Kanican (kanican) wrote,

FFXIV - Five Months In


Instead of having a post focus on a single topic like I would normally do, I decided to expand this to a number of topics.  I realize the vast majority of readers that still follow me know me from XI and have either quit or not tried XIV, so this post will also be geared towards those players as well.  I hope to cover a couple of basic points about the game from the perspective of a 50/50 Conjurer/Thaumaturge as well as just my honest view of the game in general for those interested in possibly trying or retrying this game.

I want this post to be mainly three things -
   - Informative to those players that are playing XIV, especially those leveling both Conjurer and Thaumaturge
   - Honest and as unbiased as possible for those wanting to know the state of the game from a level 50's perspective
   - NOT a bitch / whine post that offers no suggestions or room for discussion

To outline this post, I want to first start with my overall view of the game thus far from the perspective of someone with multiple level 50 jobs.  I want to be open about the experience - about both the positives and of course the numerous negatives littering the forums.  For those interested in the game, I'll go over some general tips and resources to focus in on.  For those already enveloped in the game and happen to play DoM, especially Thaumaturge, I'll go over some of the things I've personally found about the job, as well as showcase some solos.

This post is screenshot heavy.  Some of the pics are pretty randomly placed, especially at the beginning.


Current State of the Game - the Negatives

I'll start with the negatives.  There are 3 major issues that really cripple XIV currently, and I hope to explain these in detail for those that have not experienced it.  I've highlighted the key points of the discussion in red.

   (1)  Leveling becomes much more difficult beyond level 20 without using the Leve-Linking system

In an effort to draw in more casual players at the start, SE made the leveling curve from 1-20 incredibly quick.  If someone knows what they are doing, they can easily achieve from rank 20 on any job from scratch in a day.  The issue is once you hit 21, not only does the SP to next rank start to ramp up considerably, but the SP gain per mob when fighting the same mobs drops as well.  So not only do you need more SP, but you gain at a slower rate as well.  Because of this noticeable drop-off, you'll notice that most of the players complaining about the SP system for forums tend to start complaining low to mid-20s. 

From levels 1-20, this is mostly a solo game.  It's efficient and grants both very strong SP/hour rates as well as a means to farm materials and crystals for crafting classes.  After 20, it is still possible to solo, but it requires very specific camps and is horribly monotonous - for most players beyond 20, this game becomes extremely dependent on static groups, ideally using the Leve-Linking system.  The key word here is static groups.  I'll explain the Leve-Linking system in more detail later on in this post, but given the way it works, you cannot just randomly be invited to a party of strangers as you could in XI.  This makes socializing and having a strong, active LS extremely important - something that can be very difficult for a player that basically solo'd his way to 20.

The issue with the difficulty in leveling is obvious I think.  The amount of potential content one can experience in XIV will be severely limited if they have a hard time reaching even half way to the current level cap of 50.  Looking back at my early XI experience, finding a strong LS or group to form a potential leveling static at such a low level is not normal and extremely difficult for the average player with no connections - yet seems necessary to progress at a reasonable pace in the current XIV.  Unless the game's leveling system shifts to a more favorable system allowing for easier solo or random-invite party system, most players will likely continue to quit in frustration shortly after reaching 20.


   (2)  For the most part, stats and gear enhancements fail to improve your character in a noticeable manner

This issue probably requires you to have leveled a bit further before really seeing, but it can be very frustrating for a level 50.  MMOs are about gear, progression, and in general, just trying to max out your character in every way possible.  We fight big NMs for gear; we want gear because it improves our character (or looks cool).  The issue with XIV here is that stats offer almost no improvement to your character currently.  Using my own character as an example, checking Lodestone or XIV-pro, you will notice that I spend almost all my points on VIT and MND, and no points in INT (traditionally the main stat of a damage dealing mage).  Despite this, I still do just as much damage, if not more than those with high amounts of INT.  

