For various reasons, it doesn’t seen as if it’s been only a week since the last Final Fantasy XIV patch. (All right, it’s technically been just under a week if you want to be pedantic, but you know what I mean.) I attribute this almost entirely to Zadnor, which is… basically just Bozja but more, even moreso than the various Eureka zones were a continuation of that content structure. The whole thing is rather slow in a way that makes it feel as if a few minutes spent there stretches onward, like even a short time spent there just stretches on and on…
So what’s so different about Zadnor? Well, it has air strikes. And it’s a new map, so you have to spend clusters unlocking a different riding map. That about covers it.
I feel like calling the air strikes even a mechanic is a stretch at this point. They technically are, yes, but they don’t really add anything to the proceedings in a meaningful sense. It’s another AoE to dodge in a zone where you’re already dodging tons of AoEs. If it weren’t a story component, it’d be easy to miss that it was even a thing.
Beyond that… well, it’s the Bozjan Southern Front, but more. I’m not sure if I actually like the map much more. While it doesn’t have the grimy trench feeling of its immediate predecessor (which is a net positive), at night the damn thing looks like we might as well already be walking on the surface of the moon, aside from the very briefly occupied second zone. So we go from muddy trenches to blasted hellscapes. It’s something of a lateral move.
The Dalriada, by contrast, is a pretty fun environment and a nice updating of the overall Garlean aesthetic to be a little bit cleaner and more dynamic. It’s still very evident where it’s coming from, but it definitely benefits from the fact that fiction-wise, the IVth Legion is much more diverse than the majority of other Garlean forces. We get to really see that in action in the dungeon, with at least one boss fight devoted to each of the various factions and giving us a cross-section of the IVth’s adopted magic, developed technology, and chained beasts.
All of that, sadly, is undercut by the last boss functionally being an out-of-nowhere addition that feels out of place even among other Allagan tech (which is something when it’s supposed to be an Allagan weapon in the first place). I don’t dislike it, exactly, but as a final boss it kind of lacks much in the way of a grudge match feel, especially since it comes right after you face off the last of the actual big bads for this story arc.
If all of this sounds kind of negative… well, that’s because it is, at least to an extent. It’s not that I dislike Zadnor so much that it doesn’t have that feel of getting better over time. It also suffers notably from what I see as a bit of a design lapse insofar as you have to achieve the maximum rank to get into the Dalriada… but you can’t actually unlock the honors system until after doing it. So you’re just naturally going to have to throw away the mettle reward for your first clear.
Is that untenable? No. But it feels like kind of counterintuitive and not fun design. No one should ever feel like they’re passing up a reward just to get a clear, after all.
Once you get over that bit of design friction, though, there’s a lot to like here. First of all, the actual honors system is pretty well-implemented and thankfully works across the entirety of the Save the Queen content, giving you a nice boost. When all is said and done, it’ll boost your damage, healing, and health by 50% across the board. Those aren’t game-changing numbers, but when everything is balanced around a fixed gear level it makes an impact. It’s further improved by the fact that it’s not altogether clear if the damage boost with essences is additive or multiplicative; is four honors plus a +60% essence going to mean you have +80%, or +92%?
Obviously the latter is a lot more powerful; I imagine someone has already figured this out, and I await being told as much in the comments. Regardless, it’s a nice boost to the combat potency.
I also like how the overall farming economy doesn’t make fragments from Bozja or Reginae useless; fragment drops from Zadnor are powerful, but they don’t replace the abilities you could get in earlier content, they just add on another set of options. They also add buffs that would otherwise break the game a bit and feel like a nice nod back to Final Fantasy XII; the Bubble spell in particular tickles me in a way I can’t adequately articulate. It’s a bit less powerful here, but it’s still potent.
And you know, it’s endlessly scaling… to a point. The big problem is that there’s not a whole lot to actually do in Zadnor past certain elements. Dalriada is fun enough, but you can’t bring a lot of what you get here out into the greater world, and there’s a limit to how much you’ll want to farm all of this. Then again, if you prefer a more open-world content exploration for your tomestones, you probably need to be dragged out of this place in the first place, and that makes it all reasonably self-sustaining.
So how does it stack up to Eureka? I think it ultimately succeeds at the unstated goal of being a better version of that content. It’s still open-world content that places a premium on ad-hoc grouping and dealing with an unstable setup, but it does so without saddling everything with Final Fantasy XI‘s old-school leveling that made Eureka such a chore. There are setbacks, of course, but it ultimately seems designed better to work as compelling content in its own right instead of just a chore you have to drag yourself through in order to get your relic weaponry.
As for the actual relic weapon… eh, the steps are a little bit annoyingly bulked out this time around, but the actual grind isn’t so bad right now. It’ll probably be way worse if you’re going back to get it after this period is over, though, unless a lot of the requirements are heavily eased; there are already some possible pain moments in there due to the need for synced duties. But, hey, there were always going to be some bits of pain mixed in there no matter what.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s start speculating way too early on what sort of role Sage could fill in the healer meta!