Friday, 6 March 2020

Lets rip the band aid off and talk about 5.2

I know i know. I was planning a big write up on 5.0/5.1 but honestly i think at this point its better to save for another end of expansion wrap up at this point like i did with Heavensward. I've been sick, hospitalised -hell of a christmas right?- and been busy besides so i thought i would just jump back in the saddle with the current content since x.2 is usually when the expansion really shows its hand in an MMORPG. The class balance should be solidifying, the new jobs/classes should have found their place and the x.0 story enters its final arc while setting up the overall world story.

 So i've done all the new content up to this point. What did i think of it?

Story: by this point in the story we have dealt with the Sin Eaters, Vauthry and fan favourite Emet-Selch and discovered a lot about both ourselves and the true nature of Hydaelyn, Zodiark, the Ascians and are really left with 3 major questions. 1 - What is Elidibus' deal? 2 - If the goal is the rejoin all the worlds created when Hydaelyn shattered Zodiark and the Source then how do we get around the 13th being destroyed rather than rejoined? its kind of a jigsaw with a piece missing scenario right? and 3 - Getting the Scions back to their slowly dying bodies in the first.

Elidibus' seems at first kind of obvious. He is revealed to have possessed Arbert's corpse and with the reveal that any 'echoes of a falling star' -in our case Dalamund- in the Crystariums case a fake meteor shower- awakens the Echo which is in fact a remnant of Ascian/Amourotine creation magic that sparks into life at anything resembling the soul scarring trauma of the Terminus Event that nearly destroyed the original Source 10,000 years ago.
He spins this as Hydaelyn choosing a lot of people as Warriors of Light who he convinces to abandon their posts. Maybe just to create instability, maybe to create another flood of light? The greatest twist here is that we learn "Elidibus" was used as the sacrifice to summon Zodiark as Ysale was for Shiva or Yotsuru was for Tsukuyomi. Which could mean that perhaps the white robed Ascian IS Zodiark or perhaps he is more than one person? a primals core shattered into 14 pieces but with the power of 'The Eldest and most Powerful of Primals' at even 1/14th of its full strength could seem comparable to Lahabrea or Emet-Selch in theory right? perhaps we have spent the last six months thinking we are down to one Ascian left but there is in fact an entire "Council of 14" of a far different sort who was even manipulating the Ascians themselves? Or to go a slightly less tinfoil route consider that Emet-Selch was a title of office as a member of the Amourotine Council of 14. The fan favourite villains actual name was Hades. So we know A Elidibus was the core of Zodiark but we also know there was enough time between Zodiarks first summoning and Hydaelyn's that a resistance had time to organise and splinter from the other Ancients. Maybe this Elidibus is a new character given the title? perhaps he is not tempered by Zodiark but follows him as the successor of the Elder Primals core to follow his masters wishes?
For now all we know for certain is that there is a new Ancient on the cards, the woman who formed the core of Hydaelyn being introduced but beyond that a lot of this is setup for the final act while really cementing that Elidibus is one of the two main antagonists left. The other of course being Zenos.

Unfortunately in that regard we get a small reveal that Zenos has been reliving the Terminus in his dreams his entire life and a new white cloaked Ascian in what might be the body of Yotsuyus brother, or just Eldibus using a different host for each world in the story right now, ends the brief scene about to tell Zenos what Emet-Selch told us back in Norvrandt. Honestly given his body jumping artificial echo stuff i would not be surprised to see Zenos somehow show up in Norvrant or Amourot in some fashion. Creation magic and Zenos sounds like the kind of horrible combination that could lead to some "another Terminus will cull the weak from the strong" scenario Square loves for its jrpg villains. I mean Garlemalde proper IS building the gem themed weapons from FFVII now so may as well go whole hog on jrpg bad guy bingo right?

Meanwhile Eden continues and story wise its okay but mostly what i expected bar Shiva being Rhyne rather than some Shiva Twins fight of Hauchefaunt and Ysale. But we did get a double primal fight in the tier which was something i guess. Right now its hard to say where the overall story is going since i thought Gaia was from the 13th but now she is just a random Eulmore girl possessed by a voidsent? I guess giving Rhyne a friend means she will have more than just your and Feo Ul to visit her when everyone else returns to Eorzea but overall? i can't tell what direction the next story hook is going for. Though i do still think Eden will be the maguffin to solve our "how can rejoining zodiark be a threat when a world/piece of him is missing" and Eden will take norvrants excess of light aspect Aether and use it to rebalance the aether in the void of the 13th world to let it coalesce again. We save two worlds at the cost of solving the largest problem the ascians had in their grand scheme. Though of course were that possible why wouldn't they have done it when Eden first showed up 100 years ago? unless it takes Rhynes special abilities to do so of course. Still i wouldn't be surprised if Gaias Eulmore and Rhynes are not in fact the same and the reason they share so many similarities is because she is the Rhyne as Ardbert was to us.

Overall it felt like a brief story update lacking the story twists or development of the last two major updates but topping 5.0 in particular is something i have not seen another MMORPG ever do, haven't even seen another FF game do in almost twenty years so its tough to fairly judge when the bar has been set so high for me. I would say overall its a minor dip in overall intrigue and progression but still comparable to the best of Stormbloods post 4.0 content.

Dungeons.. i mean, Dungeon: Only one dungeon this time. Also kind of a simple one but also one that kind of has some weird stuttering or lag at times. We ride Bismark down to the sea floor to an isolated part of the ruins of Amourot to find a flooded archive of Ancient Creation magic templates. Instant monsters just as aether! overall its pretty easy and mostly just generic beasts and sahagin but the monsters are a nice number of movement heavy fights which compared to other dungeons recently -the previous Amourotine dungeon in particular- was a welcome change even if the dungeon around the boss fights felt very 'been there, done that'. Overall its fine but just fine. It feels more like a "well its an MMORPG we need to add a dungeon" than a crazy new idea the devs were burning to bring to life. Call it was it is: its gear catchup. Not the worst dungeon in the game but certainly not the most memorable either.

Raids and Rubies: On the other hand i'm pretty pleased with the 8 man content. Bar one fight i'll get to Eden's second wing is much more enjoyable than the first and Ruby weapon is the most enjoyable and challenging trial we have had in a hot minute. So lets go through them.

