With the announcement of Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion alongside some of the features, I think it’s a good time to take a look at some of the things the game definitely needs to improve on in the coming months. The 3.x updates have taken us from a dev team that worked tirelessly to put out quality content with 2.x to a team that is just tired and it showed. With a fantastic 3.0, the 3.x updates quickly fell into a linear path of growing boredom. It wasn’t that the content itself was bad, but it wasn’t enough, and often quality of life adjustments were half-measures. That said, let’s take a look at a few things that XIV can improve going forward, both announced and so far unannounced.
Some classes need it more than others, but they all need it to one extent or another. Simply put: every class has too many buttons to push.
Now you might know this was announced as incoming already, so let’s talk about why it’s needed. Skill crunches are necessary in any growing MMO. As the level cap increases so to does your available skill pool. When you have a bunch of different skills doing different things (or sometimes the same things) it’s time to take a look at folding them into one another. In some cases, it can be time to look at getting rid of a skill or two altogether (looking at you, One-Ilm Punch.) Not only does it eliminate redundancy in skills, but it lets people pare down their rotations to a comfortable size. In a lot of cases, it makes a stale class fun again, or makes a weaker class strong.
In Heavensward I needed to add a fourth row of hotkeys because I just couldn’t manage everything I felt like I needed to have access to on three rows. I look forward to being able to pare back down again. Goodbye hand cramps during extended play sessions?
I alluded to this already, but the Heavensward patches were loaded with half-measure responses to a lot of player complaints. I’m talking about some of the things they added like Diadem and Palace of the Dead. They’re great ideas in their own right, Palace of the Dead is actually pretty good. Both of these features designed to alleviate the monotony of the dungeon grind a bit, however, came out feeling a little bit half baked.
I think the issue we ran into in both cases is that the ideas themselves are good, but the dev team is a little bit afraid of their own ideas. I mean this in the sense that they’re worried about taking away focus from what they see as the bread and butter of their game. They need to drop that fear and embrace the theme park side of their theme park MMO. Give us as much to do as possible, and don’t worry if someone wants to grind Diadem for their gear instead of Savage raids. Yes, you can make Savage Raids have the best gear, but it doesn’t have to be the only gear. Speaking of raiding…
Yep, you heard me. I think the idea they were going for with Heavensward raids is noble, and not necessarily bad but it was implemented poorly and needs to be fixed for Stormblood. Two tiered raiding looks good on paper as a way of having less hardcore players experience the storyline and get a bit of loot while still reserving a place for the raiders. But I think if you’re ditching the echo system from 2.0 (which I thought was excellent) you need to go straight to a three tiered system of raids akin to WoW. Have a casual raiding difficulty, followed by a difficulty on par with Coil (maybe Coil with echo even), and then finally a Savage difficulty.
Setting it up in this way lets you have something for everyone with minimal alienating effects. Solid.
Again, this is something that saw it’s rise largely in Heavensward, but it started toward the end of the 2.0 patch cycle. It also relates back to what I was saying earlier about letting people have more theme park in their theme park MMO. That is: everything in 3.0 and its patch cycle was completely on rails. The dungeons were especially bad for this, and though they were beautiful and had some great bosses, suffered the worst for it.
Long gone were the days of speed running anything at all because every time you pulled two or three groups of monsters you came up against an artificial wall. Why? Maybe it was to prevent people who might troll a party by pulling a dungeon and leaving. Maybe it was to make the less AoE heavy classes from feeling left out. More likely than not though, it’s a mechanic designed to artificially extend the time you spend in a dungeon.
Why extend a dungeon like that? Because it’s a block against people who would find the best speed-run paths and pulls in a dungeon and spam those to cap out their weekly caps or farm for drops they need/want. That isn’t the way Square-Enix wants players to play, but they need to let that feeling go.
Yeah, yeah I know. They’re adding new jobs and they announced as such. Likely Red Mage(!) and maybe Dancer(!!), that’s awesome. But frankly, I won’t care very much if they end up becoming molded into what their role is supposed to be (rather than what their class is supposed to be.) They did this with the classes in Heavensward, Bard being arguably the worst hit in this regard, where they were turned into a casting class essentially. Don’t do this to our classes, S-E.
Classes need to feel unique, and 3.0 was a massive step backward in that regard. I understand the need to keep things balanced, but the fantasy of each class is going to be much more important to most players than whether or not someone might edge them out slightly here or there on one encounter versus another.
All that said, the content announced today alongside the teaser all looks great, and it looks like it’s heading in the right direction design wise with the battle system overhaul and inventory increases and such. The Dev Team has done well, despite a few missteps here and there (don’t get me started on housing). I trust them to do right by fans of the game, and I don’t doubt that 4.0 will be every bit as good as 3.0. I’m already considering booking time off work for it. Stormblood will be out Summer 2017.