Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV 4.1’s squadron dynamics, alliance roulette, and materia

Final Fantasy XIV patch 4.1 fell into a pretty solid cadence right away, from my experience. It’s not one of those patches where absolutely nothing has changed for most of the players (Twitter integration, anyone?), but it does feel like more or less the same patterns have held up in the wake of its addition. You’ve had another roulette added on to your routine, there’s a new dungeon, you want to hit Rabanastre at least once a week… it’s all good enough, but it’s not rewriting the basic structure.

Of course, if that’s exactly what you wanted from it, that’s all more than good enough. Still, while I hit most of the big points this week, I wanted to spend this week skirting around the edges a bit. So let’s dive back into the parts of the patch that are out but haven’t yet been discussed seriously, starting with the arguably biggest feature that I haven’t really touched on at all.

This was a group effort. Not a good one, but still.

Squadron dynamics

If you asked me if I’d like to run Halitali again, but this time in complete silence with people who needed to be told how to handle every single mechanic, I would have told you that you were full of it. And now, having actually experienced that… well, I think my initial reaction was justified. So that’s something.

I don’t really dislike the squadron missions, but one of the things I was worried about is that they wouldn’t provide much in the way of motivation to breathe new life into squadrons. It turns out that this was largely accurate; other than having your emotes, there’s not much to them. If you’re a veteran of the game, they’re dungeons you will have run countless times, and they don’t offer you much in the way of enhanced experience or anything. They’re kind of nice for cheesing a dungeon requirement for your challenge log, but that’s it.

That’s not to say that the feature is bad; far from it! As far as I can tell, this is the early version of a system that has more potential for expansion in the future. Starting here allows us to do more with squadrons in the future, and the way that it’s set up now makes sure that it doesn’t deform the higher-end game badly. There’s lots of potential to expand here; it’s just that the present version is a bit underwhelming.

You can, of course, cheese some stuff rather badly here by abusing a minor bug, but that’s both likely to be patched out and not really relevant past 60, making it a minor footnote more than anything.

In summary, the squadron dungeons are still cooler as a concept than in practice. But the improved customization is a nice step in a positive direction, and I look forward to doing more with the feature in future dungeons. It’s just a bit on the underwhelming side now, unless you’re trying hard to get your members leveled up for promotion missions.

What time is it? Why, it's Ignore Mechanics O'Clock!

Alliance roulette

By contrast, here’s a feature that I thought was going to need some significant rewards to make worthwhile… that got them. For a run no longer than a normal dungeon run and often significantly easier, you can get enough experience to clear a third or more of your level… or a nice chunk of tomestones. And DPS queues are not only fine, but frequently faster. It’s kind of nuts.

A few things contribute to this. For one thing, I swear that the raids themselves have been downtuned a little bit. For another, your gear sync is almost certainly putting 90% of the alliance at very high levels, which also helps. And when some of the raids in question (like Syrcus Tower) were already low on mechanical complexity, it becomes that much easier to bull rush everything.

This has rather effortlessly found its way into my daily roulette rotation, and it has made my leveling process significantly faster all around. There are limitations to it, and part of me is a bit sad that the majesty of these areas has been somewhat diminished in the process… but for players who never saw these areas at all, I think I’ll take the version that’s slightly less overwhelming instead of the one that no one ever sees.

Plus, it’s another chance on a lot of cute minions that could be rather frustrating to get when everything was relevant. I’ve never had good luck on rolling for minions.

Goblins, thankfully, no longer need the additional exposure.

How materia was won and where it got us

At this point, combat materia before grade IV is irrelevant. Grade IV itself isn’t perfectly easy to get, but you barely even need it on anything other than leveling gear, because you can remove it with perfect reliability. Even Grade V is quite reliable to remove; I’ve only lost one piece after a huge number of yanks, and between that and Mhachi matter I expect I’ll have enough combat materia to last me well into the next expansion and beyond. The entire dynamic was changed pretty substantially with the expansion anyway, but at this point it’s even more pronounced.

Consider that you get a free Grade VI of your choice upon completing Rabanastre. Consider also that a full set of armor will require 18 pieces for full melding. With a little bit of consistency, it’s not hard to get that set; based on the reliable extraction rate, you’ll keep most of them when upgrading to the next tier. And if you thought to prepare ahead of time and have a stock of Grade VIs lying around now, well, it just becomes silly not to use that highest tier.