First off we have the reveal that the thing we fought as Estinien was a prototype not for another Ultima Weapon but new models of Weapon. Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire and Diamond. A certain former Garlean general from the ARR box art has returned to Ala Mhigo to inform us of the oncoming threat blazing across the wasteland of the Gimlet Dark and its up to us to stop it. Hey Ultima and Omega were no problem right? this will be a cakewalk. Right?

Theres some minor twists involving who is piloting these mechs and how its fusing with and mutating them but i think thats a pale secondary draw compared to the fight. Might be controversial but honestly? its a two phase fight where i vastly prefer the first. The second is basically a DPS race with one neat meteor blocking mechanic but the first is fast, frantic and adds some great twists on mechanics we haven't seen i like half a decade from a FFXIV boss. Its a fight that you enjoy doing even after you figure it out because of the spectacle and how good it feels to pull it off well. Even on normal it was a refereshing bump in challenge when most of the story part launch week Titania is very much 'story mode' difficulty nowadays outside Savage and Extreme but this felt more comparable to Ozma and if you have read my past word vomit you know thats one of my favourite normal difficulty fights from back in the day.
The musics great, the production value is great and the fight is a blast. Even if optional trials aren't usually your thing i recommend beating it at least once before its likely nerf just to say you did and experience it as it is now which is just a great fight.

Moving on to Eden with E5 we have Ramuh... or Ixion...Ramixion? Whatever. Openshirt centaur butler is on the scene. We need to down him to restore storms and current to the atmosphere of the Empty!

Overall a solid first fight in the new tier of raid bosses. A much more interesting and entertaining fight than Eden Prime was and with the nostalgic music track and remixes of old moves its basically just Ramuh but better in every way. It just suffers from the old '1st boss syndrome' where the moment you got the mechanics down it is a cakewalk unless you get one person not paying attention and dropping a stormcloud in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Its a well made fight that i've done quite a few times and not gotten bored which happened to me with Eden Prime -excellent FF8 music remix aside- after like a fortnight.

But then hoo boy. I don't like to say this but i'm no blind brand loyalty shill so i gotta call it like i see it: This is one of the most disappointing raid fights in years.

Two primals at once. Ifrit and Garuda to restore Fire and Wind to allow for rainfall, warmth and temperate climates. Surely a double primal fight will be crazy right?

Honestly? no. Not really. You fight Garuda a bit and has like two moves that are a threat until you realise how they work and you just stand aside and Ifrit is about as bad. Theres a neat twist when they combine into a new dual element primal but honestly the fight is just red light, green light -pun not intended- movement based gameplay with what i think might be Sokens first remix i found bland and underwhelming. I hate to say it but its just a total disappointment. Its not fun. Its not even good fan service for the primals its meant to be a remix of. I would rather just fight Ifrit or Garuda extreme. Or both at the same time i guess. This was just the low point for raiding for me in general since maybe some of the throw away Goblin fights in Alexanders middle tier. But theres always gotta be an idea that sinks rather than floats now and then and boy is this one of those.

Thankfully though things take a turn for the interesting right after. That dark spirit in Gaia makes their appearance already as the 'Iconoclast' A crystalline voidsent that controls a massive flock of avian Sin Eaters. Its light and dark coming at you at once, ever played Ikaruga?

Honestly this is another Ozma style fight where its simple and brainless when you know it. But you go in blind? its so much visual noise and new mechanics that it wrecks you. But slowly the mechanics click like a very Ikaruga style light shield for dark attacks and vice versa mechanic that make for a very enjoyable raid boss. The musics great, visually its something pretty unique and mechanically its a lot simpler than it looks but it looks and feels just so tightly tuned and balanced so its never too hard nor too easy to be bruteforced. I honestly enjoy this fight the most out of the tier so far.

Then finally we get a bit of a twist. To Summon Shiva Rhyne offers herself up as the sacrifice/host becoming at times a slightly aged up more Ysayle looking version of herself and then transforming into a light aligned primal in this wierd Bayonetta 1 opening cutscene bodysuit thing. Overall its a very fan service heavy fight -and i'm not talking about the questionable taste of attire for a young girl- but in its mechanics and how it redoes some of Shivas moves but also adds in neat references to other fights and even other games. Theres no way the final fake out wipe followed by beating down a dps race meter isn't a homage to the final fight of Warcrafts Wrath of the Lich King raid in Icecrown against the Titular icy necromancer.
This fight is for the most part very similar to Ramuhs. Simple mechanics but certain moves like her mirrors which echoes her attacks with different placements can mess up people not that good at maintaining orientation on such things but overall it was a nice memorable fight. Especially compared to E4 which fun as Titan was the first few times i actually had to look up what it was because in the end outside his tiny quadbike backpack its kind of forgettable. The set piece alone garauntees that wont happen here and the nice twist of adding a second elemental stable of attacks was a welcome shakeup that pulls off what E6 tried but succeeds everywhere it fails. For me at least.

I'm pretty happy with the raid bosses this patch to be honest. Sure E6 is far from a favourite of mine but the whole package feels much stronger than some other patches, in heavensward in particular where the bland loot pinata was in full effect in more than a few mid tier fights. Here the balance feels smoother and the concept of taking old bosses and remixing them like this is interesting alone. Though i do wonder how they will do a dark and light primal fight since all i can think of is Odin, Atomos, and Bahamut for dark aligned Primals and for light? ...Mogglemog i guess? we have to wait and see. Its more Yoko Taro goodness in the second Nier raid next so its going to be a while before we conclude the Eden line and for now Shiva is a pretty solid place to stop and Ruby Weapon is a wonderful side jaunt one and done trial to boot.

Odds and End: This is a bit of an odd one since we have a lot of stuff coming in a .5 update such as the relic weapons and a new area/questline all about saving the Queen of the Hrothgar/Ronso and a bunch of side content to lose countless hours in so for now it seems a bit sparse.
We have the new beast tribe but since i've been pretty sick and also capped my crafters and gatherers in the first month of the expansion its not really got any rewards down to xp worth rushing for but so far i'm almost done and the idea of just randomly picking and shaping the history of the little rat guys seems questionable at best. But at least we get more about the Viera/Vis and the Ronkan empire which is an area i felt the levelling experience teased so much but showed very little of overall. Its good to get some more of that before we head home and back to the Garlean issues waiting for us.

