So I did it, yesterday before going to bed.
With Blacksmithing at 80, I now have a full slate of jobs at 80 on my FFXIV character!
With that, there is a lot of value into revisiting the topic of crafting and gathering gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV and how the game makes them into systems all their own.
Last time, I was in the process of leveling Botany, a gathering skill, and since then they’ve introduced a slate of profession changes, complete skill reworks to a common set of crafting and gathering skills, and through Ishgard Restoration, made getting into crafting and gathering simpler than before (although you will still want to do your quests for each job, which we’ll detail later).
So with everything at 80 and some endgame scrip-earning gameplay down, how does it feel?
Well, to start with, let’s again state the simple basis for why this is a topic I am visiting as many times in FFXIV writing as I have – it is quite different in many ways from how World of Warcraft handles crafting and gathering. In WoW, these are skills you have as a character and not jobs, you are limited in how many you can take on, and they do about what they say on the box – give you the means to gather materials for crafting and to craft items, most of which are either gear or consumables.
In FFXIV, these are woven into the Job system as Disciples of the Land and Disciples of the Hand, meaning a player can take on all of them just as they can have every combat job on a single character. They have their own gear sets, with artifact gear for each that gives you the appearance of the role in question, and there are abilities, rotations, and resources (CP and GP) that limit your ability and force you to make decisions about what abilities are best for use in that moment.
However, it would be misleading to suggest that the decisions are best made by you individually or that this inherently makes the game’s systems far better.
Because of this design paradigm, crafting and gathering, while they have decent leveling content, are largely designed around the endgame. Your primary goal is to hit level cap so you can begin earning scrips to purchase endgame recipes for crafting or Regional Folklore books for gathering. Master Recipes are effectively a tier system for crafting, allowing the game to give you a base-level endgame recipe set and then to purchase new Master Recipes, each book containing a handful of new things to craft with higher power levels than before. For gatherers, Regional Folklore is a long-term goal, requiring you to save up thousands of yellow scrips (the base endgame currency for gatherers/crafters) to buy enough items to trade for a book which then unlocks Legendary nodes for each gathering trade, the items from which are often needed for master recipe crafting. With your recipes and regional folklore unlocked, you can then focus on crafting for fun and profit, which often requires the gear you can buy with white scrips (the current high-end currency).
Into this space is where Collectibles come in. When crafting or gathering, you have a choice to gather items as collectible or to craft an item as collectible. When gathering, you have to use appraisal abilities to find precisely how to collect the item, and when crafting, instead of a quality bar to make a high-quality version, your quality-increasing abilities grant a collectibility increase to the end product. On a daily basis, vendors want different collectible items for each profession, offering you turn-ins for yellow scrips and a few options for white scrips. Unlike with tomestones for combat jobs, the only acquisition cap on scrips is that you are limited to holding 2,000 of each at a time. To compensate for this, you can use scrips to buy some materials to assist you in crafting so that you don’t have to just sit on them, although if a new patch with more content is coming out, it can be worth sitting on them!
You can also do Custom Deliveries, which take place with specific NPCs and have story tied to them. These are limited to 6 per NPC per week and a total maximum of 12 altogether, but they are among the best source of scrip rewards with each turn-in offering both yellow and white scrips in decent quantities. The crafting requests from these use items that you can make with vendor-purchased ingredients, and the gathering options are fairly straightforward. They can sometimes give additional benefits too, like an airship route between Eulmore and the Crystarium (the dual capitols of the current expansion) being unlocked through a custom delivery quest chain.
This pretty much covers crafting, but gathering has one extra wrinkle to discuss – special nodes. In addition to the Legendary nodes discussed above, there are unspoiled and ephemeral nodes. Unspoiled nodes offer special rare items used in higher-level crafting or for some of the collectible turn-ins, and are on timers in game time, meaning they tend to be available once every hour or two of real time. Ephemeral nodes are similar, but allow you to gather repeatedly during their availability window and usually offer rare items that can be broken down into aethersand, an item that can only be obtained in this way and require gathering the item as collectible and then breaking it down.
