Bozja Boredom – The Creep of Borrowed Power In Final Fantasy XIV

A recent post at MassivelyOP kind of clicked a thing I’ve been thinking a lot about with FFXIV lately.

I have talked about how a lot of my gaming lately has been low-commitment, passive entertainment – a lot of WoW alt leveling, mostly, and specifically noted that FFXIV felt too much like a thing to actively do – to focus on and commit to. What I hadn’t really thought a lot about is why that might be. In the post in which I called this out, I specifically attributed it to just a simple mental barrier, not unique to FFXIV but rather a sort of global thing that applied to more games.

However, what that MassivelyOP post brought to mind is something a bit more interesting to discuss – which the title has already disclosed.

Final Fantasy XIV is my favorite funtime MMO because it has largely consistent and easily understood power advancement over the course of an expansion. It has a consistent number of raiding tiers per expansion, both in 8-player/savage content and in 24-player Alliance Raid flavors, and the mode of progression is down to item level almost solely – outside of advanced Materia melding or managing BiS lists, the game behaves incredibly predictably. When a new patch comes out with an 8-player raid, the whole meta shifts up to a new item level bracket and BiS lists tweak slightly depending on the stat loadout of the new armor. When it is a non-main raid patch, the Alliance Raid brings up casual item level and opens up gear upgrades to most players, while mostly maintaining the BiS options except in rare cases where an Alliance Raid piece is particularly well itemized.

But then there is the Relic grind. Named something slightly different every expansion, Relic grinding becomes an interesting chase to participate in, but for both Stormblood and now Shadowbringers, the system brings an interesting new mode of play.

WoW currently suffers from a borrowed power system affliction, where every expansion takes on a drastically different system of play and reward based around granting your character some new power from an outside source, which lasts the length of the expansion and then fades to dust in time for a new system to take its place. It offers a sense of reward at the beginning of an expansion that is quickly outstripped by the need to grind and progress the various bars and systems tied to it. Final Fantasy XIV dodges this mostly…except in these two most recent expansions.

In Stormblood, we had the Forbidden Lands of Eureka. Split into zones offered with each new patch, Eureka started with an Elemental Level mechanic and a wheel that you could use in the field to play a basic rock-paper-scissors game with enemies, either setting a stronger defense against the enemy element or setting a strong offense, similar in some ways to Pokemon. Over time, this system expanded in later zones in the series, with special items, Logos Actions, and armor that could be used to augment your elemental power and grant additional benefits in the zone. Surprisingly, I didn’t connect the dots immediately, but hey, look at that! – Borrowed Power!

Eureka had the advantage of a slow drip of new borrowed power mechanics over time – Logos actions weren’t introduced until Pyros, the third Eureka zone of 4, and the special armor that conferred Eureka-specific bonuses wasn’t added until the final zone, Hydatos. Up front for two zones, you had simply special potions and the Elemental Level/wheel mechanics.

Shadowbringers has, however, revamped this drastically. The Bozjan Southern Front, the first of a presumed number of such zones to come, front-loads nearly all of the borrowed power mechanics in a single shot, not unlike the start of a new, modern WoW expansion. There is a leveling mechanic, which this time does not affect combat effectiveness unlike Elemental Level, but then there are consumables, Lost Actions, a ring that offers boosts for Bozja, and a currency system that exists for rewards on top of the Crystal system for getting Resistance Weapon upgrades. It is a dizzying array of new systems, and again, in a striking similarity to modern WoW expansions, it requires an almost hour-long beginning quest chain to explain how everything works to you.

And linking that to borrowed power as an idea makes it click into place – Bozja is a zone that uses the worst idea from modern WoW as its core conceit. A big part of why I’ve burned out over the course of patch 5.35 on FFXIV is that the primary reward mechanic is either grinding in Bozja and interacting with a handful of systems that don’t exist outside of it, or running old FATES in the world on loop, an act which eventually gets exceptionally dull. Sure, the other gameplay modes do still exist, but I think I reached a point in grinding for the Gil to buy my house where I’ve sort of needed a break from the daily grind I got into. I do eventually want to get the upgraded Resistance Weapons, and I’m sure I will as patch 5.4 approaches next month.

To be fair, the original point of the MassivelyOP post is to laud FFXIV for sequestering its borrowed power systems to simple modes of gameplay, rather than a game-wide set of changes, and I do agree with that. But I think it is fair to note that someone with borrowed power fatigue (say, from playing WoW over the last 4 years) would bristle at any such interaction, and in many ways, just being presented with the fact that the core of Bozja is borrowed power shattered my perception of it – akin to the How I Met Your Mother episode where everyone points out each other’s flaws in a way that reveals them to those who were tuning them out.

However, I think I’m sort of over borrowed power systems and so maybe Bozja just won’t be for me – which is fine.

7 thoughts on “Bozja Boredom – The Creep of Borrowed Power In Final Fantasy XIV

  1. The Relic grind has never interested me. I think I got the original ARR 2.whatever Black Mage Staff and the Summoner book initial i50 step done, and never did anything beyond that, not even when expansions dropped. I remember picking up the relic starter quest in Azys Lla a couple of times becuz I forgot that the starter was there as you zone in and just saw the Blue Unlock quest symbol. Always deleted it without even completing the 1st step.

