Buried Memory comes out on August 23rd, with the new Savage raid tier to follow on the 30th.
Beyond that news, arguably the most important news of the live letter, we got a pretty big handful of promising content updates to come – that between 6.2 and the midway 6.25 patch to come around October, we’ll be seeing a mix of brand new modes of play and the remaining expansion features that will give players a lot of content to do and long-term grinds to work towards.
Let’s break it down through some of my biggest favorites and surprises.
Pandaemonium: Abyssos Looks Great: Between the trailer and the live letter video content, we got to see a bit of the raid gameplay to come – with 3 of the 4 new bosses to come being shown off. The Proto-Carbuncle is a great meme template but also a fun looking boss, with some form of reflect mechanic and a claustrophobic-looking room that seems bound to have some form of movement challenge or likely a very precise knockback mechanic. The tree boss, shown in the trailer and with some very creepy detailed art on the special site, caught my eye because the trailer shows a non-standard room configuration with a triangle of circular platforms and small bridges between them, and then there is an Ancient with a chestburster strapped to her, which is maybe Ericthonios’ mom? There’s also a tease that makes me think we might see Lahabrea himself as the last boss of the new tier, with what looks like him smashing his Ascian face mask glyph thingy. That would be a hell of a curveball, and it would open up some mystery about what the final tier to come in 6.4 would have!
GLOWING…RAID…GEAR: Look, one thing I love about WoW (yes, I am one of these people) is the glowy, intricate details of raid armor. I like FFXIV’s raid armor and weapons generally, and I am even a person who liked the Asphodelos stuff. However, FFXIV has a dearth of armor with particle and visual effects, with one of the only major sources being a hell of a grind inside Eureka.
Abyssos changes that, with all the jobs getting armor that has glowing features and even trailing glows in some cases (the Fending and Maiming sets seem most prominent with this). What we don’t know yet is whether or not the Normal version will have it. Traditionally, FFXIV has a single set of raid armor per tier, with both Normal and Savage giving the same models but with the Savage version being dyeable. There have been exceptions in the past (the last tier of Alexander) but by and large, the formula works. My expectation is that the glow will be on both sets, with Savage still maintaining dyeable elements. My longshot hope is that the Savage sets will let you dye it and that the dye will affect the glow color as well, but I find that unlikely (a pearl white glow would be badass!). I’d even wager that the armor will have less dyeable area than the Asphodelos sets, with only fabric-looking accent pieces being likely to take dye.
The aesthetic of the sets without the glow is cool, and I like the contrast between tiers – the flowy cloth looks of Asphodelos giving way to sharp, hardened metal in Abyssos.
The tomestone and crafted sets look…okay, I suppose. I’ll need to see them in game to have any real opinion, and I’m likely going to be glamouring over them for the Abyssos pieces anyways, so yeah!
Island Sanctuary Has A Ton of Things Going On: I’ll admit, the Island Sanctuary is a concept I haven’t exactly been fiending for. I’m interested in it, for sure, but I haven’t exactly been holding out hope for it to offer a bunch of stuff for me to do.
The early look in the live letter has a lot of distinctively cool stuff going on and feels like a sort of Animal Crossing MMO implementation. You can build a town hall, plant crops to farm, capture animals running around the island, and explore all over, with none of these things being tied to outside content. On the one hand, that means nothing here is useful in a raid, dungeon, PvP, or world content perspective, but on the other hand, it means that the reward structure for the Islands is fully locked to the islands and is something to do for its own merits. The size and scope of the island, the depth of collection activities even just shown via the live gameplay with YoshiP, and the placement of it as a fully-realized side activity gives it a ton of intrigue and interest.
MMOs often try to pack value for other content into their side content so you feel like you’re constantly working towards something you can use in hardcore group settings, so something that is explicitly designed and intended to not feed other content is refreshing. What’s more, I think it seems very well built to appeal to completionists – a full checklist of stuff you can do and rewards to earn means there is still that rush of reward tied to a relaxing, low stress gameplay feature.
Sure, it’s not a housing replacement as some people expected, but in many ways, it looks better than housing, and I think that is quite good.
