My First Savage Tier in Final Fantasy XIV – In The Books!

Well, finally, I get to say this: I could be Savage.

My FC static had a spot for their final pre-vacation run at P4S, so I took them up on it, and after having seen part 1 enrage multiple times in Party Finder groups, I was able to get a clean two-shot on part 1 and a clean-ish…seven-shot on part 2. With that, I am tier-complete, in Sage full best-in-slot gear, and I finally get to tame this dumb fucking bird that tormented me in party finder P3S groups and ride him around in a show of dominance.

While I am going to expand on all of these topics in future posts (completing the tier will unleash my opinions, oh no), here are my general thoughts.

FFXIV Needs A Difficulty Ramp

FFXIV has very little to carry you from the normal endgame content you can queue for and run easily and the higher end. Extreme trials are kinda close to this, but the ramp is still quite sharp to go from normal trials and level capped dungeons to EX trials, then a much smaller jump to Savage, and allegedly a small-ish jump from Savage to get into the easier Ultimates (still not that brave, although I did the unlock for Dragonsong Reprise!). Getting into Savage feels daunting because it is, in large part because the game does not give you a learning curve to ride up to that point. It’s all easy casual content and then everything jumps massively. WoW has very granular difficulties that seem odd at first glance, but it lets players ride a smooth ramp up in difficulty at their leisure, with multiple points they can jump on at if they’re feeling froggy. FFXIV has content that is very simple and then has content that expects you to know how to play, and there’s little in-between.

Savage Is Difficult to Compare to WoW Raiding, But Has Parallels

Before doing Savage, I bought in to the idea that WoW raiding was harder all the time and that Mythic was a pinnacle higher than probably anything in FFXIV save for maybe the more recent Ultimate fights. Having done Savage now, I think the thing is that both games have different ways of scaling difficulty. WoW has mechanics and your rotational gameplay, and it often expects the mechanics to take precedent to a point where you stop what you are doing to do the mechanic. FFXIV has both as well, but most mechanics in FFXIV expect you to keep DPSing while resolving them. The difference I find is that while FFXIV mechanics are a dance – largely predictable and on a timeline that ensures very straightforward delivery, it can be harder in some ways to play an FFXIV encounter because the game doesn’t give you pause to do the mechanic without also hitting a rotation and managing the fight – you gotta do both. Even when WoW does this, it often does not have as tight of DPS checks as FFXIV Savage fights do, so you can play safe more often in WoW while in FFXIV, you have to get comfortable with being asked to juggle a rotation and movement around a defined mechanical ask.

Thus, I do think that Savage gets closer to Mythic raiding in WoW than I would have previously given it credit for. I do think WoW’s hardest fights fly higher in difficulty and are often more interesting in some ways, but Ultimates in FFXIV are the replacement for those, where each fight is a marathon of 15-20 minutes of steady focus and execution.

Predictable, Deterministic Loot Is Fucking Great, Learn This Lesson Blizzard

WoW’s loot systems are layers of randomness, which thankfully have been tamped-down in Shadowlands, but you can still often be waiting weeks or months for that one lucky drop. In FFXIV Savage, everything with an exception is a coffer. Not role-locked, just armor slot locked. I can run a raid as a healer, roll Need on a chest coffer I have as healer, and then use it on any other job to get a tank chest, physical ranged chest, etc. If I don’t get loot, I get a book, and after enough weeks, those books are currency I can use to just buy a piece of loot outright by choice. There are a couple of points of randomness – the first fight in Savage drops 3 coffers of accessories, but by slot and there are 4 accessory slots, so it can be a combination of different pieces that exclude what you might want, but past that, the drops are pretty steady, until the end boss, who drops a chest coffer, weapon coffer, and then a random weapon out of the whole table of 19 combat jobs currently in the game. Since weapons are the biggest pure upgrade you can get at any time, this is fine and good – because you’ll always get a weapon coffer that can be used by anyone for any job and then you’ll have a specific weapon that encourages specific rolls – Needs from the applicable job and Greeds for any alt players. It works out very well and feels good – I knew since my FC had pledged me weapon and chest that I was going to have BIS for Sage as soon as we got the kill tonight, and that was a good feeling. I knew what Materia to meld and was ready for them as soon as they hit my inventory. The power boost feels good and now I have until August to sit atop the Sage throne and work on improving my parses and getting to higher heights of performance at the job.

