Wisdom of Nym: A look at Trusts in Final Fantasy XIV before Endwalker

    
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Know your role.

Trusts are simultaneously one of the most important and most invisible features of Shadowbringers on a whole. A whole lot of work goes into making sure that Trusts are available and work for every single dungeon all the way through the expansion, and yet it’s very possible for a lot of people to go through the expansion never once making use of them. There’s no penalty for never doing so. So they’re a whole lot of development work for something that is in every sense entirely optional.

If that sounds like a complaint, I assume you it isn’t. One of the things that I love about Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is the fact that the developers will spend a whole lot of time and effort working on features that are totally optional, that you can have huge chunks of content just for people crafting or gathering or playing a unique solo-focused job that can do a little bit of everything. So let’s take a look at Trusts as a whole, with a particular eye toward what works and what doesn’t before we head into the next expansion.

First of all, one of the things that works about Trusts is ironically one of the most frequently raised complaints about Trusts: They’re not very good at the game. They don’t AoE, the healers focus on healing and buffing without adding DPS, the tanks pull slowly, and so forth. This is, on one level, a bad thing. A human player knows how to do better at all of this stuff, and anyone playing at a competent skill level will quickly find the trust companions to be the weakest link in any group.

But… that’s kind of the point. That’s what should be happening. None of this will prevent you from clearing a dungeon reliably with Trusts; rather, it makes other players a notably superior choice to having a full party of Trusts. There’s still plenty of reasons to go along with Trusts, either for queue times, the dialogue between your companions, or possibly because you’re not actually very good and Trusts will do a competent job even if you make mistakes. If you’re undergeared or self-conscious, going with Trusts can actually be a great way to learn the dungeon and the mechanics.

Oh, COME ON, what did that accomplish?

As we’re already talking about what works with the system, there’s a lot of stuff that works without qualifiers like the aforementioned. For example, the added dialogue and the general sense of working with these NPCs you’re encountering through the story is perfect. Nothing vital is communicated via Trust dialogue, but you learn more about the characters and the dungeon along the way, and it adds an extra element when you’re re-running the dungeons yet again.

More to the point, the whole thing turns into a leveling minigame at the end, and quite frankly that’s just a worthy inclusion in the overall design. I really like that players are given not just an opportunity but a reason to go back through and do the dungeons again with Trust companions, and I leveled mine along with leveling up through slightly slower dungeon runs. It was a neat experience and let me learn more about the characters along the way.

Also, you know, Trusts do provide a great tutorial for players who aren’t familiar with the dungeons, since the NPCs do know the mechanics. And they’re a great addition for players who might want to clear a dungeon without relying on other people for whatever reason. Having more options for different playstyles is a good thing, and if you want to progress the story solo and only worry about grouping with others at the top level, this is a tool to let you do just that.

Herein lies one of the weaknesses, though: Trusts are only available for dungeons, not for trials. Now, you can argue that Trusts aren’t there to let you clear everything available at endgame, and that’s defensible. One of the points I’ve made before is that FFXIV intends for you to group up and signals that early on; it’s not a failing but an early notation that the game begins as it means to continue. But if you’re going to let people bypass grouping for dungeons along the MSQ, the trials then form a new and more mechanically dense roadblock.

It’s even sillier when you consider that none of the Shadowbringers trials that you face in the MSQ requires any sort of tank swap, so the problem of only having one tank isn’t really the problem you might think.

The narrative hoops do also merit a mention, though. While a lot of words have been spilled about Estinien being added to the Trust lineup in Endwalker, part of the reason for that is as simple as not having a story reason for Ryne to be around in the next expansion, and that swap keeps the overall number of roles the same as it was in Shadowbringers. It requires some work to ensure that you always have the “right” companions available to do a dungeon, and if you have some characters you don’t like overmuch sometimes you might be forced to take them along.

There’s also the simple fact that Trust leveling is… well, kind of silly. It doesn’t have a whole lot of draw beside an achievement and some costumes, which makes it the sort of thing that once you’ve cleared it you have a reward for content you no longer want to do.

Stored knowledge.

Are Trusts a good thing, yes? Absolutely. They offer another way to play through the game for players of various stripes and another way to engage with content. If anything, their biggest problem is simply that they’re only useful in a very narrow band of content when other options would make sense and would help further extend that particular playstyle. I’m not sure if retrofitting older dungeons to make use of them would work, but it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

If anything, what I’m hoping for Endwalker is a chance to do a little more with them. I realize that’s a touch unlikely, but the more use we can get out of Trust companions and the more motivation players have to experience content with them, the better the overall experience will be. That’s not to say that the system needs a major overhaul; it’s working pretty darn well now, after all! But a few tweaks and improvements would help make the experience really sing.

