The notes are as extensive as ever, of course, so I’m going to be hitting the highlights rather than going line-by-line. The patch as a whole does feel a little bit thinner, but there are some pretty notable changes tucked in there that you either didn’t notice or did notice and might not have internalized. So let’s take a trip down patch note lane.
We’d all been expecting that something would be dropped from the Expert roulette, but it turns out… no, the single new dungeon is just straight-up being added. And it requires item level 300, which isn’t hard to get at all with a bit of post-patch progression but raises interesting questions. Are people going to need to do more work to catch up before being able to unlock Expert at all if they’ve lagged slightly behind the gear curve? It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but even with the gear you get for clearing out your class story, I think you might need to do some more dungeon running to reach that level…
The main reason I bring it up is simply that Expert roulettes are usually the fastest way for players to catch up, and since we’re not getting tomestone gear knocked down to purchase for seals yet, I worry people might get stuck if they speed past the end of the storyline.
Regardless, the expanded Expert roulette is very welcome. We really don’t know what we’ll find in the dungeon in terms of mechanics, but it’s there at least a quarter of the time, and it’s probably gotten a lot more tuning than usual. And hey, it’s part of the main scenario, so we’ll likely find out even more tasty lore about the region on the way.
Speaking of the main scenario…
No rest for the wicked
As I go back through the various patches between expansions, one of the things that I notice is the difference between the pre-Heavensward patch quests and the post-Heavensward patch quests. The former tended to involve a lot of running around and busy work to flesh things out, but the actual story density tended to be the same or lower than Heavensward’s later story; the difference is that the expansion patches tended to focus more upon cutscenes and cut out the extraneous bits. I couldn’t give you a sense of the overarching themes of patch 2.2, for example, but 3.2 has a clear sense of showing how deep the divisions in Ishgard go and how quickly good intentions crumble away.
4.1, at least initially, looks to be a fair bit longer than patch lines were in Heavensward, and it also includes the new dungeon. And I wonder if that means we’re going to swing back in the direction of the base game, or if instead Stormblood is just going to be covering a lot more ground from the word go.
What little we’ve seen of the story certainly hints at that, as well as the divided loyalties that most of Ala Mhigo’s liberators are dealing with in the wake of the revolution. It’s also up for questioning whether the story will also deal with what’s left over in Doma, which has just as much to deal with as Gyr Abania’s populace.
Regardless, I’m curious about how this will play out. Hopefully we won’t wind up with the same sort of meandering stories we got in 2.x patches; I may be worrying over nothing on that point. But it would be nice on some level if you couldn’t blow through the story simply by abusing the Skip Cutscene button liberally.
There are a lot of job adjustments in this patch, but it’s the Summoners and Scholars who really win out here. Ruin III becomes a straight upgrade, while Ruin II becomes more useful under the right circumstances; you’ll have the same number of buttons on your bar, but the functionality will shift somewhat. Sustain is back after its removal, Tri-Bind becomes a functional replacement for Painflare in Dreadwyrm Trance, and a few other things shift position until you wind up in a similar spot, but with a slightly nicer rotation.
Dragoon is also getting a quality-of-life change that winds up not really changing the overall DPS of the job too much (according to back-of-the-envelope math) but does change the currently rather punishing requirements necessary to get into Life of the Dragon. It’s the sort of improvement that mostly matters when things go wrong, lowering the amount of time between build-up phases without really altering the core mechanics.
I’m also happy about all of the new job gauges; a lot of the existing ones are much more ornate than they need to be, and sometimes wind up shoehorning in new mechanics that don’t really have space to breathe much yet. The White Mage gauge, for example, is minimal and could always have just been three pips; the effort to make it bigger always seemed silly. So getting back some screen real estate is a good thing.
Oh, and Shake It Off isn’t so useless any more. Hooray!
The “remove materia” feature is something that I can’t help but feel dumb about. When I first saw it my thought was “well, who cares, it’s just there to fix if you slotted wrong.” It took me far too long to realize that it means you at least have a chance of reclaiming materia when you upgrade gear, making the use of Grade VI materia even more worthwhile; you might not get it back, but the chance alone makes it worthwhile.
I still wonder if we might have gone too far in the availability side of things with this expansion; at this point, getting Grade VI materia is already pretty easy, enough so that it’s easy to fill out upgraded sets with it. Making it more permanent seems like it could easily make acquiring more even more trivial… unless it has a really low chance to be successfully removed, which we don’t know yet. But it still feels very easy to get, and now it’s even hard to lose.
That’s a good thing, considering how vital it is! But it also means that it no longer feels like a valuable upgrade. Perhaps that’s a good thing, but it’s definitely a big departure from how the game was before.
Of course, there’s a lot of other quality of life changes along the way, too. But what else can we say about the changes to beast tribe currency and the like? I just wish they’d be directly deposited into my currency tab.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time… well, it’s time for patch impressions, dungeon impressions, and so forth. You know how this goes after years of the column. And yes, I’ll let you know how my housing rush turned out.