FF14 – Quest Tourism

My brain is having trouble accurately remembering the ARR quest line. I know that we all love to bash WoW’s hit and miss storyline management, but FF14 really takes the cake in terms of WTH moments. The good news here is that with 30 years of FF games to reference, this isn’t exactly weird. It’s the opposite really.

Calling back to FF7 for a minute, I still recall the jarring view once I left Midgard. The tone of the game changed as the scope went wide. And the Midgar Zolom (the 100 ft fire breathing snake, impaled on a stick) still is etched in my skull. FF6’s World of Ruin was like playing a 2nd game, with a different set of rules. Zozo still kicks butt! FF13’s resurrection bit. Cloud of Darkness. The whole Yu Yevon / Dreamer set up. Garland being Chaos started it all off. FF likes to go one way, then throw something on the table that changes the context of the adventure. You think you’re doing these steps for one reason, but some reveal occurs and you find out it’s a whole lot bigger.

What I find really interesting here is that FF14 continually puts you front and center in all of this. Sure, there are factions and leaders and villains, but the whole storyline is about your impact on that world. There’s no NPC that magically jumps into battle with super nukes that you go ga-ga for. This gives the appearance of player agency in the world. You even get prompted for dialogue options. Now, the reality is that there is no agency and everyone gets the same storyline, but your experience is shadowed enough to give a positive impression.

One of the interesting quirks of FF14 is that it’s very terrestrial – or at least will be up until the moon expansion. You never feel like “this is the entire world”, as there always seems to be something about “over the horizon”. The leveling process is fractured, in a sense, in that it moves you around the world on a fairly linear path. The MSQ forces you to experience it a certain way. The closest to this is likely LOTRO, where you are following a story in acts. You are given clear instructions to go here, do this thing, talk to this person, and then most likely travel to the other part of the big map for the next bit. It’s quite jarring frankly, where the journey itself is more important than the character level associated with it.

It really is closer to the traditional FF games here in that sense. There wasn’t anything preventing you from grinding crazy levels early to smooth out the process later, or skipping levels to plow through at low levels. Those numbers acted more as a difficulty modifier to the main story line, which you never really could skip. Compared to the giant in the room, retail WoW is focused entirely at bringing people to the end state gate and then hoping for the best. There’s plenty of reasons for this… prime that FF14 has so many classes and only forces the MSQ once, while WoW forces you to repeat the content for any alt. There’s no way people would purposefully sit through all them again for FF14.

I’m still making my way through the 3.2 content and it’s really striking the fundamental differences here. It’s heavy handed and slow here, full of exposition. The opposite of the fast food buffet we see elsewhere. It’s also consistent and logical – in as much any fantasy setting can be. I’ll be keeping some pulse check on these story beats as I progress, but for now, it’s super refreshing.

FF14 – Main Story Quest

It’s an MMO, there are quests everywhere. FF14 still takes a rather unique path here as it’s a mandatory process to go through the story quest (MSQ) in order to unlock a bunch of features. This is somewhat different than other MMO’s, where the quests themselves are more of a step in order to reach max level, and that once you get that final ding, you can ignore all the levelling content.

I remember back when I did the ARR MSQ and was confused when I found myself forced to group at an early level. I had no real issues with the step, it’s an MMO after all, but it was still jarring compared to others. And that the game had an LFG tool built into the entire process was really something. It still remains one of the few MMOs that goes to great lengths to harmonize the leveling experience and the end-game experience… what you see at level 20 is pretty darn close to what you see at the end.

FF14 has “groups” of MSQ, those that are related to the leveling portion, and then the post-expansion patches. The former group is usually enough to get you to the max level for a given expansion (ARR had some gaps, not sure if still present). The latter group is meant to be a mix of storyline and dungeon reveal. Again, you need to go through this portion to unlock said dungeons in the LFG (roulette) tool, so you’re certainly motivated from a mechanical perspective.

The link above refers to the arches of the quests. Each can have 3-5 substeps within, and FF14 loves to have steps cross the map. Leveling, this isn’t too bad as it points you around. Post-leveling, it can be somewhat ridiculous to teleport everywhere for a 30s cutscene, only to return to where you were. The 3.1 content has 1 minor battle with 2 small enemies, then an instanced battle with support NPCs that takes about 20 minutes to complete. The whole 8 quest arc takes about 2 hours to get through – that’s a lot of exposition.