Variant/Criterion Dungeons Look Really Cool: This is a 6.25 feature, but the overall philosophy behind them is sound. On Variant dungeons, you’re looking at casual content with multiple paths infused with story hooks – scalable to a set of group size options, routes on a voting system to encourage the team to come to a consensus decision, and with the story and lore discoveries to come being the major hook (for now, since we know nothing about design philosophy on rewards for them other than that the UI showed a tomestone reward). Criterion dungeons seem to be aimed at greater challenge – locking the group to a fixed route and limiting the available options for recovery, while the Savage mode seems targeted as a way to test your full raid best-in-slot, with YoshiP saying that the intention was Savage raiders would come to this mode after getting BiS for another challenge, one that he says is on-par with even the end-wing boss in a Savage raid tier. YoshiP is known to exaggerate the difficulty of the game’s content a bit in a salesman-like manner (Endsinger EX was supposed to be the most difficult EX we’d ever faced, and yet…nah it was not), so much remains to be seen in 6.25 in October or thereabouts, but I am tentatively quite hyped (and I’ll hopefully have BiS from raid at that point, so hey, let’s fucking go).
Graphics Improvements Come Early (A Couple, At Least): One of the biggest takeaways from the 10-year forward live letter a few months back was that the team was planning a major graphical overhaul to the game for 7.0, with new updated player character models, higher levels of environmental detail, and more light sources with accompanying adjustments to how light behaves in the game to better show off the graphics (anyone who has done the Praetorium and seen the cutscene lighting knows how bad FFXIV lighting can be). 6.2 will be bringing two of the adjustments originally planned for 7.0 forward – but before you get too excited, these are largely backend changes that should improve performance and won’t affect the visual detail (with an asterisk we’ll get to).
The first change is easy to talk about because it is nebulous as fuck – “optimized graphics processing.” Given that this is not platform-specific, it seems unlikely to be a full API change – a move from DirectX 11 to 12, for example, which could help with overhead burden. Instead, it seems to be improvements to the game’s own internal rendering pipeline, with the intent being to smooth framerates during heavy GPU load. What this could mean under the hood is any number of different things, so I won’t speculate too much, but I will say that I am optimistic for this. Even on a Ryzen 9 5900X with an RTX 3080, I get framerate dips in Limsa Lominsa (near the aetheryte area, mostly) that shave off 40% of my performance. Now, in my case, this is an ultimate first world problem – going from 100 FPS locked to 60 is not a horror, but smoothing out such dips should help the game run generally better for everyone.
The other big change is Dynamic Resolution scaling. In modern gaming, this is a mainstay feature, and consoles in particular will often use it to output the desired endpoint resolution but render far less detail, removing a lot of burden from the GPU as resolution scaling up is one of the more impactful things that can still hit a GPU, even in heavily-optimized modern games. The dynamic part is simple – the game uses GPU load as a gauge to determine what percentage of your output resolution should be rendered, rendering the full image at less than the output resolution and then using a simple scaling method to bring the output to your specified resolution. The harder your GPU is fighting, the lower the render resolution goes – usually with a floor set as either a fixed resolution baseline or with a percentage of output.
Realistically, most people don’t tend to notice dynamic resolution, because it often kicks into high gear in scenarios where so much is going on anyways that individual details being less sharp is hard to notice, although if you are sensitive to it, you’ll notice it as a sort-of smearing effect, almost like someone rapidly smeared and removed petroleum jelly from your monitor when things get intense.
Neither of these is terribly exciting, mind you – performance improvements are always good, of course, but they are probably the least interesting parts of the new graphics update that is targeted at 7.0, so if you heard a summary and got hyped for more detailed visuals, well, this is not that. Not yet, at least. It is smart however, because they can roll-out and test parts of the visual update in phases, and these changes are likely the most technically/code-intense parts of the updates to come. If I had to guess, at some patch during Endwalker we’ll get the lighting update as a major feature, and then the new models and texture work will hold for 7.0.
The Omicrons Need Your Wood and Rocks (Phrasing?): The Omicrons will arrive as a gathering tribe in 6.25. As gameplay, Tribal quests are meh – a few weeks of minimal daily grind for rewards including fun mounts, pets, and an easier source of Materia. As story, Tribal quests can be quite good – they bring together the world in a way that makes it feel far more interesting and tells a lot about how the world of Eorzea functions.
The Omicrons are a particularly unique case, given their presence in Ultima Thule, the edge of despair, and that they are there because they effectively gave up hope of fulfillment after successful imperial conquests left them with no remaining targets and no need to prepare for battle. The focus seems to be on the Last Stand cafe at the Nekropolis, which was helpfully setup through the Stigma Dreamscape quest back at Endwalker launch. The Alien Jellyfish mount looks awesome and the promise of other tribes you’ve completed coming through to check out the cafe is a nice touch, so completion should carry some interesting rewards. Given that the initial story hook for the tribal quests was the idea of unity among the races of Eorzea, it will be interesting to see if the story leans that way again but at a larger scale. Especially interesting, given that the dragons of Ultima Thule are in the throes of despair because of the Omicrons and because 6.15 had us ferrying Omega around while he learned about human spirit and thoughts.
