When Final Fantasy XIV relaunched in 2013 as FFXIV:A Realm Reborn, much of the content from the original 1.0 version of the game was removed. Entire zones were re-worked, encounters such as Good King Moogle and Hamlet were removed, and the progression path for the game was reimagined around the Realm Reborn model.
While the initial relaunch content provided a clear progression path for the PVE end-game, the amount of content was a bit narrow. The end-game content consisted of a pair of 8-person story instances, a pair of 4-person dungeons, three hard-mode primals, and the Coil of Bahamat which served as the progression content. Additionally, there were two stand-alone boss fights (Chimera and Hydra) that served as part of the Relic Weapon path. There were no raid options, with the twenty-four person Crystal Tower held back for the 2.1 content patch.
December 2013 saw the release of content update 2.1, titled A Realm Awoken. This first addition to A Realm Reborn was a fairly substantial update including housing, PVP content, daily PVE leveling content additions, and an extensive broadening of the end-game content.
With no intention of slighting the housing, PVP, or daily content, in this column I want to address the broadening of the FFXIV:ARR endgame. If you are playing an end-game (level 50) job in the game, there is quite a buffet of activities available. The big parts of the 2.1 changes are changes and additions to dungeons, additional primals, and the introduction of the Crystal Tower.
I have mixed feelings about this content update. On the one hand, the content itself is very well done and some of the execution ideas are simply brilliant. On the other hand, while the breadth of content is quite good, I believe some of pieces are misplaced and a few of the systems supporting their implementation feel hasty, or at the very least, incomplete.
A Realm Awoken dialed down the difficulty on the harder of the two launch dungeons and added in three new dungeons. Effectively, this means that fresh level 50’s will find both of the older dungeons, Wanderer’s Palace and Amdapor Keep, accessible. Each provide access to item level (il) 55 gear which replaces your class quest gear. They also provide access to Tomes of Philosophy and Mythology, the end-game currency’s for FFXIV.
Two of the three new dungeons, Haukke Manor and Copperbell Mines, are hard mode versions of previous leveling dungeons. In each case the HM version treks you through different parts of the instance.
For Haukke Manor HM, the Overlook Hotel of Eorzea, this means you are traversing areas of the house which were previously barricaded. Your adventures include new encounters, some of which contain elements familiar from your prior visit.
Copperbell Mines HM sends you back into the game’s third dungeon. As with Haukke Manor HM, you traverse new areas of the mines and fight bosses different, yet evocative, from your past visits.
Joining the two Hard Mode additions is Pharos Sirius. The Lighthouse, Pharos Sirius, has always been visible in the game and your story arc makes it clear that bad things are happening there. A Realm Awakens allows you to step in and confront the challenges.
The three dungeons are all very well designed. Haukke Manor and Copperbell Mines were fan favorites to begin with, returning to them is certainly appreciated. Additionally, FFXIV really did something new with these Hard Modes. Rather than simply retuning old fights with new mechanics, Haukke Manor and Copperbell feature new paths, new monsters, and new bosses.
To be very clear, I really like the design of these three dungeons. In particular, Pharos Sirius has a pair of boss fights that are fairly taxing. While my guild groups haven’t had a problem with the instance, my understanding is that these encounters routinely destroy pickup groups in the Duty Finder. The fights are heavy coordination checks, so I can certainly appreciate the difficulty they place on pickups.
Unfortunately, these dungeons are placed in the earliest part of the end-game and they are itemized with the exact same gear formerly found in Amdapor Keep (which used to be the il-60 dungeon). If you were already at max level when 2.1 hit, these dungeons just don’t fit. You don’t need the gear from it and there are far more efficient paths to acquire your Mythology and Philosophy Tomes.
At launch, FFXIV carried three end-game Primals. The Hard Mode version of Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan respectively provided the initial challenging 8-person content and offered a path to begin your weapon upgrades. Ifrit and Garuda were the easier two Hard Mode Primals while Titan HM is a beast of a fight approaching in difficulty the Coil of Bahamat fights.
Primals differ from dungeons or raid instances in that you face a single encounter. When you enter the Ifrit fight, for example, you face no trash, just a boss fight. These mechanically rich battles are typically 4-10 minutes in length (depending on group and gear). They featured a number of personal responsibility checks (“get out of the goo”) and a few coordination checks.
A Realm Awoken broadens out the Primal offerings with five new Primal fights. Good King Moogle and the Ultima Weapon take up space in between the Ifrit/Garuda and Titan Hard Modes. The Ultima Weapon Primal is a reimagining of the final fight from the main story arc. The colorful Good King Moogle fight, last available in 1.23, is new to the Realm Reborn experience.
The three Extreme Primal fights provide the third level of difficulty for the Ifrit, Garuda and Titan fights. In the Extreme version Garuda becomes the easiest fight with Titan and Ifrit each increasing in difficulty. These fights take mechanics present in earlier versions and reimagine them. They add in some new wrinkles and complicate things by tossing simultaneous mechanics checks. They aren’t for the feint of heart!
I have to admit, I haven’t really gotten into the new Primal fights. I am not a big fan of the twitchy-twitchy. These fights are also unforgiving on players with slower computers or slower Internet connections. I don’t like being placed in the position of rejecting a party member over milliseconds. Further, it’s kind of hard to get excited about a third difficulty level for Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan just to get a piece of jewelry equivalent to what I can pull from Coil or Mythology Tomes.
My guild, though, has been very enthusiastic about the Extreme Primals. The fights are well put together and the challenge level is quite high. As additionally evidenced by the dungeons, the content crew working on FFXIV:ARR are very good.