Do you smell that on the wind, my friends? It smells like June is fast approaching, and more importantly it smells like soon we’ll be able to welcome the third phase of testing with open arms. Which is good, since I am currently going through withdrawal. I wake up in cold sweats, try to change my class in other games, start up the Final Fantasy XIV beta client in the hopes that someone “accidentally” turned the servers back on… you get the general idea.
To help alleviate this, I’m going to talk about the two pieces of the game from the first two beta phases that are in need of the most polish. While there are places to improve elsewhere, FATEs and dungeons have issues that might need a bit more hammering to fix. Or they might be fine and we just haven’t yet seen enough of the game to know everything. Either way, let’s get started with the big addition to the game, the system that had no predecessor in Final Fantasy XIV’s first version: the FATE system.
The FATE-ing is the hardest part
If you’ve somehow missed the details on this previously, FATEs are FFXIV’s answer to things like Guild Wars 2′s dynamic events, RIFT’s eponymous rifts, or public quests from Warhammer Online for the five minutes anyone plays that game. Rather than being the be-all and end-all to content, here they’re one of many options for players as you run along leveling. Some of them are triggered by players talking to NPCs; others just happen based on other conditions. I’m not sure if those “other conditions” include player behaviors or not, as it’s intentionally vague.
When a FATE starts up near you, there’s plenty of warning. Aside from having a clearly marked boundary on your map and an icon directing you toward nearby FATEs, you also get messages on your screen if an event is starting in the same general area. You rush over, get off of your chocobo, and start smacking whatever needs to be smacked pretty darn good.
In the low-level areas, the FATEs I saw expected everyone to beat on a monster until it dropped, kill a large enough number of monsters to force a retreat, or kill monsters to force a retreat before they reached a certain number of objectives. Much like the quest mechanics, these are not revolutionary implementations of the idea, but they are still solid. NPCs in the area will help out, although I don’t recall any of them appearing to be in real danger.
Success nets you some gil, some company seals, and some experience based on your contributions. Failure nets you nothing. Herein lies the first issue: Most FATEs in the beta rewarded participation in such a way that it felt as if getting a solid reward was nearly impossible unless you were soloing the whole darn thing. This is exacerbated with the fact that high-level players seem to be counted into the overall damage done without getting credit themselves, meaning that if a level 30 character curbstomps the FATE you’re doing, you wind up looking as if you barely helped.
The other major issue at the moment is the same one that plagues dynamic events in all walks of life insofar as they don’t like to cooperate with you. When a FATE pops up and you can just take part, it’s great, but sometimes they spawn when you’re trying to complete a timed levequest or you’re desperately recovering from a rough fight or whatever. There’s no auto-grouping feature at the moment, meaning that things get jumbled and disorganized.
On a whole, they’re a nice addition to a game already full of things to pull you off the beaten path and let you experience something new. But they’re not quite as well-balanced as other content.
The official term for instanced dungeons in FFXIV is raids, since not all of them are necessarily dungeons. But everyone is going to call them dungeons anyway, so I’ve mostly just been jumping ahead of the curve.
Whatever you want to call them, the content you need a group to fight through in the first two phases of beta most definitely falls under the header of “dungeons.” I didn’t get as much time in there as I might have liked, but I did see enough to get a good sense of how both class mechanics had changed and what players can expect from dungeon runs.
One of the major things I found was how different it felt to tank. In 1.0, tanking always seemed to be a matter of fighting with the game to have the tools needed to keep threat on something. Tanking in the beta, by contrast, hit that perfect sweet spot wherein tanking isn’t frustrating but also isn’t easy. If I was dying quickly or failing to hold enemies, that was me screwing up something important.
But let’s discuss the actual dungeons themselves, which are fairly standard. Tam-Tara Deepcroft is where I spent the most time, and it’s clearly meant as an introduction to dungeons as a whole. You fight your way through several groups of weaker enemies, then face off against a handful of bosses. There’s also the possibility for coffers full of valuable equipment along the way. Loot distribution gives players each a chance to roll on equipment, using the time-honored need or greed system.
Unlike FATEs, there’s nothing I can point to in the dungeon design that doesn’t work. The biggest weakness is the fact that the dungeons don’t feel terribly unique. Quests managed to elevate themselves based upon presentation and diversity; the dungeons mostly feel functional without being enthralling. It doesn’t help that the beta had minimal lore on the dungeons, giving us only cursory reasons for exploring them and fighting things. A little more explanation would do wonders.
Less than perfect
Neither FATEs nor dungeons are bad, but both have a couple of issues that could stand to be patched up. Fortunately, once we play around with the duty finder, we may find it alleviates both. But that’s not coming until later, so for now we can only speculate.