FF14 – Eureka Orthos

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.

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