Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s lightness of dungeons

    
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It's not just me, right?
It feels really weird to think about just how few dungeons we’ve gotten in Final Fantasy XIV for this expansion. Not that it’s the start of a new trend; Heavensward already dropped the numbers compared to the base game, and thus Stormblood continued in a similar trajectory. But when you think about the fact that the game used to have three new dungeons per patch and compare it to an average of one and a half… it’s still adding them on a regular basis, but it’s a much slower basis.

The slower pace of dungeons was something that was announced well before the expansion actually launched, of course. So I think it’s interesting to look at the slower pace, at the stated goals, and see how well the changes have actually achieved those goals. Or, perhaps, if the whole thing didn’t work out very well and we should hope for an uptick again in the next expansion.

We can run to the end of the world.In the base game, we were more or less swimming in dungeons. This made sense, at the time. There was a much bigger spread of levels and plenty of dungeons to give a hard mode; it wasn’t all that hard to get three new dungeons out of the game with every patch.

Of course, this came with a down side, specifically that every single patch had at least one dungeon no one liked very much. Pharos Sirius and Sastasha (Hard) are the ones that stick out in everyone’s mind, but I remember people being unhappy to get a single dungeon in every single patch. Clearly the development team agreed, at least to an extent, since Heavensward cut the number of added dungeons down to two per patch. One new one and one hard mode, instead of two hard modes.

The bright side to this approach was that the extra development time did indeed shine through. Each dungeon felt better-tuned and more suited to running, and while we had the occasional patch with particularly easy dungeons (3.3 in particular had “the one with easy mechanics or the one with no mechanics”) it was a far cry from making dungeons that were just plain unpleasant to run.

Unfortunately, fatigue still set in because the Expert dungeon rotation now consisted of precisely two dungeons. By the time the next patch rolled around, you had seen those two dungeons countless times. So while I don’t think anyone really expected to get more dungeons per patch, the need for a wider rotation of new dungeons was felt keenly.

This, I think, was where some of the apprehension came from when the announcement came that we would be getting only one dungeon every other patch. True to form, we’ve been getting one dungeon on odd patches and a new hard mode on even patches, but the rotation of dungeons has largely worked out all right. Having a two-dungeon rotation during 4.2 was a drag, but having three again makes it far more enjoyable; hopefully whatever is added for 4.4 will rotate out the older dungeons while keeping Compass in the mix.

From a resource standpoint, it’s worked out well. By the time the end of Heavensward rolled around, the game was mining out its leveling dungeons for hard modes; there were only 11 dungeons that hadn’t yet gotten an upgrade, and some of those arguably had no options for an upgrade. By contrast, at this point we’ve got 20 dungeons which could theoretically get a hard mode, and we’ve gotten a wider Expert rotation.

Here I go again on my own.These are positive things for the long-term health of the game. We’re getting slightly fewer dungeons, but it’s balancing out decently with quality. And we’re also getting a wider variety of different roulettes to flesh out our time, so we’ve got a wider spread of content to run and more reasons to do so.

I feel like it also frees the dungeon team a bit more to do more interesting things with dungeons. Doma Castle, for example, is going to be hard (at best) to make a hard mode out of if anyone ever tries. But the dungeon could also be designed without a need for any sort of hard mode. Compare that to Stone Vigil, where there could be little to no sense of immediacy as you moved through the dungeon; you were just there, completing part of the story, with no real connection to the place or what you needed.

At the same time, it also does feel a bit off that we’ve been getting fewer dungeons all around. In fact, this becomes particularly bothersome when we’re in single-dungeon patches; because every new dungeon has its own gear, this means that the drop tables are overloaded and there’s one dungeon with much better gear than the other two. Rolling the singleton into the next Expert following the release of two new dungeons would help this a bit, though not completely.

We’ve also definitely fallen into something of a rote pattern with dungeons in the game – a few trash pulls, then a boss, repeat three times. In fact, the dungeons we’re dealing with these days seem to have the weakest sense of uniquely arranged packs of enemies, with most of our fights just being “and here’s a group, pull it to the gate.” There are efforts made to provide some different mechanics along the way in Compass, but none of them really come down to much in the end.

This is a bad thing; one of the most memorable bits of a dungeon is when individual trash fights have their own mechanics and patterns. The latest groups don’t seem to have that cadence, which makes the fights less engaging and tends to encourage just gathering everything and AoEing it down. (Which is better now that pretty much every job has some interesting AoE tricks, but still.)

Insofar as the stated goals were to make individual dungeons more fun and more memorable, I think the change in rollout has largely succeeded. We’re getting slightly less, but it’s higher quality and it’s still fun. And the various runs don’t feel worse; even the two dungeons we’re more familiar with don’t feel like they’ve completely worn out their welcome. Especially since we’re no longer forced to run Expert quite as often.

I think there could stand to be a bit more examination of how and why content rotates in and out of Expert, but for the time being, this is working. And if this is where the next expansion starts and stays, that would be all right.

Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, as we’re still in a bit of a lull, I want to start in on a rather ridiculous project. It’s time to rate the beast tribes. We’ve got a lot of them, this should be fun.

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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Vincent Clark

It’s also worth pointing out that the dungeons are actually very well done. Design, layout, mechanics…just enough eye candy and things to keep you on your toes. For the recent one, Shallows, some of the scenery (underwater parts and outside in the open) was amazing.

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rentalos

I think it’s also fair to point out that they didn’t just “do less” with each patch, but rather just did fewer dungeons. All of the additional side content and features that have been added are great–they’re working on so much to give experiences to all kinds of players, from the grinders (Eureka) to the Hardcore (Ultimate) to the Crafters (deliveries). All of it is not for everyone (I’ll probably never do Ultimate) but it’s all pretty cool to see the extra effort they can put in other things. I’m super stoked for Heaven on High– if I ever get a case of dungeon fatigue, there’s plenty else to do.

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azeros

Honestly, dungeons don’t have the same intricacy of the Extreme trials or normal and savage raids, so i’m very happy they’re diverting resources to other, more interesting, areas.