FFXIV Impressions: Dungeons

A little while ago I got the early dungeon wall that I heard people grumbling about back in the day: a point near level 20 where the Story quest gets gated around running three dungeons in a row. I spent an entire day’s session pushing through it like a particularly difficult bowel movement, with very similar end results.

FFXIV_Dungeon

Somehow they managed to make playing an Arcanist even more boring.

The first two dungeons were not actually that bad. Long, boring slogs through story-less gameplay, but whatever; I’m not sure Wailing Caverns performed much better when I played it six years ago. Then came Copperbell Mines. If I continue playing FFXIV, it will be in spite of my experience in this dungeon.

To be clear, it is not necessarily the dungeon’s fault. I assume Copperbell Mines is just as bland and flavorless as any other dungeon in this game. But within the first two pulls, I realized we were in trouble. The only non-new player was the healer, and it became very clear that 1) the tank had no clue how to hold aggro, and 2) the lancer had no concept of how dungeons or the holy trinity works at all. The lancer spent the entire dungeon running ahead, grabbing aggro, then running away once his HP hit 25%. While no one can expect a tank to completely take control of that, one can reasonably expect the tank to at least have higher aggro than the healer. Which he could not, to literally save his (and everyone else’s) life.

FFXIV has this reputation as a nice, friendly environment for noobs and such, but I feel that it let us down in this case. Friendly suggestions to not be fucking stupid (paraphrasing) did not reach the lancer, who might have been illiterate for all we know. Had this been WoW, either the lancer or tank or both would have been straight-up kicked (assuming no 4-hour timers) for not doing the goddamn jobs they signed up to do, but no no. It is our responsibility – nay, privilege! – to repeatably wipe with the classical stoic grace of British aristocracy. I summoned my tanking pet to at least give the healer an extra 15 seconds of life and largely went down with the ship with a stiff upper lip.

At the end of it, several things were very clear to me then:

  1. There was zero reason why those dungeons were mandatory for the story.
  2. There wasn’t any story to those dungeons at all. No background material, no Dead Mines-esque buildup.
  3. It was yet another “travel across the world three times sequentially” time-sink, after literally just finishing a similar one.
  4. I’m done waiting 15-20 minutes to play a game.
  5. I’m done waiting to play with bad players.

This attitude will, of course, put me at odds with the standard MMO appointment-gaming zeitgeist.

I was also struck with the realization of what FFXIV’s combat reminded me of: Aion. As in, a pretty world with great animation and bizarre old-school throwbacks combined with an awfully boring combat system. Again, I’m an Arcanist, so I’m sure that has something to do with it – Thaumaturge felt more exciting for the little I played of it. At the same time, I view FFXIV allowing me to pick a boring-ass class more of FFXIV’s problem, than my own.

In any case, my free month is up next week, so FFXIV has until then to convince me it has any redeeming factors at all. People keep going on about the story, but I can no longer tell if they mean an actual good story, or a good story in comparison to other MMOs. Either way, it has the aforementioned amount of time to get down to business if Square Enix wants to continue getting my own.

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Posted on February 11, 2016, in FFXIV, Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Aggro in these actually works a little differently than you expect – Sam principle but no where near as easy as there are very few taunts and tank hits don’t overwhelmingly generate Aggro. To keep Aggro on a group you constantly shift between enemies to keep Aggro, with most going towards the main Target. If someone pulls early though it is incredibly hard to get Aggro back and keep it from all enemies.

    It is particularly rough early on as a tank, as you don’t get the good stuff till a bit later.

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    • Let me guess, the game interface provides all this useful information in terms of description of abilities and aggro indicators, right? :P

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      • Actually, yes. I haven’t played in awhile, but when I did I was a tank pretty regularly. If memory serves, there are numbers with a colored indicator to show how high you were on the threat meter (red- tanking, yellow/orange/I think – clmbing up in threat). As a DPS, you can also see these indicators to give you an idea how close you are from taking aggro, as well.

        FFXIV tanking is pretty straightforward in the early going, and I thought they had upped the aggro-taking skills in a patch awhile back?

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      • Well, this is good, even it may be very non-intuitive to someone who doesn’t already know about tanking and the trinity.
        But then I don’t understand how the tank could be doing so bad, I mean, you usually at least read the tooltip of the skill to see what it does…..
        BTW expecting tab-sunder (as Azuriel calls it :)) from someone who doesn’t have at little bit of habit is not a good thing. I’m of the idea that if istances require AoE tanking then you should provide tanks with an AoE skill.

