Okay, this is gonna be hard, but let’s separate the story from the gameplay to discuss what the newest content drop for FFXIV brings to the table.
Buried Memory feels like an attempt to turn around some matters of perception around the gameplay core at the heart of FFXIV. Dungeons are too straightforward with a linear setup of two pulls of two packs a piece leading into a boss, repeat x3? Well…they still did that, but now two of the bosses have add/AoE phases, and that’s pretty different. EX Trials are basic endgame content that isn’t necessarily difficult so much as knowing the dance? Well, what if we added a modest degree of randomness to sequences in order to condition away from pure muscle memory gameplay? Normal raids are generally simple matters with straightforward mechanics? They still are – but there are layers of tells and less ability to rely on orange telegraphs.
For me so far, Buried Memory has been a pretty damn good patch cycle, 4 days deep. It has a varied mix of content, and while that content largely fits within expectations, it breaks from them in enough ways to feel more fresh and exciting. So let’s discuss by content piece!
I actually really like the new dungeon so far. I think it strikes a better balance in gameplay terms between your AoE toolkits and single target, and having multi-target boss fights means that a certain layering of mechanics can happen that is otherwise hard to pull off with a single boss. The gear upgrade is a bit more potent than I expected (the new dungeon set leapfrogs both last tier’s raid but also the Alliance raid, which is a new twist), but with a change made to crafting materials, having more Astronomy tomestones circulating for tome materials is probably a good thing. I think that there are only really a few small nitpicks I could make against the dungeon. For one, for the ways in which it breaks the FFXIV dungeon “formula,” it is still a straight-line linear run through two pulls and a boss, three times. Secondly, while I like having add phases and a whole AoE boss, AoE in the game is pretty much consistently imbalanced, which means that an unfortunate random pairing can mean the dungeon will take longer. This is especially a thing that can hurt with a less-skilled tank, because a lack of efficient rounding up on the targets can cause the AoE to slowdown. This also double-hurts in Duty Support/Trust runs, because the Trust NPC AI seems to love denying the existence of AoE abilities (great AI, by the way). Lastly, I do think that some of the bosses have cool-looking mechanics that don’t seem to really do much – the last boss applies a Brain Rot debuff during one phase of attacks, and it seems like if you get too many stacks, you are zombified momentarily, but that also doesn’t seem like a huge deal in it’s own right.
Overall, not a bad dungeon, and I do like seeing the team trying new things and things the game hasn’t done much of before.
The Normal Raid Series
Abyssos is fantastic so far on Normal. The gameplay mechanics have some measure of novelty to them (a running theme this patch) but it also takes older mechanics and combines them with new twists to get to a cool place. P5N is a fun introductory fight that asks for a bit of attention in mechanical ordering, P6N has some tricky tells you can learn to get an edge up (I fear where this fight will end up on Savage, though!), P7N is visually impressive and the variety of mechanics including different forms of area denial and movement makes it fun, and I like the visual nature of mechanics on P8N. However, I dislike that P7N quickly turns into a loop-run of mechanics at current gear levels, where you’ve seen the whole fight less than halfway in and are stuck repeating in a circle until the boss reaches 0 (hello EWEX3! Hate to see this issue twice in the same expansion!), and P8N, while it has some cool stuff going on, is also very much a clear case of cutting the cool stuff from the fight to save it for Savage, leaving the normal version feeling a smidge empty.
I’ve seen some people on discussion boards call this one of the best, if not the best, normal tiers the game has seen, and I could buy into that – overall it is pretty good and I’ve enjoyed it on two characters with repeat kills this week. There’s some interesting ideas about where Savage can go that we don’t have to wait long for, and storywise, I think this is one of the best raid series they’ve made (but we’ll discuss that in another post).
I have mixed feelings so far about the trial. The normal version starts as a chaotic rush of mechanics and a lot of dodging, and I think that’s cool – it’s been fun on both characters and in multiple roles. That being said, by making the normal have so many twitch movement reactions, it saves less for EX, and so far the EX version feels good but not fully unique. The specific tweaks made early into the fight for difficulty’s sake make it frustrating if you go in with a team that takes longer to learn mechanics, or quibbles over the follow-up to mechanics that are killing the party instead of the actual part doing the killing (great that we figured out how the Protean spread works, but the mix of stack/spread AoEs before that are killing us so why are we fucking wasting time discussing the Proteans ahhhhhhhhh). That being said, I have yet to complete it on EX, so I am sure my opinion will take full form once I have finished it!
