Matsuda is “leaving” his position as CEO. I’m amazed it took this long given the stunning trail of disaster these past few years. The only reason that this company is still around is FF14, and by the grace of some deity, they haven’t milked it to death. Yoshida must have pictures of someone to build that wall.
SquareEnix has gone to some rather impressive lengths to self-detonate for western gaming. The Avengers is a poster child for an idea that lacked time to gestate, on an IP that was/is overpriced. (Side note, Suicide Squad is being delayed… but will still tank for similar reasons.) Outriders is an amazing piece of gaming that outshone Avengers on nearly every level, yet had no real support. Guardians of the Galaxy is a great game, just not one that will sell 4 million copies.
And Forspoken didn’t meet sales expectations. I’m not sure if people have paid any attention to, you know, the world-state, but if you’re going to sell something at a premium price, it better be premium quality.
The real kicker here is that they still believe that NFT are the future. So much so that they sold their current IPs (Tomb Raider, Deus Ex) to fund the activity.
The shining light here is that there doesn’t appear to be news on HR/harassment, which is refreshing. This just seems to be boardroom decisions for investment that were poorly placed. Perhaps with new leadership at the helm, they can refocus and get one victory, which will certainly help with morale. Fingers crossed.
The newest Deep Dungeon Eureka Orthos (EO) launched on Tuesday, allowing a rogue-like stroll through 10 floors for xp + a miniscule amount of tomes. It’s available to level 81-90 players. The other 2 DD are Palace of the Dead (PotD) (15-60) and Heaven on High (HoH) (60-70), which are both products of their time and absolutely effective ways for people to level in those sections.
The concept is simple enough, you can either solo, or match with 3 other players to clear 9 floors + 1 boss, rinse and repeat. Group play is dramatically preferred for multiple reasons, most certainly time to clear – though the jobs are random, it’s possible to end up with 4 tanks. Your class is locked to the top level (60, 70 or now 90) with all associated skills. Your attack/defense is based on collecting a random piece of permanent aetherpool boost along the way, with a cap of ~15 more than your top floor – so floor 50 means you max out at +65 Aetherpool. Each run has a set of temporary items that boost a given factor… an auto-res, more chests, more damage, clear effects and so on. There’s also 2 items that turn on a sort of “god mode” that works against everything except the bosses.
PotD is a very simplistic dungeon with very simplistic enemies, the worst of which is going to be a Mimic. You can pretty much face tank the entire thing, including the boss, assuming you don’t get back luck with hidden bomb traps. Very fast, very simple. Makes sense as it covers a very large level range.
HoH adds a minor amount of complexity as there are more AE attacks and one particular floor where everything is open and you need to gradually unveil the map to find the exit. It’s not uncommon to end up pulling a dozen enemies if you’re not paying attention. A marginal increase in difficulty, a bit less than the attention needed for any given Alliance Raid.
EO though, that is at another level and is reflective of modern dungeon design – also notably much harder to access. Multiple enemies have massive AE attacks that can 1-shot you, and there are random enemies that can do the same. The scaling of Aetherpool armor/weapons appears lower as well, though admittedly I am not currently over-powered. The “final” repeatable boss is an AE fest of non-stop dodging, heavily favouring instant ranged attackers. It is chaotic fun. I can’t talk about experience right now as I have no job in the 81-89 level range. I can say that at level 90 it rewards 30 poetics, 60 astronomy and 15 causality tomestones. Poetics are useless in this context. Astronomy gives access to 590 gear, and causality to 620 gear. A dungeon run awards between 50/20 and 80/50 of these, and are arguably easier to run. I think the incentive here is solid all the same.
Continual Design Improvements
What I will point out here is the construct of dungeon design and how it is reflected in overall gameplay. FF14 launched 10 years ago, August 2013. As comparison, this was in the middle of WoW’s Mists of Pandaria expansion. MMO themepark design was arguably at it’s social zenith, before the larger F2P transition. What that effectively meant was a moderate level of challenge, with some smaller focus on area effect avoidance, and the need for re-usable content. I won’t get into how that worked out (it did!) but more in that the design itself was predicated on group-work with minimal friction. The new player experience was, and I argue still is, extremely welcoming. Cool.
