I’ve got my GODDAMN CHOCOBO.
He’s called Binky. But we’ll get to talking about him. Oh, and I’m also now a Bard. But we’ll get to talking about me. Also, I beat the hell out of Ifrit. But we’ll get to talking about that.
First, though, we should address the omnipresent issue of what’s going on with the servers. And… well, barring the weekly maintenance, I haven’t actually had any problems logging in. Once or twice I’ve had to queue for up to a shocking two minutes, but the queue system actually works now, and – quite frankly – I can live with hanging around for two minutes. Gives me time to get a drink, after all.
I’m not about to say “Yippee skippee, everything’s fixed”, but right now everything seems alright. I admit that I’m writing this while the servers are down for maintenance, but I think they’re allowed to do that every now and then.
Last week, we left off with me having done the first three mandatory dungeons in the game, and being mostly unimpressed. I’ve now done two more, and I’m a little bit more impressed. But only a little.
Interestingly, most of the dungeons are actually mandatory through the storyline (which is the best way of working out where you should go level next), so it’s perhaps for the best that most of these are pretty simple. The two I’ve done since then are a fight against Ifrit – my first Primal battle, and I promise we’ll talk about that shortly – and the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak, which went horribly. But not because of the dungeon design.
Toto-Rak was my first real experience with the joys of pick-up groups in this game. A guildmate (, etc.) tanked. I provided Archer-based DPS. Two randoms provided the heals and the extra DPS.
I don’t know whether it’s because Final Fantasy is a big name, and thus a lot of people playing this might not have played MMOs before, but… well this was about as catastrophic as you can get without actually wiping.
Our other DPS – a Thaumaturge, I think, which is Final Fantasy XIV‘s equivalent of “magic DPS” – wasn’t a big fan of doing DPS. If he actually attacked a target, it would only be after it had dropped to below 20% health, perhaps because he was scared of pulling aggro and dying. I say “if he actually attacked” because he spent most battles repeatedly casting Sleep on one enemy. And I don’t mean “every time it wore off.” I mean “every time the cooldown on his cast finished.” If Sleep was assigned to button 1, I can only assume that his fightlog would be along the lines of 1111111111111111111111111111111 repeated for seventeen more lines. And he’d be hitting it every moment he could, so only about 10% of those “1”s would actually result in a cast.
Our healer (a Conjurer, a think) could actually heal. He just usually preferred to do DPS, regularly eschewing giving health to our tank in favour of throwing out an unbelievably weak damage spell. It’s a miracle we didn’t wipe, although we came very, very close on the final boss: a fun battle that requires DPS to switch targets regularly to smash eggs that will otherwise hatch into more enemies, but – on being destroyed – will poison everyone around them. It’s the sort of battle that you really want a top-notch healer and good DPS for.
Never doing pick-up groups again.
Ifrit went considerably better, since I went in with three guildmates who’d all done it before. In a neat touch, Final Fantasy XIV offers “level syncing” – if you’re too high-level for a piece of content, you can sync your level to the upper boundaries of what might still provide a challenge. I can still go run the beginner dungeons with guildmates if I like; I’ll just drop 10 levels to do it. Which is, while not exactly original, something I’d like to see more games of this ilk too. Anything that lets me play what I want, with who I want, is a good thing.
Ifrit is the first of the game’s Primal battles, and while I’m not going to go into heavy plot spoilers, it looks like I’ll be spending a lot of time taking on these gigantic beasties based on Final Fantasy summons.
This wasn’t a dungeon in the strictest sense, as – despite queuing for it, and despite it being in a separate instance – it’s just a straight-up multi-phase group boss fight against the huge fire beast. As with most of the other dungeons I’ve done so far, it feels like it’s still fairly “beginner-y”, but it’s a lot more exciting than usual. The battle itself is gorgeous, and continual movement and situational awareness are required to stay out of the huge gouts of flame that can cut down the unwary in seconds. Again, anyone who’s played the harder boss fights in basically any other MMO shouldn’t have too much trouble, but it’s probably the most enjoyable boss I’ve fought so far.
So yeah, the dungeons are improving, but they still have far too much trash and the trash takes far too long to wade through. The boss battles are the fun, challenging bits. The rest is a bit of a slog. Again, this will hopefully change as I start delving into harder dungeons; some discussions of tactics going on in the guild chat give me hope. Then again, considering the pick-up group story I related, it’s maybe for the best that these early ones aren’t unduly taxing.
Let’s talk about happier things: I have a chocobo, and he’s called Binky. This particular beast was acquired after a story quest led me to join a Grand Company (of which there are three – one for each city, and you’re pretty much pledging allegiance to that city until/unless you decide to swap). They told me I could have a chocobo if I got enough seals (Grand Company currency, not aquatic mammals; I made this mistake and turned up with a large sack of barking animals and the quartermaster just gave me a funny look). So, obviously, my next objective was to get as many seals as it took.
Seals are acquired by doing just about anything optional, once you’ve joined a Grand Company. Participating in the open world FATEs nets you a load, as does doing Levequests, so these were my two ports of call: find an area full of Levequests I can do, and do a bunch of them while keeping an eye out for level-appropriate FATEs. It took about half an hour, but I walked away a level higher and with a brand new yellow chocobo.
Better still, once you hit level 30 and complete another optional quest, you can call your chocobo into battle as a minion under your command. Way to go, Binky: peck that Malboro to death! I’ll just sit over here and drink tea.
What else? Well, there’s the whole Bard thing, but as that’s the most recent thing I’ve done I’ll leave that to the end of this log. Um. Oh, I dyed all of my clothes pink!
Another optional quest (you’re starting to see a pattern here, aren’t you?) unlocks the ability to purchase and use dyes on most of your clothing, letting you colour-coordinate like a weapon-wielding Gok Wan. I initially opted for pure white until I realised it looked like I was wearing a bedsheet, so a swift change to a lovely light pink was in order. Now I look like I’m wearing a bedsheet that got mistakenly put into the wash with some red socks, but it’s still an improvement.
Alright, alright. Bards it is.
Jobs are best described as mega-classes. When you hit level 30 in one class, and level 15 in another specific class, you can unlock a “Job” giving you access to some new abilities and equipment but limiting the abilities you can use from other classes. For instance: Bard requires you to be a level 30 Archer and a level 15 Pugilist, but it prevents me from using abilities outside of those classes (although I think I can use some Lancer abilities, too).
On the plus side it gives me access to more powerful equipment and abilities. Right now I’ve got access to a song that continually restores mana to nearby party members, but lowers my damage by 20%, which means that I can’t so much as walk to the shops without being dryhumped by casters. Jobs don’t have their own level, either; my Bard level is the same as my Archer level, and to switch between the two I only need to equip or unequip the Bard soul crystal I received from the aforementioned quest.
Again, I approve. It’s a little bit of extra specialisation that also encourages you to experiment and play more than one class. How important Jobs will be, I’ve yet to see – I don’t know whether it’s basically impossible to hit later dungeons without one – but it should help out in any dungeons I do now. And hey, I’m happy to have unlocked one. I feel like I’ve achieved something.
“Getting a chocobo” and “unlocking a Job” were the two goals I had at the outset, though, so… well, we’ll see where I go next.