Everyone, you need to remember something very important about this patch. Something that it’s possible you didn’t even know until just now, something that the Final Fantasy XIV community has more or less been oblivious to during this entire patch cycle so far. All right? Ready for this? There is more content in this patch than just the Island Sanctuary. There’s actually a whole new set of raids and dungeons, even! I know that it’s easy to miss, but there is actually other content here!
We have fun here.
Anyhow, while people had been hotly anticipating Island Sanctuaries basically from the moment they were announced, there’s a lot of content to chew on in this particular patch. As always, we’re starting by looking at the pure content side instead of talking about storylines, which is probably for the best. So let’s start talking about how the content feels as a whole, starting (as we usually do) with the game’s most regular addition that comes with every patch.
One of the big pushes that the developers seem to be making thus far with this expansion is trying out new things in dungeons. Unfortunately, I think the Fell Court of Troia’s experimentation results are a mixed bag. There’s some good in here and some bad, and the whole thing feels disjointed on a lot of levels.
For one, the map here seems to be a direct response to player grumbling that dungeon maps are too short, but instead of being any more interesting, this one still consists of “two pulls to a barrier,” except now in several places the distance between those pulls is way too long with nothing interesting happening. I’m sorry, but watching a tank drag a bridal train of monsters halfway across the map to get to the next pull isn’t all that interesting, and it doesn’t produce any interesting gameplay. My first instinct is that the designers made the map as a questing location first and a dungeon second, but frankly it’s too long without enough interesting stuff happening there, too.
Then we have the game trying yet again to have “cluster of small enemies” work as a boss. It works about as well as it ever has, which is to say it doesn’t; the closest we got was in Amaurot when it amounted to a phase of the boss fight, and even then it wasn’t very interesting. So the map is too large and the first boss is at once not interesting and comes off like a cop-out.
Much is forgiven, however, with the second boss very much feeling like a final boss and the last boss bringing exactly the feel necessary. We’ve known from trailers that we’d be fighting Scarmiglione here, and there was no doubt he’d be the final boss; he’s a Fiend, he has to be. However, the actual fight went ham on mechanics and very much feels like a stripped-down trial while still being interesting and fun all the way through. I really like this fight, and that’s worth quite a lot in context.
None of this changes the fact that at the end of the day, this dungeon is uneven at best. It’s not bad, but it’s hardly a home run. That being said, I can’t be mad about the designers trying to push the envelope with it.
In stark contrast to the dungeon, this wave of Pandæmonium was largely a standout. If I have any complaints, they’re purely with the last fight in the wing, and even that’s less “this is a bad/overly simple fight” and more “this fight is coming after two absolute bangers.” The sixth and seventh circles are an absolute blast that I have to wax poetic about.
Sixth circle has a “possession” mechanic the game has never used before that requires an interesting way of dealing with it, and in the midst of it it does a neat job of making you pay extra attention to AoE markers that are easy to read but also move unlike other things you’ve seen before. It’s not a terribly difficult fight if you’re on the ball, but I found it really clever and a lot of fun to dodge through everything.
The seventh circle, though, contains a lot of things I like. For one thing, it features an arena changing over time, which is always fun, but it’s also much harder to get knocked off than it is in a lot of similar setups. That’s good. For another thing, the arena shape that you wind up on has a triangle structure, giving rise to some really different dodge patterns and mechanics than what you see most of the time. It’s fun and novel, and it would have made a great last fight.
By contrast, fifth circle is clever in how it uses Reflect as a material force, while the eighth circle feels… well, I’m guessing it’ll feel more complete in the Savage form, but right now it feels kind of truncated. It works, and it feels like a worthwhile companion piece to the vampire we fought at the end of the last cycle, but it’s just a bit too straightforward to make me completely love it. It needed some sort of big phase shift it never gets, instead going with the boss constantly cycling through forms.
All in all, however, I really liked this installment in terms of fights. Clever, fun, novel, and high-energy throughout without feeling overstuffed or tedious at any point. And there was nothing as annoying as the dang bird from the first set.
Almost all that needs to be said about Island Sanctuary…
Yeah, Island Sanctuary is crazy fun. Look, I might tease people about it, but it’s great.
This was always going to be a tricky balancing act of making sure that players could approach this content at their own speeds while providing reasons to actually do so at varying speeds. That is deceptively hard because you simultaneously need to make the content work well enough that people can grind on it for progress if they want without hitting hard time gates while also not creating a strong sense of power advancement. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, you also need to provide rewards that can scale past one-time purchases like glamour.
How did it work out? Pretty well! Yes, there are timed things encouraging you to wait and there’s a certain speed limit, but if you want to keep progressing, there’s nothing really slowing you up from grinding beyond your own patience. And, well, server availability, but it’s new content that relies on some server space, so this was always going to be an issue.
I’ve personally pushed pretty hard on this particular content just because I look forward to finishing the progression portion and moving on to working on just a steady stream of crafts being sent out. I’ve heard tell there’s even a secret reward you can buy once you reach Rank 10, just in case you needed another reason to chase those cowries. This is great content, I can’t wait to see what comes in future patches, and I’m excited for more of it moving forward.
Feedback, as always, is welcome via mail to email@example.com or in the comments down below. Next week, we’re going to talk about the storyline side of things. It will be rather different!