As the years have come and expansions gone, the content has become more complex. Endwalker dungeons have multiple AE effects occurring simultaneously, and the raids are extremely punishing in regards to positioning. It is hard to be good at FF14 today, as it has been increasingly hard to be good at any other MMO. Players have done the prior content (well, in FF14 they have) so there are some training wheels preparing them for more complex stuff. The 2.0 dungeons are simple, with end bosses that only have AE attacks, with massively generous timers. Here’s what a 6.0 dungeon boss looks like now:
Still, as a leveling experience FF14 is generally easy, to the point of failing forward. I still die in leveling dungeons, usually due to a tank deciding to wall-to-wall pull and not having cooldowns ready for it. Raids still kill a good pile of people. The mandatory (I stress this word) main story quest forces players to experience the dungeon / raid design for the entire journey, which makes it an extremely rare occurrence for someone to show up at level 90 and just be a walking brain fart. Now, compare that to WoW, where it’s frankly expected that someone reaches max level without ever having done an ounce of group content.
One could argue that more complexity is a good, or a bad thing. It would be hard to argue that it isn’t needed, as the base game certainly is simpler and some differentiation aside from color scheme is warranted.
What EO does is provide a crystal clear contrast in dungeon design ethos as there are only 2 other such instances with which to compare. PotD is easy mode. HoH requires you to be awake. EO will kill you. I certainly expect some level of tweaking, but the message is clear all the same. You want a deep dungeon; here it is, 2023-style. Impressive.
My larger goal here was to get every class to at least 50, then slowly move up the others. Mission accomplished. I’ll readily admit I got distracted and took way longer to get the last one up there (Monk). I have at least 1 of every role at 90, all crafters at 90, and a should have all my healers at 90 pretty soon. Also have acquired about 15m gil through a combination of venture sales and PotD cosmetic sales. No idea what I’ll do with it though.
The distractions are rather substantial.
My private island is now at level 12, and I’ve collected everything I could from there. I think it’s rather zen, though could use with a tool/buff to improve the amount of a given item you can harvest in the wild. At ~80 Laver required per week, it feels burdensome to collect them 1 at a time. Still, it’s a neat distraction.
I’ve collected mounts from all but the Vanu beast tribes now, which is an interesting grind. I think beast tribes are a great microcosm of the development improvements over the years. Earlier quests are all over the place, with multiple pickups, tons of travel, and multiple steps. Later quests are beelines to the goal, a single step, and honestly better experience. A Vanu (50-60) quest may give me 5% of a level. Arkasodara (80-90) give about 15% per quest.
Tails of Wonder is a weekly event where you complete 9 tasks to get about 3/4 of a level. Useful in the 80 level range, especially when it comes to 2.0 content (raid and trials) which are easily soloed by a level 90 tank. My challenge here was that I didn’t have all that content unlocked, which is gated behind multiple quests. Getting to phase 3 of the Alexander raids requires 8 different raid be completed first. Heavensward raids are doable too, though twice as long. Stormblood raids are not generally soloable.
The Duty Roulette has 3 main venues for experience. Leveling dungeons (I’m missing maybe 1 or 2) are simple enough, but gear levels can make them hard if there’s no sync (e.g. you are 68, with lvl 60 gear and put in a 67 dungeon). MSQ duties are slightly less boring than they were before 6.1, but barely. Alliance Raids are what I enjoy the most, if only because you get really easy runs, then runs where you wipe multiple times with new players. I spent some time unlocking all of the potential raids here, to add some variety. Shadowbringer raids… those are never easy.
All of this content generates a LOT of Tomes of Poetics, which gives access to 50/60/70/80 gear sets. These gear sets are enough to get you through the next 10 levels, as long as you are not tanking in an non-synched dungeon. I’ve got all the level 50 gear and weapons now, staring to collect level 60.
I will say that the rate of acquisitions of tomes is slower than the rate of leveling for a given role… so far. The issue I foresee is how the melee DPS gear works. See, Healers, Ranged Physical, Ranged Magic, and Tanks all use the same gear within their roles. For healers, that means 4 jobs with the same gear. Nice! For Melee Physical though… Dragoon/Reaper has a set, Ninja has as set, and Monk/Samurai share a set. That effectively means that this role will be the last one that I level, in order to collect the necessary gear. (Yes, I could buy the gear with the millions of Gil I have. Call me Scrooge.)