You won't see too many posts about this on forums since most players are too preoccupied trying to level, but you will occasionally see people wondering why they have boosted stats and seen no noticeable improvement.  While I have not formally proved or tested exactly how little these stats matter, this issue becomes incredibly evident when fighting NMs at 50.  Basically the only thing that matters is your HP and MP, which are boosted by VIT and MND respectively.  I personally allocate my stats and select gear with only this in mind.  I'll talk about this to a much greater extent later in the post.

Overall, SE must change this at some point.  As I mentioned earlier, we basically want gear because it improves our character (and to a lesser extent, because it looks cool).  But if stats don't matter, then gear largely doesn't matter.  If gear doesn't matter, then the NMs dropping said gear will fail to matter as well.  


   (3)  Lack of Engrossing Content, Random Quests, and Missions

If one manages to actually level well beyond 20, they will begin to realize that there is really only one thing you do in XIV currently until level 50 - level.  There are no random quests unless you consider Leves and the occasional rank quest (3 per job).  But it's not just the relative lack of content in XIV - it's the lack of engrossing content.  Some of the Leves and quests in the game are just insultingly easyIt's hard to explain this in just words, so I've found a video to help show those who haven't had experience with the game.

(----Not my video----)

Basically all you do is start the Leve, then look for crates in the yellow shaded areas on the map.  When you get near one, you just hit examine from the menu.  Repeat ~10 times and you succeed.  There's absolutely no way to lose this outside of disconnecting.  Even if you do somehow lose, you can just repeat it next Leve reset.  Calling this content is a huge stretch, even for a hardcore FF fan white-knighting XIV.

Until you begin to near level 50, you are pretty much resigned to 3 rank quests, a number of insanely easy, lackluster missions, and your 8 Leves every 36 hours.  If you use your Leves for SP (which again I will go over later in the post), I wouldn't even consider Leves as quests, but as an SP party.  Without exaggeration, there is truly almost nothing to do in this game outside of leveling until you near 50.  Even at 50, you pretty much only gain access to 3 special Leves that require a large number of points to access and 5 open world NMs.

This is really the biggest issue with XIV currently.  As long as there is interesting content, players will jump through all the hoops and difficulty leveling.  But without content, there is truly no point in leveling other than for the sake of leveling.  Of course there will eventually be more content in game and the update schedule is fairly rigorous currently, but it is rather amazing that a game can be 5 months in and have so little to offer in terms of missions and quests.  As much as I would like to spin this in a positive light or attach a silver lining to it, I can't.  I see this issue as eventually being fixed just as the game grows, but it is currently easily the most crippling aspect of the game's failure.



Current State of the Game - the Positives

Despite the major negatives of the game, which admittedly have crippled it, there are still some redeeming qualities about XIV that I truly think SE can build on.  The unfortunate part about this is a lot of these will continue to go unnoticed until the major issues with the game have been resolved.

   (1)  XIV is aesthetically pleasing

Overall, the game is quite graphically stunning.  Some may complain that it's repetitive or whatnot, but I think that this more has to do with the fact that there's no content to distinguish the various areas of the map.  I don't have to say too much about this one - we've probably all seen video or screenshots of the game.  I will add that some of the mission cutscenes are amazing though (not linked to avoid spoilers).

   (2)  Dependence of the overall economy on crafting

In XI, crafting eventually died off as the vast majority of valuable items became immediate rare/ex drops or quest-line drops.  At least so far in XIV, just about every valuable item has required crafts, if not multiple crafts to produce.  The few open world NMs in the game all drop materials, not items, and thus require high level crafters.  I personally see this as a strong improvement from XI as this promotes the usefulness and necessity of high level crafters in linkshells.  It also promotes socialization.  The game also require repairs.  This can be quite annoying, especially those players using 1 handed weapons, since they break so often; however, it really does cement the need for crafters and the interdependence between fighting classes and crafter classes.

I will also mention that the idea of companies is intriguing, but I will simply leave it at that.  I always feel that the success of content will be determined on its implementation and details, and not only its concept.