Then there is Ocean fishing. Or 'Rainbow Fishing' as its being called even though technically i think folks are talking about an Aurora. You head down to Limsa as a FSH from any level from 1-80 and once per 2 real world hours, yes really, you can spend 15 odd minutes at 3 locations fishing for points that get you scrip, xp and prizes.
Its a nice idea and i like Fishing don't get me wrong. I think its fair to say no other MMORPG on the market has a better Fishing set up than XIV does but  honestly it kind of feels like another Diadem style thing where the moment people get the shark mount the participants will plummet and then so will the packed ships and so will the points buffing 'rainbows' that anyone can trigger for the whole party. No doubt some fishing maniacs will form party finder groups for it but it seems like unless they expand on it in future, maybe airship fishing in the sea of clouds perhaps? then it feels like a fair bit of effort for low reward and these things often seem to end up forgotten like Chocobo Racing. More power to them for experimenting rather than settling but i feel like this needs support or its going to be a ghost town sooner rather than later.

So thats that for now i suppose. I've got my crafting macros to rejigger after the move pruning, levelling Gunbreaker to 80 and getting those monotenous desynth levels up because muh OCD and maybe the Gil incentive but overall its nice to be playing more and to be writing again.

Sorry it took so long :p

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The obligatory "no i'm not dead" post

Very long story short for a Christmas update: I held off after the release of Shadowbringers for a big update since things like the combat shake up i wanted to wait till 5.1 to really talk about. Then blogger had an issue where it just wouldn't let my account log in. Then i started doing some more video stuff for work and thought i would step it up and make some video content. Right when My ancient Adobe CS3 mastersuite finally gave up the ghost and simply wouldn't run on modern hardware anymore. So i picked up new software like Clip Studio Paint (if you see it on sale get it, its so much better than photoshop and you own it, you dont pay a sub for it) and Final Cut Pro X which i still need time to get to grips with. Then i got hit with the worst illness of my life and i've barely had time for the game itself let alone writing.

Honestly i hate these kind of posts because its like admitting a failure but i had someone ask after i got name dropped on MassivelyOP so i thought i'd mention it. So post Christmas stuff will resume when life slows down again. I guess its nice to have people actually want something i wordvomit out to read really.

Also spoilers: Shadowbringers is fantastic. Just putting that out there for now.

So see ya' later folks, Merry Christmas!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Workshop Wisdom #3

 I was honestly waiting till Eden released and we got all the 5.0 content to start writing again so i would give my opinion on the expansion as a whole (spoiler: its real good) but i found this too useful early on to not pass the info on to others. In this case its Collectibles in Norvrant.

To begin with you can start getting garaunteed collectibles with the correct rating at lvl.72. Which basically means mine like 3 stacks of crap in Amh Areang, do your first Crystalline Mean gatherer quest for the respective Job and then maybe 6-9 levequests and you will hit 72 no problem. Now the scrip endgame starts early!

Now hit up the gear vendor at Fort Jobb in Lakeland and get the lvl.71 gatherer tools and gear then either craft if you can or hit the market board for HQ Smilodonskin accessories. At this point in the expansion they will be common and the HQ versions all the moreso, i snapped up everything for 400k gil which honestly is less than i made during the MSQ on my first job during early access so should be easily affordable.

Now use V or higher gatherer materia to meld till you hit 1300 gathering, 1200 perception and 700gp. Thats it. You can now get 2 450ish collectibles everytime with ease. But we can make that easier with the following macro:

/ac “Discerning Eye” <wait.3>

/ac “Methodical Appraisal” <wait.3>
/ac “Discerning Eye” <wait.3>
/ac “Methodical Appraisal” <wait.3>
/ac “Single Mind” <wait.3>
/ac “Methodical Appraisal” <wait.3>

/echo Macro Complete!

It also doesnt hurt to have Field Mastery II or Sharp Vision II evn though your gathering rate should be 95% or higher just in case but in my experience with the gear and stats mentioned above but the rating was already pretty high but with that as well you cannot fail to gather twice and thats good for over half a million xp which at lvl.72 is 30 nodes for the level. The more important thing here is yellow scrip. Along with new items and cosmetics to blow them on they can also be turned into tokens for folklore books. Its 100 per token and 40 folklore per book. So you need 120 of them or 12,000 scrip to unlock all 3 folklore tomes. Which across 3 jobs from lvl.72 onwards with this macro and this gear -which should be good up to lvl.76 collectibles- should be around cap if you dont just stick to the base ones which would take like 600!. Still the sooner you start getting them the better. Not only to save those leves for levelling crafters but to have the folklore required for Easy white scrip the sooner the better.

Its no huge gamer changer but its something easy to brainlessly automate and the sooner you start the better. Gotta have something to do while waiting for the healers in roulette queues right?

-i know this looks terrible, its a blogger glitch.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Cleaning House, too early for a 'dawn of the final day' reference Edition

So here we are. Feels like its not been that long since we were doing this in Heavensward but the time is rolling around again where its like 48 hours or less till Early Access for Shadowbringers. Which means its time to clean house!

So the best reminders for players old and new are as follows:

1 - Clean out your inventory AND your Armory: If you haven't maintained this while levelling up all the jobs then you probably have an inventory full of crap. Its all precursor to levelling gear again now so you take the piece for SAM/MNK with the highest ilvl and store, sell or desynth anything below that. Do that for every gear type and every job you have. Then move on to your inventory. Have you not used something for months? then its time to store it or sell it as other things are going to replace it.

2 - The days of Main Stat Materia is over: So pack that crap up, port over to Black Brush Station in Central Thanalan and -do the quest there if you haven't- head north to the Golbin materia fusion npc to recycle all that useless Materia into stuff like Crit, Det, Direct Hit and so on for whatever your main jobs stat weights are.

3 - Dump those Moogle Tomestones: Even if like me you didn't want to grind out for Namazu earrings and owned all the mounts and stuff already there might be something you can buy to throw on the market if you earned any of these tomes. Soon they will be gone.