The length of the MSQ can be seen as a downside, especially for attracting new players who want to be with their friends. From ARR -> end of Shadowbringers, there’s close to 200 hours of content to get through. You can buy a boost to get to the starting line of Shadowbringers, which still leaves you with a good 40hrs or so. Yes, this puts a burden on the players to get to max content, but on the flipside, it also makes sure that they understand all the expansion mechanics and group functions. It eases the transition to end game, rather than creating a quit wall.

The sort of benefit here is that the MSQ only needs to be done once per character, meaning you can level any other job/class while just worrying about experience. People say WoW is alt-unfriendly, well FF14 is both the friendliest and most punishing. The only reason I can think of having an alt is if you want a different looking character. There are niche reasons (RP, more retainers, raid lockouts, FC farming) but those would really wait until you have many jobs at max level on a main. And sanity wise, if you want a different looking character, pay the $10 for the race change.

So now I’m 2 hrs into the max-level journey at 60, with 8/44 quests complete before Stormblood. There are 4 dungeons and 2 raids in there too, so the estimate to get through this is about 25 hours. Let the journey continue.

FF14 – Clown Suit

Oh, how quickly we forget how games love to throw you under the bus when you had super cool looking armor, then make you dress like a clown…  Do all devs have this desire?
ff14 clown suit

I’ve completed the first few starter quests in Ishguard, enough to be on the quest that will give me a flying mount.  A few particular notes about this so far.

The FATES are “broken”.  In every ARR zone, FATES are run everywhere.  It’s rare you see more than 3 up at any given time.  N. Thanalan is on farm mode right now.  HS zones, every fate is up, all the time.  I found one that was a single target boss-like enemy.  We started pretty much when the clock started and ended up being 4 people trying to take it down by the end.  We failed the timer and I was on full-time healing duty.  The HP scaling doesn’t work (SE admitted this), their damage is significantly higher than ARR and the experience/time spent is less than half of previous content.  I’m guessing this wasn’t so much an issue when people were doing MSQ to get to 60 but now that people are trying to level alts, then it’s really a quite glaring issue.

The quests are better, in terms of pace and quality. I like house Fortemps.  Ishguard has a whole Game of Houses (which I claim GRR Martin has heavily borrowed for GoT) jive to it, which is a fair bit better than the lack of flavor in the previous 3 capital cities (Ul’dah was so-so).  The duties (contained personal quest zones) are larger too, instead of just battle arenas.  It’s cool.

The art/music is quite impressive.  I’ve always been happy with the FF series for both, but this expansion improved a lot.  Well, the clown suits aside. The enemies look better, the zones are amazing, Ishguard is massive… it all works well.  Plus, everyone has buckles.  Ain’t FF without a bajillion buckles.

The combat is more or less identical, if not a fair amount more difficult.  I am in decent enough gear, able to solo large chunks of ARR content.  HS basic enemies seem to be twice as tough.  I’m not really looking forward to my first dungeon.

Picking up the new classes isn’t terribly involved but playing them with what they give you is.  I have no alternate jobs and only a few spare pieces of strength gear.  When I picked up the Dark Knight class, it gave me a weapon, a chest and pants.  I needed to find pieces to fill in the rest.  And as with any expansion gouging is present – the gear for level 30 tanks is about 30x the price of gear for level 25 tanks.  So for the price of one level 30 hat, I was able to fill out my entire slot set.  I played as a DK for the first combat quest, to unlock Darkside.  I failed it a few times since I played it as a DPS until I realized it was designed to be played as a tank.  Once I did that, it was a cakewalk.  (Side note, I usually play a caster, so the GCD isn’t that big a deal.  It is when you play melee, very weird pace change.)

I like the content presented thusfar.  I think in general, it’s an improvement of what came before.   FATES need some number tweaking, there are some balance/bugs that need to be sorted out. As a whole?  This is certainly one of the smoother/slicker expansions I’ve gone through.