FFXIV Raid Tiers Are Too Short

This one is an obvious complaint, but here I am – a part of the difficulty ramp complaint I made above is also that the average Savage tier has little room to progress difficulty up or down. In WoW, a raid tier is 9+ bosses usually, so there is a lot of room for skill expression to make its way into the game, with middle-tier bosses that serve to test your mettle for what is still to come. In FFXIV, the first two bosses of the four-boss tier are straightforward enough to learn and get comfy with, and then the third boss ramps sharply into a fucking wall – especially this tier, as Phoinix demanded a very large increase in raiding aptitude and execution, with the last boss keeping on that track and adding in a sharp DPS check on top of the execution checks needed. A big part of the difference is how each game sees high-end raiding – in FFXIV, it is a small part of a tapestry of activities one can do, while in WoW, it is designed to be a huge time sink (in a positive way, like hours of gameplay on offer). FFXIV expects you to finish a raid tier quick enough and then farm it for loot or move on to something else, while WoW offers each raid tier as a major focal-point activity that is there to offer hours of repeatable gameplay and rewards. That being said, I would love to see larger raid tiers in FFXIV and a smoother difficulty ramp within each tier.

FFXIV Raid Bosses Are Fun But Somewhat Formulaic

I really have enjoyed raiding in Asphodelos Savage and I’m excited for Abyssos come August. However, I think a critique that FFXIV catches a lot (rightfully) is that raids are on a pretty distinct formula. Each fight is a square or circular room with a wall you can self-mutilate on, each fight starts with a groupwide AoE or tankbuster before the sequence of mechanics truly begins, most fights use some form of light party or buddy-system stacking for a split damage mechanic or some form of baited AoE, and there is a roster of regular and recurring mechanical designs the team loves – chains, limit cut, Protean AoEs, chariot/dynamo, knockbacks (FFXIV fucking loves knockbacks), and towers. It has tankbusters that can be resolved either properly through a tank swap or through cheesy use of tank invulnerability abilities, and the game is built on a damage meta where everyone does DPS including healers and healing is not about actually healing but instead about properly managing oGCD healing spells while continuing an uninterrupted string of your two-button DPS arrangement.

I say all this and it sounds derogatory, and it kind of is, but this basic formula gets a lot done. I think raiding Savage is fun and enjoyable, but I can see why some veteran players have a sort of wear when someone like me comes in and doesn’t have the shared vernacular of years of prior raids with similar mechanics and designs. I do think that the formula needs a bit of a shake-up, because it is predictable – playing Sage most of the tier means I have a paced opener that includes some forms of group damage mitigation for the inevitable opening AoE!

FFXIV’s Raid Gearing Means That A Clear This Late Feels Sort of Bad

I’m elated to have finally gotten a P4S kill and the loot I’ve been wanting. That being said, FFXIV’s raiding design is built to make each new tier a fully contained experience unto itself, so having an item level 600 BiS right now is great, but in August when patch 6.2 is likely to launch, it will mean…nothing! Okay, it won’t be completely meaningless, but the normal loot in Abyssos will be 610 item level to start, with Savage there at 630 and a 635 weapon. I’m a mighty Sage today and will be for two more months, but come Abyssos, the scales reset and Normal raiding and crafted gear will push 10 item levels higher than the BiS that just took me months to earn.

Sure, this is a problem (for a given definition of “problem” haha) in WoW to a point, but WoW’s tiering structure often builds on what came before for high-level players. My Heroic raiding, Mythic 15 clearing raid group there starts a new tier at a slight advantage, especially starting in Normal, because on an item level basis, they’re higher than the loot dropping there. In FFXIV, that advantage is minimal and before Abyssos Savage, every single piece I currently have on is getting dumpstered in favor of crafted gear and Normal loot from the new tier. So, am I happy to have cleared and have my current BiS? Of course, it feels great and I had a lot of fun. At the same time, I know that there is no longer-term value to having my current BiS, unless I step into Ultimates (which….I kind of want to, but I have a gut fear of them!).

This cycle is a part of what makes FFXIV a casual-friendly game – there’s no advantage that lasts longer than a two-patch cycle in terms of gear, and a lot of the players not doing Savage will get a big powerup leapfrog from their current mix of 580, 590, and 600 gear from upgraded Tomestone loot to 610 normal stuff, but for those who did Savage this tier, the jump will be smaller but necessary all the same for the progression to come in the next tier.

