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Eureka First Impressions

Michael O’Connell-Davidson Posted:
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At long last, it’s finally here. Eureka — easily one of the most eagerly anticipated features of Stormblood — launched last Tuesday, and it’s fair to say it’s unlike anything else in FFXIV. In many ways, that’s arguably its greatest strength — as well as its greatest weakness. Eureka is many things depending on who you ask, but I think one thing everyone can agree on is that it’s divisive.

OK, but what exactly is it?

In the simplest terms, Eureka is an instanced zone packed to the brim with tough mobs. Players have a separate experience gauge to the rest of the game, which contributes to their ‘elemental level’, and this largely dictates your strength. Mobs have elemental strengths and resistances, and you can adjust what element you’re attuned to in order to compensate for that.

Once you’re over the preamble and let loose onto the island itself, you’ll feel exceptionally weak. And that’s because you are: stuff in Eureka hits hard and has a lot of HP. If you kill the local wildlife, there’s a chance of a protean crystal dropping, and you can cash these in for the rewards — this expansion’s relic weapon and armor.

Mobs are a mixture of common enemies and Notorious Monsters, which are much more beefy and have a much greater chance of dropping something useful. There are also FATEs tied to player activity, and these also have rewards that contribute to your relic set, as well as lockboxes containing a mount and several minions.

It might help you to think of it as a sort of hybrid of Diadem and Palace of the Dead: An island zone with a separate levelling system, relatively strong enemies that require a party, and a whole new environment to explore. It’s gorgeous, too — Eureka is easily one of the most visually impressive zones in the game, and probably one of the most since A Realm Reborn’s release.

So, you farm mobs for crystals?

Basically, yeah. You need a lot of crystals for a full relic set, and, at least at first, they don’t drop very frequently. I’m led to believe it gets better the higher level you are, but admittedly, I haven’t got far enough to confirm that for myself.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s complicated by the fact that some mobs have specific spawn conditions. If you zone into any given instance, you’ll find people chatting about how recently Pazuzu spawned, which is a mob needed for the final relic stage, and what the weather will be like in an hour or so as that influences whether or not you can spawn it.

If it sounds old school, that’s because it is. The level cap is 20, but It takes a significant period of time just to get to level two, and once you go past level five you can lose EXP when you die if nobody resurrects you. In fact, you lose 25% of a level — which is not an insignificant amount. Once you’re past level ten, you can level down, too. Yikes.

Losing EXP on death? That’s very 2000s...

Yeah. I’m struggling to remember the last MMO I played where there was a stiff penalty for dying. City of Heroes, maybe? …Final Fantasy XI?

I suspect that’s the point: Eureka is something many people in our community have been asking for. It’s designed to satisfy that urge felt by those who miss FFXI and want to see some of the design decisions made there given a shot in the world of XIV, and so it’s strongly reminiscent of an era of games that barely exist anymore.  People talk about areas and activities in FFXI such as Dynamis or Abyssea with a sort of fond nostalgia, and I’ve often seen people say ‘Why can’t we have something like [this thing from XI]?’ This goes some way towards scratching that itch.

Is this what people wanted? That’s debatable, but people definitely asked for it. Hell, when I interviewed producer Naoki Yoshida in November, I asked if we’d have more to do in zones, or if they’d introduce stronger enemies to field areas; arguably, both of those things are achieved here. And so, looking at the reaction, I’m reminded of the World of Warcraft panel where it was asked if ‘previous expansion servers’ were something the team had considered. In particular, I’m reminded of the response: You don’t want that. You think you do, but you don’t.

It really is like stepping out of a time portal into the Valkurm Dunes. There’s no LFG or matchmaking, so if you want to group together to level — and you do, because it’s faster and safer — you’re going to need to form a party or start yelling in general chat. For some, that’s a nightmare. For others, it’s an experience they’ve missed for a long time. I suspect that there’s a lot of people that felt one way before giving it a shot, and came out feeling the complete opposite.

What do you think?

I don’t know, man. I’m trying very hard to be even-handed, but to be honest, I haven’t really made up my mind. You can be reductive and say ‘LOL it’s just killing trash mobs for tokens’, or you can make it sound like Final Fantasy’s answer to Monster Hunter. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and a lot of what you think about it kind of comes down to who you are as an individual.

My perspective is that I’m kind of at a time in my life where an old-school grind isn’t very appealing to me. Spending hours killing trash mobs for rewards I may or may not get is much harder to justify now I work full-time and have adult commitments. Maybe if I was the same person I was when I played Ragnarok Online in secondary school, I’d love it, but considering who I am now, I’m not sure this is for me. And you know what? That’s fine. I’m into progression raiding, and that’s not for most people. I have my thing, and there are those out there that have this.

In a way, it’s nice to see something come out that splits opinion. XIV’s patches are huge, as evidenced by the encyclopedia-length notes that come with each, but the content pattern is fairly predictable. Eureka isn’t all that complicated, but nor is it that similar to anything else on offer; for the first time in a long time, I can’t point at a segment of the community and go ‘oh, you’ll like this’. it’s not another raid, trial or four-man dungeon, and for any flaws it has right now it could grow into something truly special.

My fear is that numbers will be skewed by people doing it for the relic simply because they feel compelled to do so without actually enjoying the content; there’s a risk that the Eureka will be judged a success based solely on the quantity of players who have slogged through it, when there might be deeper lessons to learn. It’s too early to say right now if that’s a realistic prospect or not; I’ll definitely revisit Eureka in this column in a few weeks when I’ve had more experience with it that I can draw from.

Here’s my advice to you if you play FFXIV: Try it, preferably with people. Don’t let the long posts on Reddit and the official forums scare you off. Ignore the people saying it’s the worst thing since the black plague (or Diadem), or those suggesting that it’s actually genius and everyone’s playing it wrong. Just give it a go. Maybe you’ll love it — maybe you won’t. It’s in a league of its own, so the only way to truly know if it’s for you is to give it a chance.


Michael O’Connell-Davidson

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