Impulse Buys + FF Update

It was my birthday last week.  One year older, though in truth the date itself never means much to me in that fashion.  It’s nice to see family mind you, but it’s not like I move the hand on some death clock.

It’s also an interesting fact that as you get older, it gets a ton harder for people to figure out what to get you as a gift.  I would say that time and a solid experience are the best things, at least in the grand scheme of things.  I don’t need another mug, but a day off? That’s sweet.  A night out?  Great too.

Of course, there’s always cash.

Impulse Buys

I’d been thinking about getting a couple items for a while, and with the birthday cash, I picked up my tablet and made the buys.

First, a top end coffee maker from Bonavita.  I had tried coffee from a friend’s place who had this machine and it was by far the best home brew I’d ever had.  I had bought a Tassmio single brewer a while back, and even though that was good, it was costly and wasteful.  I’m not a coffee snob, I’ll have a cup of freeze dried at 5am to help wake up but I also like to have a great cup from time to time.  Plus, I wanted something that can serve more people too, as my 10 year old $20 machine was horrible.

Second, in the winter I had seen Star Wars: Imperial Assault in a local game store.  Miniatures + board games + cooperative play?  And add Star Wars?  Hell yes.  Apparently it’s a slight upgrade and skin job on Descent, which I already own and is pretty darn good.  Looking forward to setting it up and playing a few rounds with the little ones.  Oh, and some paint jobs on the miniatures will be fun too.  Did I mention STAR WARS?  Just checking.

I guess that’s not really impulse, since I put some thought about it for a while.  Truth be told, I usually spend a LOT of time researching something before biting the bullet.  This one was pretty quick.

Even more quick was the delivery (that is such a poorly written sentence).  It took 3 business days to get to my door, direct from Amazon.  I do not understand how brick and mortar stores work anymore.

ARR is Complete!

First, the quests in 2.55 are just face painting.  It’s like the entire patch was just cinematics, and a LOT of cinematics.  The last 2 quests, I’m sure that was 45 minutes of in-game cutscenes total before I was able to set foot in Ishguard.

There were certainly highlights in those scenes but in traditional FF fare, there turncoats, smug bad guys, dead bad guys, an escape by the heroes and potatoes just standing around.  Of all those things, the potatoes are the most irksome.  (Side note, FF14 doesn’t have blood or death on-screen.  Which makes it hard to cut a guy in two, but they did it.)

But what’s a potato have to do with anything you ask?  Ok, you probably didn’t ask that but here goes.  A potato is a character who provides next to no value in a given scene, outside of frustrating/confusing the audience as to why they are even there in the first place.  It’s like a combination of a Red Herring and Chekov’s Gun.  It’s just a lot of SMH – but hey, that’s what FF does best right?

I made it off to Ishguard and tried unlocking the 3 jobs.  I started the 2 quests for Machinist and Astrologian but they require me to visit the old lands for some stupid reason that makes no sense in the context of lore.  They hate the other side of that gate, why would they send me there?  Dark Knight I unlocked though, even if it wasn’t terribly obvious how to get it started.  Neat intro to the line too.  I’ll have to spend some time on the market as all my lower level gear is meant for magic-users.

I think that’s about 2 weeks of playing, to get from 43 to Heavensward.  If I’d hazard a guess, it would be 2 weeks or so to get to 43 in the first place, maybe a bit more depending on your love of cutscenes and the duty-finder timer.  All mandatory content for anyone buying HS today without an existing character.  I can certainly see that as off-putting.

#FF14 – Nearing the End

So Close I Can Taste It

Inching a bit closer!  The start of patch 2.55 is all cinematics and rinky dink walk over here, and talk to someone.  6 of them too!  And the subtlety is pretty much gone, time for the big moves.  I got far enough in (popcorn and all) to unlock the last MSQ raid, Steps of Faith.

This one sets you against a dragon, Vishap, who’s walking across a bridge to knock down a door – essentially a DPS race, with a few cannons to help out.  I don’t mind a DPS race but an entire raid focused on one makes you wonder why it exists?  I mean, it looks neat and it’s the first time you’re actively fighting something that much larger than you.  Cripes, we fit the entire raid under the dragon’s belly.