    TBH, I burned out on FFXIV pretty hard back in about February or March. It’s my pattern, I suppose — I’m big on leveling, but not on gear grind, no matter the game. In Stormblood I got all my jobs to 70 and then didn’t feel like constantly running and re-running the same roulettes over and over to keep myself in tomestones that took about a month to kit out a full set, only to do it again when the next patch increased the ilvl cap, so I stopped playing for quite some time. When Shadowbringers was about to launch I started up again, blasted through the MSQ for the patches I’d missed in less than 2 days and due to their catch-up mechanic used Poetics to buy the “best from dungeons” stuff and blammo, I was all caught up in less than a week.

    Same happened for me this time. Got all jobs to 80 and quite frankly haven’t logged back in since. Maybe once or twice for a few minutes, but that was it. Last time was just to be sure I still could after re-installing the game due to having to wipe and refresh my computer and I got the “welcome back” offer when I did, so it’d been a while since logging in before that…

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  2. As you noted, the MassivelyOP post does highlight the sequestered aspect of these borrowed power systems — deep dungeons like PoTD and HoH (inspired perhaps by Diablo) – and the Eureka and now Bozja systems. Nevertheless, I had a similar initial reaction to Bozja, as in hmmm, maybe I’m just not that into this?? But felt the same at first about PoTD and ended up liking it, and when I do go back to it , all my armor and stuff is there – you never lose those things.
    So I’m reserving judgment until I at least give Bozja a shot which I haven’t had time for. I did do one weapon upgrade quickly via the Fates/Dungeons route, and it was yes, dull, but it also had no RNG attached to it, which I appreciated. Getting sucked into housing after years of sitting on gil and vowing I would “never” buy a house, and upgrading crafter relics and gear is about as much as I have time for (barely) at the moment.
    So where do we draw the line? I want them to feel free to experiment with systems and instances outside of the main gear progression system which I value so much for its predictable and unchanging aspects. But yes, I also fear these systems exerting subtle pressure and beginning their creep into the rest of the game. We all know where that goes, and I already know it isn’t for me.

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  3. Odd… I was considering going back to FF14 if Shadowlands didn’t work out for me. I only played it for a couple months before and it was fun but didn’t quite connect with me over WoW. However, the borrowed power systems of WoW are one of my biggest issues… Hmmm..

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    1. FFXIV only uses such systems in non-central modes of play, so the normal gameplay doesn’t include any of them. You can chase the current resistance weapons without doing the Bozjan Southern Front so I’d still give it a shot!

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    2. Yes please do give it a try! Bozja is a kind of side playground (think Timeless Isle maybe?) which you can do or not. You can progress your character all the way through Savage Raiding Ultimates and never touch Bozja if you don’t enjoy it. If you still want the Relic but don’t like Bozja, you can get it through Fates in the open world or dungeons.

      The difference between WoW and FFXIV in this particular case is that Bozja is not required to progress your character. Some will like it and some will not, but it is designed to be optional.

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  4. Heh. I really wanted to click on that How I Met Your Mother link but I just recently started watching it on Netflix and I’m only up to the middle of Season 2 so I thought better of it. Of course, it’s entirely possible I’ve already seen that episode and forgotten it already.

    On the substantive point, I think all these discussions on ancillary power systems in WoW, FFXIV or any other game slide around the central point. It’s not whether the systems are artificial or external (as I take “borrowed” to imply) that matters so much as whether they’re entertaining. Clearly, for many players they are not. How you make repetitive content that lasts the length of an expansion cycle that’s economical to produce and capable of olding the interest and attention of the playerbase for what would amount to many, many hundreds of hours is a problem no-one seems to have solved yet. Probably because it’s far more than any reasonable person could expect from a video game.

    This would seem to me to be an inherant and predictable outcome of reducing the time it takes to hit level cap from most of an expansion cycle to just the first few weeks (or days). What you end up with are quasi-levelling systems that occupy the player’s time in the same way levelling once did, only now with the goals less clearly defined and less obviously desirable. It’s as if the least attractive part of levelling up had been siphoned out of the levelling process and re-injected into the end game.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You made a good call, as the clip is season 3, so you’re almost there. I’ll hold off on other commentary about the show, because I could fill a comment with that haha.

      I do definitely agree with your core point on the systems in question. Ultimately, if they’re engaging for the life of the content in question, them being temporary is fine. I’d argue that for a lot of WoW players, the Artifact system of Legion struck a much better balance. Since then, however, it has been something of a downslide, although it remains to be seen how well Shadowlands does with its version in the long-term.

      The point on leveling is definitely something I’ve sort of felt without having words to it (might need a new post, then!) and I’d agree. By making core leveling trivial, borrowed power just elongates the power-up aspect of it and puts it at the “endgame.” FFXIV offsets this with the MSQ and the sort of floaty nature of the design – the team is perfectly fine with you leaving after you run out of stuff to do while Blizzard definitely wants you online at least once every few days. That in and of itself is probably worth more exploration too – I know you’ve talked about login rewards in other games in the past and I think a lot about how WoW tends to make it less directly stated but clear through gameplay feel and power progression that you should really be on more frequently.

      There’s definitely a balance to be struck there with incentive to play and the feeling of being behind, but that is probably a topic for another day.

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