This isn’t exactly a problem, but it does change the dynamics rather significantly, much like the new glamour prisms on grand companies do. A part of the economy that the game had relied upon for a long while is no longer functioning. There’s the vague possibility that we’re going to see another tier of materia introduced before the end of the expansion, but at this point materia availability has finally caught up with the space to slot materia on tome and dungeon gear.

Like we always do it this time.

And the rest

I find it a little odd just how much of this patch was partitioned out for the future; both the new PvP mode (and associated potential rewards) and the new run-your-face-against-a-cheese-grater challenge were pushed out a little bit, which is unusual. You might think that’s an effort to extend content a bit more, but the fact is that most of the developers seem well aware that the new challenge content is not going to be seen by the majority of players and isn’t intended to be.

That’s the downside of what I mentioned when I said that the game integrated itself rather seamlessly. On the bright side, it means that the game is really still the same game you’ve been playing since June, just with several enhancements. On the other hand, if you were eager for things like exploratory missions, deep dungeon content, or the like to really breathe in some new life… well, you’re going to be waiting until late January or early February for the next patch.

Ah, well. They can’t all be flawless.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk a little bit about crafting and gathering, both where it is and where the game is heading with it in the future.

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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Krenian Kandos

One thing I will say about the Materia system:

It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the system honestly is not that great of a system. Let’s be honest: There is a tiered set of stats already that have been agreed upon from Best to Worst. because of that, you don’t really become flexible; Let’s take Tanks for example:

On accessories: strength is king, solely because you get more DPS out of anything else and faster kills equal faster clears. You can’t stack Vit which is your survival stat and anything else is worse per point compared to Strength.

For the left side, it’s mostly a mix of DPS intensive stats. You’re either stacking Direct Hit or Crit then followed by Det and Tenacity if you’re doing progression. You are heading away from defensive stats after progression to go more offensive.

My question is this: Why is this even an option to put Materia in the system when the stats we go are essentially the same stats on armor we look at? The option of flexibility? No, I’d call that the illusion. And besides, the amount you get out of the materia slotted is not exactly gamebreaking: unless you’re doing cutting edge raids, it won’t be the amount missing that will make or break you.

As such, around 95% of the population can essentially either muff their materia or not even bother with materia.

This is compounded with the fact that they have made it easier to get Materia out of your old gear. The fact is this: You’re coming to a point where the point of Materia is essentially useless. I would rather they slap the damn stuff on the gear and just revisit Materia to be something completely different. Stat sticks to shove in gear is just not interesting in the least and most of the community will follow a set of rules. While I get the whole flexibility of choosing the gear you want to balance stats (I mean, skill speed at a x number is a fun numbers game to play with but really..), if they really wanna make things simpler, just make the gear to be the end all, be all when it comes to stat play. We do have different ways to gear up anyway; Materia really has lost its way.

In essence, I propose a whole different way of doing things: Make materia do something different. Something unique. Add a glow. Make skills do different graphics. very similar to what the Runes in WoW now do. (Or whatever they’re called. can’t recall anymore..)

Because right now, I feel like Materia is really just a way for them to say “look, there’s customization!” but it’s a smoke and mirrors situation that really, is becoming more and more apparent the more they make it easy for Materia. Even adding an extra tier, the point of Materia is simply an extra little bump to your stats.

Better to just shove that on the armor and be done with that mess. No point.

Matt Redding

Krenian, you’re absolutely correct. Just as the optional attribute points were simply removed, Materia might as well be the same. The only thing I can think of is that the effort, slight though it is, of loading materia into your gear is not something that everyone does. They could just as easily make it be “collect X tokens from A or B or C, turn them in and have your gear ‘tuned’ so you get 5% stat bonus on it”. If the game actually had different specs where someone might go with a skill/spell speed build over a crit build it would be one thing, but we don’t. So basically we’re all using the same stats.

Dagget Burmese

Squadron missions are great for getting scripts if you have one of more of the squad members with the right attribute. As well, running with yourself as a healer makes for a pretty effective team, the AI is not bad in that scenario, better than 1/2 the PUGs I land in.