Compared to the previous raid and the dozen or so wipes, I think I cast Cure about 5 times, and just used regen here and there.  95% of the rest of the time, I was in Cleric stance and just DPS.  Clerics aren’t super DPS either, I think I do about 200ish.  I’d guess a pure class would be double?

Have I mentioned how healers have it awesome?  Instant queue for this one again.

Anyhoot, unless I’m mistaken I have 2-3 fetch quests left, then about 30 minutes of cutscenes before Heavensward.  The downside is that the intro cinematic of Heavensward spoils a fair chunk of what’s coming.  The upside is that the MSQ is filling in the blanks and it’s pretty well done.  At least by FF standards.

Final Fantasy Lore

Let’s face it, Final Fantasy is one of the largest IPs on the planet for gamers.  Aside from Warcraft and Star Wars, it’d be pretty hard to find the next in line.  And I don’t mean character, that’s clearly Mario.  I mean the entire world/lore/history.

The neat thing about the FF series is how all the games are set in their own world but share common elements.  There’s always some sort of crystal, summons are always going to be present, character classes are nearly always there, and you’re always going to find Cid, Biggs, and Wedge.  The art style is almost always buckles and zippers and layers, with a side of crazy hair.  Moogles and Chocobos.  It’s not really a FF game without those pieces, though some took a while to make it into the series.

Even the combat basics have been pretty common across.  Sure, the Active Time Battle (ATB) has come and gone but the concept of slow, methodical thinking before actions has been there since the beginning.  Even FF13’s “just press A” mechanics were stalled by a bar that needed to fill up to execute moves.

That’s certainly one of the draws with FF14, how the archetypes and tropes of the series are used throughout.  The story pacing, the maniacal/plot hole enemies, the constant exposition, the humour, the stupid fetch quests, and the cuteness.  At any time where it thought the content felt “off”, the next moment it was back on track.  It’s rare enough to find a game with this much content that’s able to maintain pace/cohesiveness for such a long period.  I’m certainly more and more impressed as I move along.

#FF14 – Crysalis Down, Story Update

Finished Patch 2.5 content, so only 2.55 left to do.  I will say that as the game progresses, the content gets better.  The story is more engaging and the dungeons/raids are a heck of a lot more crazy.  Each Patch seems to unlock 1 dungeon and 1 raid, plus some neat story bits.

Patch 2.4

Patch 2.4 gave me Snowcloak and Shiva to run through.  Snowcloak was a pretty neat dungeons, especially the bigfoot fight where you hit him with snowballs.  The entire group was new to the dungeon and we decided not to read up on it.  After about level 40, there are no more tank and spank fights.  If you don’t catch the mechanics, eventually you’re going to die.  But the ramp up time to learn is fairly lenient.  Learning on the fly is fun, even more so when the mechanics are intuitive enough to grasp – at least in dungeons.

Shiva was a quick run, though there was a wipe due to not killing the adds.  As a general rule in raiding, it’s “don’t step in the bad stuff, stay close to get an AE heal and kill the adds”.  At least of the majority.  I will say that that fight was incredibly neat to watch, and her ultimate is amazeballs.

Patch 2.5

To start 2.5 I needed to clear Ifrit, Titan and Garuda on Hard Mode.  I guess these guys were hard at some time, because they were each twice as easy as when on normal mode.  More skills available makes a heck of a difference, and item level too I guess.  Once that was done, I gained access to Keeper of the Lake and Crysalis.

KotL was pretty neat for the first 2 bosses.  The last one, holy kidney beans, AE city.  A massive dragon head, the floor nearly permanently on fire and then 2 smaller (still large) dragons to take out.  It was the best fight I’ve had in an MMO in a long time.  Superb.

