I am rapidly entering the territory of being unable to talk about things that I want to talk about… without getting deep into spoiler territory. Before I get into that sort of thing… I thought I would leave you with this picture of me… in an 80s music video… or a Olan Mills photo backdrop whichever way you want to spin it. Yes I did in fact stop in the middle of a pull to take this screenshot… no I don’t feel at all guilty about it. Last night featured some amazing highs… and some crushing lows. At the start of the evening I rather effortlessly pulled together a group of friends to run the sixth and final leveling dungeon, and it was amazing. It felt so much like they learned their lessons from the two 8 player dungeons that happened at the end of A Realm Reborn and managed to cram that same sort of epic feel into a 4 player dungeon. It is weird how people never seem to have a problem waiting for cut scenes in a normal dungeon, but god forbid you watch them in any of the 8 player or 24 player content. Whatever the case it was awesome, and featured a lot of really cool mechanics and several extremely challenging but still reasonable encounters. I theorized this as them wanting to make sure a group of random players could complete it since this will of course be part of the expert roulette. Then after these warm fuzzies… they dropped the bottom out and pushed me right into the third trial after a lengthy cut scene doing the story set up for it.
Now we are entering the realm of spoilers, because I am not sure how else to talk about my frustrations. There is a common thread among my Free Company… and that is folks who have technically finished the expansion but not yet seen the credit roll. For those uninitiated, there is in fact a credits roll at the end of each expansion… and then again at the end of an expansion cycle of patches. The reason why we have not seen the credit roll is because so far very few have lucked out to actually defeat the final primal fight. This is a pug killer, and last night saw me making my first attempts. On the first attempt we walked in with me playing a tank, Tam playing a Red Mage, Grace playing a Scholar and Solaria playing a White Mage… and while we got close several times we just could not push it across the finish line. This is one of those fights where you judiciously hold a healer limit break in reserve…. because at some point you are straight up going to need to rez most of the party. What makes this fight so much worse than “mechanics the fight” aka Thoradin is that everything literally hits so much harder. I feel like this is simply an issue of scaling and expecting everyone in the party to have potentially farmed Dungeon 6, rather than to attempt it immediately upon completion. The amount of damage that the party was taking and the tankbusters when they hit me… just added up to a frightening amount of healing that needed to be done in perfect situations. When players were taking damage when they didn’t need to… it just became more than anyone could handle.
The fight as a whole combines some of my least favorite mechanics from other fights, namely the destructible floor concept that we encountered in Sohr Khai. The other part of the fight that I really do not like is that there seems to be a significant RNG element to it. The boss has an aether meter and when it reaches full it does an attack… but which attack it does seems to be randomed from a large pool of possible attacks. The problem with this is that some of these are far easier to deal with than others… and this also completely flies in the face of FFXIV encounter design as we have known it to date. FFXIV encounters are traditionally a dance that is done that the players have to learn the steps to… but once they do it feels like an elegant chorus rather than a win on some chance table. There are some elements in this encounter that do happen in sequence but then there are others that seem to be pulled out of a hat that you just have to deal with. It feels like in order to get through the fight with a PUG we need firstly solid players… but also a hell of a lot of luck. As a result there is a group of us that might be high center until we can field most of an 8 player group made up of entirely our free company folks. That might be awhile since everyone tends to be leveling at vastly different speeds… and we have an excessive number of tanks and healers as opposed to some dps. After last night though…. I think I am going to take the night off and play some Diablo 3 since the Necromancer pack releases today.