Like I mentioned in a small section of an earlier post, there’s something “off” with the way Final Fantasy XIV handles its end game content in Heavensward, particularly regarding the current raid: Alexander. I said then that I couldn’t quite put my finger into what it was that made me feel odd about it. A couple of days ago I read a fantastic blog post called A Gordian Problem by @technololigy, in which she exposed some of my concerns in a way far more cooler than I could ever could. Alas, it’s always fun to write dumb ideas in my blog so why not spend a few minutes reading my incoherent ramblings?
A fair warning, first: this post is the result of a feeling that is entirely mine. I feel this unease, and it is me that chooses to talk about it even knowing it’s basically shouting to the void. This is no way means XIV is broken, faulty, or even boring – like any opinion, it’s a personal thing. Also, since we’re warning people, I’ll take the opportunity to say this will probably lack coherence and just be ramblings. With that out of the way, let’s ramble.
Getting a raid based on the classic Final Fantasy (FF) summon Alexander is a great idea for the franchise’s “theme park MMO”. A mechanical castle sounds like a nice place to transform into a full-fledged raid. Alas, as a person who’s very into the lore of my MMO of choice, Alexander is a bit disappointing… so far. But is it just because we’re seeing an interesting and spiritual reprise of a certain memorable FFIX cutscene, but with a different ending?
A Realm Reborn (ARR, a.k.a. 2.0), XIV’s reboot, began 5 years after Bahamut almost destroyed Eorzea after being re-awakened by the events happening in the original XIV (a.k.a. 1.0). The game’s main raid content was the Binding Coils of Bahamut. Containing the hardest content XIV had during 2.0, it was also the gate behind the real story that stopped the Elder Primal from obliterating the world – if you were interested in the truth you needed to do the Coils, and that was no easy task.
The catch here is that the appearance of Bahamut and his release from the Dalamud satellite were the events that signaled the “death” of 1.0. Players from then were left with a cliffhanger. There were also players that got curious about XIV after watching the End of an Era cinematic. When 2.0 launched later, Bahamut was a mystery that had been cooked slowly during the development of the reboot.
Alexander, on the other hand, is fresh. It has had very little lore “set up”, and the story present at the moment cannot really compare to the impact of 1.0’s demise and rebirth. While there are hints of something big cooking up, the current state of the story (the Au Ra girl, the Codex, the goblins that currently inhabit Alexander) are still too green to hold a candle to the Coils.
Bahamut and Alexander face once more, but this time the mechanical summon cannot defeat the King of Dragons.
What if 2+3 isn’t the same as 3+2?
I’m not a big fan of the way XIV released Alexander’s normal and hard modes. Specifically, the order they did so. Releasing the normal (easy) mode first and the hard mode (known as Savage) later… I just can’t pinpoint what it is but it doesn’t seem optimal.
There are some people that refer to the normal mode as “Alex Story Mode“, based on a popular claim during the Coil days: players that didn’t/couldn’t do Coils wanted a way they could experience the story without dedicating the amount of effort/time that a proper end game raid normally requires. Alex normal, while not a true “faceroll” (something absurdly easy) is not particularly difficult. In that sense, it’s a success: anyone who wishes to experience the story of Alexander can easily do so (provided they take the time to attempt the current floors of the raid).
Savage mode was released a few weeks later, and consisted of the very same fights with the boss’ hit points and damage turned way up and sporting a couple of extra abilities. This was also a success: the floors are quite challenging (it took weeks for the top guilds of the world to defeat all four floors).
Now, this is wonderful. Really! Normal players can enjoy the battles without feeling like they’re pulling their hairs every floor and also get some nice loot for it (i190). Hardcore players can go all out with the high-stakes challenge, and get better loot (i210) and bragging rights. The middle ground in loot is the gear obtained with the current top-currency (i200).
But don’t you feel having cleared the normal mode first and watching the lore takes a bit away from the motivation to do the hard mode? This is highly subjective, but the Coil drive was the challenge and lore – Alex lacks the lore drive because you already saw it. Could the motivation have lasted a bit longer if the normal mode had been released after the release of the hard mode?
With patch 3.1 coming soon-ish (November 10-ish) there’s still some time to dedicate to raiding Alex Savage for those who want the clears for loot and glory. Heck, my static is currently attempting floor 3’s second phase. I am enjoying the challenge. I want the loot.
But something’s lacking. The drive of Coil is gone. Is it lore? Is it that I already know what’s gonna happen and thus I don’t feel the overwhelming impulse to clear so I know what’s gonna happen next”?