   (3)  The XIV community is pre-built on the XI community

While most of the XIV forums I've seen have largely complaint / population decline posts, I still feel that the XIV community has a strong foundation, simply because of the XI population.  Overall, one would have to consider XI a successful MMO with a loyal fan base, especially in Japan, and I feel that even though a large percentage of players quit XIV early on or simply got scared off without trying, they will eventually give this game a chance (or second chance) if improvements and positive reviews eventually occur.  In addition, we have the benefit of some very good early databases.  I'm only going to mention a few that I feel are most useful for those attempting to start the game. 

ZAM Forums
The most active XIV related forum currently.  Mostly general, non-specific posts.  Not a strong source of specific server information, nor is it a particularly good source for how the game works.  You will occasionally find a gem in there though.  The only warning I have about these forums is that when you see complaint posts, make sure to view the level of the player posting - a large % of the players complaining are only 20-30s (hit the leveling wall mentioned earlier).  While their opinion still matters, keep in mind that it will be limited compared to those that have experienced more of the game.

Yellow Gremlin
Best site for both server economy / buying and selling, as well as database.  You can look up to see if anyone is selling particular items.  Given the lack of an AH, we are currently resigned to using YG for buying and selling easily.  The YG database is also very strong.  Much of it is data-mined though, so some of it may contain non-pertinent information.  Just be aware of it, but overall, very amazing site that I would recommend browsing around

The official XIV site (NA version linked).  I personally find this site annoying to navigate, but it does give the most accurate and consistently updated player information.  Good for spying on players, not only for levels, but also achievements (for instance, you can see if someone has killed X NM).  Also good for update information and official news.

Best site for spying on linkshells and players, and likely the best site for economy once the AH is inevitably implemented.  I consider it easier to navigate than the official Lodestone site, but sometimes characters aren't updated quickly so it can be a bit off sometimes.  Overall very strong site, similar to the XI AH site, that will likely blossom into the most visited XIV site once the AH is implemented.

Eorzeapedia Wiki
Limited information currently, but can be helpful for quest directions.  I would still defer to YG at this time for basic game information currently though.  It has podcasts for those interested. 

   (4)  The 'PS3 Release' coupled with its current free to play status keep XIV on life-support

As long as the game is free to play, I feel that it will keep a stable (but heavily reduced) population.  As far as free games, this is a fairly strong game in my opinion - it's only once you get into monthly fee status that this game really hurts.  At this point talking to people in game and on forum, the PS3 is what keeps hope alive for players.  XIV is unlikely to receive a large infusion of players, even with amazing updates without a new release.  Personally, I feel that if the PS3 release is botched, the game will die quickly in terms of both failure to draw new blood as well as old players who just lose faith in the game's possible success.  This is definitely the strongest positive XIV has right now - a legitimate second chance.



Leveling Past 20 - The Leve-Linking System

The Leve-Linking system is currently the best way to SP in the game and is likely how the vast majority of players that have reached 50 after the November update have leveled.  With a good static group, getting to 50 is actually quite fast - I was personally able to get 2 jobs from 40 to 50 (40 is roughly the half-way point of 1-50 total SP-wise) in about 2 months with a 2 week vacation in between.  I'll try to go over just how and why this system works, but keep in mind that the mechanics of SP gain is likely to change very soon.  SE knows the SP system is one of the huge issues in the game currently as it prevents people from experience content past 20.  I'll just try to briefly outline how and why this works with some bullet points.

   (1) Leve mobs have significantly reduced HP and will generally give you the best SP per difficulty

   (2) This system is based on a particular set of Leves that happen to consistently provide a lot of mobs.

There are a number of leves you can pick from.  Generally all you're looking for are the ones that provide you the most number of mobs to kill.  The vast majority of these will be "Necrologos" Leves where you are required to get random drops from groups, but there are a couple of exceptions.  The six below were the ones I ran with, but I'll mention a couple of others at the end as well.