Minute Job Adjustments (And The Critical/Direct Hit “Fix”): I have some irritation with how the job adjustments are being handled this time – mainly that there was no attempt during the live letter to specify what changes were coming. The simple explanation given is that minor tweaks are in the works and will be explained, as promised, in the patch notes. In some cases, I’d like to know why only minor adjustments are on the table, and it feels like that would have been excellent context for a live letter!
Then there is the fix to Crit and DH scaling. The short background setup is this – some jobs simply do not benefit from having Crit or DH buffs or having the rating on their gear, because the job has a core ability that gives them guaranteed crits and/or direct hits. Warrior is notorious for ruining omni-tank gear sets, because melding any DH to tank gear automatically is a waste for Warriors, and with the changes to Samurai in 6.1, Crit lost some luster, particularly big crit buffs like a Dancer’s Devilment onto the SAM.
Their method for fixing this feels…ham-fisted, I would say. Rather than finding some new scaling mechanism for the rating (DH famously does not increase the damage of DHs in the way that Crit rating increases crit damage, so DH falls off hard in priorities by the end of expansions in favor of Crit, and that was before Determination was buffed!), they’re going to manually adjust abilities that have guaranteed crits or DHs to do more damage based on the rating the player has at use. This will allow buffs to those stats to have an effect and will allow gear with it to have an effect. I say this is ham-fisted because it doesn’t feel particularly elegant – it just adds more bulky tooltip text to abilities that already have a fair bit of extra text to them, and then it will likely make determining BiS harder than it needs to be based on how the scaling works. In my mind, it also introduces the possibility of scaling over-impacting these jobs – by unlinking the bonus from the standard effect of the stat, the opening exists for these abilities to scale out of proportion, either too much or too little, hurting the balance of the game. That being said, the FFXIV team has a pretty good sense of the mathematical basics of balancing combat abilities in isolation, and a week delay prior to Savage launch for Abyssos means we could see some panic adjustments hit to make sure things are in-line.
Mostly though, I just wish we had some idea of what jobs would see adjustments now!
The MSQ: The story of the patch is interesting-looking from the limited preview we do have. It seems to be broad-scope, with involvement of Meteion’s crystal (how we get that is TBD), us finally traversing the rift to the 13th again, this time with company, Varshan seems to be taller and non-childlike, and there is a lady Reaper waiting for us that seems somewhat likely to be the WoL of the 13th, before the void swept the world up in eternal darkness.
On the FFIV lore watch, something is interesting with the trial – it is MSQ this time (unlike past x.2 patches) and the dungeon seems set to have Scarmiglione, one of the Four Archfiends, as a boss, which would seem to mean the trial wouldn’t be him. There are two indicators here that rattle in my head, one for and one against him as the trial boss. In support of the idea, Scarmiglione’s FFIV appearance is a two-phase one, where he challenges the party, is bested, and then takes a second form and immediately challenges the party again – fits pretty well with a Dungeon into Trial MSQ story progression, and would let them show his base form in the trailer as a dungeon boss without ruining the final form surprise. On the other hand, I think back to Endwalker launch, where we were very well teased on Anima and the Magus Sisters as potential trials with careful wording only for our expectations to be completely shattered by the time of the Media Tour and then especially at launch. If the trial was just Scarmiglione round 2 (I probably just made an FFIV nerd very mad with that use of “just”), I feel like they’d be fine with sharing it. Hiding the trial but showing Scarmiglione seems very dubious, as we got only a basic glance at an imprisoned Zodiark in the Endwalker launch trailer and zero look at full-form Hydaelyn, as well as the fact that Anima was still setup well as a misdirection going into Endwalker’s actual launch.
So in short, there is a lot of good teases and the LL has done its job there.
Patch 6.2 for Endwalker is the most excited I’ve been for an MMO patch in a good while. I’ve done a ton of patch prep and am ready to hit the ground running (on two characters, no less) to get things done and have a good time. I’m eager to see how the story works, knowing now from recent Yoshida interviews that the story arc of the Endwalker patches is a self-contained narrative that isn’t intending to build up to 7.0, and of course for my gameplay-focused self, I am beyond-eager to step into Abyssos and the new EX trial and get my gear up.