This Friday, we’ll see the first announcements of detailed features and content for Final Fantasy XIV patch 6.2, the second major content patch of Endwalker. This patch is expected, in the normal cadence of FFXIV content, to be the new tier of content – an item level rebalancing that leapfrogs current Savage gear, a new Normal and Savage raid tier of 4 bosses, a new Normal and Extreme trial, and the next steps in the content structure of the expansion, with new MSQ content and what is likely to be the first step in Endwalker’s Relic Weapon quests.
There is also more new content than usual, with the addition of the Island Sanctuary and Criterion Dungeons, the first of which is slated for this patch, as we were told in a prior live letter detailing the next 10 years of the game.
Because there are typically two full live letters for a major patch, however, we can also expect that there are going to be some details withheld and teasers given, to keep things shrouded in mystery and more interesting as a result. Because of that, this first live letter is more likely to be a template, laying out in minimal detail the content to come before major deep dives come in the next live letter to follow. There are also the maintenance items of any successful MMO – balance changes and the day-to-day gameplay adjustments needed to keep the game feeling good for players. So, here are my predictions!
Easy Layups – New MSQ Screenshots, Raid Screenshots, Some Raid Gear Teases
The first live letter tends to show very little active in-game footage, in order to preserve the intrigue. Thus, I expect that most of what we’ll be shown of the cornerstone patch content will be still images and printed gear screenshots instead of reams of in-game footage, much of which will likely be saved for the second live letter in the patch series. This allows context to be very carefully preserved and also allows them to setup fake outs and surprises that they can expand upon with preview footage in the second live letter and the trailer for the patch that is likely to come with that later PLL.
Actual Video: Island Sanctuary
If the Island Sanctuary arrives with the 6.2 patch itself and not in the later part of the patch cycle like 6.25, then I suspect some footage and breakdowns of gameplay options for the Island Sanctuary would be an easy choice to include. Players have a lot of hype about what this might be, and I think it is in the best interests of the team to build or crush that hype early so things can be smooth going into the patch.
Slides of Details on Criterion Dungeons
Criterion Dungeons were an unexpected bit of intrigue in the 10 year forward-look live letter, because they’re genuinely new and weren’t something we’d seen name-dropped or put forward earlier. From the hints we got in that live letter, it seems like the core feature is scaling difficulty based on number of players. How low or high that player count can go and how this mode is accessed will be points I’d like to see addressed, as will things like the incentive structure and manner of scaling. I’m perhaps an outlier, but as someone who really enjoyed Mythic Plus dungeons in World of Warcraft, I’d love to see a near-endlessly scaling difficulty option tackled from a distinctly FFXIV-centered view and style, even if the FFXIV flair is to make something like this not particularly power-rewarding. A common concern I have with my lesser-played jobs is that I just don’t get enough time to actually play with the full level 90 toolkit and abilities, and having something where I could go in on all my jobs and test my limits would be nice – especially if the scaling challenges me to grow as a player, which would go a long way towards addressing my concerns with the lack of difficulty ramp in FFXIV to help onboard players to the EX/Savage/Ultimate side of endgame.
I suspect we’ll get some answers to a lot of these questions – probably not all of them or as much as I would personally want, but I expect to write a recap with some sense of where this mode is going.
Relic Weapons? Relic Weapons
Endwalker has not yet rolled-out its Relic Weapon quest chain and content, traditionally near-expansion-long questlines that start around the x.2 patch and allow players access to a constantly-upgraded, near consistently best-in-slot weapon option aside from EX trials, crafting, or the raid grinds. This content is long-tail and grindy, usually among the grindiest stuff in the game, but typically rewards some of the coolest and most unique weapon visuals in the game alongside some interesting content – at least the past two expansions, when they’ve been tied to new zones exclusively for this questing.
