Here we are, a day before the first major Final Fantasy XIV patch of the year… which is also very, very early in the year, as it happens. That’s kind of nice, not going to lie. Like, we’re not going to be settling into the usual calm period after the x.3 patch for this particular patch simply because of how Endwalker is structured, as I’ve mentioned before, so it’s kind of nice to know that this is just the first patch of the year and it’s something that’s coming right at the start. There’s a circularity to that I find satisfying. Maybe it’s just me.
Anyhow, we’ve got the preliminary patch notes as of this writing, so there’s stuff to unpack within there. Perhaps not as much as the full patch notes, but even so. Let’s start seeing what we have with this particular patch and take a look at what’s already written in the preliminary notes, knowing full well there will be a little bit more in the future. (Don’t worry, if it’s meaty enough I’ll have more to say. Because I love you. Yes, you specifically. Don’t tell the others.)
First of all, something that was mentioned in an offhand fashion but that I’ve been looking forward to for ages since that first mention is being added: The damage type of attacks will be shown directly. This is an intensely valuable and frankly long-needed change that means it will finally be possible to know the best types of mitigation for any situation, and it’s always frustrated me how frequently we’ve had abilities that improve, say, magic damage reduction without having something to show whether or not the party is taking magic damage. This is important and valuable information.
Admittedly, it’s unlikely to make much of a difference in many situations because you use the mitigation you have, right? But I’m still happy about it.
This is, in fact, indicative of a lot of the changes being added with this particular update; many of the improvements are not necessarily major changes to gameplay (outside of, you know, the ones that obviously are new content) but are just ways of making life a little bit easier than before. Case in point: The addition of a “collect all” button for Island Sanctuaries isn’t really going to alter many mechanics, but anyone who’s seriously still in on the Sanctuary has had everything maintained by mammets for ages, and this streamlines the mechanics appreciably.
I also love the automatic umbrella usage because it’s such a silly and unnecessary little thing but also just so cute. It’s a little verisimilitudinous touch that feels like you’re existing in the world, even if from a practical standpoint you could just turn off being wet if you really disliked that so much.
Also, does anyone else remember how back in the day people theorized that adding a display for when you were wet might play into a mechanic for Leviathan instead of just improving how the game felt? That’s not germane to anything; it just amuses me.
Another welcome quality-of-life change is the subtle but important change to custom deliveries that ensures that you’ll always have bonus deliveries available every week. Now, admittedly, this is only true if you’ve reached max satisfaction with every client, but that was also when it mattered most, when custom deliveries became mostly a thing to do each week for grinding scrips. My suspicion is that it didn’t initially work like this because the designers figured it’d incentivize people to do multiple things, but… well, that wasn’t how things happened.
Oh, yes, and portraits! Portraits in duties! You will see portraits pop up right away! I am super excited about this because it’s yet another way to display the customization you have chosen to apply to your character and/or poor life choices made when you were told you could select that race to play.
Some people have been oddly cranky about this saying that they don’t care, and I promise you, your dead-eyed default no-posing-effort-made last-known-photo portraits will definitely attest to that anyway. But the fact of the matter is that even dungeons can be pretty quick affairs, and it’s honestly just cool to zone into a dungeon and see the creativity in character looks. I’ve talked before about MMOs that emphasize the idea that other players are people vs. those that emphasize the idea that other players are tools, and having portraits under player control be the first thing you see is solidly in the first group.
Plus, this is going to come up for new players, too. The first time you do a dungeon and see people who look cool, that’s going to be a point of connection, and it’s a chance to make a better first impression. That’s an important element of the game, and I am always on board and happy to see the game pushing more to drive a connection between players even from an early level.
And we’ve got another round of victories against the dread scourge of gender-locked outfits, which is also just delightful to see. It’s a pity it took this long for some of these to be made universal, but at least it’s happening now! Better late than never, and so forth.
I’m also happy to see all of this because while the patch certainly hadn’t seemed substantially lacking in any real way, it did seem as if it didn’t really have much outside of the expected. That’s something worth breaking down a little because I’d be the last to say that somehow the game’s content offerings are lacking or diminutive; rather, my point is that it looked as though this patch contained exactly as much content as you would expect from a major patch – no more, no less.
That’s a little unusual for FFXIV, and now we know why: Aside from new PvP series rewards and the like, this patch also contains a whole lot of quality-of-life improvements that likely kept us from feeling like we got anything else overwhelmingly large. We’re getting more stuff with the halfway patch as well, so I looks as if it’s going to be more than meaty enough, and with the trial likely pitting us against another one of the Fiends, it’s going to be interesting to see how the story keeps developing.
Also there are more Tataru quests, which aren’t really landing for me personally, but I can see the appeal. It’s nice to round up some of the long-missed side characters, I suppose, although increasingly it makes me feel like some plot threads are just never getting more resolution as we continue our farewell tour to the first major story arc. That’s fine, but I might have hoped otherwise.
I’m excited. I’ve generally been going into this year with a hopeful attitude, and the preliminary notes were full of little things that made me smile all the way through. So here we are at the starting line of the year (almost) with a new patch. Let’s rock this and beat up some void creatures.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t be surprised to see a bonus column for this arriving tomorrow, but either way, next week will be the usual content impressions that come after every major patch. It’s reliable like that.