Further Thoughts on Stormblood (4.0/4.1)

Several months ago now, in the leadup to the release of Stormblood, I spent several posts talking about Heavensward in retrospective, and in what I think was my most massive one of those posts, I talked about the overall endgame structure in Final Fantasy XIV. You can check out that full post if you’re curious (it’s a long read!), but my main take away was this:

If things don’t change, though, burnout is going to continue to be a major problem for FFXIV, and it’s really one that should be dealt with now rather than 2 years from now. If things don’t change soon, it’s highly likely that the same core structure won’t be able to maintain interest long enough for the game’s population to be stable going into the next expansion. I just hope that the team realizes this, and in Stormblood we can spend a whole lot less time standing around taking pretty screenshots and playing fashion designer.

With the broadcast of the latest Live Letter on Friday, it pains me to say that, at least through Patch 4.1, Final Fantasy XIV’s endgame is going to be even narrower than it was at the end of Heavensward. During the Live Letter, we learned that Eureka, a new type of open world content has been delayed, from the expected 4.15 to 4.2, meaning it won’t be available until after the end of Stormblood’s first raid tier. There was nary a peep about the new Deep Dungeon, which would also normally be showing up sometime during Patch 4.1, which doesn’t bode well for its inclusion either (but I pray I’m wrong about that one).

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What this means is that, for non-raiders there are two substantial content additions that play into character advancement: a single new dungeon (as opposed to the two we’ve gotten in every odd patch up to this point) and a new Alliance Raid. The other two major content additions, the Minstrel’s Ballad: Shinryu’s Domain and the Unending Coil of Bahamut are primarily aimed at the raiding population, with Unending Coil seemingly taking the place of the start of the Relic quest and the dungeon we gave up. At at time when, more than ever, it feels like FFXIV needs to broaden the overall scope of its endgame activities, it seems like that scope is narrowing. 4.0 was naturally going to be light on content for the endgame, as the bulk of it was contained in the 60-70 experience, but for 4.1 to be missing a whole progression path that it would normally hold is a huge blow.

And all of that has me thinking a lot about Stormblood’s initial salvo. As I wrote before, 4.0 really impressed me: the Main Scenario was massively improved in terms of pacing (though I would later learn it sort of tapers off after 67), the zones and music were incredible, and I really enjoyed a lot of the new dungeons. That initial excitement has slowly been fading ever since I hit 70 on my first job, though. My play habits have changed a lot, and I’m no longer greatly interested in prolonged leveling sessions of the game’s various jobs (I’m still leveling them, but I’m being much more casual about it), and I was very much ready for 4.1 to reinvigorate the game’s array of content.

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Most especially, I was looking forward to Eureka, which we’ve known for quite some time would be the foundation for the new Relic weapon quest in Stormblood. I’ve always loved long-term, rewarding quests of that nature (which is why I completed five Anima weapons in Heavensward and nearly did five Zodiac weapons in A Realm Reborn, too). The one-two punch of the weapon quests and endless glamour possibilities has largely been what’s kept me coming back to FFXIV day in and day out for years now, as Tomestone capping and weekly Alliance raids can only really occupy so much of my time.

I sincerely hope that I’m wrong about the Deep Dungeon and that it’s going to have a surprise launch in 4.15—but following past trends, the team normally would have told us something about it already. Without it, and without even a second dungeon to get excited about, the next three and a half months following 4.1’s launch a week into October are going to feel very long. I can only hope Return to Ivalice is simply amazing and that we get a ton of new glamour options for now, but 4.2 is really going to have to knock it out of the park.

I suppose it’s a really good thing I’ve gotten into Hearthstone!

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