4.2 Savage Review
When patch 4.2 was released, one of the first things I did was review the new PvE content. However, I’m not a part of a particularly hardcore group, so I wasn’t able to see much of Savage beyond the first couple of fights. A month later, we’ve cleared Kefka — and started working on taking down his bigger, badder final form. Now I’ve fought through the majority of the encounters, it’s the perfect time to put down my thoughts about the FFXIV’s current round of hardcore content.
Before we move on to the big guy, let’s take a tour through the fights leading up to him. The Phantom Train from normal mode returns, sans safety railings, meaning much of the fight is about keeping yourself steady — and not allowing yourself to be knocked onto the tracks below. Like Alte Roite, you can tumble off the edges of the arena, but it's different in that there's no ice shenanigans where a small input error can kill you.
It’s one of the better introductory fights of a raid tier, with a relatively relaxed DPS check and a series of fairly forgiving mechanics. The train doesn’t take positional damage or move away from the group much, meaning those who aren’t particularly confident can just focus on surviving and completing mechanics — and it’s followed by Demon Chadarnook, which is actually easier.
Chadarnook’s Savage form brings back the painting mechanic from normal mode, but this time requires you to paint images with specific colours. It’s not particularly complex, though; the colours needed for each painting’s function never change, and you’re not required to mix them or anything like that. Like the Phantom Train, Chadarnook forgoes positionals, too, and always follows a relatively simple script.
This makes Demon Chadarnook the sort of fight where you can go all out and show what you’re really capable of. In that regard, it’s a lot of fun, particularly returning to it week after week and seeing how much more damage you can put out and how much faster you can clear it. Optimising your performance while juggling paintbrushes and transformations is genuinely really good fun, and in that sense, the whole encounter feels a little bit like The Fist of the Son (the fifth Alexander raid), which many of those I know in the raiding community look back upon fondly.
The third fight, the Guardian, is when things step up a gear, and it’s where many ‘casual’ groups are currently held up. Producer Naoki Yoshida said he wanted to put out a fight that was harder than Halicarnassus (O3S), and his team has succeeded, but they’ve done so in a way that avoids introducing arbitrary headaches — instead, The Guardian is a dynamic fight where the order of phases changes every time.
This makes learning the fight (and, indeed, replaying it each week) much more interesting, as you're not just following and refining the same script. With Halicarnassus, you could learn it almost 10% at a time. Here, the first 30% of one wipe won’t necessarily match the first 30% of your next pull. That’s interesting, particularly as the fight's DPS requirements are pretty stringent; as a Dragoon, I’m constantly thinking about where I need to be for the next phase and what resources to hold and burn.
But it’s the final encounter, Kefka, which is the jewel in the crown. Though Ultimate is still more difficult and substantially more prestigious, O8S is what most groups are aiming for right now.
As was the case in the final stage of Deltascape, Sigmascape's final Savage encounter is also broken down into two fights. Bringing Kefka down to 59% health in roughly six minutes will unlock the second encounter, God Kefka, which is where the meat of the fight is.
We cleared Kefka (his first form) last week. As is the case on normal, he’s still a trickster, and the fight revolves around him baiting you into dodging AoEs that may or may not be there. It’s God Kefka that’s really exciting, though. We’ve got the big guy down to about 60% over the couple of times we’ve been in, and it’s really impressive. Here’s a point of view video showing the fight:
As you can see, there’s a lot going on, with a quantity of explosions that would make Michael Bay blush. At the heart of it, though, is a firm but fair fight that doesn’t set out to trick players but overwhelm them instead. Mechanics such as Trine (the falling triangles) are really impressive aesthetically, while also communicating a lot visually.
It’s a step beyond Exdeath’s Grand Cross Alpha, Delta and Omega, which required too much squinting at debuffs for me to really ever feel comfortable with. (Admittedly, I cleared it much later, with a team who had it on farm at that point).
Sadly, most people will never see it, as the overwhelming majority of players will stick to normal mode where you fight non-god Kefka only. Like Neo Exdeath, God Kefka is exclusive to savage. I think that’s a shame in this case; I was quite comfortable with the way this was handled in Deltascape because Exdeath felt like a standalone fight, but there’s a completeness that the normal mode from of Kefka lacks.
I didn't really feel this way at first, but that changed when I managed to cut down Kefka and see the way the fight transforms on Savage. When the difficulty is cranked up, Kefka feels like an excellent gatekeeper fight — but on normal, where it doesn't really lead to anything, it isn’t interesting enough to stand by itself. I’d strongly recommend watching a video of the first fight into the transition if you haven’t seen it and aren’t likely to, and draw your own conclusion from that.
But Kefka notwithstanding, Sigmascape's normal mode fights feel like a substantial step beyond those in Deltascape, and this is doubly the case for each one on Savage. This is the first time I've seen this much of a tier within the weeks following the patch (in part, I suppose, because I'm in a static that's generally much better than I am), and it's been really good fun to progress through.
As an aside, we have a wonderful scholar who's stuck with the team for years, and he’s leaving us — and the game — once we’ve finished this raid tier in order to take a new job halfway around the world. Sigmascape’s an excellent set of encounters to end on, and I’m really grateful for the fact that he’s going to be able to go out on a high.
PS: Don’t forget that the Little Ladies’ Day event ends on Wednesday. Make sure you complete it for the emotes / furniture — it doesn’t take long, and once it’s over, the benefits are gone forever. The quest after the main one is really good, too — I won’t spoil it, but I strongly suggest you keep going once you’ve got your glowstick emotes. Also, Eureka and new Hildebrand quests go live tomorrow — prepare for some downtime, and for the relic grind to finally begin once again.