This is a bit of an unusual case. I can’t think of any patch in recent memory that’s been so split between the quality of its content and the quality of its storytelling, to the point that I almost considered changing how I usually split up this particular column. Ultimately, I decided to go with the familiar split just because, well, it’s familiar. And while Final Fantasy XIV’s storytelling is one of its overall strengths, one or two weak offerings don’t change the fact that the content is what people will be doing for the next several months.
A place for lizards
Mechanically, Paglth’an is actually one of the simplest dungeons in recent memory. The first and second boss have a couple of unique mechanics, but otherwise it’s all pretty rote, and so it’d be easy to mark the overall dungeon down as being kind of basic in that regard. And to my mind that would also be entirely wrong because I actually think Paglth’an is one of the most interesting and inventive dungeons the game has had in a long while.
First and foremost, the second boss is basically the first time the game has attempted anything similar in terms of execution. I honestly find it one of the most inventive and original boss fights to date, and while it’s not one I’d like to see in every single dungeon, it does a great job recontextualizing things like openers, burst windows, and overall DPS rotations. The first boss also feels appropriately springy and unique, and the last fight feels nothing short of epic despite basically just coming down to lots of AoEs with dodge patterns that should be obvious.
Even more interesting is the look of the thing. No dungeon looks like this. No dungeon even looks close. I was a bit disappointed in trailers when it looked like we weren’t going to get to go up against the Amalj’aa themselves, but we do see plenty of the lizard men stomping around, and the dungeon pulls together many separate ideas like fighting with NPC allies, skipping portions of scenery, and breaking up the usual two-pulls-and-barrier structure that defined dungeons in this game for a long time. Did I mention that it was gorgeous?
It also hits that perfect sweet spot where it doesn’t quite feel trivially easy but it also doesn’t feel onerous to complete. It is, in short, a really good dungeon, and the sort of thing that’s going to be a lot of fun to be running a bunch over the next few months. The novelty of the vistas will start to fade, though.
Everything is towers
Look, we’re not talking about the story this week.
I promise, I’ll be angry next week.
Right now, let’s talk about the actual structure of the Tower, which is… actually pretty good! It definitely feels like another installment in this raid series, which has generally been marked by a somewhat playful attitude toward mechanics. Not that the mechanics aren’t serious, just that it’s clear that this is a showcase for trying new stuff and some of these mechanics will be weird to dodge or only obvious immediately after you get plastered by them.
The actual structure of the bosses is kind of awkward: two bosses, then trash, then another boss, then trash. It frontloads things a bit more than I think is ideal. And the third boss feels a little bit like it went overboard with the mechanics, especially with the middle segment where you have to hop into a separate instance for a direct showdown.
What you definitely can’t accuse it of, though, is laziness. There are legitimately mechanics throughout these fights that I’ve never seen before, and some of them are (as mentioned) obvious as soon as they go off how they’re supposed to work. The second and third bosses in particular have some very unique telegraphs that make perfect sense, but the first time you run them you’re likely to just be staring at a riot of stuff and be wondering what the heck is supposed to be going on.
I also like, for example, that the second boss requires two tanks to moderately coordinate, rather than splitting the raid into thirds – and it found a way to make both of your targets relatively important without trying to coordinate splitting the raid as a whole into two. And the last boss does feel appropriately epic, even if her building-crash ability is kind of hard to see as a telegraph (intentionally, I’m sure, but unclear is unclear).
As a capstone raid for the next few months, it’s an interesting ride with some unique challenges and an appropriately large-scale theme. About the worst thing I can say for it is that I don’t much care for any of the gearsets therein, but even that’s a pretty milquetoast complaint when the raid also offers a few other cosmetic rewards. Good stuff.
As for the story around it… damn it, not this week!
Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend
As someone who doesn’t care for EX fights, I had really expected that Diamond Weapon’s whole armor-off routine would play a bigger role in the Extreme version. But no, it follows the same phase structure there – armor on, armor off, then armor on until the end of the fight. That makes the “armor off” segment feel a bit underused, as a whole.
Regardless, this actually is a pretty fun fight that makes use of a different style of arena, something I really do like. While a lot of FFXIV fights really do come down to “room with boss,” the game has always experimented a lot with how that room works, but up until now most of the Weapon fights really haven’t. Diamond Weapon’s split floor actually does play with that in interesting ways.
I also do like that the armor-off segment feels like a phase switch without actually being one. The mechanics change, but it’s still the same boss, and you face unique hazards. It’s one of the first bosses that manages to really feel like a dangerously fast opponent, which is something that’s happened in lore before but not so much in practice.
Beyond that, well, normal mode is still kind of pointless beyond story and I’m still not thrilled about that. Still, it’s an entertaining fight for that story.
And the story… oh boy. You know what, we’re going to call it here. We kind of have to. Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, we’re going into the story of this patch and… oh, wow. Wow. Wow.