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      • @Helistar

        Looking at the Gladiator ability list (I’m certain the tank had a shield), I’m pretty sure the tank never used Flash, which appears to be a short-range AoE threat move. Not sure if spamming that ability would be enough to hold aggro, but it wouldn’t surprise me that a newbie might never click the button considering it has zero use in solo PvE.

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      • Spamming flash a few times per pull is indeed the way to go for early level gladiators. The healer should have known this.

        Even so, keeping aggro at low levels (unsync’d, with poor gear) is still hard, even if you don’t have a dps fucking everything up. But then again… a healer can probably solo any of those instances if they are slightly over the sync level, so I guess you got the full virgin experience. Congrats?

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    • Hmm. I knew about the “tab-Sunder” requirement, but it didn’t occur to me that perhaps the aggro levels were tuned too low as well. Still, I’m pretty sure that the tank was not even trying to do anything to hit more than one mob at a time.

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  2. Yeah, the mandatory dungeons are just bad design in FFXIV. The mandatory story raids late in the main story (circa level 50) are a textbox example of horrible design. It’s bad enough having to skip minimal story cutscenes in a 5-man that you’re unfamiliar with but to have to spacebar long core-story scenes or be locked out of the next boss fight is a “what were they thinking” design moment for me.

    I think the solution is for all dungeons and raids to have an optional solo/story mode if they’re part of the MSQ. Then you have the normal/hard mode or whatever with normal group size with the cut-scenes removed completely. People will still play them for whatever end-game gear stone they’re grinding this tier and for the lovely XP to level alt classes. But the first run of these dungeons shouldn’t be a “chase the mad DPS” zerg-fest. /rant

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    • The cutscene thing in particular irks me too. The early dungeons did not have any story exposition, of course, but even with just the “cinematic” camera panning around, I was also almost locked out of a boss fight. Better players would have recognized my little sprout icon next to my name and given me time to get out of the cinematic, but better designers would have not forced players into that corner to begin with. It reminded me of SWTOR in that sense, minus the group voting.

      Skippable group cinematics are just bad news for everyone, IMO.

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    • Your solo suggestion will not work. The combat is built too much around a basic interpretation of the holy trinity. How would dps survive a solo dungeon without heals? Tank and healer damage is quite weak compared to dps (excluding warrior). The entire combat system would have to be revamped to look more like something from GW2.

      Having said that, the pre 50 dungeons lack necessary story exposition to give them more weight regardless of whether they are tied to the MSQ. You sort of go ” that’s pretty and was kinda fun but is that really the end of that dungeon’s story?” This gets much better post ARR (the base story game) as the MSQ dungeons are more tightly tied into the story and have a decent payoff.

      FFXIV, is the only MMO I play but as much as I enjoy it, it has some serious shortcomings in those critical first 15 to 30 levels of gameplay. Funnily enough, I dropped the game the first time around after getting to level 17 and doing the first dungeon. I also started with arcanist and had much the same issues you did with the game. A year later I popped back in and haven’t stopped playing since. It just clicked for me the second time despite the flaws.

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  3. Mandatory roadblocking stuff is just bad design, period, which many games are guilty of, not just FFXIV.

    “Appointment-gaming” is my new favorite phrase. Please allow me to steal it and use it from time to time, with appropriate credit, of course.

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    • I cannot claim any credit for “appointment-gaming,” but I too enjoy it immensely for describing exactly what I have come to dislike about the dungeon/raid paradigm. On the one hand, yeah, it’s pretty much a requirement for social gaming that involves any sort of coordination and cohesion. On the other though? It encapsulates exactly how ridiculous it is in the abstract that one must schedule one’s day around playing a videogame.

      LFD/Duty Finder/etc systems have sorta eased the pain, but in another sense they have not – I have gone from knowing that a dungeon run will be at 8pm to having a window of 10-20 minutes in which I wait a random amount of time. Still better than Trade chat spam, I suppose.

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    • “Bad design” would be a design that fails to meet its goals. If the goal is to make everyone try at least a few dungeons so as to “break the ice”, or to tell the players that shit gets h4rdc0r3 from now on, or any number of other possible goals, then this design is at least sufficient.

      Whether you agree with those goals or not, that’s something else.

      Besides, having these dungeons are in no way a road block, at least when looking at it from an MMORPG point of view. If you can’t spend a few hours to clear a dungeon, maybe failing a few times before you finally succeed, then the game is not for you. What are you going to do at 60, then? Log in, do one or two levequests, then log out?

