Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Been a while since my last post. I'm not sure what happened. There was so much content released recently that I've been spending all my time playing instead of writing.

World of Warcraft

I've basically been alternating between Nazjatar and Mechagon. I'm still Revered with both factions. I haven't had a chance to do the Mechagon dungeon yet.

For the Eternal Palace raid, we've cleared it on Normal, and have killed the first three bosses on Heroic. It's a pretty good raid, with some interesting fights.

Final Fantasy FFXIV

I finished the main story, did the new dungeons, and have tried the new raid on Normal difficulty.

The new raid, Eden, is pretty interesting. I actually like the story a lot, better than the MSQ. It's interesting, and I have no idea where they are going with it.

SE is introducing a lot of new mechanics in this raid. For example, there's a delayed timer mechanic. You get the marker for the next mechanic (basically stack or spread) like normal and boss does the cast. But then the cast finishes, the marker disappears and a countdown starts over your head. When the countdown disappears, whatever mechanic originally targets you goes off.

It's a pretty good raid overall.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

FFXIV Shadowbringers MSQ Review

This post contains significant spoilers for Shadowbringers.

I finished the Main Story Quest for FFXIV: Shadowbringers last night. I have mixed feelings on it. I should note that everyone else seems to be raving about the story, and are extremely happy about the expansion. So I appear to be out of step with the community at large.

When I see a new story or game, there are two dimensions along which I evaluate it: execution, and ambition. And perhaps I value ambition too highly. I'd rather see something where the creators aim high, and stumble. Of course, the best works are those which combine the two successfully.

Shadowbringers is a case of superb execution, but also far less ambition than the previous expansions. And that makes Shadowbringers somewhat of a disappointment to me.

I should start off with the good. The small moments, the characterisation, the interactions with the Scions, the dungeons and trials, all are absolutely excellent. The best FFXIV has ever been.

However, suppose I told you a story about a demon invasion. The demons invaded, conquered the lands, and magically created an eternal night. People wandering outside might get attacked and killed by roaming demons. Demons sometimes transform their prey into new demons. The hero needs to lift the night by killing the demon lords. There's one human kingdom which allies with the demons. None of the kingdoms are particularly new or interesting, mostly because they're all remnants of older kingdoms from before the invasion.

This is a pretty cliche fantasy story. One that's been done many times. Yet this is exact same story of the first 80% of Shadowbringers, only with a palette swap. Instead of being shown as "demons", the enemies are shown as "angelic". Instead of eternal night, it's an eternal day. Only there is zero difference in behavior. The change is only skin-deep.

The last 20% is an Ascian story. But it did not feel much different than the Lahabrea story from ARR. The execution was superb, true, with a great villain and set-pieces. But ultimately it was just a retread of what had happened before. There were moments where I thought the Ascian would do something new, take the story in a different direction, and break new ground. But ultimately that never happened, and everything fell into the old patterns.

I would rate Heavensward as the best expansion, then Stormblood, then Shadowbringers, and finally ARR. Stormblood stumbled a bit in execution, but I thought it was more interesting and more ambitious than Shadowbringers.

Monday, July 01, 2019

FFXIV Shadowbringers Dungeon Trust System

This post may contain minor spoilers for FFXIV: Shadowbringers. I am trying avoid major ones, though.

Final Fantasy XIV launched early access for its latest expansion, Shadowbringers, this weekend. I'm still in the middle of the story, so no comments on that yet. However, I thought I'd take a look at one of the new systems introduced: Trusts for dungeons.

The new 4-man dungeons in Shadowbringers can be done entirely with NPCs. The NPCs available depend on the story line leading to the dungeon. All the roles are covered, though, so the player can choose any role.

I've done the first three dungeons using the Trust system, playing as a tank. In general it works quite well. The NPCs do mechanics correctly, they move out of AoEs, and stack appropriately. It's actually pretty useful, as you can just mimic them if you don't know what to do for a particular mechanic. You cannot give the NPCs any orders, they just do their thing, as if you were playing with other players.

There's also no queue time for the dungeons when using a Trust. It works better with the story, as using the same NPCs makes it feel more seamless, and allows SE to add appropriate commentary.

SE also tried to add some personality into how the NPCs do things. For example, there's one fight which creates a chasm between the party and the boss. There's a thin zig-zagging bridge you can use to cross the chasm. One NPC, who's something of a hothead, just ran across the bridge with no hesitation. Another one, a magic-user, used a personal teleport spell to get across. The third NPC is timid, and she slowly and hesitantly walked across. She did not make it across before the rest of us finished that mechanic.

So why play with normal people instead of using a Trust? The biggest difference is that the NPCs are slow and have lower DPS. They do not AoE at all, and single-target everything. Even in pulls which have eight small things, and are quintessential AoE pulls, the NPCs will kill one by one. It isn't that bad, as they will focus the same target, and are generally very predictable, so tanking is easy.

The first dungeon I did with a Trust took 35 minutes, with no wipes. I estimate it would have taken around 25 minutes with a normal group of players. So using the NPC Trust increases the time taken by 50% or so. However there is no queue time.

As a result of this, I think people will be very happy to use Trusts for the first time through the dungeon, while doing the story. But after that, when leveling other classes, they'll probably choose to play with other people. A few people--who really don't want to play with others--will stick with Trusts. It was pretty clever of SE to use time as the factor to separate players and NPCs, while ensure that ultimate success is still the likely outcome.