Final Fantasy XIV’s third major content patch, Defenders of Eorzea, is set to launch tomorrow, promising, among other things, an epic battle against iconic recurring Final Fantasy character Ramuh, the continuation of several narrative threads, plus a host of new game systems.
Square Enix has been gradually teasing the various new features over the last few weeks, culminating in the publication of the preliminary patch notes late last week. And while these patch notes don’t tell us absolutely everything about what to expect, they, along with the most recent Letter from the Producer direct from Naoki Yoshida, give us a pleasant preview of what the adventurers of Eorzea will be spending the next three months indulging in.
We took a preliminary look at what was coming in the new patch in the previous installment of Eorzea Diaries; let’s today take a look at some more specific details — plus some interesting tidbits of information that were quietly snuck into the patch notes having not really been mentioned prior to today.
One of the most potentially interesting new features is The Hunt. This has two main components: daily standard marks for individual players to track down, consisting of regular monsters from around Eorzea as well as FATE bosses; and elite marks, which you can accept once per week, and which promise to present a significant challenge not only to track down, but also to defeat, too.
Yoshida took great care to emphasise that the elite marks system is not the same as the Notorious Monsters system seen in Final Fantasy XIV’s previous incarnation and Final Fantasy XI — there, players would camp at the known spawn location for one of these powerful enemies, attempt to get in the first hit in an attempt to “claim” the monster for themselves and lock others out of rewards, and repeat the process. Not exactly conducive to cooperation — and so the elite marks system promises to be a little different.
Instead, the elite marks system is further subdivided into two components: a weekly task posted on the Hunt board for all players, and elite marks which are simply roaming the realm. Defeating an elite mark yields Allied Seals which can be spent on various benefits back at your own Grand Company, while defeating the specific elite mark on the Hunt board — Yoshida says this is more likely to be one of the lower-ranked enemies — will yield both gil and Allied Seals. There is, apparently, no limit to how many Allied Seals you can earn in a week, so those who feel brave and powerful enough can attempt to track down as many elite marks as they like, while those who simply stick to the daily and weekly marks on the Hunt board will earn seals at a slower but more dependable rate.
Also of note is the new chocobo training system. To date, Final Fantasy XIV has allowed you to do two things with your own personal chocobo: ride it and summon it to battle. In the latter case, the chocobo advances through ten “ranks” by earning experience points at an excruciatingly slow rate — though this has become slightly better since the introduction of Challenge Log and its weekly injections of significant experience bonuses — and allows you to purchase skills from the Defender, Attacker or Healer trees with each rank-up, effectively allowing you to turn it into a specialist tank, a healer or a DPS.
The problem came with the fact that if you decided to “cross-class” your chocobo by purchasing skills from more than one tree, you’d effectively gimp it by ensuring that it would never be able to unlock all the available skills. And, to date, there has been no means of resetting this, meaning a number of players have been stuck with gimped chocobos. With patch 2.3, there are two changes to this system: firstly, you’re able to purchase Reagan Peppers which can be used to reset your chocobo’s skill points, and secondly, by making use of the training system you’re able to break the ten-rank cap and eventually earn more skills.
The training system sees you stabling your chocobo at your Free Company’s house — unaffiliated players would do well to find themselves a Free Company sharpish! — and offering them feed in exchange for experience points. The conditions of the stable will determine experience point gain, and the food you feed your chocobo will eventually become their “favourite”, allowing you to provide your companion with specific benefits when you summon them to battle according to what you choose to give them.
There’s a tradeoff, though — you can only train your chocobo once per hour, and while it’s in the stable, you can’t use it, either as a mount or as a battle companion. You are, however, able to train other Free Company members’ chocobos, and there are even rewards for doing so — it’s also in everyone’s interests to ensure the stables are kept clean through the use of magicked brooms, so it will be an interesting means of getting Free Company members to work together for a common goal.
One of the most intriguing things in the preliminary patch notes comes from what is almost a throwaway mention. A new questline known as Winebaud’s Riddles promises “a heretofore unseen type of quest wherein adventurers must employ their wits to solve riddles and unravel a great Eorzean mystery. With no guidance from the journal or duty list, adventurers must listen carefully to the words of NPCs and decipher clues to determine their next course of action.”
Some players are a little skeptical about the prospect of completing a quest with no guidance — the riddle-tastic Sightseeing Log introduced in a recent minor patch has more than a few frustrating idiosyncrasies, after all — but there’s a lot of potential here, particularly as other games have proven that this sort of thing can be handled very effectively.
I’m referring here to Funcom’s conspiracy theory/Lovecraftian MMO The Secret World, which offered its players “investigation quests” that worked in a similar way to what Square Enix appears to be proposing here. Given a simple but vague objective to track down information on something, you would have to use your own wits to determine to what it is referring, not objective markers. In the case of The Secret World, a typical investigation quest might see you heading to the town hall to uncover records, following a paper trail to a site around the city, discovering a dead body in the boot of a car, looking up the information from the body’s identification on the Internet — the game had a built-in Web browser for exactly his purpose — and reaching some conclusions from that.
While it remains to be seen whether or not Square Enix will be going for as elaborate an “alternate reality game” feel as Funcom adopted with The Secret World, if handled effectively the Winebaud’s Riddles quests will provide an interesting twist on exploring and tracking down information in Eorzea. If handled badly, however, they’ll be easy enough to ignore, just like those who dislike the Sightseeing Log are under no obligation to complete it.
Patch 2.3, Defenders of Eorzea, is set to go live tomorrow. I’ll bring you some impressions from the new dungeons — including the next step of the 24-player Crystal Tower raid — in the next installment of Eorzea Diaries. Until then, happy adventuring!