We’ve seen only the faintest mention of weapons in the 10-year lookahead, entitled “Weapon Enhancements.” It feels fairly safe to say that they’ll come in the form of Relics, but what form will those take? The past two expansions have had bespoke zones and content for building these weapons – Stormblood only allowing it via Eureka zones, while Shadowbringers brought Bozja and Zadnor but also offered the ability to grind some outside the zone (while still requiring you to do enough Bozja to keep up with the story of the questline). I definitely expect the live letter to tie the ambiguous weapon enhancements to the Relic questline for Endwalker and to give it a proper name and some details. The rest of the details are hard to predict – while I would suspect a dedicated zone with grindable segments outside said zone feels likely, the manner by which we get there seems less predictable. A lot of Endwalker story content, both MSQ and side quest, has been hinting heavily at the idea of some form of Garlemald restoration, with us taking some measures alongside the Garleans (and the Leveilieur twins) to help find the broken pieces of the former Empire a new home or to re-establish theirs – but that quest is also hinting at involvement with the Loporrits and Sharlayans that might see us to a Loporrit tribal quest chain. I suspect the Relic chain could involve the isle of Corvos, which was name dropped far too often in the MSQ to not be brought back up during the 6.x cycle – but I also have a sneaking suspicion that Corvos will be our Island Sanctuary. Tataru’s Great Endeavor quests, added in 6.15, have some aspects that could maybe be perceived to lean in the Relic direction…but I also think that Tataru is likely to help spearhead some form of crafting quests to fill the role of the Ishgardian Firmament but for that level 80 to 90 stretch.
My longshot prediction is this – Omega: Beyond the Rift feels like the most interesting quest chain at present and one that feels like it could lead to a Relic Weapon worthy quest, if it were to be based on seeds already planted. Omega is, well, a Weapon, and his search for meaning leads to a lot of places in just the existing quests that could work for such a thing – the nature of the Omicrons as crafted lifeforms designed to eliminate weakness, the ways in which we know Omega at full power is capable of manifesting simulations that are used to test and evaluate, and the involvement of the Ironworks crew and Alpha are interesting possibilities that would tie in well. Plus, some chunk of the first set of Beyond the Rift quests involve us checking in with the Garleans, yet another running theme and a place where their expertise would serve exceptionally well. It would be an interesting turn of events if the Endwalker Relic was to be a Magitek Weapon quest, with us combining the methodological expertise of Omega, Cid and the Ironworks, and the Garleans to produce a weapon beyond compare. It also gives a powerful story hook to it, as the Omega quest is actually already quite interesting – with Omega attempting to understand why he was defeated at our hands and coming into some understanding of the concept of heart and grit, and using gained understanding with his own ideals to assist in producing weapons without equal. It’s also interesting that Rowena, who traditionally has involvement with these quests through Gerolt, is being cast in a more self-serving light via the recent Ameliance quests for custom deliveries, which feels like a convenient way to pull her out of the equation at least a bit.
That’s just a guess and some projection of my wishes, though!
The New Trial Series Will Be Lightly Touched On, But Probably Kept Under Wraps
Endwalker launch had this fun thing where we were shown series-running summons like Anima and The Magus Sisters mentioned close enough to “new trials!” that we all kind of expected them to be the trials at 83 and 89, but then as launch got closer and the Media Tour revealed the Magus Sisters as a dungeon boss, you went back and saw that they never said they were the trials and there was separation in the topics, before patch notes and live letters hit with big question marks on all 3 trials, with launch revealing that we had been hoodwinked and misdirected completely. I don’t think they’re going to do this with the Endwalker post-launch trial series, but I do think up-front, we’re going to get a lot of stonewalling, in that we’ll hear “new trial” but they’re going to stay tight-lipped on anything more about it.
From the story of 6.1’s MSQ and the heavy influence of Final Fantasy IV on the Endwalker story and themes, it feels fairly obvious that the Four Fiends are going to be our trial series, with some question marks about how Golbez fits in and if one or more of the 5 bosses this inspiration gives end up shunted into a dungeon role instead, with further questions about what order the Fiends appear in. I don’t think we end up deviating from the overall idea of a Final Fantasy IV fanservice story segment carrying us forward, but I do think that they’re going to like building the tension and surprise for as long as possible. Thus, I think we’re gonna get hit with a big question mark slide about the trial for 6.2 specifically, if only to keep the tension building towards the expected reveal while also keeping the other questions unanswered until the reveal for maximum impact. For me, this means a complete blackout on the trial as we saw with Zodiark and Hydaelyn – no trial zone name, no boss name, no weapon screenshots, and no mount preview.
My Longshot Guesses on Balance and Reworks
Reworking jobs mid-expansion is a thing that does tend to happen in FFXIV, usually on the even-numbered patches so that a Savage tier is not disrupted by large shifts in gameplay. Ninja got a pretty big rework back in Shadowbringers 5.2, with Monk getting the first step in their rework in 5.4. What job do I suspect will be the target for a rework? Easy enough – Astrologian.
