FFXIV: The Road Back

Catgirl with an axe has no time for your crap.

So I’ve been back on FFXIV for long enough that I actually had to give them money to keep playing, and I gave them money so I guess that means that I’m having a good time.

I spent the first couple of days being completely lost, of course.  Thankfully, your character in this game can take on any job and I had never played a rogue so I was able to start from level one as a rogue to kind of figure out what I was doing.

Then I leveled all of my combat jobs up to a certain point so I could clear all of the low level gear out of my bank, and did a lot of googling to find out what the non-gear junk was used for and deleted or sold a lot of it… and in the process, I found that I pretty much had my feet under me and I could try to play of my higher level jobs.

Embarrassingly, it turns out that I am pretty awful at playing the White Mage job that was previously my highest-level job, so I need a lot of practice there to actually keep the bars full.

One other benefit of going through all of the jobs and playing them out of the lower levels is that I got to see all of the different job storylines, some of which were quite good.  I particularly enjoyed the “Pugilist” story, because I absolutely loved the central character.

We’re all there with you, Hamon.

But let’s make this less about me and move on to some of the changes that they’ve made to the game that make it a lot more friendly as a newbie or a returner, because I am really impressed with how accessible they have tried to make things.

Starting with: Hall of the Novice.


Apparently this is a feature that was added in early 2016, and it’s absolutely brilliant.  You choose a role (healer / tank / dps) and are given a set of simple exercises to follow, like getting out of AE damaging effects or tanking multiple opponents at once, and passing these exercises gives you a set of pretty decent level 15 gear that also LOOKS nice so you can use it as cosmetic armor at higher levels.  I don’t know if Square-Enix was the first MMO publisher to come up with this sort of tutorial, but I can’t give them enough credit for it.

Also new since the last time I played is the Squadron feature, which lets you recruit NPCs and build up a nice little stable of minions:

You can send your minions on missions to level them up, which gives you some rewards along the way.  It’s vaguely reminiscent of the garrison feature in WoW.

Most importantly, however, once your squadron reaches rank 2 (this takes 3 or 4 days of sending them on missions), you can undertake “command” missions, which spawn an instanced four-man dungeon that your character runs with three of your squadron members filling out the other roles in the group.  So, if you want to do dungeon content at your own pace or just don’t want to deal with other humans, this gives you a way to do some of that.

It doesn’t replace the dungeon content you need to go through for story purposes, but I have been enjoying it for the ability to poke around corners of dungeons that I never got to see before since the group always wanted to take the most efficient path to the final boss. My squadron members have no choice in the pace I am playing at. 🙂

Finally, the last thing I am going to gush about is how much effort FFXIV has put in to ensuring that older content stays sort of relevant.  While I have been leveling up jobs and re-learning the game, I’ve been doing a ton of low-level dungeon content, and I have never had a hard time finding a group – the instance finder scales players down to the level of the content they’re doing, but gives them rewards at the end based on their level.  So my level 20 character might be grouped with a level 70 character, but the level 70 character will be scaled down to my level and will get appropriately compensated for slumming with me at the end of the dungeon.

A lot of the original game’s story is locked between raids, as well, so there are incentives for high-level characters to re-run the old raids for the benefit of the newbies who are just seeing the content for the first time.  As a result, I’ve gotten to see a bunch of the game that was completely inaccessible to me when I was playing a few years ago.

Side anecdote:  For shorter queue times, I have generally been playing in the Warrior role, which is a tanking spec.  Most of the time, this means that I am just standing next to the REAL tank and getting carried through by the level 70 pro who has done this content a thousand times.

Most of the time.

The other night, however, I queued into one of these legacy raids, the whole raid trotted up to the first batch of enemies, and… everyone just stood there.  Like, there were 24 people in the raid, and 21 of them were staring at the three people who had signed up to tank and wondering when one of us was going to get on with it.

After about a minute, I YOLOed and charged into the mobs, which was the cue for the healers to start healing and the deeps to start slamming their faces into their keyboards, and we wound up clearing everything without too many setbacks.  It was at once a proud moment and a I Have No Idea What I Am Doing And Everyone Is Watching Me Do It moment.

So yeah.  That was pretty good times.

Thankfully the next legacy raid was back to me standing next to the person who knew what they were doing, though.

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