4 - Plan your route and log out accordingly: Are you planning to mainline the MSQ? then log out at the Scions base in Mor Dhona. Planning to jump right into Dancer? then Limsa Lominsa is your destination and Gridania for the Gunbreaker.

5 - You don't have job quests this time but Role Quest that unlock during the questing process in The First: Just so you remember not to spam teleports around the world trying to find which npc continues your job quests. They are now a level 80 'epic quest' and everything before that is new Role Quests that take place in the past and let you play as Norvrandts Warriors of Light instead to flesh out the history of The First and what lead to the Sin Eaters taking over the world. You will unlock them in the new zones during the questing experience though only one is apparently mandatory.

6 - Going Bunny or Lion? then get naked first: No this is serious and no its not just for people on Balmung. To save time and avoid queues ensure you have your Fantasia, get to a load easy area and remove your gear, pop the Fantasia and -after you are sure you are DONE done till Shadowbringers you log out. Next time you log in the expansion should be live, you select your character and change their appearance then log in and hopefully only have to deal with a login queue once. Assuming nothing goes wrong with the character creation stuff.

7 - Check the marketboards for last minute deals: People cleaning house will be dumping stuff on the market. That means you might find something that will be far less common when its rewarded from content being run less. Don't forget we have World Visit now so you can check your whole data center for people dropping their garage sale deals on the market ready for snapping up.

 Its a small list but you don't want to forget and have to deal with some bullshit later right? So check off the list, check your character and heres to a (hopefully) seamless expansion launch and i'll see you in Norvrandt!

Friday, 24 May 2019

Shadowbringers Live Letter Part 1: or "How Yoshi powerbombed the sound guy"

credit to The_Ganey on reddit for the image
 Well first off Fucking Woof that was painful to watch at times. You could see Yoshi practically start to boil over like a kettle left on the hob too long. The friends i watched the stream with all said some variant of "Oh Yoshi is going to tankbust that sound guy when this is through" and i wouldn't be surprised. Don't get me wrong in the end we got a wealth of information but holy crap did the audio guys shit the bed on this stream on a level i personally have no comparison for. From random bursts of very loud, high pitched screeching static to "uhh, maybe just hold one of your mics up to a tv?" comments while leaving the mic on while going on a break this was bad. Which for us in the west at like 10pm was no biggie. Just kick back and relax, but in Japan where the core domestic audience was going out to work? thats a real social faux pas. They had to give a deep bow apology at the end and put something up on the Square Enix website. Along with a job posting for a new opening in sound engineering for streams. Ain't that somethin'?

 So onto the actual content of the stream. Largely it was job changes. There was some interesting tidbits at the start but not too much. Regardless i'm just going to run through my notes with a bit of input from my worthless opinion on each. Here we go!

General information:

-"14 Million Players": Not subscribers mind you, at this point i don't think any MMORPG including WoW is realistically pushing over 2 million active subscribers for a game as the sub model and interest in the genre in the mainstream is at a low its not been since the 1990's. But 14 million players is a lot of game copies sold. For comparison FFXV -a game that went way overbudget and contributed to the largest fiscal loss since the Square Pictures disaster of the early 2000's- 'only' sold 8.1 million. That means a steady increase in new players and while not all of them will stick around it does mean the game, as mentioned in the last earnings call, is still steadily growing and profitable which for us players just means we don't need to worry about budget cuts or content slowdown in the near future.

-"Pets are no longer autonomous units you must control but largely cosmetic with their abilities tied into your own skillset": This ones a bit sad in a way. Your egi's, Fairies and new stuff like a certain MCH skill i'll mention later are not targetable party members in their own way anymore. Just a flashy effect which honestly i don't think i'm a fan of. It also means Topaz Carbuncle and Titan Egi can't tank anymore as they can no longer count as an entity in combat to hold aggro and will be reworked. Of all the changes shown in the live letter this is the one i just kind of squinted and made a 'hmm' noise at. Maybe it will be an improvement but so far it sounds like one sacrificing major rpg flavour for convenience that i can't say i'm a big fan of.

-"As part of improving combat flow and to add new mechanicas some existing and new skills will have charges on their own external cooldown": So not too alien a concept if you played stuff like Monks in World of Warcraft. You can have a skill on your hotbar that every few seconds builds up a charge at a set rate to a number like 2 or 3. You can use one when you wish or burn all of them in a row instantly. The example given being DNC's no target required forward dash/blink. It can build to a charge of 3. You can burn them all to cover a large distance instantly or use only 2 and save 1 while the charges start to tick back up. Its a simple change that i can say from experience works very well for what its intended to do. If your party members remember to keep track of when you exhaust them all!

-"Main stat materia is gone": This one left people a little confused. Not that its gone thats self explanatory with the stats bundled into future gear. But more the questions of "So what do armour crafters do to make money now?" and "what do i do with the stacks of main stat materia i currently own?!?" because all they said is its being out and out removed. Not replaced by something like Mhatchi matter to trade in for secondary stat materia. Its just creating a vaccum in each servers economy overnight with nothing -as far as we know right now- to replace it. I don't really rely on materia as much as selling my retainer loot for easy money but the stream chat was full of comments like "well there goes my entire revenue source" or "so i guess my crafter job is useless at endgame?" and that felt like half an answer that missed out the most vital information. Maybe they just intend for it to balance itself out over Shadowbringers and it probably will but its still kind of iffy.

-"Only one Job quest at lvl.80 with 'Role Quests' replacing them from 70 onwards as you level": This one seems pretty easy to explain. Some job quests get more love than others already and we are getting closer to 30 jobs with each new job released. How many of those would be phoned in like the HW WHM questline nobody enjoyed if the resources got spread thinner and thinner with each major content release? This also explains what the Alphinaux and Ysh'tola segments of the last two patches were teases for. In Shadowbringers we will get quests as we level for your role, not job. But these are very much Role Playing quests comparable to certain sections of past games like FFVI. You stop playing your character and no doubt using the echo or simply by being told a story you take on the role of one of the past heros on The First. This is a really cool idea. We are on a different world so more info on our Job and the characters we know doesn't make sense and at the same time we can flesh out this alternate world more by giving its past some more weight. Making it seem less like a new theme park crapped out to spend time in for an expansion and more like a world that was storywise chugging along right beside ours the whole time. Something that other MMORPG's alt world expansions like the famously disliked Warlords of Dreanor really failed to do and was commonly criticised for it feeling like a side jaunt into a theme park in a vacuum where nothing really felt like it mattered. Plus hopefully this can make the lvl.80 quests be a bit more of a bigger affair comparable to stuff like the RDM battle in the Weeping City and not just filler for fillers sake.