Crysalis though, that thing is a pain and extremely dependent on player awareness.  Massive hits on the tank that I needed to pre-cast for.  Then about 30 floating balls everyone needs to tag, in a specific order to avoid taking too much damage.  If not enough are flagged, then the boss does a massive AE (again, need to pre-cast).  Then more AE from the boss, so everyone needs to be fairly close to take the AE heal (which most ranged classes don’t get and stay super far away).  Finally, he teleports you into some odd version of the moon, where meteors hit the ground for ~75% of my hit points, so the 2 tanks needs to run under them and take the blow.  Miss 2 and it’s a wipe. It took a long time for the tanks to coordinate this properly.  Nearly 10 runs.  People were chipper throughout and very happy when it was cleared.  (Can I say how rare that is?  8 anonymous people and no one was a jerk?)

It was a sad ending to this chapter though, story-wise.  There are clearly some set-up elements in place for 2.55 and I am super hyped to go through that part.

Content Stays Relevant

I think one of the highlights of FF14 design is the duty roulette system.  Every piece of group content shows up in this LFG/LFR system after you’ve completed it once (and 90% of it has to be completed in the story).  It’s split up across low level, high level, elite, trials, story and guildhests (learn-to-dungeon), with each giving a significant exp bonus every day, and some currency for gear to boot.  This means that all the content remains relevant to everyone.  You might have a level 59 in a level 20 dungeon (scaled down of course) because he wanted the EXP bonus for doing it.  This also means that the queue times are fairly steady, depending on the role you run.  Tanks are instant, Healers are near instant for dungeons, ~4m for a raid.  DPS, well I feel sorry for you guys.

And there’s no dev resources to re-jig something to stay relevant.  I don’t get served some sort of warp-of-time dungeon like it was new content I should be happy about.  Instead, they make a new dungeon.

#FF14 – Ramuh Down

I hit 51 in the process and with Ramuh down I’m just past the half way mark of the pre-Heavensward quests since launch.  Yay?


While the majority of these quests are fetch/talk quests, the story behind it is pretty neat.  There’s a consistent B-story in it all as well, which is sort of like a season-long storyline with each patch being an episode.  That’s pretty neat.  Plus so far, each patch has had a “raid” of 8 people.

King Moogle was the first, nothing too complex really.  I like moogles though, so there’s a certain flair here.  Leviathan was next and that one had a fair amount of moving around the map to avoid the big hits.  Nothing too crazy mind you, and the tank was pretty good (or at least “tanky”).  Ramuh though, he’s a friggin’ box of fun.  I think there was 1 person there who had done it before, which didn’t help much.  Plus I’m pretty sure I was the only one who read up on it before hand.  There’s a single mechanic where if you share this lightning link with another player, you take damage if you attack.  So you need to walk over these lightning balls to get rid of it.  I’m sure we lost 4 players on the first run and more than 2 on the last one.


I get that particular mechanics can be tricky and that’s the flavor of each fight.  There’s always the whole “don’t stand in the fire, take down the adds” of every fight but each one has a twist or 2 to keep you on your toes.


I used to play DPS a lot, back when I was actively grouping and you needed DPS more than you needed healers.  When LFD/LFR came around, I swapped to healing to avoid the queues.  That’s stuck in FF14.  DPS-wise I can solo without really issues.  Duty-finder is pretty much instant too.  And healing itself, well that’s a bit different and for 2 main reasons.

First is the global cooldown.  At 2.5second, you need to pre-emptively heal the big hits and it’s a rare occasion that everyone is above 90%.  In the larger fights, this has a rather interesting mechanic of actual triage of targets, making DPS responsible for their own actions.  It’s a neat swap of the traditional HEAL EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME of other games.  It’s still hectic but it’s rare that you feel cheated.

Second is the group size.  At 4 people in a regular group, it makes healing a lot easier.  It’s one of my favorite parts of SWTOR to be honest.  And raids set at 8 people is even better.  Healing a dozen+ people is like having ADD and you can rarely pay attention to what else is going on.  Smaller groups means more focus and that’s fun.  I’m rather enjoying healing.

Gold Spam

I guess this is due to the expansion – sure do see a lot of new players in the game. I’m not sure Square Enix does anything about this actually.  Here’s a picture of my current Blacklist, all goldspammers.


When an account gets banned, it gets listed as “deleted”.  Maybe gold spam is a sign of a healthy game?

Next Up

Continue on with patch 2.4 content.  There’s a good chance I’ll hit 52 before stepping into the expansion.  All of these through quests and the odd challenge log that coincides with my questing actions (duty-roulette and the odd fate).

