We don’t know just how long it’s going to be before we’re all chilling out in the battlefield for Final Fantasy XIV’s next relic weapon stage. It’ll be some amount of time, but given the delay for the patch and overall deployment times, there’s ambiguity. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start thinking about it, especially since we’ve been given a few hints about what it will be… but not enough hints to be sure just yet. It’s a delicious mystery.
First of all, let’s recap what we definitely know courtesy of the last letter from the producer. The Bozja Southern Front is the name of the battlefield in question, and while it’s definitely similar to Eureka in some respects such as having a distinct leveling system, it is not the same. We also know that players can choose to enhance their weapons via this area or via another method, with both requiring players to advance the storyline. It’s also a new “special” instance, meaning that it’s not the normal queued content.
And… that’s it. That’s the extent of the official information we have right now.
First and foremost, I feel like this means that whatever the Bozja Southern Front actually plays like, it’s not going to expect players to group up in full parties and take on grinding in Eureka’s pseudo-Final Fantasy XI style. Technically, this hasn’t been stated, but if it just has a different leveling system but still basically played like Eureka… well, it wouldn’t exactly be a meaningful change, would it?
Fortunately – or perhaps not – I think we actually have some space to speculate about what will be happening on this new battlefield because we know there are a couple of content types not currently being served by Shadowbringers. Specifically, we’ve got the open-ended zone experiences offered by the old form of the Diadem and the randomized challenges of the Deep Dungeons, the latter of which has yet to be mentioned in any real capacity.
Deep Dungeon, as a form of content, is interesting insofar as it has always featured an alternate leveling system. Indeed, it’s always featured a leveling system that allows you to pick up new weaponry as yet another path of sidegrades. You start at a lower level, re-level in the dungeon, and when you level up your gear enough you can start taking it out of the dungeon.
By contrast, we haven’t really had something quite like the formlessness of the Diadem again since Heavensward; the zone was open and shared, but really that just meant you finished your combat objectives and then you got to roam all over again. And when you could just queue up for it from wherever, it certainly did work well enough, although it remained relevant mostly for gathering and crafting (even before it was reworked for Restoration, let’s note).
So both of these might serve as inspiration. But I think there might be something even more relevant that we can look to as a potential source of inspiration and grounding, something that hearkens back to the days of old and ties in with the theme of resurrecting the past that’s run through all of Shadowbringers as a subtheme. I am talking, of course, about hamlet defense.
For those of you who never took part in hamlet defense, congratulations on having the good judgement necessary to miss the buggy, poorly optimized, and janky world of FFXIV v1.0. But the hamlet defense system was a pretty neat one, with a long stretch of gatherers and crafters fortifying the small hamlets in the world before combat jobs took the field to fight off the encroaching beast tribes. The system was derived, at least in part, from the Garrison mechanics in FFXI. It was neat, albeit subject to the same issues that the game as a whole had.
Obviously, those systems have evolved into being some of the foundations for various FATEs out in the world. But what if we had hamlet defense back… say, as part of defending against Garlean incursions and taking control of the battlefield?
More to the point, since we already know we’re going to need a leveling system and we also know that there’s not much chance of gatherers or crafters being involved (they have their own row to hoe at this point, after all), we could easily bring in something else from the older days of the game… combat leves. Much as Eureka was a throwback to FFXI, this could be a zone of throwbacks to FFXIV‘s earliest days.
The leveling system is even easy to justify in that context, considering that the original launch version of the game had two completely separate leveling systems for character levels and skill levels. So your “physical” level (which determined your overall attributes) could be much higher than your class level, and it would make perfect sense to bring back some sort of physical leveling system as a way of providing an old homage.
You level up, with successful leves contributing to your defense readiness before scheduled invasions by Garlean forces. More readiness means that the various stations are better able to fight back against the invading forces, and the whole process ultimately helps you gather the materials you need to reinforce your relic weapons. And just like the older version of the game, you can party up for leves, but it is inherently a flexible feature.
Do I think this is what we’re going to get? No, not necessarily. It’s more that I think it’s plausible, that it’s important to look at how much of this expansion has been a running undercurrent of exploring the past again. It’s there in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, and the upcoming Unreal Trials brings this beyond just being text and into a metatextual element. And it seems as if whatever we get, yes, it’s going to primarily be a throwback to the past in some form.
I also have a feeling it’s probably going to be more flexible, with the alternative path being more akin to the light-farming antics of prior weapon upgrades. You can form fixed parties with fixed objectives and grind that way, or you can grind in a more structureless form if you’d prefer. The result would be a relic that offered a fair bit more flexibility than prior ones have provided – and given how blindingly frustrating Eureka was for a lot of players, that’d be welcome right from the start.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, I’d like to take a look at the issue that healers and healing jobs are always going to be facing, well in advance of the accepted conventional wisdom that the next expansion will likely feature a new healer of some sort.