In Closing

Savage raiding in FFXIV is not something I envisioned myself doing, nor taking to it as I have, mostly through Party Finder groups of strangers. Yet, it has been an enjoyable experience that has given me a lot to think about and a lot of fun, and I’m still not done with the tier in full yet. In spite of the gearing woes I mentioned above, I still need 1 piece each from P1S and P3S for alt job BiS lists, and then I want to start weekly reclearing P4S to build up the weapons and chestpieces for all my jobs until my gear is sitting at 600 across the board. Will I get there before 6.2? Maybe, depending on if patch 6.18 removes the weekly loot lockout, but maybe not. However, it is a long-term goal I want to try for, and if nothing else, I am much better prepared for the tier to come, with proper firsthand experience of how Savage works and what it asks of me as a player.

5 thoughts on “My First Savage Tier in Final Fantasy XIV – In The Books!

  1. A big part of the difference is how each game sees high-end raiding – in FFXIV, it is a small part of a tapestry of activities one can do, while in WoW, it is designed to be a huge time sink (in a positive way, like hours of gameplay on offer). FFXIV expects you to finish a raid tier quick enough and then farm it for loot or move on to something else, while WoW offers each raid tier as a major focal-point activity that is there to offer hours of repeatable gameplay and rewards.

    I find this interesting, because a big complaint from the high end progression guilds in TBC Classic was that the raiding tiers in each phase were waaaay too easy. Of course, if you’ve played on private servers –or spent tons of time on the PTR– and have had time to refine your mechanics before each phase, sure you’re ready to blow through content. It was only in the Sunwell that these guilds got kicked in the groin by the content (relatively speaking, it still took the top guild on our server two nights to clear SWP instead of one night for every other raid up until that point.) Sure, I’d consider that to essentially be on farm if you are slotted into raiding two nights per week, but almost all other hardcore guilds that aren’t the elite have hardly gotten past the third boss yet.

    This push from the elite guilds to “speed up content release” –and the Classic team did so, shaving 4-5 months off of the original time spent in TBC– has contributed to significant burnout among the non-elite in TBC Classic. It has also contributed to the rise of the Classic megaservers, where the smaller servers have bled guilds fleeing for the huge servers in the hope of finding people to plug holes in their raid teams.

    All of this is just to say that I’m pretty sure the elite raiding guilds in Classic (at least) would probably be extremely disappointed by Savage raiding in FFXIV. A four boss tier that they’d have beaten in a couple of weeks would be met by derision as a “That’s it? THAT’S IT?” and a hue and cry to “MOVE FASTER!! MORE MORE MORE!!” Which Blizz has knuckled under to on a consistent basis. But these raiders probably would have had their cries fall on deaf ears in Square Enix, which for the sake of the greater community is a good thing.

    Of course, those same raiders would have been crying for addons all this time, again falling on deaf ears, so I’d consider that another nail in the coffin for their participation in FFXIV.

    It’s kind of refreshing to see that raiding is considered by the parent company to be part of a whole, and not the primary (if not the sole) reason to play their MMO. It’s a recognition that for an MMO to survive and thrive it needs to be far more than just high end progression raiding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I meant to post a congrats and then forgot until Feedly notified me about your new blog posts.

    So congrats! I agree (in theory) with all the points you made. Personally I still haven’t made the jump into savage even though my FC is actively looking for people. The idea of committing two or three nights a week to raiding is really putting me off and I’m not interested in playing the PuG game.

    I would note that even though the XIV raids are (a) smaller (number of bosses) and the difficulty curve more jarring the devs do seem to do an amazing job with the quality of those fights, especially with no PTR.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, congrats! I bowed out after P2S and was more than happy to give up my spot in the static during P3S prog.

