There’s a lot of crafting involved.
Regardless, now we’re on the other side of the patch and can start examining it as a whole. So, as I so often do, I will start with the obvious centerpiece and move on to the more peripheral stuff piece by piece. While I will do my level best to avoid spoilers herein, I can’t make an absolute promise about it, nor can I save you for the comments. Especially since the story this time around was… well.
Things fall apart
You know, I’m starting to get wise to the general cadence of FFXIV’s story updates insofar as whenever all of the pieces seem easy to line up, the way they’ll actually fall still gets delivered with a hell of an impact. For a good chunk of the story in this particular patch you could see everything lining up well in advance, and yet even if you knew all of this in-universe there wouldn’t be much to be done to avoid it.
I feel like everything from the writing to acting was working hard to be on-point for this installment, and it shows; all of the hints about the future and the pitfalls came together convincingly, and everyone turned in a performance that can’t help but be emotional. It feels like a good closure point for Doma while hinting at the future. It felt, in short, like one of the most productive and well-timed bits of MSQ development that we’ve seen.
Obviously, there’s more stuff in the wings for when the next installment of story gets released, because that’s how these things go. It certainly does accomplish something that I had said we needed insofar as it hints about or next destinations; we don’t yet know what those destinations will be, but that’s for the next two patches to reveal. Or, more likely, that’s what the expansion will reveal, as it seems very likely to me that the next story installment will feature hints about its ersatz group at most. That’s the structure of things as we see them now, after all.
I’m doing my best to avoid spoiling any of the revelations from the patch, which should say something about how highly I regard the overall effort. It’s definitely one of the best bits of story content that we’ve had in the game for a while, so I look forward to seeing what comes next in terms of revelations and hints of the future.
You all know my theory about where we go next. But I could be wrong, and based upon the eerie conclusion of the story, I may very well be.
Under the moon and into the compass
I’m grouping the trial and the dungeon together because, well, there’s not a whole lot to say about the trial itself. There’s a few interesting mechanics at work, albeit mostly familiar ones, and it’s not difficult to clear but can cause players to stumble. But its big triumph is in presentation; even though a bunch of its mechanics are familiar, it all looks very novel and feels such.
That’s similar to the trick used in Swallow’s Compass; most of the actual novelty is in the combination of abilities, less so in execution. The actual mechanics of the dungeon aren’t bad, but they’re nothing particularly exciting, just pushing through the regular numbers of a dungeon. But it looks gorgeous and feels very novel, so you tend to overlook anything non-memorable.
At least the last boss contains a couple of tricks that will mess you up unless you pay careful attention to his staff (stand near him when it’s charged with lightning and away when it isn’t) and makes interesting use of the “split” mechanic. Life hack there: try to damage both halves equally. They don’t have to drop at the exact same time, but the closer they are, the fewer times you have to deal with more splitting.
Overall, both of these bits of content are visual treats that aren’t terribly novel once you look past that… but it’s entirely within your power to not worry about looking past that. Swallow’s Compass in particular is one of the best-looking dungeons we’ve gotten from this expansion; it makes more sense to just enjoy the layout and have fun.
A city of machinery
When I found out that we were going to have such a long series of quests to reach the next part of the Return to Ivalice line, what I had not expected or hoped for was a lengthy series of wine antics… wine antics that cover the exact same ground we covered ages ago when we were in this area for the MSQ. The most it does is get Lea Monde in the mix as a place name, and it really adds nothing aside from pointless running around. Augh.
What matters most, of course, is the dungeon itself. And honestly, it feels like this one took lessons from the prior installments. It manages to feel like there’s a consistent difficulty curve all the way through, and I feel like there are slightly fewer mechanics that can wipe the party because one or two players decide to ignore things.
That isn’t to say it’s easy by any stretch of the imagination; if anything, it feels like it’s loaded down with about as many mechanics as Rabanstre, and each boss manages to feel like it could be a trial in its own right. Famfrit in particular feels like his entire arena consists of mechanics that want you to dodge in contrary directions, although some o that is doubtlessly my state of mind as I fought through that; Belias is pretty easy to dodge once you realize how many of his mechanics are trying to trick you. It’s a gentle trick, the sort you can easily figure out, but trying to just fall back on familiar habits can get you in trouble.
Of course, the “gatekeeping” boss a lot of people seem to struggle with involves doing math, which already has some people up in arms because, well, some people are not great at math. And I get that. But I also think it’s a really neat way of mixing up the game’s mechanics, and it feels like a challenge we haven’t seen before. I feel like even if you’re not very good at the math involved, you have to recognize that there are only so many different mechanics you can use in a fight; trying to add something new to the mix is a good thing, even if it ultimately doesn’t work as a long-term option.
The new greed-only rule, though? Yeah, that can go. Understandable intent, not great execution.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s lots more to cover next week, so let’s get that in then, shall we? Sounds good to me.