-"Crafters and Gatheres meanwhile will have 4 questlines centered around a location called 'The Crystarium Mean' as they level': This one feels a little more iffy to squash things together. Like maybe Botanist and Fisher are helping catalogue and save some endangered species on the verge of being added to the list of now extinct life wiped out by the Sin Eaters and the blinding light burning off all habitable ecosystems on the surface of The First? we have to wait and see but its strange we still have no news about Rebuilding Ishgard quests huh?

-"Role Skills system revamped entirely": So now you don't pick and choose skills. The days of levelling a alt class just to get a single spell for your main job are now truly dead and gone. Now you will get a silence at a set level, a self heal at a set level and so on. With ranged magical dps having the least and tanks having the most. With a new none magical silence to act as a stackable stun where enough players can shutdown powerful boss abilities. The example given was a Chimeras 'Rams Voice' the bane of Healers and laggy melee DPS everywhere. These skills will now have an orange aura around them to show you can spam stuns from the party to shut down these moves like big aoes, tank busters and buff purges.

-"Quality of life improvements": A range of smaller focus comments like normalising tank gear, reducing bloat on skill lists to make room for the new ones and most interestingly 'making healers refocus on healing'. You can still dps but it should not longer be mandatory. Personally i like to dps rather than standing around waiting to whack a mole but i hope the now uniform 10k mp bar replacing mp and tp bars we have right now in the live game means dps'ing as a healer isnt a huge mp loss to brute force sticking to heals. Beyond that they paradoxically want to "reduce synergy so you don't feel like certain jobs are mandatory" while at the same time calling Dancer "the synergy king they hope isn't mandatory for raid groups". Which feels in hindsight more like they just want the underused classes to get more play, not that theres anything wrong with that of course.

New Job Skills:

-Ninja: Kage Bunshin no Jutsu summons Shadow Clones that double your attacks, essentially a much stronger Duality. Visually neat and i hope it changes it enough that its not the playstyle in SB i hate but i remain skeptical.
-Dragoon: Building up the SB version of the Dragon gauge now lets you use moves like Nidhogg possessed Estiniens Flashy dive attack. Looks cool but mechanically seems very similar. Shame we didn't see anything of the rumours saying DRG would get their Dragonling pet like in FFXI, so far at least.
-Summoner: Can Summon Pheonix, not a demi or egi but finally at lvl.80 Summoners are starting to summon actual Summons. Egis are now more visual effects than pet characters and can be changed instantly on the fly even in combat to combo into various 'Egi attacks' as part of the Summoners rotation. Not much to say about this. Shame the pet aspects gone but Summoners finally getting their FFIV/IX/X Job fantasy have been patient and deserve it.
-Dark Knight: Inner Darkness literally rips out your Darkness which once again takes the form of Fray from the HW questline to fight alongside you. Effectively a Jojo style STAND ability which might just be Duality for tanks but if theres some form of intentional move delay you could drop a taunt then focus on more dps as Fray then taunts again. Given the overall 'you shouldn't need to spam to play well' focus of Shadowbringers this feels like a neat, unique way to get around it for the job.
-Black Mage: Now can hold Astral/Umbral stacks for longer and has a new single target Flare -but don't call it Ver-Flare or the RDM will get jealous!- that you can build up two casts of on your new gauge. Simple but its a simple job really. You build up fire for the big boom but now its finally got a single target option which as a job that was basically the aoe trash pest control is a nice addition to its toolset which gets very samey on single target fights.
-Scholar: Gets a new Titania Egi named seraph for super heals as a cooldown. Honestly as the healer summoner its been a long time coming for that to get some love. For a class fantasy based around 'finding lost arts of healing summoning' it felt way too focussed on being 'The Tonberry loredump job' and this is a nice addition to the flavour of the job.
-Astrologian: Complete card system rework. Honestly a bit wary about this one and i will have to wait till just over a month from now to get my hands on it myself. AST is my go to healer job and i hope its not just a buff turret now. We will have to wait and see for this one.
-Gunbreaker: Uses attacks to build a bullet gauge, sorry MCH its not yours anymore, to buff and defend party members while having an off cooldown mechanic to crit like Squall's R1 on attack mechanic from FFVIII
-Red Mage: A new AOE spell to follow up Ver Holy/Flare called 'Scorch' which is an element free explosive spell. Bit 'eh' but as one of the last new jobs i didn't expect many changes when it just had a rebalance for the last patch in the live game. Dull but if it ain't broke right?
-Monk: Greased Lightning now stacks to 4 for more raw dps and is easier to maintain. It feels -and theres more coming later- that Monk is the new Machinist and they don't know what to do with it but just know the hardcore Monk players aren't happy with it. I expect a lot more changes for this job as the expansion unfolds.
-Paladin: A new gap closer and part of their rotation makes skills like Celerity instant cast. Like RDM very safe changes but again 'designed so you don't need to spam abilities' which is nice since Flash Spam to salvage an overeager dps'es mass pull is stressful/annoying to deal with.
-Warrior: Very little new stuff. Only one stance now with higher dps rolled in as baseline. Effectively the dps that can taunt everyone joked it was but now thats officially its role. I have yet to hear a WAR complain about this.
-Dancer: Rarely attacks themselves but moves around the arena to input directional based combos to fill their guage and buff the party while building up for powerful high damage finishers or heals. Effectively Final Fantasy's version of the Monster Hunter Hunting Horn support role and as a RDM main i find the concept fun and i'm eager to play it but its core mechanic they get to later sounds like a nightmare for players with bad ping.
-Machinist: Gauss Barrel and Bullets gone, in its place we have all of Edgars tools from FFVI and the ability to summon a Magitek Knight to fight with us including a pile bunker finisher. If you look back at my last post i said MCH needed the most love and in this liveletter it really explains why we only got two new jobs. Because technically Machinist is the third. I've seen nothing but positive reactions and a lot more people starting to level MCH in time for the next expansion because of it.
-Bard: At level 80 unlocks a new 'Soul Voice' gauge for new, more powerful spells. Basically just a new power tier to replace older outranked, or in a few cases removed, songs. More of BRD being BRD. Nothing bad but nothing too interesting either.