          Necrologos: Ranine Reveries (LV40 Broken Water)
          Dunesfolk for Dinner (LV40 Broken Water)
          Necrologos: Levinshower (LV30 Nophica's Wells)
          Necrologos: The Moon's Mistress (LV30 Mun-Tuy Cellars)
          Necrologos: Inferno (LV30 Cassiopeia)
          Necrologos: Lightsome Verdure (LV30 Cedarwood)

Other mentions:

          Necrologos: Rockbound Mists (LV40 Treespeak)
          A Terrible Thirst (LV40 Broken Water)
          Necrologos: Adamantine Wills (LV30 Nanawa Mines)
          Necrologos: Thousandfold Agony (LV30 Humblehearth)


   (3) Failing to complete the Leve (or "abandon") allows the Leve to remain in your journal next reset

If you don't 'fail' these Leves at the end, they will have to be removed from your journal with no guarantee that they will appear next Leve reset.  The best way to 'fail' is to leave or go back to the crystal after only 1 mob remains.

   (4)  Groups will "Leve-Link" to enhance the SP per kill (but with no difficulty increase)

One player will initially start the Leve in question.  After this happens, players in the same party will have the option to "Link" their own Leve with the original starter when touching the crystal...

          - Up to 3 "links" (or 4 total including the starter) can occur.  After this, you can still link but with no SP bonus.
          - Linking will not increase the difficulty of the Leve or the rewards if you happen to win - only SP.
          - Each "link" adds a 20% increase in the SP given.  A maximum of +60% SP if there is a 3 link.
          - Guardian's Favor can be applied after this for an additional +50% SP.

When done correctly and with enough players, the result is a bunch of easy mobs yielding a very high SP.  It is not uncommon to see about 20k+ SP an hour using this method; you can go about 4x a week (limited by reset timers) for maybe average 300k SP a week.  To compare, it takes about 1,750k SP to rank from 1 to 50, so about 17% total progress a week.  There is really little challenge once this gets going.  The real difficulty is setting this up.  As mentioned previously, you will likely require a static leveling group to meet at designated times, with all players having access to each Leve you plan on doing.  This can be very difficult for level 20 players new to the game and without strong groups.



Imbalance of a 50/50 DoM

As one of the few players in the game with both Conjurer and Thaumaturge leveled to the current 50 cap, I feel that I have a fairly good understanding of the basic balances (or imbalances) within the game regarding DoM.  In short, this game is heavily imbalanced in favor of the magic classes, especially Thaumaturge.  This is even after Thaumaturge received some fairly significant nerfs back in November.  I'll start by trying to explain why this is the case and then showcase just how strong a well built 50/50 DoM is with NM solo.

   (1)  The low recast and MP efficiency of Sacrifice and Cure III is the fundamental strength of the 50/50 DoM

With the PUG trait "Prime Conditioning" available at 20, Cure and Sacrifice III cure roughly 700 HP each for 36 and 32 MP each respectively.  They also have extremely good recasts at 6 seconds each.  When only one of these cures are available, there is about a 3 second wait before using it again, but when both are available, you can essentially alternate casting them nonstop.  This makes you almost impossible to kill without being 1 shot or running out of MP.  As long as you have MP and the mob you're fighting does ~700 or less damage per attack, you can't die.

   (2)  Because all non-HP/MP stats generally don't matter, one can focus almost completely on HP/MP

Again, I cannot provide any definitive testing to show this at this time, so you will have to take my word for it for now.  But since stats generally don't provide a noticeable difference, you can really max out your VIT (and hence your HP) without suffering too big a penalty.  High MND increases your MP pool to prolong your ability to spam cures as well as mildly increase your amount cured per spell.  The goal here is to essentially max out your ability to take damage and prevent being 1-shot.