Oh, and give us more than one reliable tank, will you? Yes, I know, G’raha is an all-rounder and that technically means having two, but everyone else has more limited roles. Either let more characters moonlight in unusual roles or give us more options for taking hits. Why shouldn’t we let Estinien get hit in the face? Give me one good reason. He and Thancred certainly both deserve it.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk about the utter lack of any sort of public testing for FFXIV and how I’m increasingly happy about that fact.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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IronSalamander8 .

I had no idea trusts were even a thing! I just helped get friends through the end of Stormblood last night so we can press on through the pre-Shadowbringer stuff and into Shadowbringer proper soon, hopefully this week if the in the between dungeons and trials go fast enough.

FF14 reminds me of EQ and EQ2 a lot; systems on top of systems on top of systems and so much you can safely ignore or put off till later, and these trusts are obviously one of those things!

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Erika Do

I love trusts. I always run a new dungeon first as a trust so that I can go into a dungeon completely blind without inconveniencing other people by not knowing what I’m doing. And I hate tanking, so the Stormblood levels in between the squadron and the trusts are the worst levels for me when leveling another tank alt, because all there is to do for EXP is Heaven on High.

I really do wish they could expand the mechanic for 8-man content. I’d run Eden over and over again if I could do it without other people around.

vgees
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vgees

They are also a great way to enjoy the cut scenes without feeling like I’m slowing everyone down, or getting left behind!

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somber_bliss

I agree and also am one of those weirdos that enjoys command missions (mostly as a healer). AI may be dumb but I can tell them to move out of something and they listen.

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Jeremy Barnes

I was annoyed by trusts when they were announced, but the limitations on them make them acceptable. They could expand the glamour options and do something at max level that makes playing with them worthwhile.

Also, have them on this ‘island’ in their glamour.

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cursedseishi

One thing I’ll say that could definitely be done with Trusts going forward is expanding them to function similarly to the Grand Company Troops–which have themselves fallen by the wayside.

Let us assign some missions through Tataru for the scions to run as we go. And those who leveled the trusts in Shadowbringers get to carry those levels over into this–while also ensuring there is still missions to level them up from 70 if you didn’t.

Or, take it a step further even. Since their skills and stats/ilvl are largely set in stone? Introduce some side content and make use of the ‘Roleplay’ mechanic to have players play them through it. It can be designed and perfected around a specific point because they’ll know precisely how strong players will be in it, and not have to worry about those below or above it.

Hell! You could even recycle elements of past content through it. Like Alisae leading Alphinaud and the gang through her trek throughout the Coils to confront Bahamut, with the occasional ‘boss’ showing up as a memory or shade or some such. And then, rather than gear or the like, let it unlock glamour for them.

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Rndomuser

I hope Trust system is expanded and merged with Squadrons so everyone will be able to use them as an optional way to complete each and every dungeon and trial in game, starting from the very first one that story requires you to complete and maybe also including raids. There is no drawback to that and only benefits, especially to new players – I just read a thread on official forums where one player complained that other players rushed in Praetorium and didn’t want to wait for him and explain him the mechanics of it, if that person could’ve done it solo with Trusts this wouldn’t be an issue for him to go through it slowly or for other players who wanted to complete it as fast as possible. Seriously, think about it, NPC squad members give benefits like:

– Not waiting hours in queue for specific dungeon/trial/raid, especially for people who have real life obligations and can only play during specific time of the day and for specific time.

– Not being inconvenienced by other players who already done that content and want to rush it as fast as possible.

– Not being inconvenienced by newbie players who don’t wear gear with appropriate stats and who don’t use abilities in most efficient way.

– Not being inconvenienced by lockout timer penalty if you want to leave dungeon/trial/raid without completing it due to real life situations.

– Not being inconvenienced by randomly getting into dungeon with players whom you put on “block” list for some reason (because of guild/FC drama or something else). For example I recently left certain FC because of certain actions of FC leader and few people who supported that person and I would rather not get into any instanced content with those persons and I don’t want to transfer to different data center just because of that.

– Not inconveniencing other players if you want to pause the dungeon/trial/raid for few minutes because of real life issues or if you have to leave it which forces them to wait for replacement player.

– Saving money on using bot programs and extra accounts – if anyone wants to complete every instanced content without other players in group they can already do that using third-party botting programs (the bots which will play every class better than most players will), it will just cost them significant amount of money.

This will only add more active players to the game, especially players who will not group up with you anyway even now without such system but who would still be useful for other players – people who want to complete instanced content solo can still be useful by crafting useful things or gathering useful materials and posting them on marketboard or by participating in social activities like RP outside of instanced content or just making the in-game world feel more alive and populated or by buying optional cosmetics using real life currency.