Retrospective is probably the wrong word to use here (at least in a dictionary sense, since the patch isn’t over yet), but we just got our first Live Letter preview for Patch 3.3, with the patch itself likely coming sometime within the next month (May 31st or June 7th, if I had to gamble). Patch 3.2 marked a lot of changes for the game as a whole, at least in comparison to the first patches of Heavensward, and we’re on the tail end of it now, so I think it’s a fair time to look back on the patch as a whole, and besides that, I feel like talking about it!
This is really my first post that isn’t directly related to glamour, so just for a little introduction, I tend to think of the game broadly from two perspectives: how it feels for the “battle” classes (Disciples of War and Disciples of Magic), and how it feels for the crafting/gathering ones (Disciples of the Hand and Disciples of the Land). While there’s also content that’s not really specific to either one (such as the Gold Saucer), it’s generally not something I worry about too much when it comes to the “state of the game.” With that in mind, here’s what I think of the Patch as a whole, with some thoughts on where the game might be headed for 3.3, too.
Content for Disciples of War and Magic
Overall, the content that we got in 3.2 is vastly superior to what we had in 3.0/3.1. From a top-down perspective, Midas (Savage) is better designed and more appropriately tuned than Gordias (Savage) was, and I’ve already noticed a larger share of my server (myself included) partaking in raiding in an active way. That’s a really good thing for the health of the game, as an active raiding scene leads to positive things for other aspects of the game. The team did adjust the encounters in something of a controversial move—I was actually okay with these initial adjustments, as the difficulty curve did feel like it was a bit off.
However, Yoshi-P did mention the possibility of further adjustments before 3.4, and I’m skeptical of the need for that. I suspect, personally, that the increased item levels brought about in patch 3.3 will likely be enough for most groups that are struggling to start making headway on Midas (Savage). Adjustments aren’t a sure thing at this point, so I’m hopeful that they’ll let the encounters stand on their own merits. One thing I’ve always been sad about is how drastically they adjusted Second Coil of Bahamut, and I would really hate to see these encounters ever adjusted to a point where they were shadows of their former selves.
When it comes to Patch 3.2’s Extreme Primal, Sephirot, we got the best one we’ve gotten since the original trio that were introduced in Patch 2.1. Extreme Primals have suffered something of an identity crisis for a very long time because clear rates for Titan EX were originally much lower than the developers intended. As a result, future fights were made somewhat less difficult (though only in a general sense, some of them had really messy mechanics), and their rewards were made less useful to accommodate. That led to the problem of the fights being relevant to the players most likely to clear them for only a short period of time, and often only for “alt” jobs, since there was always better equipment available for one’s main.
With the “jump” from i210 to i220 being the new raiding baseline, however, Sephirot EX enjoyed a position in which it was valuable to raiders for starting weapons for their main jobs, in addition to being valuable for alt jobs after main jobs were already done. That’s meant that I still see Sephirot parties, both for learning and farming, long after I normally have in the patch cycle. This has addressed an issue present with most of the EX fights after Garuda/Titan/Ifrit, in that the rewards often weren’t necessarily learning the fight. The original three were kept relevant by top-level weapons and accessories all through patch 2.1, but all the ones to follow were swiftly forgotten (or even almost completely ignored from the get-go, as were Ramuh EX and Thornmarch EX).
Moving forward to 3.3, I’m quite curious about our next Extreme battle. The current pattern in Heavensward suggests the weapons will be item level 235 (Bismarck EX 175, Ravana EX 190, Thordan EX 205, Sephirot EX 220, unknown primal 235). These will probably still be pretty valuable for alt-jobs, but for mains, I’m not so sure. Patch 3.3 is also bringing the next stage of the Anima storyline (with an assumed reward of an item level 240 weapon) and potentially also access to Gobdips in some way to make Lore weapons i240, as well. We’ll have to wait and see. Depending on the fight’s difficulty, I could see it being something of a “curiosity” in the way that Thordan EX is, though. Given that EX primals are some of my favorite end-game content, though, I really hope that’s not how things end up.
Dungeons, Midas (Normal), and Anima
I’m lumping these together since they’re generally aimed at the “less hardcore” (hard emphasis on those quotes, though, I think the term is too loaded) fraction of the playerbase and also because I’ve already written way more than I thought I would in the previous two sections.
Midas has much more interesting battles than Gordias did, especially in terms of mechanics. It’s always been my belief that Duty Finder content outside of dungeons should have “failure conditions,” for lack of a better phrase. Labyrinth of the Ancients probably exemplifies this best of older content, as opposed to later 24-man raids. If the mechanics don’t teach through defeat, it can often be hard for players to truly learn the ins and outs of the fights, as there’s a lack of “feedback.” I like that Midas has moved a little more toward this relative to Gordias, where the mechanics were just forgiving enough that it wasn’t a huge deal to “carry” a player who doesn’t know the fight. Tougher mechanics have the benefit of creating players that are more mechanically savvy in general, making transition into “real” raiding more feasible.
