Here’s something that I think no one, even me, really acknowledged heading into this particular patch: Final Fantasy XIV set itself up with a really difficult act to follow. Patch 5.3 was a real standout in both story and content terms, and that meant that the next patch was always going to be something of a letdown simply because it wasn’t going to be a climactic end to stuff. You can’t go from summoning heroes to dungeon fun times without some whiplash.
Having said that, I always start with content for these patches, so we’ll be leaving the discussion of story elements until next week. Right now, it’s all about the content added with this newest patch, and that means we’re kicking things off with the aforementioned dungeon fun times. Hard to believe it’s been this long since we had a dungeon that felt this much like a romp, isn’t it?
Matoya’s Rumpus Room
Of all the dungeons we’ve had to go through, none of them has ever felt so deliberately light as this particular one. Seriously, we’re not saving the world or even a region with this one, and even though there is danger (and mechanics that can kill you), it is definitely keeping in a feeling of lower stakes compared to the majority of other dungeons even in this particular expansion.
That’s a smart choice, though. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I find this particular dungeon notably more fun than Heroes’ Gauntlet. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s any mechanically simpler, but there was definitely a feel all the way through that the bosses were part of a particularly interesting minigame and the stakes were lower than normal.
One thing that I particularly did like is how both the second and third boss make use of jumping to a different part of the battlefield to continue things. These changes feel akin to the gap-crossing bit of Dohn Mheg but without the irritation of the skill factor, instead allowing you to make use of the mechanics you’re aware of and rewarding situational awareness with more than just dodging or getting hit. Indeed, situational awareness feels key for every fight, a sort of tacit acknowledgement of design lessons learned in the YoRHa raids.
It also feels like the dungeon was absolutely and deliberately packed with visual moments to make use of the explorer mode that was just added, something that I also find blessedly welcome. Between little visual flourishes like the original Final Fantasy sprites lining the bookshelves in the central area, the acid-trip lava, and the general baffling water-pipe layout? This entire dungeon is made for some photo shoots, putting pretty much every prior dungeon to shame in that regard aside from maybe the Grand Cosmos. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
I also can’t help but notice that the dungeon once again plays with the idea of pulling two packs up to a barrier as a gating mechanism, since often you have pulls split up a little bit more or with unusual gating.
As a whole, I don’t think this is a perfect dungeon, but it’s a perfectly placed dungeon. Both in terms of story and in mechanics it’s a bit lighter than usual, something sorely needed after the climax of the last patch. Spend some time exploring and getting screenshots while you’re at it.
East of Eden
I am admittedly not doing Savage this tier, due to my not doing Savage for any tier because I don’t find it fun, but this round of Eden fights felt unusually easy. I went in blind to the entire set of fights and only had a couple of wipes on my way through, with one fight having no wipes. More importantly, I walked out feeling like I had a pretty clear picture of how the fights worked even with only one run through.
Part of this is doubtlessly just because these fights make use of clear telegraphing in particularly fun ways. The Cloud of Darkness fight was particularly fun in that regard, teaching you how to avoid each of her mechanics early on and then asking you if you were paying enough attention through steady repetition. In fact, none of the fights here bar the last one seem to have a break from the main boss fight, and even that is more of a setpiece than a real race to prevent a bar filling/emptying.
The last boss in particular is a fun jumble of ideas pulled from Final Fantasy VIII and all those revisited primals, which puts paid to that particular side of things. And the third boss… well, I can only hope that some of the abilities on display there eventually get used by the job that is so clearly represented by that boss, since they seem like fun potential additions to the core mechanics. (Although that is a pretty big lift to assume.)
Overall, though, this was more of a letdown than Alexander or Omega in terms of sheer impact on this last batch of content. I don’t feel that the last sequence of fights were as impressive as those gauntlets, and I definitely don’t think that the final fight is half a patch on those respective battles. Still, I can’t exactly complain about the idea that the farming for weapon pieces and armor sets will be less annoying over the coming months.
Gathering collectible items got a lot easier for gatherers. One could convincingly argue that it’s almost stupidly easy now. Then again, it wasn’t exactly hard before; it just required you to keep a very specific sequence of presses and abilities in your head and you’d get good collection options if you could do so. Making this a bespoke experience was probably the right call across the board.
I still haven’t quite sussed out what is likely the ideal rotation, but I do like that it still feels both easy to get high-quality items if you outlevel the node (fairly important) and a delicate but reliable process for on-level nodes (also important). The new interface also preserves the minigame aspect of gathering, giving you both a target value and an overall sense of how likely each outcome is.
One thing that I’m not as fond of is the feel like you get fewer shots at even low-level nodes than you did before for collectible items. It’s still not egregious or awful, but it’s there in ways that it wasn’t before.
But as a whole, I think this marks the last field that the expansion really needed to polish up before declaring the general crafting/gathering rework to be good. It makes this into a minigame within a minigame in ways that feels far less clunky than the old solution. A good change, on balance.
Feedback, as always, can be left in the comments below or mailed along to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to talk about the story beats of the patch, and there were a lot of them. It’s just a pity that so many of the central ones were kind of limp, then…