Astrologian is not in a dire spot, which is part of why I think it is a bigger target for a rework. Astro is very good right now in terms of raw power and potential – while the group was propped up by a handful of support-centric DPS and tanks, an Astrologian did solo-heal a full clear of Dragonsong’s Reprise Ultimate. Astro is in a weird spot for most players for a few reasons, and these are why I think it will be targeted.
Firstly, it is clunky in a way that can feel bad to play – AST players have to hit a ton of buttons, with their standard gameplay loop involving a lot of oGCD weaving to draw and play cards, and that process also involving an ungodly amount of target switching between DPS on the boss and buffing party members. There is a flow state you can reach playing AST that is immensely satisfying, in my opinion, but getting there requires a lot of play skill and a lot of even skilled healers I know find the amount of actions per minute required offputting.
Secondly, the job is stuck in a weird state between the changes it endured in Shadowbringers and the ones in Endwalker. Shadowbringers made the card system basically dummy-proof, by removing the possibility of trap cards. You can play cards suboptimally, but there’s no longer the immense penalty you could feel in the damage meta of drawing The Bole back when it was a damage-reduction effect, for example. Shadowbringers patch cycle also brought huge changes to Astrologian MP – the job was running on fumes to start the expansion in Shadowbringers, so they added the change that using Draw to pull a card would give you 500 MP. In Endwalker, this effect persists, on top of the addition of Astrodyne, whose base effect when used is MP regen – and with Lucid Dreaming in the Role Actions on top of all of that, Astro becomes the only healer where a Spell Speed gearset is a DPS gain, because played even partially competently, an AST can never run dry on MP at level 90.
Thirdly, the job just has a lot of jank that comes from the number of buttons involved in playing it. Minor Arcana and Crown Play are two different buttons that could probably be collapsed in some way, Undraw feels pointless to even have on your bars, and I think that you could change Aspected spells to work like Sage’s Eukrasia – instead of having separate binds for Aspected Benefic/Helios, I’d like to see it work where you can hit a button called Diurnal Aspect (or hell, just keep the old pre-EW Diurnal Sect name and icon and just make it work differently) and that makes your next Benefic or Helios the Aspected version. While Eukrasia on Sage comes with the drawback of affecting your oGCD weaving cadence, I could see them making this hypothetical Diurnal Sect button an oGCD itself you could weave before casting the heal, so it would function near-identically to the current gameplay flow (albeit with a higher degree of ping sensitivity). If they found a way to collapse Draw/Play, Minor Arcana/Crown Play, Aspected versions of base heals, and did away with some of the bloat like Undraw, I think you could make Astro feel better to play, with fewer keybinds and pretty much the same flavor.
Lastly, while it is a testament to the relative balance of FFXIV that Astrologian both feels powerful and also is not out of line in a way that they become the de facto pure healer job, I do think some aspects of the job could use small tweaks to power. Astrologian has the lowest personal DPS in the game, and while they make that up through their card buffs and through Divination both adding raid DPS, I’d like to see them maybe have a bit more or a bit easier personal DPS. Right now, AST performance at the high-end is limited by RNG – getting good seals from cards to get the damage increase and haste from Astrodyne and getting Lord of Crowns from your Minor Arcana to deal damage with your Crown Play, and I think that could use some changes – maybe even reversing the effect flow of Astrodyne so that Astrologians have to care somewhat more about MP management while having DPS buffs more of the time for themselves, while offering a Redraw or some other way to try and fish for a Lord of Crowns when you want it. I could also see small tweaks coming to Macrocosmos – I think that bringing up Liturgy of the Bell for White Mages in 6.1 was the smart play, and now the level 90 healer abilities feel like they’re on a relatively-even footing, but I think Macrocosmos’ variability from party damage dealt creates a gap in power that can still be felt on certain mechanics. Macro cheese was a big part of the DSR solo-heal clear, and in 6.0, it was far and away the best way to deal with Life’s Agonies on P3S, to the point that a fair number of groups would switch their pure healer to Astrologian if they weren’t already one for that fight. The spell capping out at healing each party member for their maximum HP is fine enough, but it still leaves a power gap between it and the other level 90 healer spells that can be felt most in high-end content, where the effect is likely to be the most powerful.