The i230 Anima stage for Hyperconductive weapons is incredibly friendly, to the point that I’m absolutely terrified of what the i240 stage will bring. I like the time-gated, “casual” method that’s also accompanied by a hard “grind” method, neither method of which results in an overly long grind in terms of overall time (as was the case with the i210 Anima stage). For the next stage, I’m glad we’re going to be able to customize the stats again, and all I’m really hoping for is a better glow for my Kannagi—but a grind that doesn’t completely grind my soul into dust would be cool, too!
When it comes to dungeons, I really like Lost City of Ampdapor (Hard), but the original Lost City was my favorite ARR dungeon, so I’m pretty biased. Antitower is passable. But where the game is really suffering, in my opinion, is in the addition of only two dungeons per major patch instead of our original three. Having only two dungeons in the Expert Roulette at a time is definitely leading to much faster burnout among players who don’t particularly care for dungeons, and it’s even grinding down on me (and I love 4-man content).
If we had been receiving better additional content as a trade-off, that might not seem like so much of a loss. But so far, our major content addition, Diadem, has largely fallen flat. While I’m hopeful for the new Deep Dungeon and Aquapolis content coming in 3.3, I’ve also been disappointed with previous “new” content (namely The Hunt), and so I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much.
Content for Disciples of the Hand and Land
Overall, I’m glad that the development team seems to have realized some of the mistakes they made with the initial endgame structure for crafters and gatherers in 3.0, and they seem to be slowly fixing things. Patch 3.2 introduced meaningful crafted gear again, which has resulted in a lot more participation in both crafting and gathering activities on my server.
There are still a number of issues, though. Progression-wise for crafters, the “token” i180 gear serves very little purpose, since moderate melds are generally necessary to be a successful 3-star crafter—something the new progression system was supposed to prevent. The i180 accessories added in 3.2 for both crafters and gathers are unfortunately very poorly itemized, such that even basic level 60 accessories (i110 to i150) with a single meld (which is hardly onerous) are just as effective, and those accessories allow for the potential of greater stats thanks to Advanced Materia Melding.
As a result, the i180 gear is sort of a “trap” option, now. At best, the some of the pieces serve as decent “stepping stones” to the much better i170 gear, which can be melded. Given that the pieces take weeks upon weeks to get, I can’t really recommend them to any crafter that’s just getting started. Of course, for gatherers, some of the gear is only available in this way, so it has more value for them, but for the long term, they’re better off getting i170 crafted acessories, too.
Aside from issues with the gear progression, the methods for obtaining materials through Red Scrips are still rather convoluted, requiring weekly currencies from both crafters and gatherers (and it requires tokens from two gathering classes), and the gatherer “Favor” subsystem. That’s lead to greatly inflated pricing for these materials, all of which are necessary for any new crafter looking toward the ultimate goal of crafting (and more importantly, selling) the best gear they can. While the i180 gear works to make the items, it’s much harder to craft them successfully (requiring more expensive high quality mats), and doing so comes with a higher risk for failure due to differences in stats provided between the two progression paths (mostly due to a lack of CP on the i180 side, but that’s nitty-gritty stuff).
That means any new crafter is probably looking at a very steep climb to get caught up. While the team undoubtedly wants to avoid invalidating the investment of early-bird crafters, the climb is currently too steep in my estimation. 3.3 looks as though it’ll be making that journey less arduous, with the addition of new gear for both crafters and gatherers that isn’t job-specific.
If they maintain the current convoluted structure of Red Scrip material acquisition, I’m not sure how much impact the new gear will have on the approach-ability of the crafting and gathering end-game. I’m hoping that they lighten the load a bit, so that it’s a bit easier for a fresh 60 crafter or gatherer to get started without also having at least one level 60 of the other variety. Right now, especially for crafters, making the crafted end-game sets is far too difficult to do without also having at least Botanist or Miner leveled (and ideally, you actually need both).
So on this half of the game, we’ve seen some definite improvements, but there’s still some fine-tuning that needs to be done, in my opinion.
Brief Thoughts on Patch 3.3
I’ve already talked a bit about some of the things coming down the pipeline, though what we know is pretty slim so far. We’re looking at a new Extreme primal battle and the addition of a new 24-man raid, both of which should be rolled out in the manner we’ve generally come to expect.
The real wildcards are the Deep Dungeon and the new Aquapolis. I’m skeptical of their impact on the game overall in terms of a “fun” sense. The Final Fantasy Tactics lover in me is endlessly excited about the Deep Dungeon (the name, at least, is drawn from that game), but the developers don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to introducing new content. However, since both of these bits of content are instanced and have set party sizes, I think things will likely be better off. Whether the content has lasting appeal will depend a lot on what we get from it, and hopefully we’ll know more about that later this month with the second Preview Live Letter.
Oh, and regarding the Yokai-Watch collaboration, I’ll only say that I think people should relax. It’s just for fun. Let’s not forget we had a Dragon Quest crossover that gave us a hat that’s just a Slime from one of those games (and it looks ridiculous). There’s plenty of cartoony/silly/whatever stuff (people do know you can tank while cosplaying as a Moogle, right?) in this game. Some more definitely isn’t going to kill us.
All of that said, I’m definitely looking forward to everything, and I’m definitely shifting gears toward “patch preparation” mode, which will include capping Esoterics, Grand Company Seals, fully pentamelding my i170 DoH accessories, and a bunch of other stuff!
I just hope Ardashir doesn’t kill me this time.