    But I’m not exactly sure if the comparison really makes sense on just one axis. I mean sure, in the end you can compare the fights in both games based on mechanics, forgiveness, and DPS. Obviously I’m speaking from personal experience, and I’m no Mythic Raider but I’d like to think on most bosses I’m one of the least mechanically challenged person, but my DPS is usually bad (I long back for my Rogue in TBC until MoP where my DPS wasn’t bad). Same was true in Asphodelos, my first experience in Savage. Was tanking and very quick to hardly make any mistakes in mechanics and positioning, with abysmal DPS – but at some point my static all caught up, now they had also learned the mechanics and the fight but their DPS was fine. And in the end that’s what made me stop, first the raiding and then XIV, for now. In WoW I feel like if I don’t completely mess up my rotation, I am putting out damage, but I need to react and not stand in the bad etc.pp. With a mobile class I can actually make a difference. Intervene here, taunt an add off the healer, jump into a soak across the hall if someone died or missed it, so many things I can simply SAVE by paying attention to the raid as a whole, and if we kill it I don’t care if I’m the last on the meter. In FFXIV I always had the impression that no matter what I do, it’s all down to “my DPS as a tank (or healer) needs to be better or I’ll wipe us”. Maybe WoW is more lenient towards flexible but not great players? Also missing experience here in XIV but I think there are less strategies, as the mechanics are more hardcoded, so you have at most the ‘first official’ strat from the guides and then the PF one – but in WoW everyone does it differently, and I love that. Best example was council in Nathria. We couldn’t do sustained AoE, so we switched the order and the bosses just fell over – 2 weeks later we learned that this was to be the LFR strat, and we had no problem healing through that on Heroic where others were like “no way, do the adds, it’s so hard to heal”… totally different way.

    Also I remember entertaining the idea of trying out Gunbreaker instead of Warrior but just seeing the rotation made me go “lol gtfo” and I never even tried.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man, no P3S? You missed the most fun part of progressing the tier! /s

      I think the axes point is valid, for sure, and it’s something I’ll probably be elaborating on more in the coming weeks as I capture more detailed thoughts on the things I started to bring up here. I think in WoW raiding, to a point you can be very good at mechanics and very bad at DPS and still meet with some success (late Normal into Heroic raids starts to challenge that a fair bit, especially now), but I think FFXIV mostly needs you to be just above-average in both to meet Savage checks. A big problem for me is that the game has no intermediary content to ease you into that – it is the thing I would note as a failure of the FFXIV endgame structure, and probably the biggest issue.

      One thing I’ve noticed as a healer (and seen with tanks I’ve run with) is that while their DPS matters to a point, a few solid DPS can pull the group past most checks. I only once found a fight that actually needed me on top DPS form to pass, and it was P4S P1 – everything else was down to the DPS players pulling their weight. I still needed to mostly be doing damage – but it also wasn’t the make or break reason for success or failure. My perspective is definitely skewed by having done the majority of my kills for the tier (61 out of 66 so far) in Party Finder, where everyone is trying to play well individually and you get more aggressive DPS players greeding for more, generally.

      I do agree with the rigidity of strats, though. Because everything happens more programmatically in FFXIV, I just think the raid game there doesn’t really open up a lot of shifting. I have seen a couple of different ways to handle each major tier mechanic, but they’re always just slight variations on positioning and such – who stands where on Intemperance and Fourfold, how do you handle the hard water debuff on dissociation dives in P2S, the whole tornado baiting clusterfuck in P3S, and then Pinax and Curtain Call in P4S – all mostly down to changing the order and/or location players move to. I don’t dislike that aspect of FFXIV savage content, but it’s also clear from almost two decades of WoW that the possibility space is very limited due to the way they design and the size of the raid team you get. In the case of P4S, my FC static had a *worse* Pinax strat that was used, I think, solely because a couple of the players in the group are inflexible on positioning. PF definitely hits a hivemind status on successful groups after a couple of weeks though – I never see groups pushing Elmo for P3S over Myta on Tornados phase and it seems like once the datacenter decides the “winning” strat you just never see the other possibilities in play (although I’ve read parse strats and they’re *very* different in some cases haha).

      Honestly, if you were to come back for the next tier to try again, Warrior would probably be okay – my experience is that it has so much of it’s damage in GCD-locked abilities that GCD clipping or lack of uptime is more damaging to its DPS performance than the other tanks. As someone who prefers Gunbreaker, I enjoy its DPS rotation a lot, but….I totally get your reaction to it, haha. I think for me, the thing that pushed me over the hump to enjoying the Savage raid game is realizing that a kill is a kill and I can dial in the optimizations over time, and my comfort with Savage is a lot closer to WoW heroic raiding for me now than it was back in February when I was a 0 parsing Samurai. I think finding a job you like and will stick to matters more than raw throughput – once I settled on Sage, I was able to explore the job a lot more in-depth and it’s made me better at the game. I’m still not amazing at it (my Savage parses on recent weeks are still in that lower half!) but I also recognize the growth as a process. Aside from those flowery notions, though, playing in PF helps that – because once or twice a week I meet someone who just blows me away with how bad they are and yet I get my kills anyways, so even on my bad days, I can find someone worse (most of the time!).

      Like

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