      What I mean to say is that spending massive amounts of time, trying stuff for hours on end until you succeed, and/or suffering pants-on-head morons ruining your game are the bread and butter of the game. If you can’t stand it at level 15, you won’t stand it at the endgame either.

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  4. The story picks up around the point where you’re going against your first Primal. And if you think Copperbell Mines was frustrating…. hahaha get ready to get absolutely destroyed the first time you walk into Titan.

    On a more serious note however, I’m surprised you weren’t the only newbie in that run. Usually you get vets queueing up for duties to get currency and the end result is just facerolling through anything below level 40. Or has the Duty Finder changed with Heavensward?

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    • Perhaps that was what occurred in my first two dungeon runs. The tanks definitely knew what they were doing in there, at least. But, yeah, 3 newbies in a 4-person dungeon is rough.

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    • This is just from my own experience, as someone who has been playing without breaks since 2.0 beta. The proportion of quality players (experienced, skilled, veteran, whatever you want to call them) doing low level or level 50 dungeons massively decreased some months after HW hit. The first few months you would rarely get new players in those dungeons. Now it is very common to get the new player bonus, or dps doing less damage than the tank, or tanks pulling one pack at a time with 2 aoe dps, or healers who wouldn’t know what cleric stance is if it bit them.

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  5. I could give you a list of a dozen bullet points why I stopped playing FFXIV after the free month but mandatory dungeons would be #1. Much more worryingly, though, it and many other design decisions that I would consider terrible were, back when i played at launch, staunchly defended by Yoshi P, the Godfather of FFXIV. He embodies an entire elitist attitude to MMOs that I thought and hoped we’d seen the last of a decade ago. Unfortunately the success of FFXIV suggests we’re more likely to see a resurgence.

    As for Arcanist, don’t be so harsh! The most fun I ever had in dungeons there was dual-tanking, dual-healing with another Arcanist when we had a tank and a healer who repeatedly died. I thought at the time that the optimal group for those low-level dungeons would probably be four Arcanists.

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    • I know quite a few people who got turned off by this game because they did not like the way they were gated to do specific content to level. However, I am unsure how that translates into being elitist based on my understanding of the word. I have noticed a growing tendency for MMO players not interested in end game, instanced group content or more challenging content (and prefer to play with like gamers) to condescendingly refer to those that do as elitist. It is as childish and nonsensical a reference as end game top tier players referring to other players as “carebears”.

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  6. It’s been a long time since I last played FFXIV and even longer since I ran those first three dungeons, but I remember there being a story lead up to the copper mines. The mine is located in Uldah which is where I started so maybe that’s why you didn’t get the quest leading up to the dungeon.

    However I don’t remember any story or quest tie in for the other two, which makes me wonder if each starting city has its own quest sequence and dungeon but they had to require all three of everyone to ensure every role was filled. Of course the other option would have been not to require them in the first place.

    I actually made it to 50 but quit because of all this gating. I didn’t mind while leveling so much, but at 50 I still had a lot of story quests, dungeons, raids, and other stuff before I could step foot in heavensward and with the expansion launching soon after, the pressure to either race through it all or miss out lead me to the decision to quit all together. I enjoyed the game and miss playing sometimes but then I remember what I need to do to play the new expansion and I think, “forget it.”

    Bel mentioned today the “friction” games can have when you return after a long hiatus. FFXIV has a brick wall covered in sandpaper with Jupiter’s gravity by comparison to most, depending on where you left off.

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    • The quest line leading to those 3 dungeons is the main story line. And you can’t do any dungeon without having done the quest leading to it.

      The main story line leads you to each of the main cities and has you do the initial dungeon there. You can’t miss them, and you can’t progress until you’ve done them.

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      • There’s a story connection though, right? That’s what I was trying to recall because I’ve seen a couple people write about this now saying that the dungeons were abrupt and unrelated to the main story. I just can’t remember, it’s been over a year since I played through that part of the game.

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      • The connection is pretty loose, from what I remember. Something like meeting some Maelstrom/Yellowjacket officials during the main quest world tour, and getting told that there are pirates in Sastasha and could you please go check it up?

        Those same officials later direct you to the adventurer’s guild in Gridania, where you are told that there are cultists in Tam-Tara, so please go slaughter them before they do something bad. Seriously: “Purge the Deepcroft of cultists before they can put their deranged schemes into action”.

        Finally you are directed to Ul’dah where the innkeeper tells you that the giants that the uldahns imprisoned at the bottom of the mines somehow escaped when people tried to reopen the mines, and they need the materials from the mines so please kill those pests.

