When I first started playing Final Fantasy XIV in A Realm Reborn’s open beta, I was keen to experience everything the game had to offer as soon as new things became available.
There’s a benefit to this approach, of course: coming into new things “blind” when no-one else knows what to do either allows the community as a whole to work together and figure things out for themselves, developing established strategies that simply become “the way things are done” from thereon.
But this also puts an undue amount of pressure on people, particularly in more “casual-friendly” content such as dungeons, non-Extreme Trials and even 24-player raids to an extent. If you weren’t there on that first day, expect to be admonished if you haven’t read up on an encounter beforehand; expect to be told to “watch a video”; and don’t expect any help. (Sometimes people will pleasantly surprise you, particularly in levelling content, but at level 60, this is unfortunately true for the most part.)
All that said, there is sometimes a benefit to being behind the curve, particularly when we come to the twilight hours of an expansion and await the next full installment in the game’s overarching storyline.
A Realm Reborn had a rather notorious “content drought” between the conclusion of its storyline in the 2.5 patch cycle and the launch of expansion pack Heavensward some months later. During that time, no new dungeons, Trials or other group content was added to the game, meaning that those people who had rushed through in an attempt to clear all this content as quickly as possible were left with little to do other than mindlessly grind all of these things, which had long since lost any challenge factor, in order to keep themselves occupied.
Of course, the option is always there to simply stop playing for a while and come back when there’s something new to do, but if you’ve ever spoken to hardcore MMO players you’ll know that many of them don’t see this as an option. The game becomes part of their lifestyle; it’s as much about socialising and doing things with friends as it is about doing new stuff, and in that regard the endless grind can be made much more palatable.
The other, more casual-friendly option — and an option which makes “content droughts” much less of an issue — is to not try and get everything as soon as it becomes available. If you’re not taking on the Savage raids, there’s no real need to have top-end gear immediately. If you’re only comfortable with one particular role in a party, there’s no need to rush through levelling all the other classes as soon as you can. If your time is at a premium and you simply want to enjoy your time with the game as much as you can when you can, it’s beneficial not to overwhelm yourself with a “to do list” that gets too unwieldy and out of hand.
In other words, if you’re a more casual player who hasn’t raced to level 60 and maximum item level on every class, you will still have plenty to do during the inevitable downtime between the end of Heavensward’s patch cycle and the launch of Stormblood in June — though it’s worth noting that, assuming Square Enix sticks to their proposed schedule, there should be a much shorter “drought” than at the end of A Realm Reborn anyway.
You could learn a new class, perhaps in preparation for changing your “main” come Stormblood time — given the significant balance changes that inevitably come with a major expansion, it’s a good time to change your specialisms. And there are now a variety of different ways to level and learn your classes. You can get a “preview” of what high-level play is like by challenging the randomly generated Palace of the Dead dungeon, which features an accelerated levelling curve while you’re inside. The dungeons are still there, each gradually introducing you to new mechanics and considerations for your classes as you reach new level milestones. The Job quests for each class do a decent job of getting you to try out new things. And the Hall of the Novice, introduced a few patches ago, provides the opportunity to practice a variety of useful skills by yourself in a safe environment.
Or you could simply take the time to explore the world, and forget the endless grind for a while. One of the most interesting things about Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is that there’s a whole bunch of content in the game that isn’t tied to power level progression at all — it’s simply there to provide you with additional background information about the world, explorations of secondary characters or simply give you the opportunity to stand back and admire some of the spectacular scenery in the game.
The downtime between patches or expansions is a great time to catch up on this content if you haven’t already. It’s rewarding in a different sense to the more progression-centric activities in the game; rather than getting concrete, measurable amounts of progress in the form of experience points or endgame tomestones, you simply discover something interesting. And that, in turn, makes you appreciate the well-crafted world of the game as a whole much more than you perhaps would if all you do is run the same dungeons day after day after day.
Some people have no time for this kind of thing, and that’s fine; there’s absolutely no obligation for anyone to engage with this sort of content if they don’t want to. But for those who like to sit back and enjoy the ride more than constantly being on the bleeding edge of gear and skill levels, it means there’s always something new and interesting to do, especially if you’ve stepped away from the game for a little while.
So while being behind the curve may not get you into Extreme Trial farming parties or allow you to see the latest Savage raids while they’re “relevant”, this doesn’t really matter on the whole, because there are enough other things to do that will keep you occupied until Stormblood comes along — and probably beyond, too.
Eorzean Diary is a regular column based on enjoying the world of Final Fantasy XIV as a more casual player.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more like it, please consider showing your social support with likes, shares and comments, or financial support via my Patreon. Thank you!