Wisdom of Nym: Did Final Fantasy XIV’s relic farming zones work?

    
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It burns, burns, burns.

One of the things that I am always going to admire about the Final Fantasy XIV team is the fact that it followed up Eureka not just with more Eureka but with Bozja. The fact of the matter is that the reception to Eureka was negative enough that it would make perfect sense for the developers to decide that they’re never going to do this ever again because it didn’t work. Instead, research was done, plans were made, changes were made, and there was another attempt made.

That having been said, at least right now it does not appear that there will be a third attempt made, as thus far there’s been no talk of anything similar for the next set of relic weapons, especially as Variant Dungeons currently seem like they’re the new kind of content that the developers are exploring for this particular expansion. So let’s take a look at these open zones and ask… did they work? Were there good ideas in place? Is there more space to explore or have we reached a dead end?

First and foremost, let’s make it clear that when we talk about this particular style of content, we are covering the zones of Eureka, Bozjan Southern Front, and Zadnor. Delubrum Reginae is relevant, but it’s not really the same as the open zones and as such occupies more of an irregular place in the overall setup. We’re talking about the large instances where players group up, engage in content while roaming the area, use actions that are not normally available in outside content, and have a separate leveling system.

Which is odd because a lot of those features took a while to really materialize.

It took a while before using separate actions from what you have access to in regular content became a thing in Eureka, even though leveling up was a thing from the start. And then in Bozja leveling up was a thing… but it gated quests and actions you could use, not your actual stats in a material way. Really, it feels like it took until several refinements to get the system to what it should have been to start with, and even Zadnor has problems there, since the actual fun aspect of unlocking permanent boosts in the content requires you first to complete the hardest pseudo-instance available without access to it.

Bozja and Zadnor also suffered somewhat by trying to serve two masters in an awkward fashion. Eureka was always meant as a high-level playground, but Bozja was conceived as both a form of leveling content akin to the Deep Dungeons of past expansions and as a high-end playground. The result is that you don’t quite get the same level of focus you’d expect in terms of content, and I have a feeling that’s a big reason that when you venture into Bozja, the only way to level is by taking on the zone-specific FATEs.

I know that’s not what they’re called, yes. They’re technically skirmishes. Not the point.

I know I just said we weren't focusing on this, but it's a good screenshot!

Here’s the thing: Even though Eureka was very much a throwback to grinding in parties a la Final Fantasy XI and Bozja was much more like a neverending zone-wide FATE train more like classic leveling in FFXIV, they both suffer from the same basic problem. By shining a harsh light on these particular mechanics of play, they draw attention to the fact that these gameplay loops are, well… kinda bad. FATE grinding has always been boring, monster camping to grind has always been boring, and these zones focus entirely on that with the exception of a handful of encounters.

I realize that there are some people who really like these loops, but I am not among them. I find this kind of boring. There’s much more interesting stuff to do in the game, and chasing FATEs for zone completion is always one of the least pleasant parts of the game to me. So I’m much more engaged by the big zone-wide engagements like the Dalriada, which are interesting as pseudo-instances, but also suffer slightly from the reality of dealing with wildly inconsistent group sizes and abilities.

However, that inconsistency is also what makes this content more interesting. If you’ve been playing this game for a while you are no doubt very accustomed to how the game’s roles and jobs play. Dragoons are absolutely damage dealers and any difference with armor that might have once existed is gone now. White Mages are healers. Gunbreakers are tanks. Except when you get into this content and suddenly the right ability loadout can turn you into something completely different, your Gunbreaker can become a flimsy DPS, your Paladin can be a healer, your Dragoon is a tank and your White Mage hits as hard as the Black Mage.

Not all of this stuff works perfectly. Some of the changes either go a little too far (Irregular essences probably went too far in tuning tank damage) or don’t ultimately work out (you’ll be hard-pressed to be a healer on Dragoon, sorry). But it does represent a playfulness and flexibility, a chance to still play the job you enjoy but in a context you may not normally have access to. That’s kind of awesome; let’s not even pretend otherwise.

Heck, I wrote a whole column about how this stuff could provide a framework for more customization if the designers wanted to use it.

it's hot

But all of this dodges the central question about these zones as content tied to relic weapons. I definitely think that Eureka wound up fun by the end of itself, and I think Bozja was a good time, if sometimes scattershot and imperfect. So that must mean this content worked well for what it was meant to do, right?

Well… no. No, I think these zones ultimately didn’t work for their intended purposes. While there’s a lot to like in all of the above, these zones ultimately were too big for being places to level your relic and advance that particular content. That’s not the same as being bad by any stretch of the imagination – they weren’t bad – but they were overloaded for being relic content. And I feel like that was tacitly acknowledged with Bozja’s design being far less central to advancing your relic weapon than Eureka was; you still needed to do stuff in Bozja, but it wasn’t your only method.

In the end, I think that moving away from this style of content is probably a good thing. It’s clear that these zones and the work that went into them took a lot of resources, and I suspect those resources have been diverted to the Island Sanctuary this time around. That’s content that is supposed to stand alone and be its own thing, not be beholden to a specific set of weapons that you need to level. This is probably for the best.

Yet that also doesn’t mean this content was a failure or that I hope the developers never try again. That’s the thing about experiments: It’s only occasionally true that an experiment is wildly better or worse than what came before; often it’s just a new way of doing things, a new try. And I hope the developers keep trying new things like this, and maybe even bring this around for a third round in the future. Maybe it’ll be even better then.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk about something that we don’t see as often in FFXIV any longer – crossover events, and whether they’re a good thing or a desirable thing in the first place.

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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