Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Thoughts On Turning FFXIV's 4 Character Dungeons Into Solo Instances

With the launch of Endwalker's patch 6.4 last week, Creative Business Unit Three only has three more MSQ dungeons, The Drowned City of Skalla, The Burn, and The Ghimlyt Dark, to add to the Trust and Duty Support systems. By doing so, all 4-player content required to complete Final Fantasy XIV's main story questline is doable by solo players at current level. But is doing so good for the game?

I really can't say if long-term, making FFXIV more solo-player friendly good for the game. But last night, for me, I was glad to have the option. I was playing through the patch 6.4 quests and ran into the newest 4-player dungeon, The Aetherfont. After 10pm. Getting a group that late, even for a white mage, can prove difficult. Add in going in blind and the inevitable deaths and I was very happy to enter the dungeon with a party of NPC companions.

I suffer from party anxiety. That is, I don't want to be the cause of party wipes because I make mistakes. As the healer, not an uncommon occurrence. But besides the ease of finding a party, I could learn the fights at my own pace. I wiped twice to the first boss, once to the second boss, and managed to defeat the end boss on my first attempt. The NPCs know the fight, so figuring out which one to follow helps. Normally I follow Y'sthtola around, but she wasn't available for this dungeon. At least the first time through.

Another advantage is getting the drops. I can gear up using the drops from the MSQ dungeons, assuming I run enough of them. For example, my tome gear I earned through patch 6.3 is item level 620. The drops from The Aetherfont are iLevel 625. If I really want to, I can grind to my heart's content. But normally, I grind the dungeons for the more valuable tomes and sell the drops to my grand company to purchase the ventures required to fund my army of retainers.

Not running dungeons with other players does have drawbacks. For one, running dungeons takes longer because the NPCs will stop doing damage to the boss at times. Running through the latest few dungeons takes me around 35 minutes playing as a white mage. I imagine the time could decrease if I played a DPS job. Also, NPCs don't combat resurrect players. If the player dies, the boss fight resets. So no completing a dungeon while lying on the floor.

I guess even the drawbacks have advantages. One is that players will see all the mechanics of a fight. I believe a well-tuned, high-skilled group can skip some. Another is that in order to advance in the MSQ, a player must complete all the mechanics in a dungeon, most of the time twice. Sure, following an NPC helps. But is that any different from following a Dorito (a player marked with a triangle other players follow) in a trial or raid?

As I said, I don't know if the move is good for the game over the long haul. I can only speak for myself. Quite frankly, I was seriously thinking about quitting FFXIV at the end of Stormblood. I could barely complete the dungeon mechanics and I knew the fights would only get harder in Shadowbringers. Then the Trust system was announced and I renewed my subscription. While a couple of the dungeons gave me an incredibly hard time (especially Therion), I could fight through knowing I wasn't inconveniencing other people with my lack of skill.

A player still cannot fully complete the MSQ solo. I counted 25 8-player trials in the MSQ through the end of patch 6.4 that still require a player to play with others. Also, the side content dungeons and alliance raids are also not part of the Duty Support and Trust systems. So FFXIV still does not count as a solo game. The game is just a lot more solo-friendly than at the beginning of Endwalker. I think after 10 years and going into a second main storyline, such a move is a good thing. At least for me.

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