        So… yes. There is a connection, but it’s so gamey and shallow that it might as well not be there.

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  7. The game’s story is… well, it’s not The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Not by a long shot. It’s bland, cliched, and the writers/localization team try too hard to show how clever they are (which I’m not sure they are in the first place). But this is a Final Fantasy game. People tend to forget or ignore that. Add together the typical FF storytelling to the limitations to storytelling that the themepark MMORPG imposes and… this is what you get.

    Regarding the combat, I fully understand how boring it can be for a new player who actually knows what they are doing such as Azuriel. FFXIV could definitely do a better job of not boring knowledgeable people, but the problem of scaring away people new to the genre is all too real.

    But the combat does get much better. You will certainly like some jobs more than others, but all of them have a decently involved rotation or stuff to do (except maybe paladin). If you decide to continue, I’d suggest you try scholar once you unlock it. It is the healer job that branches off from arcanist, and it is one of the most multi-task heavy jobs if you try to maximize your dps, so you’ll never lack for buttons to push.

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  8. The story is dull as dishwater until about level 25-30 or so, unfortunately. But once you hit 30 it picks up significantly. Unfortunately for FFXIV, the 3 intro dungeons are the most boring of all FFXIV’s dungeons, which is a terrible design decision; you’d think they’d want to draw people in by giving the user an awesome early experience.

    As far as the dungeons tied to the story thing, that’s FFXIV’s modus operandi: everything is tied to the main story. Nearly all in-game functionality you obtain via the story. Guildleves and levequests; dungeons; raids; chocobos/mounts; airship access; flight in the expansion; and so on.

    With respect to traveling across the world three times, don’t forget once you’ve been to a big crystal in an area, you can teleport there for a nominal fee. Trust me, use that liberally. It’s totally worth it. Travel is barely even a remote issue if you use the teleport functionality.

    From a design perspective, the story-based unlocks ensure players get to see everything at least once and provides a natural way to unlock functionality slowly (though, perhaps too slowly). For those who are uninterested in group content at all, you’re probably better off finding another MMO, or even genre, given that “appointment gaming” is a staple of the genre. Not to say there aren’t ways to improve it, but doubtful it’ll improve sufficiently to handle cases of poor players or poor sportsmanship anytime soon, unfortunately.

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  9. It’s a pity that you started with an Arcanist – it made both me and Syp almost quit the game at one time. It’s just not a very exciting class to play before level 35. It develops later on though which also goes for the storyline in FFXIV and the dungeon design.

    I know it’s crazy to ask MMO players these days to spend a week or three before they can see the game really come to full force but this is how it is in FFXIV – and I really love that about it. The pace is slowed down in a great number of ways. The other side of that coin is its longevity. I’ve been playing for a year and not run out of stuff to do, I love the storyline and characters by now and I have only one class maxed and done zero professions.

    That aside, the combat never becomes nearly as complex or difficult as WoW or Wildstar, so don’t wait for it. A few endgame bosses and raids require fast reflexes and skill, but for the most part the difficulty remains medium. I’d say this is a big part of why pugs are so relaxed in this game.
    The other part is social engineering done right; you don’t see it yet but it’s everywhere in the game. New players like yourself are popular in dungeons thanks to exp/gil bonuses and generally, nobody complains if you watch a cutscene. Sometimes you need to let the group know, thats all. The ‘forced dungeons’ will more and more be tied to the story. Yes, the first few are boring as hell – is it really wrong to have tutorial dungeons for newbs? I don’t know, I’ve played and raided in Wildstar and people quit right away after the first dungeon because it’s so hard.
    Dungeons remain relevant through the entire game by nature of how SE design the endgame; this means newbs always find parties and everyone else leveling up classes 2-12 does too. It’s rather brilliantly done how the old content is never old. Goes for the outdoor bosses and events as well. Even the old zones and hubs remain relevant one way or another.

    It is true that some of the ARR story raids later on were horribly designed for newcomers that had to skip all the cutscenes (which you can rewatch from your inn room); however, SE learned from that and changed this in HW. I also really don’t understand the criticism for ‘forced dungeons’. Dungeons are an integral part to the experience in this game, god forbid one has to group up ‘once’ per dungeon in a MMORPG that is still about coop? Heck, there’s even LFG for those without FCs. It is piss easy to run dungeons in FFXIV and each of them is worth running at least once or twice.
    If that’s too much for anyone, play other games imo. There’s enough solo MMOs out there already.

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