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Around the World in Zurvan Extreme (Plus: Patch 3.51)

Michael O’Connell-Davidson Posted:
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Another extreme trial comes with Final Fantasy XIV’s latest patch, The Far Edge of Fate. This time it’s our boy Zurvan, the Demon of the Warring Triad, in Containment Bay Z1T9 — but you can call him Zurvy.

This is almost certainly the last trial of Heavensward, but it’s certainly not the hardest: Nidhogg, Sephirot and Thordan all clock in as more challenging, even with today’s gear. Last week, I advised that people go out and try to do it on the brand new cross-world Party Finder. This week, I actually did it.

On paper, Zurvan is an easy fight. The normal mode version is practically doable on autopilot, and with regards to the extreme-difficulty variant at least two of the fight’s four phases require almost no experience. What is arguably the hardest mechanic in the fight can be skipped or brute forced, either by producing ridiculous DPS or using a tank limit break to soak the damage. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t having trouble with it.

Some background for those who haven’t had the chance to try it. Zurvan has a tether mechanic that ties pairs of players together and kills them when they spread too far apart; a stack mechanic where moving too late will kill you and moving too early will kill everyone; a beam that targets one player and will severely hurt any group hit by it, and Soar, the aforementioned hardest mechanic, which requires players spread apart while avoiding the boss’s path across the area. All of this requires communication you don’t often see on modern fights. (Mizzteq and Xenosys’ guides are excellent if you want to learn the fight or just want a visual aid to the above.)

The fight’s final phase is fast, slick and unforgiving. Zurvan throws everything at you, and one death can cascade from mechanic to mechanic, leaving people without a tether partner and ultimately wiping the group. If everyone’s on their feet, it’s simple. If for whatever reason one of you is KOed, it becomes infinitely harder. It’s a call back to the good old days (or very bad days, depending on your perspective) of Alexander Savage where one death made some fights pretty much impossible.

Still, with voice chat, this is all easily surmountable. Our raid leader screamed “STACK! STACK BETTER!” on the path to our first clear, which gets the message across in the way a cast bar can’t. Producer Naoki Yoshida said he wanted a fight that would challenge people that had cleared Alexander Savage, so it makes sense that players would be rewarded for employing the same methods you need to clear a savage raid.

Indeed, employing those methods makes the fight much easier; most pick up groups don’t have that level of communication or coordination. And so what was designed as a fight that would challenge people with Savage clears is probably far easier for that group and much harder for everyone else without that support to get their first clear. 

Of course, anything is easier when you have a dedicated group that you know and trust. But it’s not the same as other fights. Sophia, for example, offers a roughly similar experience with and without voice chat. You might find it easier to communicate with voice, as is only natural, but as long as everybody has an understanding of what’s going on, you’ll hobble through it even with a mediocre group. Zurvan is exacting in a way that Sophia isn’t. If one of you is dead in phase four, it’s probably game over no matter how good your healer is. That makes it exciting, as well as immensely frustrating if you’re getting it right and other people aren’t.

I cleared it first with my free company, and moved on to various kill groups as I wanted more experience; despite having some clears, I felt like failing in farm groups and thus getting blacklisted by people on other servers during the first week of everyone in Europe being joined together would be a bad start. It was an interesting experience.

Much has been made of the ability to skip the first Soar; if you get Zurvan to 74% by the time he’s set to do it, he’ll move on to easier mechanics. So it is, then, that many groups are demanding people produce stellar DPS. I joined one such group; “BRING HIGH DPS,” the party finder entry said, caps and all. Fine — you want to skip it, that’s fair enough.

But that same party leader ended up pulling about 700 DPS in the fight, which might as well be autoattack damage. Others were using Lore gear, or boosting their item level to just above the threshold while producing mediocre numbers themselves. A few failed pulls and unexpected Soars later and the party leader had the gall to ask: “Why are we wiping?” Hmm. Why indeed.

