By the time you read this, patch 5.4 will have come out for Final Fantasy XIV, and I’ll be starting down the road leading to the fourth (currently unannounced) expansion for the game. I’ve just come off a week of vacation, and I spent far more time in-game than I meant to (I meant to spend more time reading and in Stellaris and EU IV than I did; par for the course).

Last time I wrote on this, was just as 5.3 was getting ready to come out, so lets start with the big things. The content for that patch was mostly wrapping things up from the main Shadowbringers story, and taking care of the main dangling plot threads. And I can say that that was just as well handled as the rest of the story has been, and came to a solid stopping point.

(Things might get a little spoilery for a bit here.)

SquareEnix turns the ‘epic’ dial back up for this chapter. The last unsundered soul, Elidibus, makes his move to put things right, and pulls out all the stops, leading to an interesting ‘dungeon’ design, where its more of a running fight across different portions of Norvrant, and there’s lots of little side-skits going on, several with prominent NPCs (including, for the sharp-eyed, the only Hildebrant sighting we’ve had this expansion).

As is not uncommon for FF XIV, this leads directly into the new ‘trial’, which serves as the main climax, complete with an ’80s movie poster moment:

And as ever, things are happening on the Source, with another ‘weapon’ fight in that side story. In the aftermath of that, you get to actually tour the town that the Sapphire Weapon was being operated out of (Terncliff), and it’s across a small straight from Ala Mhigo. I am hopeful that this means we’ll be seeing more of that area in the next expansion, as things press forward into the Garlean Empire itself. (There’s some neat architecture there too.)

The weapon fight itself is… a bit of a letdown. You get to pilot a mech to take on the Garlean weapon. So, you get a whole new set of controls/abilities, which you use for one fight. And it is a pretty tough battle. I think I accidentally went down to ‘easy’ mode after failing it a couple times, and as I was finally getting the hang of it. Certainly, the easy version was suddenly way too easy.

They also introduced the second alliance raid, Puppet’s Bunker, which is the sequel to Copy Factory. It was sounding like it was really tough in development, and it’s been mentioned that they probably toned it down a little too much. I can see that, as in some ways it feels a little easier than the first one was, but there’s still plenty of ways to get killed, and there’s a good way to accidentally kill one of the other parties in the raid, which is a unique touch. (And then there’s what I call the “Corridor of Woe”, it’s a pure between major encounters section that can cause a lot of stress all on its own, and it’s a good day if you can get through it without being hit more than once or twice.)

More recently, they introduced the next part of the relic weapons chain. This also leads into my thoughts about where the next expansion is going, as we’re seeing the periphery of the Empire falling away, and even if the rebellions fail, the local governors are going independent. At any rate, the Bozja rebellion is the biggest mixed bag of the entire lot. It seems like they are applying the lessons of Eureka (the relic-weapon area of the previous expansion), and at first it seems to work.

The long-term problem is that the entire thing works off events, culminating in a raid that draws in people current working in the zone. Fairly neat idea, and it works well for filling up the parties. But, this means unless you go in in a big group, you’re constantly cycling through a number of random groups for each encounter, and picking up and dropping out of groups inside of those… is not the best experience. Its even worse for the final raid as it needs to sort itself out into multiple parties to make progress, and it ends up with all kinds of annoyance. Long term, the real problem is going to be having enough people around in the zone to fuel these high-octane encounters. There’s some neat attempts here, but most people I know burnt out on it quickly.

Away from all the regular adventuring, Smudge and I have been working on crafting. This was led by Smudge at first, but I’ve now gotten caught up in it (and is largely why I spent so much time in FF XIV last week). We’ve gotten all the main top-end crafting equipment made (this is the first time we’ve done that since we worked our way through the post-ARR content). We’re now partway through doing the same for the gathering equipment. There’s individual secondary tools for each class to do to, but we may not get to that before there’s another round of better gear to work on.

Oh? What about primary tools for the crafting classes?

That’s kind of what started all this. One of the other continuing things during this is a project to rebuild Ishgard, the primary city of the first expansion, and partially wrecked by a long-term war. There’s a new third part to the city, and each patch adds a new section to that to be rebuilt. This is done through a series of crafting events that have to be passed, and really strain my system trying to show the flood of people taking part. But the results have been nice.

Part of this event is basically a ‘relic weapon’ chain for crafting and gathering classes (I believe this is a first). Getting the initial tools is simple enough, and then getting the first upgrade to that went smoothly.

And then the wheels came off for the second part (which was the initial end to the sequence). We had a lot of stress making the items for the second round of upgrades. It wouldn’t have been too bad, even with what it takes to get the materials, except that you have to do it thirty times, and we had trouble doing that with any consistency. Smudge eventually did up a macro instead of trying to just work through all the steps that many times over. I got the macro from her, and have finally started writing macros of my own, as I adjust for our gear getting better, and having different repetitive tasks to do.

Right now, we have all the tools up to that standard (with a couple exceptions for me that I’ll get to in a moment). Of course, there’s now a second round of upgrades to do. We’ve both managed to get our main crafting class up to this level (it went a little easier for me than Smudge, and I’ve made preparations for the next one). In a way, this stage is easier, as they use the collectible crafting system instead of the normal one. With the previous sets, you needed to produce high-quality items, which is an all-or-nothing proposition, and if there’s trouble getting high-quality, you can stall out. The collectible system gives a rating on how well you did, and you get varying amount of items for turning these in. Do really well, and you get the maximum amount; only do okay, and you get less… but you still progress towards that end goal. Of course, collectible items eat inventory space like mad.

Originally, Smudge and I split the eight crafting classes in half, and we each just concentrated on our four chosen professions (leatherworking, goldsmith, blacksmith, and armorer for me). Smudge has spent a lot more time in-game than me… and wasn’t getting any support anyway when I ignored crafting for about a year, so she has all the crafting and gathering (and everything else) at max level. Some of the prelude to all of this was getting me successfully up to level 80 in my main four classes and mining (my main gathering class). I had also started on the next pair crafting classes a while ago, and weaving hit 80 while back. Last Saturday, carpentry got to level 80 (and I have gotten the initial ‘relic’ upgrades done), while alchemy and culinarian are up to ~60.

I’ve been working on botany for a while as well, and just recently it got to level 80 (and it’s tool upgraded). I have long avoided fishing because it is very efficient at consuming inventory space, but I took that this previous week too, and it’s now in the mid-20s. One reason to do this (other than being completist) is they recently introduced fishing raids to the game, and we both thought it’d be great to try out.

Basically, you go out on a fishing boat for half an hour, and fish with a bunch of other PCs as it cruises through a few areas. There’s scoring, and rewards for doing well, and there’s events that can happen if people collectively do well. We’ve done it once, and it was pretty neat.

As I mentioned last time, we’ve been doing the latest beast tribe quests (this is FF XIV reputation farming section). The latest are the dwarves, who are crafting-centric (this helped get my crafting classes up to snuff). And like the other two for this expansion, they’re a lot of fun. The central plot is the development of the “Rolling Tankard” as a way to transport cargoes (small cargoes it would seem) safe from sin-eater attacks. And naturally, you can get one of your own at the end.

I also spent the last week going back and finishing off the Ixal beast tribe, which is the first one from ARR. That involved a lot of questing, and I’m kind of burnt out on that, so I won’t be going through any of the rest at great speed. Still, it was a good side story, and gave some nice lore.

Largely thanks to this last week, I’ve managed to do a fair amount of catching up on things. I kind of wish we’d gotten a bit further with our crafting projects before the new patch came out, but we definitely got a lot further along in the last four months, and things are starting to go fairly smoothly with it.