Today we’ll see 6.35 launch, which brings Lopporit Beast Quests (crafting) and the newest Deepest Dungeon (rogue-like) for leveling 81-90. Up until now, Bozja was the best bet for that range, which is also used for 71-80. There are other bits added, as glamours for crafting classes.
I should be able to finish up the Astrologian pretty quick, which would close the chapter on my healing roles. Next up is Ranged Physical (Bard + Machinist). I am conscious that the roulette queues for these will be longer than my healer roles… so let’s see how that goes.
I know there won’t be an expansion in 2023, so I am in no rush to get anyone to 90. FF14 is hitting the 10 year mark, which most likely means a pile of cosmetics instead. Plus there is a rather substantial pile of quests to unlock content I’ve yet to give a shot.
I’m still finding it quite zen as compared to RL work, what with 2022 having a rather large dearth of games to play. There are other games that seem interesting, but it would seem that most are launching with debilitating PC issues, effectively making them open betas at a full price tag. I’ve got my Steam wishlist set up to advise me of sales, and I’ll pick up a few in the summer I bet. Probably end up with a Steam Deck by that point as well… my library is overfull and the Switch is showing its limits.
I like Metroidvanias. I enjoy their puzzle like construction, the incremental power, the build variety, and the rewards for precision. Hollow Knight is right at the top of my list, just an all around amazing game from end to end. Bloodstained, Ori, and Blasphemous are up there too. Metroid Dread is good. Even the indie versions, like Gatto are a decent play as they focus on a specific aspect and go from there.
F.I.S.T. is a game from a smaller gaming developer, using Unreal Engine to try and capture the Metroidvania spirit. You play an anthropomorphic rabbit with a large metal hand attached to your back, on a McGuffin quest. I say smaller because while the game does look good (Unreal will do that) there are some polish pieces missing. I picked this up for free from EGS during the holiday event.
I’ll go over the items I think are essential to the genre:
Puzzles: There are secrets here, lots of backtracking based on new skills/abilities, and new movement abilities. Backtracking / shortcut doors are quite common. I’ve yet to unlock any type of fast travel, but given the size of the map I have to assume it’s there. On that, the map is very large and windy. While you unlock a dash very early, traversal feels laborious.
Incremental Power: You have a skill tree that improves your weapon combos. You don’t actually hit harder exactly, you just unlock new button press combos for say an extra swing or such. This does mean that even the starting enemies still take the same amount of hits later on. For shorter games, I don’t mind. The weapons themselves you unlock have different aspects… one is pure melee, another AE, another for mid-distance attacks.
Build variety: This is a tougher one, because I enjoy multiple playstyles. Metroid Dread doesn’t have this and it’s a major annoyance to me. F.I.S.T. ‘s variety is based on the 3 weapon types and your preference. The skill combo unlocks are only based on damage. It sort of works here.
Precision gameplay: After you play through the White Tower in Hollow Knight, you will understand why this is important… and this is where F.I.S.T. generally disappoints. The world in general feels “floaty”, where gravity doesn’t really exist unless it needs to. Hitboxes are oddly designed and not related to what you see on screen. All attacks have an AE component and your lack of mid-air controls makes its very hard to be precise. Staggering appears to be random, and there are no i-frames or cancel-out abilities. You press a button and you have committed to that movement occurring – the enemy too, meaning that either you hit first and they die, or you take damage. For normal enemies this is an annoyance… for bosses, this means death. You can certainly complete most bosses with zero damage, the mechanics are simple enough. But there are no rewards for playing accurately, which is quite fascinating to me.
F.I.S.T. is an interesting game, with some interesting choices. The map in particular is simply too large with too much filler. The precision puzzles lack the controls to feel rewarding rather than simply lucking out. Combat feels slow and random, with the same enemy types throughout. If you can get this for like $5-10, it’s an interesting distraction. It will also remind you that there are much better Metroidvanias out there, for the same price.
I’ve been pushing a tad more in IXION, and I keep hitting walls – literally in some cases. When you truly start the game, it boldly announces that you have a 6% chance of survival. Quite true.
This is a game where you’re consistently managing failures, but the tools to manage them are scarce. Resources are limited, but the goals of the game require a rather substantial amount of balance to keep the ship going forward.