Crafting and Gathering
The lack of ability to fully predict patch recipes is a bummer to me this time out for one reason – Immutable Solutions seemed destined to be needed in large numbers, based on Shadowbringers and the Sublime Solutions there. Myself and pretty much any guide-writer put in prep guides to stockpile them. I practiced what I preached and had 507 of the damn things on patch day. Guess how many I’ve needed so far? Zero? Zero.
Minor quibbles about that aside, I think the week 1 crafting market has been okay so far. On Gilgamesh at least, the gear and the materials from tomes are maintaining value, which is probably being propped-up and helped by the presence of a consumable tome mat. Instead of just refining agents used for an intermediate craft into armor or weapons, this time out there is Palaka Mistletoe, an item used in all of the Grade 7 tinctures, which means that there is a very real need to make decisions now between crafted gear and the Mistletoe to make the best tinctures for raid, which props up the value of all the tome mats. That being said, this week it’s an easy-ish choice because having a full crafted set is the priority, while in the coming weeks, the market will likely shift entirely to Palaka Mistletoe, flooding the market and exerting downward pricing pressure. The give-and-take may mean that the mistletoe goes through a few upwards spikes, probably near to 6.3 when augmented Rinascita gear becomes available and players are shuffling Astronomy tomes to get their remaining crafted pieces to 620, both for the mats needed for base Rinascita armor and weapons but also for the new Rain tokens to upgrade.
The gathering nodes are all about what was expected, although I will note that the base Perception required to gather feels quite high at 3,600. You can obtain it through a number of different gear permutations, so it isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I do have a few gathering-interested types in my circle who were not at the needed stat levels. The breakpoints on the new nodes for bonuses are also rather high – I don’t know if it is currently possible to hit all 3 reliably, and I would wager a guess that it isn’t quite possible yet. That being said, gathering pace is still fine and there are multiple viable full-node rotations to get a ton of materials per trip. If you’re playing the long game, material prices should already be starting to drop, and in 6.3 if you want to gather your own (well, you’ll probably need to anyways for the new crafter/gatherer sets in that patch), once you have a full set of the 6.3 gathering gear, you’ll likely hit all 3 breakpoints with ease.
The Island Sanctuary
The (totally expected) hit of this patch has been the Island Sanctuary. I’ve spent precious little time on my island, but I like what I see so far. It has something for everyone, truly – you can chill and just smack rocks and hunt critters, or you can go full spreadsheet sicko mode and note the spawn timers and conditions for everything and then check off a list of full collectibles. The closest comparison I can think of is a sort-of form limited Animal Crossing – you don’t get truly free reign to place things or customize and terraforming is off-the-table (hopefully could be done in the future, though!) so there is a set of working constraints in place, but otherwise, it is very chill and enjoyable, with its own questing system (and musical cues!), rewards structure, and small but smart interplay with other systems in the game, like Minion collection. This deserves a full writeup once I’ve been able to play it more, and so I’ll hold for that!
Gameplay-wise, Buried Memory offers quite a lot, with a halfway patch still to come that will offer yet more content, including some genuinely new additions to the game. The core PvE gameplay of FFXIV is sharper than ever, and both the dungeon and raid additions we can play now from the patch feel like steps forward in meeting some of the fair, good-faith critique the game’s systems receive. At the same time, it’s fun content for the invested players, and I don’t think it is enough to convince someone who isn’t a fan of the game after trying it to give it another shot. That being said, I think the new items in place could actually push new players into the game – the Island Sanctuary hovers as the biggest, most obvious addition that would incentivize people to check it out, but it would need some more development to reach a level where people would come running through the full 2.0-6.0 MSQ just to get there.
Overall, as an FFXIV fan and very-active player, it has been a great addition so far, and for me, the patch is just beginning, as Savage prep is getting me progressively more-pumped for the raiding to come this next week!