I have a love-hate relationship with Final Fantasy XIV. I actively fought against giving the game MMO of the year for 2020, and I hold the unpopular opinion that the best way to experience the game’s long-winded story is to skip through most of it. But at the same time, I have so much to thank for this game. This game introduced my wife to the joys of PC gaming and helped us get closer. I’ve made true lifelong friends in it. In fact, we met our free company (the game’s equivalent to a guild) during 2014’s Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest.Anyone who’s played the game for an extended period can make pretty accurate predictions on what’s in the works and when it’ll release. And while I’m a huge fan of two major staples – the deep dungeons and the 8-player raid content – I never thought I’d ever take the time to grind out a relic weapon.
That is, until Shadowbringers.
The relic weapon questline is one of the centerpieces of FFXIV’s content. Each job gets one. It’s basically a long quest that starts with the player obtaining the weapon in its base form. Depending on the expansion, players will either get it outright or have to obtain it through another quest. As players do the questline, which usually involve collecting materials by redoing old content, the weapon’s strength improves and the weapon starts glowing. The lengthy grind can turn off many players; it certainly turned me off at first. But now that I’ve finally taken the time to make the Shadowbringers iteration, its clear that I’ve been missing out on one of the best grinds in the genre.
Taking it one step at a time
The first step starts with obtaining the weapon: It’s tied to a quest chain regarding the liberation of Bozja. I’m not exactly sure what happened since I skipped through most of the story, but I know I ended up killing a memory of my best friend’s dad (if you know, you know). The important take-away is that the base weapon is the reward. I chose the gunbreaker’s relic weapon, The Crownsblade.
Most of the Gunbreaker’s weapons are pretty ugly, but this… this is what I call sexy. That long, black blade had so much girth. And that revolver portion… oh boy. The massive cylinder and extra long handle just looked perfect for a gunblade that’s going to be mowing down my enemies by the thousands. I liked it so much, I just had to light it up. And so began my journey, and it was fun.
I needed to do a lot of grinding, and most of it was FATE grinding. I was never a fan of grinding world quests in any MMORPG. I prefer killing monsters; it’s why I play Black Desert Online.
But this was the first time I gave FATE grinding an honest-to-Betsy attempt. And I didn’t realize it but the grind is actually just one big Final Fantasy reference. Like in the other numbered final fantasy games, players run around and wait for random encounters. The FATES are those random encounters. That was my “aha” moment, and suddenly things clicked into place. It took slightly more braincells than running a rotation in Black Desert Online, but there was something so satisfying about completing a FATE in FFXIV. It felt like it activated the same dopamine receptors from completing a random encounter in any other Final Fantasy game. Before I knew it, I was invested.
A memorable experience
I had a lot to do since I started my relic weapon during patch 5.45, which introduced steps 4 and 5. Step 1 was just to obtain the weapon. Step 2 required me to obtain items called memories of the dying. They came in three flavors: tortured memories of the dying, sorrowful memories of the dying, and harrowing memories of the dying. I needed 20 of each. I had two options – either grind it out in a special area called the Bozja Southern Front (more on this later) with a small chance of obtaining them, or grind FATEs (world quests) in the Heavensward areas for a guaranteed drop (assuming the player gets a gold medal for completion). Obviously, I did the latter. I had to do only 60 of them anyway, and it was nice to go back and revisit locations some Heavensward locations. I also hadn’t played in a while, so it was a good way to get that muscle memory back and refine my attack rotations.
It was during this portion of the grind when I met a White Mage who was on the same task. I didn’t party up immediately, but after a few hours of working through the FATES, it was nice to see a familiar face. We did eventually team up for the sake of efficiency, but the company was nice too. We’d do some small talk, joke around a bit, and when my partner finished the task, we went our separate ways – but I still had to knock out 20 more FATES. It wasn’t long before I met a Paladin who’d just started his own quest, so we partied up and played together as well. When I finished, we went our separate ways as well. While the memories I had to collect were quite sad, at least I finished this step off with some pretty positive memories thanks to two players with the same goal.
Submitting the 60 memories didn’t light up my weapon, but it did allow me to dye the weapon and strengthen it. I wanted it to light up, so I had to do the next step: collecting six bitter memories of the dying. This step was trivial. I had to run six level 60 dungeons. For some reason, most of them ended up being The Great Gubal Library (Hard). I have no idea why players seemed to queue up for that specific dungeon, but it didn’t take that long. I enjoyed running the dungeons with my fellow players, though. Some of them had to run the dungeon for the first time, and it was nice that I was able to support them and give them a smooth run through it.
The first three steps were easy. It was time-consuming, but I felt I gained more from it than I spent. Meeting people and helping people complete their first runs through dungeons was satisfying and felt good. It helped me see another angle of the community: the completionists and those just trying to enjoy the story. I’m not sure if I met a player that actually liked grinding as much as I do, but I’m sure I’ll eventually run into them… eventually.
What I particularly enjoyed from this step was that there was a clear end goal. There was a guarantee that I was going to get through it, meaning logistical issues won’t be the things that’ll stop players from getting it done. But it does become an issue when you reach the next step, which is what I aim to talk about next time in Why I Play.