For example, in order to complete the first act (not the tutorial), you need to collect 500 cryo pods. These are containers with frozen people in them. You don’t need to thaw them, just hold them. You start this act with around 100 people on board, and in a broad sense, the resources to feed/house twice as many. These people also have continual request from you, such as constructing a new building, or repairing an item. These tasks rarely have any strategic benefit… building a 3rd of a building will keep you off balance.
Completing this task in time gives trust, failing to do so lowers it. As long as you are balancing resources (not tasks), you should be gaining positive trust. If you fail to balance, you lower trust. 0 trust, game over. Ignoring the task has zero consequences – so you learn very quickly to ignore tasks. The reward for the task (a temporary boost) does not at all compensate for the loss of overall economy balance. In the case where you actually need to gain a boost of trust, your population is probably half on strike, you’re low on resources, and it’s nearly impossible to complete the task at all, making it a double negative. It’s unfortunate because this could be an interesting part of the game, but as it stands, the risks exponentially outweigh the gains.
Back to the cryo pods. Now, if you have too many people and not enough work (the only item you can overproduce is food, everything else is restricted), trust goes down. It’s simply not possible to have enough work for everyone. For every person you have, you need to house them. The basic building houses 15… so the math isn’t in your favor here to house 500. Not enough housing, trust goes down. If you have more cryo pods than you have people, trust goes down.
I should add that the space limitations are managed through opening new zones. Each zone you do open though, increases the stress on the hull, increasing your need for resources to repair it. You can open 1 extra zone in the first act and get through. Open a 2nd and you will be on very thin ice, with limited tools to balance the next failure.
Access to better buildings and housing is behind research. The housing requires level 2, which can only be acquired after you have collected the 500 pods due to an in-game event. What this effectively means is that you are forced into a failure state, and given a very limited set of options to proceed. A set of options that you are not aware of until the failure occurs.
You can construct specific buildings (which take space and resources) to boost trust. You don’t need these buildings if things are going well, and space/resources are scarce enough that it’s frankly seen as wasteful. Like buying a snow shovel in a city that has snow once a year… you can get through that day.
You will likely reach the point in act 1 where collecting these cryo pods works, and things are balanced. You will also reach a phase where there are too many cryo pods and you lose trust. Then a point where you have too many people and not enough food/housing. Then not enough resources to build new housing, or the necessary research unlocked to build the thing that fixes the problem. Then trust will dip. Then they will go on strike and stop producing the things you need (like food, which *blows mind* is so dumb). In 10 minutes you’ll go from a super content and balanced population to a cascade failure that you just aren’t equipped to get out of.
And then you’ll get a task requesting thawing more people.
I am super into games where there is an optimal way to play… I am less into games where there is only one way to play. IXION without doubt has an optimal way to play, but it also has a very narrow window of successful options. I am sure I can get into the right mindset to crack this nut, bu holy macaroni is it not today.
A tale as old as time, and one that can be hilarious or frustrating. All multiplayer games have this, even board games. There are those that have a passion for the meta and those that are checked out. When success is determined by the whole, then this can lead to friction.
In challenging content, the group enters with an understanding that each member needs to bring something to the table. Top-end raiders need the best gear, potions and strategies. Many games avoid any random group generation for this, as the skill levels are next to impossible to figure out… or if they do, then MMR is the way to do so (with accompanied gripes.)
In non-challenging content, the group rarely has any understanding and there are opportunities to simply check out. Especially if the content is repetitive and seen as “filler”. Maw runs from WoW/Legion were a good example. FF14 MSQ (pre 6.1) was the same, where cutscenes were 3x as long as the actual content. The interesting bit is when randomness is applied to the challenge.
FF14 has a random group finder for raids. Raids that are scaled down to a given level. Some raids are extremely under-tuned so that you really don’t have to pay attention to anything. Others have 1 shot mechanics that require group coordination. Access to these events is gated through the main quest, so it is entirely possible to have a first time player surrounded by veterans.
While not a challenge to spot the AFK players, it can be hard to tell the difference between a new player or a troll. The sprout icon (indicating less than 168 hours, or not having completed Stormblood) is sometimes an indicator, but unreliable. Hell, there are times where you simply forget the mechanics because there’s just so much frigging content to begin with! There are 13 Alliance Raids, and over 30 Leveling dungeons…that’s a very absurd amount of content to remember.