As for other jobs, I don’t think we get full reworks for other jobs yet until 6.4, but I fully expect band-aid solutions to some jobs to keep them floating until a potential rework. Dragoon is one I could see getting a potency buff across the board – the Jump delay changes in 6.1 did a lot to make Dragoon feel more responsive and less floor-tanky, and their gameplay loop is satisfying to play at level 90, but they feel a smidge weak. I could see a rework coming for Dragoon to reprioritize the levels at which abilities are awarded, because playing a Dragoon level synced can feel almost torturous with how stripped down aspects of the job are, like AoE. They did a small change like that for Dark Knights last patch, with Stalwart Soul coming down into pre-level 50 territory from the 70-80 range, so it feels very much on the table. I could also see potency buffs for Machinist, but that job does need some rework. Machinist has a few problems – one often cited is the high latency sensitivity for Wildfire, and another related issue is how weak a lot of MCH abilities feel because they’re built around standard rotational use and then how they would fit into a Wildfire window and how much damage they’ll do there. They’ve been addressing the potency side in weak steps, with a series of 10 potency buffs given to multiple skills throughout Endwalker, but it is obvious that more is needed.
In Savage, they’re still fine, but for the “greedy” DPS in the physical ranged category, they don’t get enough DPS over Dancers or Bards in exchange for losing the utility those jobs have. The other problems with Machinist boil down to the contours of the rotation and burst windows, and how little the job has changed since Shadowbringers. In Dragonsong’s Reprise, MCH representation is abysmally small because of how the job just has nothing to offer in a fight with multiple downtime windows when it must both build resources to get its biggest damage potential and also cannot fill the downtime with anything productive. Compare this with Bard or especially Dancer, who bring some healing capabilities, group buffing, and then Dancer, who can use Improvisation during downtime to help healers tremendously while also offering the physical ranged damage reduction ability, an AoE heal of their own, and strong multi-target burst through dance steps that can be prepared in downtime and then hit immediately on a phase transition to deal large amount of damage on 3 or less targets. Machinist is perfectly capable of clearing the fight, but for learning and building to a clear with a capable group, Bard and especially Dancer just both offer so much more in that physical ranged spot and that reflects heavily in the clear counts and logs we can see.
Machinist also, and lastly, has the most dull changes to their rotation from Shadowbringers into Endwalker. Most of the changes are straight upgrades to existing skills, with one of the only new abilities being something the Automaton Queen does and thusly you don’t really hit it yourself. Chainsaw is great and cool, but it doesn’t add any new wrinkles to the rotation – it feels like Air Anchor and slots in the same, and even Air Anchor feels like and slots in the same as Drill, so now MCH mains have 3 buttons with unique animations that functionally feel very similar. MCH was my favorite physical ranged in Shadowbringers, but it is now my least played in Endwalker, and a large part of that is just the lack of new things to put shine on the job.
Outside of that, I’m not sure I could predict other shifts in balance. In the same vein as MCH, Reaper has some weaknesses that are very specific to the design of DSR as a fight that leads them to underrepresentation, but the job is so new as-is that I’m not sure how you would change that or even if you should. Tank balance is decent but a little potency buffing could help bring Paladins and Warriors up on damage, although admittedly both are really good in other ways because their invulns offer the most predictable and straightforward cheese for tank mechanics. As a Sage main, I’d like to see more ways to get Addersting for Toxikon use – I hate that it’s the best movement damage spell for healers but that in a raid setting, using a GCD single-target shield to get it still results in a net DPS loss. I’ve seen ideas that you could build a charge after preventing X amount of damage whether through any shielding or through mitigation like Kerachole and Holos, but that could end up being overpowered, as you can hit all the non-Eukrasian shields as oGCDs while still DPSing, and being able to build Addersting quickly off a Panhaima would likely be too powerful. I think they’ll likely leave such changes for a 7.0 minor rework on Sage though, because the job is still too new and it does quite well at most levels of play, with good Savage and Ultimate representation and probably the most satisfying flow of abilities for low-level dungeons (having a healer AoE that hits hard at level 26 is a godsend when doing level-synced roulette content).
My Long-Shot Bet – Changes to the Treasure Dungeon System
Yoshida has already mentioned in interviews that a thing that is coming is reworks to the treasure dungeon system, the lore basis for which is likely already in the game as 6.1 questing points out the Excitatron and mentions the ways in which the Loporrits are looking to change it. We’d be due for a new upgraded dungeon anyways for the new tier of content, so it seems like a slam dunk to me that we’ll get some changes to the Excitatron beyond just the standard new drops and slight change in scenery. I’m labeling this a long-shot because I could see them using the development time to focus in on more specific and already-announced features like Island Sanctuaries, or to expand more on the Criterion Dungeon system, with the big treasure dungeon revamp being something that would be excellent in a 6.4 patch, where it would help pad out any end-of-expansion draught or ennui with something new and fresh to do in a familiar guise.