Here we are in the wake of Final Fantasy XIV’s latest content patch, and while there are a lot of different things that were technically contained in patch 5.35… let’s face it, the real focus was on the Bozjan Southern Front. A new piece of content that feels oddly segmented, in a way, as if it’s the first in a series of encounters that should stretch longer than what the actual development roadmap seems to indicate. That might also just be me, though. What matters most is that it’s here and can be played.
But how does it actually feel to play? Well, thereby hangs a tale!
Let’s get this out of the way for anyone coming in late: Eureka, as a whole, was not warmly received by FFXIV players and had a downright icy reception at first. This is not exactly surprising when you consider that the zone was structured very much as a throwback to Final Fantasy XI in more than just item names. Between the slow grinding of player levels, experience loss and risk, and the overall flow? The initial release was very much like layering FFXI over FFXIV.
Later releases were more warmly received in the series, to be fair. But right out of the gate, Bozja had to basically be Eureka without quite so much Eureka. It also had to be decent leveling content and provide means to upgrade your relic weapons and so forth. It had a lot of restrictions and needs layered on top of it, in other words.
Thus, the version of Bozja we actually got is partly a more involved overworld zone (shades of Eureka) and partly something notably different. And while it definitely does seem better than its predecessor, many elements of it seem like too many things layered on top of one another with insufficient explanation.
For example, one of the things people disliked about Eureka was forming slow grinding parties to get your levels up. Say farewell to that now; instead, Bozja doesn’t give you much of anything for grinding individual enemies other than a chance at some eventual drops at a low percentage. Nope, everything is about the Skirmishes and Critical Engagements, and otherwise you won’t level up at all.
The good here is immediately obvious because it removes slow grinds as your primary way of doing things. But the bad is that this means the enemies scattered around are mostly irritating distractions rather than something you care about. The only things you really want to take out are the star-marked targets which have long respawns and require a fair team to take them out, and that’s mostly for the lost action clusters they can drop.
Not that it’s a huge deal anyhow because your rank barely matters beyond arbitrary capping of areas you can access. This makes for progress, yes, but it really highlights the idea of layered systems. You don’t get anything for leveling up, but leveling up does mean you’re more likely to get more lost actions because of new areas, but there’s no assurance of that.
Lost actions, honestly, are halfway neat and halfway frustrating. The idea is that you have a little holster as you find them, containing both powerful items and actions you would otherwise not be able to use. There’s a mix of stuff that’s class-agnostic and role-specific, but the result is that you can break pretty far out of your normal job comfort zone. That’s good! But it’s also random, which makes it less of “here’s a fun alternate build” and more of a roguelike experience wherein you have to really hope about what you get.
Admittedly, I maybe shouldn’t be complaining about that in wake of this replacing our already roguelike-ish Deep Dungeon? It still does bother me a bit.
It also feels as if a lot of the various currencies and items have a randomized but too-low drop rate in general. Between an assortment of fragments, Bozjan Clusters, the upgrade items for relic weapons, field notes, and lockboxes… the whole thing feels cluttered, top to bottom. It’s kind of weird you can upgrade your relic faster by skipping the Bozjan Southern Front altogether and just working through Heavensward FATEs.
Of course… this is also deliberate. After all, there are people getting into that content for the free trial now, so they want these areas to be more populated. Heck, the second upgrade has you running leveling dungeons. These are not accidental or foolish additions.
All of this probably sounds broadly negative, and on a whole I don’t think that the Bozjan Southern Front is quite a slam-dunk. This might change as I progress further through the zone, but at the moment, it has the problem of solving lots of problems that existed within Eureka but also excising the positive elements of those systems. However, not being an absolute and unalloyed win is not the same as being a loss, and there’s a lot of stuff to the Southern Front’s credit.
In terms of a zone offering players more open-world stuff to do? Bozja delivers nicely. There is a ton going on, and more going on as more and more people get access to the later areas. I also think that the Critical Engagements offer a neat twist to the existing mechanics, with fights that are far less dense than lots of other similarly sized confrontations but also provide a path for a large number of people to smack through things. It’s also nice that you can tailor some of your specialized actions for specific fights, to boot.
Plus, I like that it moves away from one of the biggest weaknesses of Eureka in that there are loads of reasons to do stuff in here even without relic weapons. Indeed, your relic weapon is almost a secondary concern; you’re not so much working on it in Bozja as you are doing stuff in Bozja while making progress.
I’m also hopeful that as you get higher (and people start maxing out), rewards are adjusted so that you find yourself more easily able to gain rewards for time spent. Since the rank scale caps out at 15, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mettle translates to some other rewards at higher levels (and thus smooths out the edges of the leveling process).
So at the end of the day, it’s… all right. It’s not as good as it could be, and I’d love to see some more meaningful interactions between things like Resistance rank and your overall performance. But it’s a good iteration on the Eureka design, and I’m hopeful that the next similar installment will bring us into better territory as the team keeps improving this general design.
Feedback, as always, can be mailed to email@example.com. Next week, let’s talk about something tangentially related to this particular system when it comes to borrowed power.