FF14 doesn’t support mods like other MMOs do, and it doesn’t have meters either, giving a much more cooperative approach to content. Mythic+ runs simply do not exist, which is a glorious thing for the social glue of the game. In the 10 years I’ve played, I’ve seen less than 10 vote kicks total. Lucky if I saw less than 10 in a week while playing WoW.
Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t need to adjust my own expectations here. Moving from the go-go-go mindset into a more relaxed approach was jarring. I had to re-evaluate why I was playing, so that the journey was as valuable as the goal. That a 5 minute delay (if that) doesn’t matter. That if the tank did go LD/AFK, that the group honestly could still progress rather than fully stall. This mindset doesn’t apply so much to the end game crowd exactly, as the purpose of the game when all your classes are 90 is way different, but for the core game it slows it down just the right amount. Enough so that people generally have ample patience with “slower” players, where info is shared and bad puns.
And when the stress levels drop and you have more opportunities to chat with players, it tends to make for a much more pleasant environment. I’ve got enough stress in my day to day life, no reason for gaming to be one of them.
Frostpunk may be my all-time favorite city builder. It provides you with a limited set of tools, a near constant set of cascade failures, really tough choices to make, and the tiniest spark of hope throughout. That balance between the edge of control and the edge of failure is what makes the game superb. And it’s success certainly pushed for imitators.
IXION is such a game. The story is simple enough, the future of humanity is focused on an ark of sorts, that is on a space journey. The challenges are also cascading, with balance a constant battle. The tools are your disposal take a while to uncover, and some decisions can massively hamper your progress… to the point where save scumming is a running thought.
Space to construct is limited, and each building has a specific set of location needs. Build enough of a type of building and the sector (of 6) becomes specialized, providing a bonus. As with most games of this genre, small percentages have large impacts, so you are likely going to want to specialize.
Resources are scarce. You can find more people in frozen capsules – which feels really weird when you population quadruples somehow. These people need food, shelter, work… and if they don’t, then you start to lose trust, which causes a mutiny and game over.
The ship you are in is in continual decay, and each mission makes the damage greater and harder to repair. This means a constant drain on resources, and intelligent use of time as there are periods where you have to stop repairs to improve power generation, or move the ship. Oh, and each sector you unlock also adds to decay.
Research is both hidden in layers, and difficult to progress. Each “zone” has a limited amount of research points to collect, effectively giving you a soft-wall of progress and forcing you to move, and therefore increase difficulty.
Combined, as is the genre, you can be going along smoothly, only to encounter a massive cascade of failures because one small piece stopped working. Like collecting iron… which repairs the ship and helps construction, which generates housing, which causes trust and decay to increase, and that’s the end of that run.
I do enjoy the logistical challenge of keeping resources balanced between sectors, and overseeing the various needs of the population. That said, I also think there are some balance passes required in how they interact and how they are set at default. Logically, the system should default to complete balance between the storage in each sector… but it doesn’t. Food created in one sector won’t move to another unless you set up that swap… which caught me off guard and caused a rather negative event.
I also enjoy the compounding complexity of various decision points, where you can have a general idea of how something will help you in the future. Some of those decisions are very obtuse… like research for items you won’t be able to use for a very long time. Given the scarcity of some resources, it makes it so that there’s an order of priority that simply is not evident on your first playthrough, and little grace for those types of mistakes. I will point that each chapter requires a very long process to complete, which not only feels like padding, but is likely to generate additional challenges. Like how collecting 500 cryo pods creates discontent as its faster to collect than thaw… Discontent that increases accidents and deaths, making it spiral.
I’ll also point that the pace of the game is rather odd, with random acts of sabotage that you can do absolutely nothing to prevent, and that can hobble you substantially if you’re in a balancing act. They act as time padding, preventing progress for the sake of making the game longer. The rate of accidents increases substantially as happiness decreases, which happens when there are accidents.
I will point out that some decisions you will make can have dramatic consequences down the road, to the point where you won’t realize it until it’s too late. Some mission options have catastrophic consequences, so that you’re better to save scum that hobble through. Some sector construction layouts (in particular around things requiring external walls) can be disastrous… to the point where it’s better to revert to a save an hour+ ago than to rebuild. In a “normal” city builder, you are not continually facing failure, just delays. In here, to a stronger degree than I was expecting, a single bad decision can be enough for a game over.