Overall the new abilities range from Cool to just kind of 'eh' as a baseline but nothing thus far has gotten a bad reaction from the playerbase so they are clearly doing this right on paper. What holds up in the live game remains to be seen of course. Right now however it looks neat and what followed was some more info per role that is pretty interesting in terms of significant changes to the dynamics of gameplay.

Tank changes:

-"All tanks are now designed as both Main and Off-Tank viable": This is one of those things that needs to be seen in game to see how effective it is but on paper its a sound idea. There are jobs -particularly during Heavensward- that were seen as MT or OT exclusive and would not be taken for raids if they weren't the right job. Which frankly sucks and this is a change to combat that. You want to Tank then you play the Job you enjoy. End of story and thats really all we want when we tank right?
-"All Tanks will now have some skills that buff the rest of the party or grant them defensive skills": I can see the players that just want to lay back and tank something simple as an aggro magnet for the party finding this a chore on paper alone but personally i like it. The Tank is the vanguard. The forward leader of the rpg party. So the idea of them inspiring their party members is really cool and since i'm used to AST throwing out buffs i won't have trouble doing the same as a Tank.
-"There is only a Tank stance now, the DPS one is gone and that is all baseline toolkit all the time": I guess this also makes you question why keep stances at all then but maybe its just some way to balance the levelling curve or something. They said themselves people stuck to the stance that was the greatest DPS gain so they just made it the norm so i guess the only change is less tanks losing threat because they stance danced too long?
-"Enmity generation combo's are removed": so effectively more passive threat gen and less doing the same 3 moves to fight with the other tank before the tank busters. With some moves changing to compensate. The Example given in this case that Paladins Riot blade no longer combos to build enmity but combos to give a instant cast proc for things like Clemency. Which gives you a wider variety of things to do without interrupting the flow of combat which is a new way to make it feel more like an rpg and less like an mmo, a genre i love but is not know for its smooth gameplay flow across most of the genre.
-"All Tanks have a baseline 20% damage reduction/Enmity generation stat": Inb4 'tanking for dummies' comments but this seems to be part of the role wide normalisation. If you tank you are basically the DPS that holds threat and takes less damage. Again more 'play the job you want rather than whats meta' which as someone that accepts but hates the concept of rpg 'metas' at all i like the sound of but know numbers are numbers and the new meta will show up not long after.

Overall some interesting changes that look to simplify the role as a whole while allowing each individual job to have more flavour and fun stuff to do. Which when you are playing should be how it goes. You want to play a Job because its fun without worrying how other jobs do your job better the whole time.

Healer changes:

-"Healers all being unified to refocus on healing first, dps second if ever": I like to dps so i'm a bit wary of this making healers boring but they are following the same design as tanks to make them all feel unique without any feeling less mandatory so maybe it will work in the longrun? things like Protect being removed are a bit sad from a nostalgia point of view but its really just a pointless, mandatory upkeep buff at this point so i can understand in the name of making room for cool new skills per job.
-"New actions to balance out each jobs repetoire": The examples given being a new instant cast heal for WHM and SCH having more active spellcasting and less bubbles. Essentially so you dont have moments where you encounter situations where you dont have the skill for the job but others jobs do. The jobs will still have their niches but you wont find people going "i wish X other Job was here instead" because you couldn't do something. To use a DPS example the fact RDM will now have a silence like every other dps means it wont have moments where any other job could stop a nasty spell cast while it just stands around and takes it because they have no options. Same thinking applies to healers here and downtime as a healer is the most boring part of MMORPG combat for me so i hope this reduces that.
-"For WHM Lillies accumulate at a fixed rate automatically with skills proc'ing a Black Lilly for a new damaging skill": So the focus now is less on "oh i guess i generated some lillies, neat" and more having a fixed rate of lillies and knowing when and where to use them while the Black Lilly appears to trigger a proc to cast Holy 2 which damages and heals or buffs the party. Its a small change but makes Lillies feel like a part of the job rather than a tacked on side thing you don't even really have to notice at all.
-"SCH is mostly the same with some more active spells to cover the changes coming to pets in Shadowbringers": So with Eos and Selene literally just being a cosmetic now -they even do the same thing since one was numerically, objectively superior in 100% of situations for years now- the only fairy that matters is the new Titania Egi 'Seraph' which is basically the new 'oh shit' big aoe heal for Scholars. Overall its a just thats lagged behind in player interest in terms of healer jobs and maybe managing the fairies was part of that and the dev team had the numbers to prove it. Personally i think its a 'fine' job but just 'fine'. This didn't sell me on it but hopefully makes it more active as more than a heal turret for people who love the job but found it growing stale in Stormblood.
-"AST cards are now all straight buffs with each suit for a specific role, at lvl.80 they can change stances at will during combat for a limited time": So in terms of healing AST is my main job so this was a little worrying. It looked at first glance like losing flavour and complexity for the sake of others not playing the job because they couldn't deal with the gameplay i enjoyed. That could still be the case but it looks like they are focussing more on AST being the hard buffer healer rather than a cobbled together blend of ARR versions of WHM and SCH. Which could be great and i hope it is. But as someone who loves the current state of AST this does worry me some. The new lvl.80 skill however may seem a bit underwhelming but boy is that going to be useful in Alliance raids i can tell you that right now!

For Healers it feels like a lot of trimming and shaping to fit an idea of what each job should be without putting them in the same position they are trying to get Tanks out of. It feels experimental and honestly could go either way. But as long as we get to something that works i'm hopeful for it turning out okay. Thats the beauty of MMORPG's. No mechanic or class is ever truly set in stone and nothing thats unpopular or anti-fun has to stick around forever.