   (3)  Again, because stats don't matter, a 50 mage will take just about the same damage as a traditional tank

The absolute biggest factor to the amount of damage you will take in this game currently is the difference in level between you and the mob in question.  This factor matters so much that stats you would traditionally associate with reducing damage have little to no noticeable effect.  This includes stats such as defense.  Because of this, mages are only 'glass cannons' if they have low HP - if both a GLA and mage are level 50, they will likely take similar damage if built similarly stat-wise.

   (4)  Currently, DoTs are incredibly strong in terms of their damage dealing potential, even at low PIE.

Enfeebles in general in the game only last 20-60 seconds, but the DoT enfeebles in particular have a very potent damage per tick (3 seconds).  In limited testing, Poison II will do about 80-90 damage a tick, with no scaling from level difference.  This means that it will do 80-90 a tick on both a level 1 marmot or a level 60 NM.  On NMs where normal attacks do only 30-50 damage each, this is extremely potent.  Since THM and CON have all but one of the DoTs in the game, this sets them up as one of the best damage dealers in the game even if you disregard all their other skills.

   (5)  The majority of the game's 'broken' or overpowered abilities come from THM and CON

In an earlier post, I mentioned some of the overpowered moves in the game.  Since then, a couple have been nerfed (most notably shell, punishing barbs, and firm conviction), but many of them are still the same.  Siphon MP, Shock Spikes, Punishing Barbs (even with the nerf), and the general cures are all currently imbalanced. 



"Wanted: Mammoth and the Master" Solo

To showcase what I'm talking about in the previous section, I've FRAPS'd a solo of the lvl50 Faction Leve "Wanted: Mammoth and the Master" using THM main.  These faction leves are easier than the open-world NMs, but still considered "endgame content" given the current situation in XIV.  I eventually chose not to place this in its own separate post just because the strategy behind it is really quite minimal once you understand the fundamental reasons why the 50/50 DoM build is currently overpowered.

Briefly, you fight a toned down version of the open world Great Buffalo NM first (Tarbh Uisge), then a weaker CON humanoid mob once the buffalo is killed.  The basic strategy involved comes down to 3 basic concepts:

   (1)  Dealing enough damage to beat the 40 minute timer

There are a number of damage sources used in the fight....
Shock Spikes
returns roughly 100 damage a hit when not resisted - very consistent damage source. 
Punishing Barbs returns the amount of damage dealt on all attacks for 20 seconds, but caps at 599 damage (so for instance, if you are dealt 1000, it will still only return 599).  I can usually return about 3-4 attacks in the 20 second window when timed correctly for about 2000 damage every 3 minute timer. 
deals a very consistent ~500 damage per shot on 3 minute timer.  This damage increases as your HP decreases - I can usually do 600-700 damage a shot with it with just some minor HP loss.  Unfortunately, there is a compromise in safety in trying to fire Shadowsear without high HP.  Due to the somewhat high MP cost and recast timer, I will often combine this with Spiritbind (50% MP cost) and/or Chainspell.
Poison II, Dia II, Bio II are the main THM DoTs.  This is probably the biggest source of damage over the fight, though it is hard to see exactly how much they are doing.  The land rate is fairly high to start, but I have personally noticed a sort of building resistance to them as the fight wears on, even without weapon damage.  Poison II is definitely the strongest of the 3, has the shortest recast if I miss (10 seconds), and does the most damage.
Profundity and Phantom Dart are probably minor sources of damage here.  The main attack does so little, but it's a nice thing to spam when the stamina bar is high and there's nothing better to use.

   (2)  Managing MP with Siphon MP and Damnation

The biggest issue with this fight is probably MP management.  You'll notice, especially during Part II of the video that I start to have MP issues.  Siphon MP will not work on the NM, so I had to find local mobs to siphon from.  Once those ran out, I had to go outside the NM's range, which can be dangerous (it will retreat and begin to regen chunks of HP if no DoT is on).  Siphon MP coupled with the 10 minute Exaltation should be enough to keep MP up for the duration of the fight unless mistakes were made on my part (which they were in the video).

