So what do I think of it? I like it. But then, I’m kind of just the right person to like it.
I think there’s a lot of stuff to unpack around it, and I think it’s something where not liking it is both wholly understandable and also suggests a course of action. So let’s talk a little bit about the overall experience, what parts work and what parts don’t, and why it’s important, if you don’t like it, to at least have a realistic understanding of what it’s going to be and what it wants to be in the first place.
See, Eureka is a love letter to Final Fantasy XI. It is also a hate letter to a certain sort of FFXI fan through the exact same means. And it wins up being downright baffling for players who have little to no experience with the game in either form.
I had been hopeful that Eureka’s magia board would have some larger impact on the game, but it turns out it doesn’t. But that’s fine; the board accomplishes the goal that it wants to, which is making a harsher divide between tanks and non-tanks as well as giving a leveling approach to the area without adding new levels. I think it works a little bit better than the start-from-zero approach in Palace of the Dead, although that was also aimed in a different direction.
Much like FFXI, the way you’re supposed to be playing is by getting in a group (preferrably a full group, although you can manage all right in early levels with less) and spec your magicite properly. Minimize the impact on your tank, maximize your damage on your damage dealers, pull and fight single enemies above your level. Those of you who have played FFXI back in the day will find this exceedingly familiar.
It is also capricious, brutal, and slow. At the lower levels, you’re going to be getting very few crystals and not feel like you’re getting much of anywhere at all. As your levels go up, you’ll be able to pick up more and more crystals at faster rates; I personally noticed a big jump in drops as I started farming higher enemies. Gauging the prices of gear now is a little inaccurate, as you’ve got a lot more levels to gain and a lot more work to do.
In short, it’s FFXI grinding camps all over again. Those of you who asked for FFXIV to be more like FFXI now have exactly what you wanted in this zone. If you are now complaining about the fact that it is a slow, capricious, and brutal exercise, you are politely asked to engage in some self-reflection. Please.
There are two important things I think players are missing a lot in terms of gameplay. The first is that if you’re looking at the current gameplay and thinking “it’s going to take forever to accomplish this,” you really aren’t looking at this in the right way. This is a lot like the atma/aspected crystal grind in the early stages of prior relic weapons; the difference is that instead of being wholly based on random chance, it’s based much more on the time to completion. Drop rates and options increase as you level, so you’re not going to be as reliant on hitting 30 chains just for one crystal as you keep leveling.
People have also pointed out that Aenemos Crystals are best traded in unless you’re close to finishing out a given upgrade step; that’s also important. Hording them when you’re low level is counterproductive.
The second is that this is entirely meant as a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, it will get easier as you get higher, but the harder you try to push yourself to get everything right now, the more miserable it gets. Your elemental level isn’t going anywhere, there’s no weekly lockout, there’s not a huge pressure in place to just keep rolling up. You can duck in and out any time you want. Take it slow and don’t rush it.
For that matter, this is on the highly optional side of content to begin with. None of the upgrades you can get from the zone are going to be terribly necessary if you’re keeping up elsewhere; your 360 tomestone weapon compares more than favorably with the 355 Aenemos weapon. Yes, there are five spots for melding there, that’s 200 points of a secondary stat! But that’s assuming that you have a secondary stat that’s useful in those 200 points, not to mention that you’re trading in straight weapon damage and your primary stat. The 355 weapons will hold their own, but they’re not really better than the 360, and once we’re upgrading to 370 they’ll be lagging behind.
However, if this is more fun to you than capping out? Hey, you’ll be fine with 355 gear. Enjoy yourself and don’t worry about weekly resets at all. There’s nothing in here that is necessary to remain competitive; it’s not like how the game really needs you to do Hunts and/or Alliance Raids, plus Omega, plus dungeons and so forth.
If you really want those cosmetics? Yeah, this is the only way to get them. But I consider that to be on a different tier than “this is gear I need in order to continue playing the game as I have in the past.” It’s optional.
That being said, I do feel like there are some missteps here. For one thing, I feel like making the “best” approach be so heavily biased toward full groups of eight is a bit of a misstep; I’d prefer the four-person light party or even a six-person FFXI affair. It’s a minor quibble, and doing a smaller-size group is something possible if a bit slower, but it still bothers me somewhat with the ad-hoc party forming. (The tools provided are a good start, though.)
It also returns the Palace of the Dead/Diadem-style lockbox picking, which is frustrating in the extreme when you’re trying to pick something up. There are a lot of good rewards here, and obviously Diadem-style spoils wouldn’t work, but I had still hoped for a little more reliability than “hunt NM FATEs and hope you get something from the reward list that you want.” Some form of luck correction would be nice, and that strikes me as something that should be in place as an “alternative” form of Protean crystal spending.
For that matter, if you don’t need any of the gear, the stuff you can buy here feels pretty worthless. It’s kind of a case for banking lots of crystals rather than spending them on anything.
Also… I hate to be the one to point this out, but there are a lot of FFXIV players who did not, in fact, play FFXI. In fact, I feel more sympathy for those players than I do for the former FFXI players who asked for this and now aren’t happy with what they got. While I’m comfortable taking it slow on this particular content and don’t feel the need to aggressively chase piles of Aenemos gear, if you were expecting to be able to unlock certain things faster – including something as simple as coloring the AF3 gear – this is kind of brutal.
Personally, I feel like the first upgrade stage for armor should award dye options, but my guess is that we’ll get some relic armor-style antics as the patch series continues, so that’s probably the reason why cosmetic improvements take so long to arrive. I don’t feel like this was wholly necessary, but I do think it’s at least reasonably explainable.
At the end of the day, though, I do enjoy Eureka. It’s optional for me, and I don’t feel obligated to ride on it too heavily, but I also feel like it’s something where your time to rewards is based pretty thoroughly upon how much time you’re willing to invest. That’s all right with me, and I hope to see it improved through the next few patches.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to talk about evergreen content models, bringing things forward, and older stuff that could use some love in future patches.