I’m not sure what people expect in those groups. There are lots of them, and I’m certain most end in failure. A funny Reddit thread cross-references the leaders of these parties with their FFLogs scores (FFLogs keeps public records of people’s DPS parses). Many of those making parties demanding high DPS have terrible records, as though they’re expecting others to carry them.

Now, I don’t know how fair looking FFLogs is, given that it doesn’t give you an idea of someone’s gear or experience relative to top parsers, and many people end up on logs that they themselves had no part in uploading. Indeed, I know for a fact that, as my static’s occasional substitute, my numbers are truly awful. But I’m not making groups demanding high DPS and pulling three figures. Perhaps you should avoid the people that are.

Later I joined another kill group, and, after about an hour, got it down. Once people realized that you have quite a lot of time to find your tether partner and creep towards them, it’s actually quite easy, even without voice. You have time to collect yourself and figure out where you need to stand, and if you make a macro that says — paraphrasing, of course — “piss off and stand somewhere else,” you’ll get through it. It’s a stressful fight, especially when people are sloppy, but what isn’t? Just don’t expect something as lax as Sophia; deaths really do matter here.

My group runs the standard solo tank and five DPS setup that’s become popular. Combined, our healers pull around 1.7k DPS, and having two of them gives us safety that a six-DPS group doesn’t. But I decided I really wanted that bow, so I joined a few six-DPS farm groups once my Free Company group had called it for the night. It was better than I expected, and, if people don’t screw up, forgoing a healer makes for super fast attempts. If you can reliably output over 2k DPS (or more, if possible), give it a shot - just be prepared to feel inferior to those 3.5k monsters, like the Machinist I was playing with last night.

The fight is great, but it does make me wish you could openly discuss DPS parsing in-game.

When Yoshi said their job experts could pull much higher numbers than most in response to complaints about Machinists’ perceived paltry DPS, he confirmed that the people who test FFXIV are really good at the game, so they must have known people would skip soar, or at least encountered it in testing. Given how people shrink from difficulty, they must also have expected this to become the preferred method of handling the fight.

Expect some frustration, then, if you do take parses and find that someone in your group is letting you down but you can’t explain why for fear of suspension. I know why discussing parses is forbidden (I experienced how unpleasant it could be when I was raiding in WoW), and why Yoshi and everyone else prefers DPS meters to exist in a de-facto gray area. But in fights like this, where DPS is so important, it’s impossible to pinpoint the problem in a group setting without being super awkward or passive aggressive, neither of which are conducive to progress.

Would the community support the introduction of a soft-DPS meter in game? Probably not; in a past life, I was in a casual Free Company where people regarded the introduction of Stone Sky Sea dummies as though the sky was falling in. But it’d be nice just to have some rankings or something showing who’s lagging behind, so if you’re in a party with someone getting outdpsed by a Paladin you can tap them on the shoulder and see if they’re having problems.

Two final things: the first is that Fanfest Frankfurt stream tickets are now on sale. You’ll also get a Yuna or Tidus costume as well as a wind-up Yuna minion on February 18th, when the stream starts. Purchase a ticket from Cleeng here.

A funny thing happened where Cleeng were giving people discount codes to pass onto friends. Nice! 30% off! But it was a bug, according to SE Kahuna, who posted this on Reddit after the codes stopped working: “This has now been fixed! Any discount codes sent out won't work anymore and you shouldn't get any more codes when ordering the stream.” I’m 99% sure this is not the fix people had in mind.

The second is that Patch 3.51 is now live. Little has changed. Aether Oils are much cheaper, so if you’re behind on your Anima weapon you’ll be able to purchase them for 700 Lore Tomestones (down from 1800). Otherwise, it’s mostly bug fixes. That spoilery title from Patch 3.5 has changed also, to The Finest Pupil’s Ally. If you turned off titles because of spoilers, fret no more.


Michael O’Connell-Davidson

Michael O'Connell-Davidson is MMORPG.com's FFXIV columnist. Follow him on twitter @mikeocd.