The biggest thing that disappointed me about the Ishgard restoration in Final Fantasy XIV was when it was clarified pretty early on that we were going to be rebuilding the Firmament rather than the rest of the city. Like, don’t get me wrong, there’s obviously stuff to like about rebuilding the Firmament itself (and I’ll be getting into that in this column, don’t you worry), but Ishgard is kind of halfway a wreck even now, and there’s stuff that’s falling apart when we could really expect it to be done in-universe. It feels like a missed opportunity.
Not those scrips, different scrips
At the end of the day, the system in place during the first phase of the restoration was more or less the same as the collectable system that’s existed in the game since Heavenward. Gather stuff, make it a collectable (thereby forming a more granular scale than the binary of HQ or NQ), and then turn in the product for scrips. Buy things with those scrips. Rinse and repeat. The fluff is different, but the core system remains the same.
While I definitely feel like the FFXIV team has been happy with the broad strokes of the collectable system (hence refining and re-using it for two separate expansions now), you also get the sense that it’s never quite sat at the place the team wants for it. Part of that is that it has an issue with the very nature of how crafting and gathering work compared to dungeons.
In essence, scrips are supposed to be like tomestones. But tomestones have a weekly limit on how many you can acquire in a given week for the most recent stuff, and you can’t really design crafting content to only take part in half-hour bursts or any of that. There’s no real space for weekly limits on gathering stuff or crafting stuff. It’s a system that wants to have a perpetual churn to it where you’re always rewarded for regular participation without it being mandatory for most of your play time.
(For the record, if you hadn’t realize that as a part of FFXIV’s design, now you know it. The game is basically trying to pull the constant art of motivating you to do things because the queue system relies on a constant stream of players having good reasons to take place both as leveling content and for endgame progress, thus ensuring that new players don’t wind up zoning into empty games or never being able to do Sastasha because everyone else is already at the level cap. I could write an article about it. Probably won’t, though.)
Rebuilding Ishgard is thus, well, a derivation of a familiar crafting loop. It has established changes, of course; you are at least theoretically working toward a common goal, and it also works more effectively for leveling. But for all the talk about this being new content, the most “new” part of it is joint crafting, which is… uh…
Well, I have no idea. I had no chances to take part in one of those outings. The Firmament was always full to the brim when they rolled around and thus I can tell you nothing about them; heck, it seems they’re done once this phase is completed, so that’s about all there is to say.
Obviously, more stuff is due out in the future. But the biggest thing to dislike, at least from where I’m sitting, is that Ishgard restoration feels like just another variant on what we already do with custom deliveries and normal scrip turnins. That’s fine in and of itself (after all, normal raids, alliance raids, and dungeons are very similar forms of content as well), but it certainly doesn’t feel like the sea change it was kind of sold as.
Building a home
Let’s start with something we all know by this point: The Firmament is very clearly paving the way for Ishgard housing. That’s just what it is. The only real questions are when and how; the map layout and file structure are all in place to confirm it. I could believe that it’s during this expansion or that it’s a feature of our next expansion, but we all know that it’ll be in there.
However, beyond that fact is a reframing of something we’ve seen in FFXIV several times: a rebuilding. Every single expansion has featured one, but Revenant’s Toll and Idyllshire just… improved over time. You walk into them now and they’re fully functional in ways they weren’t at the start. To some extent it’s a shame that people can no longer access the original Revenant’s Toll to appreciate the difference, but both of them were build and improved over time.
Stormblood changed this equation with Doman Reconstruction, so you now had the sense of personal investment in rebuilding the area. That’s a good thing! Unfortunately, the rebuilding also was entirely personal. People who lagged behind on a given week saw a different Doman Enclave, and since nothing of particular relevance beyond MSQ entries happened there, you really didn’t lose much by opting out.
This appears to be the equivalent shift for this expansion, and it’s an interesting change. We still have the feel that if you missed the early stages, you miss out on what things used to be. But the fact that we all feel like it’s going to be housing also contributes a sense of building up real, actual stuff. This isn’t just arbitrarily adding new structures, it’s rebuilding for something basically everyone wants. And since the rebuilding relies on crafting, you get much more of a sense that this is a direct result of player effort.
It also helps that you can level insanely quickly with this content. At this point it even seems to work for combat jobs, which is probably an oversight or a massive problem, but for crafting and gathering it’s excellent. It both gives you a good way to level up quickly, and it encourages you to get other max-level crafters once you can just get a nice set of level 80 items to turn in. (I have not tried it for combat jobs, for the record; I couldn’t if I wanted to. Do not do this expecting to level combat jobs.)
And while it’s definitely frustrating to be locked out of big crafting events due to player volume, there’s also something… well, heartening about that fact. Think about that. The big draw for this small patch wasn’t the new chest-pounding progression content, it was building stuff. Yes, to get new hairstyles and new dress-up options, but the point is that players cared way more about that than anything else.
That makes me happy. Even if there were queue and population issues, even if it’s not perfectly polished, even if at this point it’s a familiar basic loop. People were eager for this, and that’s not assured.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, let’s do something odd and talk about the content we don’t know about yet.