Damnation is a surprisingly strong tool for MP regen, especially in a pinch.  Damnation returns roughly 5% of the damage dealt to MP.  On a mob of your level, this is pretty insignificant, but if you can pick off low level mobs for 1500+ damage, you can easily get 70+ MP in one Damnation.  There is a point in the solo in part II where I rely on this to added MP.  Overall, the ability to do damage is limited by MP in this fight.  You can see early on how quickly the HP is going down, and then how sharply the damage dealing rate drops as MP becomes more an issue.

   (3)  Avoiding TP moves and using Featherfoot

You'll notice that throughout the fight, I'm trying to use Featherfoot as often as possible.  It's probably one of the strongest defensive moves in the game right now as it provides almost a guaranteed evade every 40ish seconds.  It works on TP moves as well as normal / ranged attacks and is easily accessible at rank 14 PUG (you would want 20 PUG for Prime Conditioning anyways).  This is more an MP saving tool more than anything in this fight.

Many of the TP moves used by the Buffalo are easily be dodged by running away during the long charge periods.  Seismic Rift and Onrush are the best examples of this.  Seismic Rift just requires you to run away in any direction (circular AoE from the NM), where as Onrush just requires you not be in front of the NM (line of sight AoE).  As the fight progresses, the NM will actually attempt more TP moves, you can actually take less damage from avoiding so many TP attacks.



Notes from the Fight

- Strength of Cures - Note how the Buffalo deals less damage per normal attack than a single Cure
- Lack of 1-Shot Abilities - Onrush does the most damage per single attack and caps at around 1000 damage
- Notice how much level difference affects the amount of damage dealt (between NM and local)
- Pace of Fight - damage is extremely quick to start but slows down considerably as MP becomes an issue
- Building Resists - there is a fairly noticeable decrease in the land rate of DoTs as the fight progresses




To review some of the topics covered in this post as concisely as possible, I'm going to split it up, again, depending on the audience - basically how much experience you have with XIV.

To those that have never played:
The game's not ready yet.  It's free and has hope simply because it has a second release.  If you do decide to play, you will likely level very quickly until 20, and then hit a wall unless you happen to have a good group to do static partying using the Leve-Linking system.  SE knows that SP gain is a big issue in game currently and I would look for updates regarding that.  Content is also currently an issue, and one that may take longer to fix.  There are things to do right now, but overall you better find leveling fun or it won't be worth your while.

To those that quit and may come back:
It depends on why you quit.  If you quit because you couldn't level, then you need to wait for drastic SP changes and check forums for review of any changes to the system.  If you quit because of lack of content at upper levels, then you may need to wait a bit longer.  If you quit because you couldn't find a good group to play with, then I would try various forums to see if you can find a more established group.  There are plenty of them if you know where to look despite the grim outlook you'll generally see on ZAM forums.

To those that do play:
In addition to the SP issue and lack of content, there are some very key imbalances among the DoW/DoM jobs right now.  The DoM jobs just horribly outclass the other jobs in nearly every aspect outside of pure max HP right now, and if you happen to have a character with both DoM jobs at 50, you become incredibly broken.  50/50 DoMs can really solo much of the endgame content with limited strategy at this point.  I only talked about solo aspects this post, but the imbalance is similar when talking about NM and group play.  Most stats/attributes are worthless or offer hardly noticeable gains, resulting in a max VIT build being almost universally the best build for all fighting jobs.  Balance is a big issue noticeable at 50, but the other issues of leveling walls and content will likely (and should) take priority on SE's "to do" list.

For me personally, I've had a great time since starting XIV.  The poor reviews at XIV's release are admittedly well deserved, but the game is still quite fun for me; it's very similar to my experience starting XI.  It's honestly not as bad as most forum complaints will lead you to believe, but it does need quite a bit of work.  If anyone wants to know more about how the game plays right now, feel free to post back or PM me at BG forums. 

Until next time!

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