These are quality gripes, and I can only see them because I’ve been fortunate enough to play Frostpunk. If you’re coming from something like Surviving Mars, then you may not notice these smaller bits. The pace and impact of decisions, in particular hitting massive milestones that alter the gameplay, are key to these types of games. If it’s just continual fire fighting, then that loses appeal quickly as you run into the next fire before the last is put out. IXION straddles that line, and doesn’t always have that work out. For a game that’s been out a month or so, this is super normal and balance passes are part of the deal. I’d still recommend the game in its current state, but can only imagine how amazing this game will be with a few small tweaks. All the pieces are here.
Over many years, I have written a lot about power curves. Most games have a logarithmic scale, which climbs quickly at the start and then slowly increases near the end. At least in the context of the “main game”. Some RPGs provide god-tier weapons, but those are also meant for god-tier challenges.
MMOs also follow this curve, yet this is most often within the constraints of an expansion or a major patch. The major patches add minor increments to the end of a curve, while expansions write out an entirely new curve. This to the point where it normally invalidates a large amount of the previous curve, so that “fresh” players don’t have to grind through content at the end of one expansion to access the next. Some games really abuse this model, where the top tier gear from one expansion is replaced by starter gear of the next expansion – thankfully this is much less common today (WotLK was notable).
The power curve is related to the challenge curve. Depending on where those two are, you either need to perform better or can blindly plow through. If you are on the right side of the curve (high power) and are facing the basic enemies at the start of content (low challenge), you can faceroll most of it.
In most games, this relationship is static. Picking on WoW for a minute here, these were initially hard-coded, making the item/level squish activities very complicated. Changing the value of a Challenge isn’t easy, less so when it hasn’t been looked at for 8+ years.
FF14 has a similar structure in overworld content, and explicit group content (un-synched). You can, if you want, plow through low level content with a high level character (in fact, its the best way to do Wonderous Tails). However, the game has had scaling applied since ARR came out. The Duty Roulette (LFG tool) automatically scales your power relevant to the content, if too high. The net effect is that you can ignore a few mechanics, but not all. FATES also have a sync feature if you want to extract any rewards.
Now, where things really start getting wonky is how games apply bonuses to power. Scaling only applies to the base elements of the power curve, and temporary bonus to apply throws that scale out of whack. Temporary (or borrowed) power is not an issue with FF14 – the bonuses are usually in the 10-20% range and very limited in sources (food, some temporary buffs). You may see 6 buffs total on a character. WoW has had issues here for years, where the temporary boosts are measured well over 100%, if not bursts of 1,000%, from dozens of sources. It’s meme-worthy to have a couple dozen buffs active at any given time, let alone seeing how they interact as they can compound. It makes it next to impossible to balance or scale… hence why borrowed power simply does not work in Timewalking content (scaled). It’s also why some content tuning feels impossible until you get the right RNG, then it becomes trivial.
In general, I enjoy content that has some level of challenge, and where progression is noticeable without being god-like. If there was no challenge, then just turn on some streaming service instead. FF14 is able to make nearly all of the content relevant and challenging (to a degree) so that I do need to pay attention. One key issue with WoW was that the challenge was focused on 2 areas – raiding and Mythic+ – content that built less-than-pleasant social constraints. There was no middle ground left.
I could go on about how Monster Hunter applies this model… though in super simple terms it moved from near-assured death to this is fun. Way different model.
I’ll say this, no one ever plans to do a bad job. Especially in a creative field. Everyone wants to do the best they can, and depending on how complex things become, it can be insanely hard to make all the pieces fit together. A great leader is one who can find all these good ideas, and make them sing together in harmony. And in today’s age, those leaders have bosses, who may not have harmony in mind.
On to Square Enix. I have no idea what’s going on in this place, aside from the fact that the number crunchers are on some serious meds. Aside from FF14 and FF7 remake, they have struggled to get anything out the door that made a lick of sense (Babylon’s Fall) or remotely within sales expectations (Outriders). Marvel Avengers has to be a painful realization on top of it all. There’s a meme somewhere in here that as a publisher, it just can’t get it right.
Forspoken had a really weird vibe in terms of generating buzz. Amy Hennig (from Uncharted fame) was a big name involved here, so there was some confusion in what was being presented vs what people had come to expect. A game with good writing can be undone with gameplay, and vice versa after all.
