have made me enjoy playing it far more than I had in Heavensward. Leveling Paladin felt like filling out my toolbox and getting new tricks that fit together logically, rather than getting a mire of abilities at odd levels with often questionable utility.
Some people are going to be less happy with their jobs; I know that there are some long-standing Summoner complaints about the new interplay between Dreadwyrm Trance and other Aetherflow abilities, which is going to be hard to get over if you’re used to the job. But for my money, if you get used to the way things feel now, they seem more fun to me.
This goes for crafting and gathering, too. Crafting abilities feel like upgrades, rather than strange additions I had never wanted that have questionable use in most situations; they’re not always absolute 100% upgrades, but you see how they work. But some of that falls under the next header, as well.
I think one of the most illustrative faults with Heavensward crafting was a quest requiring you to make an HQ hammer… only to reward you with an NQ hammer. Not finishing the quest was a more substantial upgrade. That is messed up.
Heavensward was better about some of this than the base game, but it still had a whole lot of arbitrary and generally unwelcome chores. Not just with crafting, either; gathering quests felt arbitrary and often far harder than they needed to be, combat jobs had to slip back to often inconvenient locales to advance stories and actual learn new abilities, and so forth. Heck, crafting also required elaborate side-trips to get old materials just to make new things.
By contrast, Stormblood crafting and gathering quests task you with crafting and gathering things that are only there for those quests, usually more easily than if you had to make something on-level. The combat quests only offer one ability at 70 and a full set of left-side gear. You get the sense that while these quests are sometimes a bit tedious, they’re not being drawn out or made more tedious just to test your patience.
And I think that’s ultimately one of the big things I take away, what makes me feel eager to keep leveling along and progressing. I don’t feel like I’m being constantly asked to stop what I’m doing and go fulfill a chore to be rewarded; another level is its own reward. Doing the quests involves getting rewards that feel, well, rewarding. It feels like a lot of things have combined to streamline things without ever making the world feel smaller or simplified.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get some leveling roulettes in on one of my alts. You can leave your comments down below or mail them in to firstname.lastname@example.org; it’s really all up to you.