Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail media tour: Hands-on with Dawntrail’s first dungeon, Ihuykatumu


The first dungeon of a Final Fantasy XIV expansion tells you a lot about what to expect from the rest of the expansion. I think that history has borne that out pretty consistently.

During the Endwalker media tour, our first dungeon was the Tower of Zot, and that was a spicy dungeon anyway based on both the lag we were all playing with and just the nature of the mechanics in that particular dungeon. There was a lot going on there and a lot of things to dodge, and while they are all pretty predictable and correspond with well-known mechanics (it’s not really that hard now), the dungeon can throw you for a loop at first.

As a part of this media tour for Dawntrail, we got a chance to go through the first dungeon of the expansion, Ihuykatumu (although we don’t know all the story details, it’s a level 91 dungeon, so we can extrapolate the “first” part). And while I definitely think Ihuykatumu was less spicy than Tower of Zot felt on first playthrough, after three plays of the dungeon as both a melee DPS and a tank, I have some thoughts as well as a recounting of the experience.

The first segment of the dungeon is something that’s going to be familiar to anyone who has played the game recently, as you’re on a boat and having enemies jump on in sequence; functionally, it’s similar to the opening segment of Lapis Manalis without the segment being bifurcated and including standard pulls. Instead, you just ride on the boat taking out packs while story happens, which I am deliberately not going to comment on at this time because we don’t have the context yet.

Once the boat stops you hit the first boss, who’s listed as a Prime (whatever species of water creature was pulling your boat; I didn’t write it down) but whom I called Spicy Manatee. She’s got two main attacks. The first is to summon a bunch of her lesser versions to smash into people which requires people spreading out positions to avoid overlaps, followed by dispatching the adds. Second, she’ll do a charge-around-the-arena series of dashes similar to Cagnazzo, but unlike that attack, this one sees her end with an AoE requiring you to pile in one safe spot – and (more importantly) there aren’t areas you can run to that remain safe the whole time. You’ll need to pick a spot late in her dashes, then run to it, then run again.

These attacks aren’t all that bad, but you do need to reposition yourself pretty assiduously to stay safe. More on that in a bit.


The next segment of the dungeon involves pretty conventional pulls along with a couple more story moments and ladders you need to climb between segments, along with at least one moment wherein you run into a collection of mimics who take on your party appearance. Nothing terribly interesting happens here, but it is solid if expected design along the way.

Your second boss is Drowziee. No, not the pokeyman, but a shaggy yeti-type creature that will sow seeds that create overlapping AoEs after a few moments (watch their facing and stand in safe spots) and summon a whole mess of mimics for your party. If the mimics have specific mechanics, I didn’t notice them, but the mimics will consistently launch additional attacks at the party along the way until they’re dealt with. Fortunately, they’re pretty quick to AoE down; unfortunately, there’s nothing stopping the boss from launching more stuff your way if you fail to deal with them in a timely manner. Again, it’s fairly standard stuff especially for a first dungeon, but the overlapping AoEs can clip you pretty consistently.

Final trash pulls are all pretty standard, although you do get a preview of the final boss snacking on fresh corpses along the way before fluttering off and the trash here felt like it hit kinda hard. (That might also just be people unaccustomed to playing on their current setups and letting my health drop a bit on Gunbreaker; hard to be sure.) Regardless, you make your way through and see the final boss, who has a name but my brain refused to not see as the Mantis Ant from Secret of Mana.

I suspect the opening cutscene here isn’t quite done, as it looks like he’s supposed to be scavenging a snack but the staging looks oddly like he’s just sniffing at something instead of eating. We’ll see.

Regardless, the boss starts simple enough, but two batches of local wildlife come to him only to get killed and devoured. That results in the majority of the boss gameplay, wherein he layers multiple AoEs around the arena while also summoning a whirlwind that periodically explodes in a star-shaped blast of damage. Nothing hits too hard at first, but you have to keep one eye on the whirlwind while not bumping into it, else those Vuln-Up stacks will accumulate fast, and you’re likely to die to a room-wide blast.

Now, something I mentioned back in the start was that I think you can get a pretty strong picture of what an expansion will be like just from the bosses in the first dungeon. I stand by this assertion, and one of the things that struck me about this dungeon wasn’t that it was particularly hard (though it isn’t screwing around either). Rather, it struck me how hard it is throughout the dungeon to really stand still… which might not sound like a big deal until you remember that caster DPS is a thing.


At the most basic design level, it’s easy to make a boss that’s unfriendly to melee by just not giving melee the opportunity to stand by the boss. Here, though, a lot of the mechanics were set up to really necessitate moving on a dime. That’s going to be hard to manage for most of the game’s casters, and while Swiftcast and other tricks are always on deck, it’s a change from normal. It felt like a deliberate effort to make dungeon gameplay a bit more movement-focused compared to the current endgame.

Some of that might also just be that we were all doing the first dungeon for the first time and thus had little to no experience with how it would feel. Regardless of that, it was definitely a fun dungeon. It’s spicy without feeling overwhelming, it has a lot going on without any of it feeling gratuitous or unearned, and the visual design and mechanics are all engaging. It definitely hit a good balance where the first run-through made the stakes feel real (even without much story explanation) – but without the oppressive and almost apocalyptic atmosphere of Tower of Zot.

FFXIV having a strong dungeon game is basically a meme at this point, but it seems clear to me that this expansion isn’t doing anything to reinvent the wheel while staying fresh and engaging. I had a good time with this one, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the expansion’s dungeons measure up.

Square-Enix provided both travel expenses and lodging for this particular event. They did not provide emotional support for seeing the FFXIV tabletop starter set under glass without being able to touch it. That was some psychic damage.
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