DPS Changes:

-"Some jobs, effectively everything but BRD, DNC and MCH have had their rotation conditions made less strict": Effectively dealing away with the "I missed this one button due to lag or having to move to avoid a plume or something and have to startup my buffs and mechanics all over again fresh" stuff that made us all at some point or another eat a one shit kill because we chose to risk trying to pull off that finisher before moving. I've done it, you've done it we've all done it. At first i assumed they just meant making things less complex but when you see the changes below its more of the 'balance the jobs out so none consistently outshines the others in theory'. Which lots of MMORPG's try as their 'bring the player, not the class' ethos but it rarely means more than a numbers shift which changes a meta at best in the long run. I can't complain as long as there are fun jobs to play but again we gotta wait and see on this idea.
-"Lots of MNK players complained about the state of the job in SB so even though the developers didn't want to they added a 4th greases lightning stack for dps increases": This one came out strange and feels like not nearly the rework the job needs. But its a start. Albeit a very small one.
-"Heavy Thrust is gone to streamline DRG's combos": No complaints from players i've seen. Its an annoying upkeep that can interrupt and totally screw up the flow of your rotation. It should have been gone in Heavensward.
-NIN's enmity moves are gone as Tank changes make them redundant": Well i hope they are sure about that. I don't know how many times back when i was a NIN main that i had to save a healers butt when the tank had trouble holding aggro off them using the NIN's skills.
-"Moving between combat as RDM slowly depletes your gauge": My knee jerk reaction is "aw shit, this sucks man" but really if i'm saving a verholy or flare its because we are already nuking our way through packs anyway and it appears to decade very slowly so it seems more for saving it to cheese fates or something rather than in dungeons so maybe its just to compensate and balance their new Scorch spell being a big numbers opener to steal threat or something? god knows in SB i can steal threat all the time as RDM if i get a good string of procs going.
-"No significant changes to BRD and SMN rotations": Somethings got to be the safe option i guess. But i see it more for BRD than SMN based on the previews thus far.
-"Nobody liked the gauges, gauss barrel or ammo mehcanics so we effectively redesigned MCH from the ground up": Like i said this is really our third new job this expansion. With GUN taking up the focus as the bullet using rooty tooty slash and shooty job -and MCH being abandoned en masse as the objectively worse job in the game in Shadowbringers- they are shifting focus to bring Machinist back to its engineer/magitek routes more in line with Magitek Knights and Machinists of past games. I liked the reload flavour but overall it felt like trying to add complexity for the sake of it. Of the three HW jobs it was always the stand out sore thumb that felt unfinished and hopefully its going to get the love it deserves. The devs sound happy with it, MCH mains sound finally happy about anything and its sold a lot more players in picking the job up after dropping it months or years ago at this point. I hope it works out.
-"SMN relies far less on Aetherflow, you shouldn't be focussed on saving a full stack for boss fights": This seems like a nice way to cut down on complexity. Its very much felt like there are three stages of ramp up to get SMN to a solid 30 seconds of its peak potential before burning out and having to start the ramp up again. It feels like only being a full contributing member of the party for like a third of the time and from a design standpoint that just sucks. You shouldn't spend most of your playtime in combat trying to get to the fun part. Its not some massive dramatic change but should be one that makes SMN mains enjoy their experience as much as the other dps which honestly should never have gotten to the point its at now to begin with. This was a longtime coming.
-"With Job synergies scaled back across the board certain songs are now gone with new ones to replace them, meanwhile procs will occur more often and build up new effects": Again simple but welcome. BRD is a solid job but its core rotation can leave you starved for procs and just wishing for a single proc while you watch the RDM and BLM of the party burning through them at a breakneck pace. BRD has always been a funny blend of "Yoshi likes bards but also wanted to be an Archer" thats left it thematically a bit confused but with some of the changes in the last few patches an the new 'Soul Voice' gauge i hope its more in line with BRD's of previous games like some of the other job changes. Also lets hope DNC doesn't make it feel totally redundant. Speaking of-
-"DNC chooses a player to be their 'Dance Partner' and they move together to build up 2 step basic or 4 step technical dances to buff the party in general and each other to a greater degree as your partner builds YOUR gauge for you. DNC also is the first 'PVaE' dps. With the same attacks doing different effect, e.g single target or AOE, based on distance to the enemy": Hoo Boy did they end on a strange on. First off we have a really neat idea for a Hunting Horn style support job, but how does it compensate for if their dance partner lags or DC's? thats going to be interesting to see in practice. The new adaptive combat abilities however is very interesting and it would be cool to see other jobs get some of this sort of thing as well. As a guy who likes support roles like Hunting Horn in Monster Hunter this job as me excited much more than MCH does. Its a shame its another dps rather than a healer but overall the more i see the more i want to get my hands on it and try it out.

 They finished with the new Benchmark trailer -which interestingly may have teased TRUST Npc's in the open world rather than just squadron reskins for dungeons- a reveal of a left handed gaming peripheral Yoshi worked with famed fighting game controller designer Hori to create and news of a Titania challenge at their E3 event where the second half of the Live Letter including the patch notes will be shown.
Overall, massive tech support screw up's aside of course, there was a lot to get excited for, a little to worry about, and more general build up of excitement.
 It feels like without being divided between two major workloads like Ala Mhigo and Doma we are getting a more focussed but experimental expansion which can always go bad as easily as it can be good but from what we have seen there is nothing that worries me that can't be fixed in a patch so far. I'm excited for the new mechanics like Role Quests and hope they give just as much love to Crafters and Gathers so they feel less like being a collectibles bot.

 Now we just wait for the final live letter and any last minute big reveals (please not another Diadem/Eureka Yoshi!) and beyond that its time to start counting the weeks if not days. Its currently May 24th at the time of writing this and the July 2nd release date -not counting early access of course- is getting real close already. Boy has Stormbloods last few months really flown by!

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

I'm finally done!

For like what 2 months? eh better late than never i suppose. I got through the Disciples of Hand and Land really fast thanks to collectibles. I was done before they even added the Namazu beast tribe in fact. Combat Classes however was a different story. I hit RDM, DRK and AST fast at the start of the expansion but really fell off and got most of the others through beast tribe dailies and the odd Main Story or Alliance Raid Roulette. In hindsight you spend too much of the expansion on alt jobs just rerunning Bardam's Mettle which can be a nightmare when the healers not able to deal with an overconfident tank bulling that entire winding path at the start in one run. It was a real easy recipe for alt burnout in a period with some great videogame releases. Hard Drive death aside of course.