And find a Free Company.  I’ve met a lot of neat folks mind you, and at a lot of odd hours.  Just need to find one that fits my playstyle.

#FF14 – Finally 50

I will say that the trek from 43-50 was longer than I expected.  That being because my expectations are leveling speeds found in pretty much every other game.  Then I realized I hadn’t even unlocked my Challenge Log and in 1 day I made 2 levels.

Level 50

I actually hit 50 just after the first “raid”, or at least 8 man party. It was a 1 boss battle and the LFR-ish tool (Duty Finder) took under 10 minutes to find a group with me as a healer.  Wasn’t too hard either.  Following Rohan’s advice, I bought the expansion ahead of time, so you can see that I’m a bit into level 50.  Seeing as how I can’t unlock ANY level 51 content for about 50 quests, this seems like it should be a nice head start on the other content.

Looking forward to getting my own!

Looking forward to getting my own!

Clearly I’m not very far content-wise and I’m rather ok with that.  There are plenty of other people playing at this level, most of them Machinists or Dark Knights, so the queues are pretty much instant.  And I am absolutely blown away at how those dungeon runs give you massive chunks of experience.  One a day (each takes about 20-30 minutes) gives a huge boost.  You get another boost at 3 and 5 in a week.  It’s such a drastic swap out from other games leveling pattern.

On to the next set of quests.

FF14’s Content Mountain is Good Gaming Glue

The crux of the “games as art” argument is that both are subjective to interpretation.  And as much as there is shitty art, there are shitty games…so let’s no belabour the point too much.

Jewel over at Healing the Masses has a neat post about her qualms with the forced narrative in FF14.  While I understand the complaint, I think it’s one of FF14’s main benefits.  Here’s the logic.

Let’s say you’re a new player and you want to play with your friends who have been there for some time.  In nearly every other MMOs, you jump in, level up what needs to be done (or get carried, or buy a character) and in a week or so, you’re in the expansion territory.  FF14 takes a completely different approach.  From 1-50, you must complete the following quests to progress.  It’s not optional, you simply won’t gain other skills, jobs or be able to access other dungeons/content.  These are major gates.  And that’s just what launched with 2.0.  Once you hit level 50, you need to complete the majority of these quests in order to access Heavensward.  Jewel’s point that many of these quests have you running around the world is accurate – some of these quests can take 5 minutes or require you to clear an entire dungeon.

There are two options here. Either you look at that mountain of quests and say screw it, or you climb that mountain and meet the other folk who did the same.  This is a massive content wall, something that pushes away every 3-monther from giving it a shot.

WoW decided to open the floodgates to everyone.  Within 2 weeks of the WoD expansion, if you had never played you could have seen all the mandatory content from start to finish.  And when LFR came out, you could have cleared each wing out in a day.  A month or 2 in, and everything is done.  And then you lose 3m subscribers.   What was the record for hitting level 100?  Under 4 hours I think?

Wildstar took the crazy* approach of attunement but only at max level.  The original skill level required to attune was quite high but you could reach 50 by mostly face rolling, with some exceptions.  They’ve modified it since, but it’s such a massive departure from the rest of the game it throws people for a loop.  If there were more people playing this would be less of an issue but at current server pops, it’s a real challenge to complete.

FF14’s optimal leveling path is dungeon runs and group content.  The LFD system actually works pretty well since every single dungeon you have unlocked is available.  At 49 I was running a level 15 dungeon, and I scaled to its level.  That means that nearly all the content, in nearly all the zones, is relevant at nearly all levels.   Plus, forced grouping makes your social presence important.   This also means that people are going to quit at various parts of the leveling game, rather than reach the end and go away.  It’s a very interesting approach to “gaming glue”.

Which sort of begs the question, are you playing an MMO for the game for the people, for the mechanics, or for the game as a whole?  The 3 examples above fit into those categories.

As a final remark, I’m at 49.5 now on my White Mage.  I’m looking at that list of quests left to do and it seems like quite a task.  But the content is fun, the people are fun and it scratches a heck of an itch.