Eureka Pyros First Impressions

This time around, I’ve been able to dive into FFXIV‘s latest Eureka chapter, Pyros, from the get-go. Various things kept me from being able to really collect proper first impressions for Pagos, which was initially such a mess that it turned out I didn’t miss a whole lot. Pagos was quickly patched in some pretty significant ways that really changed the dynamic of the content for the better. All this resulted in an overall design that felt pretty close to perfect to me on a personal level but was probably the wrong direction to go for Eureka when it came to the rest of FFXIV‘s playerbase—something I wrote about in my collected thoughts on Pagos after finishing my Elemental Knives.

Because I enjoyed Pagos so much while recognizing that there was no way it was going to have lasting appeal to most others, necessitating a different design direction for Eureka Pyros, I went into Patch 4.45 with some trepidation. Yoshida made it clear in an interview not long after Pagos that the team was going to aim for something more like Anemos with Pyros, which made me afraid that Pyros would lack part of what made Pagos an improvement over Anemos: depth. Anemos was a very narrow, NM-focused experience that felt rather shallow even if it was mostly enjoyable, and I had high hopes for Pagos to expand on what Anemos began (which it largely did, even if the implementation was fraught with mistakes that had to be quickly addressed). I expected a simplified experience centered once more around Notorious Monsters, and I’m happy to say that doesn’t seem to be what we’ve gotten.

ffxiv_11072018_100317As of writing, I haven’t spent a ton of time in Pyros yet, but I’ve done enough to reach Elemental Level 39, unlock a pair of Aetherytes, and get at least an introductory sense of how things are going to work there. First and foremost, Notorious Monsters are vastly important for leveling (providing around one-third of a level each!), much as we came to expect in Anemos (and would later be the case in Pagos after changes), keeping the core progression for Elemental Levels familiar and nowhere near as daunting as it first seemed for Eureka Pagos. Experience gain from XP chaining regular enemies has also been increased some, which is a welcome change, since chains are the main way to acquire the new “logograms” unique to Pyros (and seemingly, future chapters of Eureka) which are needed to both progress your Eureka weapon and unlock special Logos Actions.

The Logos Actions are really what seem to set Pyros apart from both Anemos and Pagos. The system is somewhat convoluted, involving converting logograms into “mnemes,” of various types (largely based on party roles like tanking or healing, but also including utility like debuffs or movement actions) which can then be converted into Logos Actions. You can then turn your set Logos Actions into Duty Actions, consuming them but granting you additional abilities that persist while you’re in Eureka, such as a powerful Cure spell or “Wisdom” stance that functions like a tank stance for a DPS job (or similar Wisdom stances for tanks and healers to boost their damage output). Combining multiples of one type of mneme or combinations of them can unlock other or more powerful versions of actions (such as a Cure II spell, a powerful DPS stance for DPS classes, or even something as powerful as an instant Death spell). While I don’t have a complete sense of every action that’s available so far (or how powerful the they are on the whole), I’ve found that  they can be quite useful for soloing and offer a great deal of flexibility (particularly for non-Red Mages).

ffxiv_11062018_145157Where Logos Actions get a little weird, though, is that they’re essentially consumables that go away once you zone out of Eureka, and I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. Once you’ve converted a Logos Action into an actually usable Duty Action, you can use it until you leave Eureka, and if you want to set that Duty Action again, you need to hand over more of those mnemes (from logograms) to do so. It’s particularly strange, since the game does keep track of each Logos Action you’ve unlocked as a way to “gate” your progress on Eureka weapons and armor (you have to collect 10 unique Logos Actions for the first weapon stage, for instance, and presumably all 50 for the final one, in addition to things like Pyros Crystals that we’ve come to expect). So even though the game knows you’ve unlocked an action, you still have to pony up more of the right mnemes to set that action next time you zone into Eureka Pyros.

On the whole, the Logos Action system reminds me somewhat of the Atma from Final Fantasy XI‘s Abyssea zones, which were static buffs for Abyssea zones you unlocked by fulfilling various objectives (normally defeating specific Notorious Monsters under certain conditions). Atma didn’t persist between Abyssea, much like Logos Actions—you had to set them with a particular NPC. But each Atma didn’t have a specific item you had to turn into do so: instead, applying any Atma required a small amount of cruor, a currency you earned largely by killing enemies in Abyssea zones. Logos Actions, on the other hand, require specific tokens to set, and since the mnemes you get are somewhat random, based on which type of logogram you convert, you may find yourself without the specific ones you want for your playstyle. Thankfully, logograms (and the mnemes from them) don’t seem too difficult to acquire, but that level of randomness baked into the system doesn’t feel quite right.

ffxiv_11062018_100459Outside of that, though, Logos Actions are pretty interesting, providing a unique twist on FFXIV’s normal role-based gameplay, and helping Eureka Pyros to feel like something truly distinct from the game’s other content in terms of gameplay. Logos Actions even interact with the Magia elemental system from the previous two Eureka zones in interesting ways. For example, If you’re on a DPS class and using Wisdom of the Platebearer to shore up your defenses, it can make more sense to set a more balanced elemental array, since you’ll actually have better defense to take advantage of elemental defenses (which can be pretty nice for solo or small group play!).

Along with this new core feature, Pyros seems overall to be much better designed in terms of player enjoyment without sacrificing the interesting elements of depth that Pagos brought after the first zone, Anemos. The whole Happy Bunnies subsystem still exists and is importantly improved: the Elemental Conflicts associated with them now provide a small but not insignificant amount of experience points and even Allagan Tomestones, meaning that they’re a lot less likely to sit around ignored by the whole zone. XP chains remain important for collecting logograms, which are given out more generously than crystals in Anemos or the rare item lockboxes and weapon “light” from Pagos, making the whole experience in general feel a lot less grindy. There’s even something of a sidequest to collect rare items from specific Notorious Monsters (or Happy Bunny treasure chests) to unlock a 6th slot in the Magia board, which will no doubt feel more relevant to most players than the difficult to acquire Optical Hat from Eureka Pagos.

ffxiv_11062018_100443The overall terrain of Pyros is more player friendly than it was in Pagos, too, while not being so friendly as to feel relatively safe (as was often the case in Anemos once you were fairly familiar with it). Your first two Aetherytes are unlocked much earlier, making for somewhat more convenient travel, but enemies are still often densely packed, with different sorts of aggressive behaviors, so you’ve still got to be on your guard. In another nice touch, the initial areas of Pyros are still snowy and barren (all the fire and lava comes once you’ve delved into the zone’s cave systems), creating a sense of connection to Eureka Pagos that Anemos and Pagos didn’t really share in terms of terrain.

And so, on the whole, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by Eureka Pyros. The team has managed, at least from my first impressions, to put together a Eureka zone that should combine the smooth progression of Anemos with the broader and deeper experience of Eureka Pagos. I haven’t seen the whole of the grind yet, of course, and who knows how I’ll feel by the time I’m done with my Pyros Knives, but I’m hopeful! Whatever the case may be, I think Pyros shows that the team is getting better at listening to and responding to player feedback in content like this. This Eureka zone improves on both of its predecessors both by responding to player feedback intelligently while building on what came before in new and interesting ways, which wasn’t really the case with things like the Diadem redesigns we’ve seen in the past.

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