 So with all of them levelled, Job storylines finished and as geared as i want them to be here is a rough opinion on each before the big combat revamp coming with Shadowbringers:

Paladin: I know a lot of people that will swear by PLD. Its the bread and butter tank. The sword and board shieldwall that protects the party. It still is and it works just fine. Its also super boring. For me at least. They are visually boring, the quest story is boring and i left it last purely because i was doing this job for completionists sake and no other reason really. If you liked it in HW its still the same but does better.

Warrior: This job surprised me. I was never fond of WAR and it still does the worst first impression in beginner group content in my opinion. But nowadays? honestly really fun. The squishier tank but it holds threat very well and does a lot of damage to boot. They feel fast and theres a satisfying weight to their animations and this time the story was pretty fun. It was nice to see a different aspect to the whole Inner Beast storyline. I ended up tanking the most recently as WAR and never expected that back in HW.

Dark Knight: This one sucks but its lessened slightly by the very likely notion that this is the poster job of the next expansion and will get a rework to go with it. Because right now DRK sucks. It feels weak, the story around it is weak and you are just chasing one proc forever. This was my main Tank job in HW but now it just feels so inferior in mechanics, numbers and general fun that it feels like it got left behind.

White Mage: Boring but competent. The PLD of healers really. Everyone loves a good WHM backing them up, nobody goes "boy, i'm having such a good time playing WHM" though because its just 'bleh'. The lillies feel bland. You cast basically the same stuff you did in HW with no variance for the most part and thats about it. Its inoffensive but reliable.

Scholar: Tried some new things which made it more than the bubble healer with a pet but its just not as reliable as either of the others and its story is neat but beyond that theres a reason you don't see too many scholars nowadays.

Astrologian: Still my favourite healer no question. You can aoe, you can buff, bubble, dot, drop timebombs and so much more. The story is a very interesting look into Geomancy and the new abilities are a nice option to have during the times where your cooldowns ensure theres nothing to spend a royal road on. My go to healer job that is fun, visually distinct and the mechanics around the Tarot deck only got better in SB.

Monk: Great story that feels very tied into the Ala Mhigo stuff, the job itself however? eh kind of the same. It does high damage and has good survivability when solo but its very bloated and needs a look at from the ground up in my opinion.

Dragoon: DRG is 'if it aint broke, don't fix it' as a dps job. The story and mechanics add onto whats already there. It looks the same, plays mostly the same and if you love DRG in HW then the SB version will be right up your alley as well.

Ninja: This ones a bit of a sore spot for me. I mained NIN since it first came out in the Dreams of Ice patch in ARR and loved every minute of it right up to downing Niddhog and Alexander. Then SB happened and i was hopeful that the whole Doma aspect meant a lot of love for the far eastern job. Instead it feels like Samurai out and out replaced it. The story was bland and forgettable, the new jutsu ability feels more like a punishment than a power fantasy and it just flows worse than it did in HW and outputs worse damage. RDM replaced it as my main for a good reason: its not fun anymore.

Samurai: speaking of SAM this one took a while to grow on me. Its very much just building a combo for a buff, build one for aoe and build another for a finisher. Its simple. Its raw damage is high and when you have the full toolkit it does end up feeling like how NIN did in HW. The story was a little generic but its a Samurai story so of course they had to go the route they did with it in the Doma expansion.

Bard: BRD like DRG is another expanded but still competent job. It does what it did before but better and if you enjoyed it you still will. Nice story however and i did not expect this one to tie into Ala Mhigo as much as it did. Not too original but made me very nostalgic for ARR in its style and tone.

Machinist: Honestly i think the team doesn't know what to do with MCH. The new meter feels like filler. The new moves feel like filler and would you be surprised if i told you the story feels like filler? its not terrible and does the damage in a pinch but its kind of being left behind by the playerbase at large for a reason.

Black Mage: This was my original Job back in ARR pre NIN but HW changed it in ways that really soured me on it. Happily i can say SB really rebalanced it in a nice way. It still lacks mobility and seems to lag behind on single target fights but its the aoe dps king and the story this time around was pretty interesting and expanded more on the history of the job which too many others failed to do over the last few years.

Summoner: Another job like BRD or DRG that feels like a natural expansion of its core mechanics with a nice story to go with it. You really feel the new power tier when Summoning Demi Bahamut and while it feels like the job lost a little aoe capability to compensate it just feels so nice when you get the rotation down.

Red Mage: My new main job and easily my favourite both in terms of story and playstyle. The story of Amdapoori and Mhachi defectors and the revisit to the Weeping city were really interesting and memorable. The class blending melee and ranged while having healing to cover the raid when both healers die is a nice variety of options which keeps you on the move and always doing something even when theres nothing to dps. You heal, you buff the party, you raise dead players. All while building up spell meters to do a melee combo ending in a mininuke spell. Its simple, satisfying and while the dps might be a little low the support it brings to the party overall really makes it the most enjoyable dps job for me.

Blue Mage: While still stuck back at lvl.50 right now BLU is a very enjoyable job. I enjoy being able to heal, dps or tank in dungeons with friends and the scavenger hunt was a hoot with the story giving us a bit of info on the new world as well. It just kind of tapers off though and outside the carnivale' gets quickly forgotten by most. Very, Very fun job i would main in all content if i could but as it is right now its just a novelty to play with friends in ARR content.

So overall its a bit of a mixed bag. Most of whats good is just things remaining the same but expanded on and the bigger reinventions often didn't sit well with me. Jobs i liked i don't really touch and others just seem kind of left behind. Theres nothing beyond WHM i would consider truly torturous to play but it feels overall like there are less jobs i choose to play when i have the whole roster at cap to choose from at my leisure. I just feel like i varied a lot more back in Heavensward than i do in Stormblood.
 Right now i can say concretely i'm going into Shadowbringers with RDM as my Main/DPS Job and AST as my Healer Job but thats about it. Will i start Tanking as WAR? will DRK get a huge revamp i love? or will GUN end up being a new Tank Job i adore? we can only wait and see but boy do i hope Yoshi and the team gives us more variance when levelling them all this time around because 1800+ levels in and another 200+ on the horizon i need something to start mixing this up beyond beast tribes and the roulettes!