Speaking of breaking down, the game adds layers to crafting and gathering through various mechanics for augmentation, extraction, and breakdown of items. As a crafter, you can meld your own materia instead of needing a vendor to do it, and on items where you are allowed to use advanced melding, you can perform an overmeld, melding more materia to the item than there are slots for it. You can repair your own gear as well, which also serves as a fantastic cost reducer alongside melding your own materia. Crafters can level desynthesis, which allows them to break down almost anything in the game into base materials, which can yield back crystals for crafting or even component ingredients to put back into reuse. Lastly, you can perform aetheric reduction, which is primarily used on the Ephemeral node items to break them down from collectibles into aethersands and crystals.
All of this creates a layered system, one which I admit I still have some gaps of understanding in, but that is what I like about it. The reward for learning the ins and outs of the system is a lot of gil-saving via use of self-sufficient repairs, melds, and reuse of components.
However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and there are a few warts that show through as you climb into the endgame.
Macros: What I like in theory about FFXIV crafting is that you have a lot of agency to use abilities as you see fit. In practice, however, the community theorycrafts crafting to a far higher extent publicly in plain view, so while with combat you need to dig around in the Balance discord to find a lot more info, crafting tends to be a lot more simple to breakdown and there is a wealth of easy-to-find macros and a list of tradeskill content creators almost larger than those covering the core combat gameplay. And that leads to the actual macros – basically, for almost every level of recipe and gear, you can find a set of macros designed to auto-complete an item and to maximize the quality/collectibility of the item based on your current gear or provided you meet a minimum level of stats. In practice, playing with your own wits and choices can often be slightly better – there are certain abilities that improve or become available based on a RNG item “condition” stat – but it is highly inefficient to do so compared to finding a good macro that can max out anyways without using these abilities and then to simply hit Synthesize and hit the macro while you watch a video or TV show on another monitor. This is sort of a hollow complaint – I like making crafts successfully! – but at the same time, those who noted the passive nature of the endgame in my original post were indeed correct in doing so.
Timers Are Hollow Gameplay: For gathering, timers and limited availability nodes add some amount of complexity to the game, meaning you don’t just run around farming without thinking. However, I find the system somewhat annoying. I understand that it also limits supply of rare and high-demand materials, which provides value to players who push to do them timely. In the end, though, I find it somewhat unnecessary and annoying in a way. It doesn’t make gameplay much more engaging – it simply means you might sit tabbed-out camping until the broadcast text indicates a timed node is up.
Regional Folklore Is Simple but Very Poorly Explained: I had to Google, watch a handful of YouTube videos, and read a guide to finally come to an understanding of how Regional Folklore worked. It isn’t even hard – trade 40 tokens for a book that unlocks the legendary nodes for a given gathering skill. However, the tokens (which you use for a level 80 tradeskill boost) are on the yellow scrips vendor under Level 70 Items, and there are two different types of regional folklore tokens you can buy, one set for Heavensward and the other for Stormblood and above. It is a challenge to any new player to even comprehend how this system works – firstly, to even get there, you have to know the system exists, which the game does not do a good job of communicating. Once you have that, you then have to gather enough scrips to buy the correct variety of token from a vendor from an option that doesn’t logically track to what you might think, and then once you have enough, talk to a second vendor to buy them. Yikes!
Ishgard Restoration: So, here’s the thing – I actually think Ishgard restoration is great and I think people crying that it shortchanges players who put in “the effort” is gatekeeping bullshit at best, as leveling crafting outside of Ishgard isn’t really much harder or more “genuine” effort. However, what I do think Ishgard does poorly is the process of unlocking skills. To unlock the full assortment of skills, you need to do the job quests, and they unlock both active skills (like the very powerful Manipulation) and passive bonuses (like better chance of Good condition when crafting, which opens up certain powerful abilities). This is fine, actually – I think needing to leave the Firmament to engage with trainers and get the little stories that come with leveling is good. However, Ishgard doesn’t encourage this, and it isn’t until you start looking at macros or trying to really refine your crafting that you realize that you’re 30 levels behind on quests and need to get cracking on those in order to unlock all of your needed skills for a level 70 macro!
Overall, I’m glad to have leveled crafting all the way through on all jobs and to have played around at endgame, and I am looking forward to seeing how things work once 5.3 is out and I get to play an actual cycle of new content!