The real kicker here was that it appeared few media outlets (IGN is the only one I can find) were provided any release codes to the game, meaning that they’d get their hands on it when the public did. This is no different than movie reviews, where if critics aren’t allowed to see it, then that’s usually a very bad sign. And well..
Back to my first point. I am convinced that everyone involved here had the best of intentions and wanted to knock this out of the park. The end result is a good reminder that even the best of intentions do not make a great result, and further re-inforce the need to not pre-order until the game is actually out.
Been a really, really long time since a game before release actually ended up being impressive. Maybe Fallen Jedi? There’s just dozen more examples on the other side of the coin.
Hopefully, Square Enix can learn something here and find some new groove where they can release games that people are interested in playing. There’s only so long you can just give away money…
I hear Dragonflight launched? First WoW expansion I have not touched, nor do I have any FOMO here. I will give some credit, is that WoW in the moment-to-moment aspect scratched a hell of an itch. Outside of that, it’s been on a downward spiral for years.
FF14, in contrast, has a tremendous investment in the relevance of the game, and respect for player’s time and effort. Systems are generally integrated so that progress in one field impacts multiple others. Borrowed power only exists in discreet areas (e.g. Bozja) and is explicit. The is certainly slower, as the GCD is set at 2.5seconds… which is certainly less hectic. I personally enjoy it as it’s much less stressful.
I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to “complete” as many systems as I could. It feels like going to a buffet, being stuffed, and realizing there are 3 dozen more buffets down the line. The main quest line (MSQ) may take nearly 200 hours to fully complete, but that is only about 10% of the actual game content. And most of it stays relevant, due to the Duty Finder system that syncs your level.
As with most MMOs there’s a carrot thing here, a goal of sorts. FF14 certainly has the MSQ and gearing treadmill, giving access to raids. Things that we’ve been told have to be there. And it’s good, don’t get me wrong. But there’s more. Treasure maps are fun. Housing is just stupid awesome in possibilities. There’s a private island for some odd farmville-like perks. Collecting cosmetics is there too. Making a lot of money is always interesting, and way more complex here due to the limits on selling (which is wicked smart). Right now, my goal is just to level up my various jobs.
The crafters are all fine. The combat ones need work. I’ve got bags and bags of gear that I just can’t see to use, so leveling up the characters seems the wises path forward, so that I no longer need the gear. FF14 operates under their expansion levels, with plateaus at 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90. Leveling-wise, the 90 portion isn’t exactly relevant, giving 4 major milestones.
I’m in the general process of getting everyone to 50. Currently 16/19 jobs at 50 or above. I’m in the process of closing off the melee DPS character: Monk, Dragoon, Ninja. This is not a terribly pleasant experience, for one main reason – the general lack of abilities. At max level, there’s nearly 3 hot bars of skills on any given job, plenty of tools for nearly any situation. Most jobs don’t unlock the ability to hit multiple enemies until the mid-20s, and the real abilities only show up in the 50s. To combat this, the Palace of the Dead (PotD) works as an option from level 15-60, effectively putting you with level 60 abilities in a rogue-like dungeon. It’s not hard, though you do get the odd really bad RNG. Heaven on High (HoH) works from 61-70, same concept.
PotD really only works during peak hours, so that the queues are near-instant. If you need to wait 7+minutes, it’s likely better to just solo queue Duty Support (dungeons with NPC support). These are slow as molasses, but better than nothing. Yet you are stuck with relatively crappy tools, especially if you are under level 30.
50+ there are many, many more options present. Hunting Bills are a daily option to kill specific enemies for a good chunk of xp. Beast Tribes are super easy quests for quick xp. MSQ/Leveling/Alliance Raids in the Duty Finder give a few trucks of XP (first time each per day). Wonderous Tails is ~3/4 of a level, but only once a week. Bozja (at peak time) is decent XP from 70-90. Heck, even dungeons are an ok option as your toolkit is more developed.
This gives a sort of time travelling view of the game, where content from 10 years ago still has worth today, as you can queue for a dungeon at level 89 and end up in a level 15 dungeon.
My routine right now is a simple one. Beast tribe dailies (all 12), Duty Roulette if it procs while I’m questing, then the Island Sanctuary to ensure everything is running smooth. Time left over is to get the melee DPS up to 50. There’s a fair chunk to do in that last bit, probably 70 or so runs of PotD. Breaking up that routine is nice.