The nice thing about having the patch notes always released well ahead of time for Final Fantasy XIV is that we can always pick out a fair bit of what’s going to happen ahead of time. No, it doesn’t mean that we can figure out all of the items that will be included or anything like that, but it does mean that we get a sense for the patch’s contours before the actual release date, and that’s a good thing. Plus, this time there aren’t big balance changes that require massive extra addressing, so everybody wins!
Well, except probably for Machinists. Sorry, you guys are getting the short end of the stick this expansion.
Anyhow, the preliminary patch notes definitely have me thinking some thoughts, so let’s go through and highlight some of the more interesting points before the actual patch arrives tomorrow. Or very late tonight, depending on how you want to look at it. You know how these patch days go by now, right?
So when I was talking with our own Chris about Island Sanctuaries, he noted that the overall design seemed like they were basically World of Warcraft Garrisons but done correctly. After seeing all of the gameplay mechanics laid out in abstract form in the patch notes, I’m inclined to agree with him because that really does feel like the overall thrust of the design. Take a particularly hated form of content, recontextualize it and re-develop it, and make it fun for players in a different capacity.
Now, keep in mind that I don’t think this somehow obviates everything that I’ve said comparing it to Animal Crossing, either. Nor do I think it removes the comparisons to being low-impact gameplay, as this is very clearly meant for “you’ve done all your high-impact stuff for the day, now kick back and relax” sorts of extended play sessions. That’s a good thing! It is good to have content aimed at precisely that. And while it seems clear that each person’s individual Hideaway will have some customization, I would wager it’s far less than you can find in, well, housing.
That being said, yes, it is also clear that this is a bit of personal space for everyone. So yes, it’s not a solution for people who want to decorate their own house, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be able to make it distinctly your own space to some degree, right down to being able to visit your friends. All good stuff and all aimed at exactly the right level for being something to do with low demands.
My biggest curiosity is how the crafting and production is going to work on the island; since I don’t expect the fine control of placing furnishings and I don’t think it would work if you just craft things for no purpose other than selling, I’m curious to see how this shakes out. Obviously I expect some of the Animal Crossing gameplay loop to be replicated, but how far? We’ll find out on Tuesday, I suppose.
All told, I’m very excited for this feature, more than I even expected to be. I know that there are some people salty at the idea that we’re not getting an open-world zone to level in as in the last two expansions, but if Island Sanctuaries are half as good as they look, I feel that’s a more than fair trade overall.
Hits and regen
The two battle system changes we know about right away are changes to how direct hit/critical hit bonuses will work and a change to enmity. Let’s cover the enmity change first, because it’s both a minor and a big one: Regeneration ticks no longer affect enmity, so casting Regen before a pull no longer will generate threat as it’s ticking away.
In the broadest sense, this could be seen as a bad change, since it removes an aspect of management and differentiation between regen and barrier healers, and it was the mark of players who knew what they were doing to avoid regen effects until after threat was established. In practice, though, it doesn’t really change much beyond making people who aren’t good at playing regen healers less annoying; no one was ever losing threat to regen ticks while holding threat, and it only had an effect when you were pulling groups in dungeons. It makes things a little simpler, and that’s probably beneficial.
Meanwhile, abilities that are automatic direct/critical hits will now derive a damage increase from higher chances to get direct hits and critical hits. The former is honestly the most important; Direct Hit has suffered particularly from just not being able to stack up to stacking Crit simply because Crit increases chance and damage while Direct Hit increases only chance, and it gets even less worthwhile on jobs with assured direct critical hits. It’s not a massive change, and I don’t think it’s going to alter how most jobs meld, but it at least will make Direct Hit feel less superfluous.
Small changes, in other words, but with a nice ripple impact. It means that abilities that are supposed to grant a bonus will grant more of a bonus instead of feeling more limited.
A persistent inexpert response
There’s other stuff that’s interesting, like unspecified adjustments to various dungeons and fights (and yes, the Yeti fight in Snowcloak was annoying, so I’m glad to see it’s getting changed), but I want to talk about a more minor but still significant thing: We really are having a problem with the fact that Expert Roulette is a coin flip rather than actually being a sizable roulette in any fashion. Yes, this is not a new problem, but it’s resulting in a persistent one.
Look, I don’t exactly blame the developers for moving on from hard-mode dungeons for a variety of reasons, and I absolutely 100% get why that ultimately felt like a good decision. Nor am I unclear on the goal to distribute development resources into other avenues; there’s a reason we’re getting a whole new type of dungeon, for example. All well and good. But the fact that our Expert roulette is the two most recent dungeons and no others means that for an uncomfortably long time, there’s a really limited pool of dungeons in there.
The worst part is that it could really be ameliorated just by extending the rotation one additional patch. If the Expert roulette consisted of the three most recent patches, at least the pool is never smaller than three dungeons. Sure, it means that the x.2 patch has the bulkiest roulette with five, but I consider that a fair trade and a bit more fun than just flipping a coin every time. It’s not even like I dislike half of the upcoming rotation (I don’t know how I feel about Troia yet as we haven’t actually seen it), it’s just that having it come down to a coin flip is unpleasant.
And if we’re not going to get more dungeons in a patch, could we at least adjust the standards for our roulettes a little?
Regardless, we’ll all be dealing with the patch tomorrow, so feel free to leave your thoughts about the discussed topics or other things down in the comments or mail them along to email@example.com. Next week, we’ll talk about the patch, naturally! That’s no surprise.