It’s 5am and I’m still up because I decided it would be a really smart thing to do to stay up and watch the beginning of the 14-hour livestream to celebrate Final Fantasy XIV’s third anniversary. It’s not as if I have to get up for anything in the morning, though, so it’s fine.
The reason why I wanted to watch at least the start of the livestream is because of the Live Letter from the development team, featuring a preview of the upcoming patch 3.4. These are always interesting and exciting, because they often reveal new game features and content, some of which ends up being a surprise to everyone.
I’m interested to see where 3.4 goes because the story begun in Heavensward is now essentially over — patch 3.3 saw adventurers defeating the dread wyrm Nidhogg and saving Ishgard from another thousand years of war with the dragons.
Previous patches did, however, tease the existence of dark counterparts to the player’s Warrior of Light, and it looks as if 3.4 and 3.5 will concern these individuals in the run-up to whatever the next full expansion will be. (We find that out in October.)
I’m watching a livestream with a concurrent live fan translation, so I’ll just write some thoughts as I watch, then post the whole shebang in one go when it’s done.
3.4 will be called Soul Surrender and concern the aforementioned Warriors of Darkness. It will also apparently feature a great deal of lore about the planet of Hydaelyn itself, where the game takes place. It will be out on Tuesday, September 27.
As usual, there will be new main scenario quests advancing the main storyline. It looks as if Alphinaud and Alisaie will finally be reunited after being apart for pretty much all of A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. Alisaie was the main NPC for the excellent Binding Coil of Bahamut raids in A Realm Reborn, and apparently this patch’s story will make reference to Coil, even going so far as to change dialogue if you previously completed Coil. (Cue a rush on unsync’d Coil runs!)
There will also be new Scholasticate quests. These started a couple of patches ago and sort of tailed off without any resolution, but they had potential to be interesting.
And Hildibrand will be back. His content has been a little weak in Heavensward, lacking the custom boss fights of A Realm Reborn, but his quests have nonetheless remained amusing and well written.
There will be some tweaks to the battle system, including recast timers being reset when restarting battles — a godsend for raiders or people trying to clear new content for the first time. The changes will also include some changes to auto-attack — Yoshi-P mentioned he wanted to make some changes here in a recent interview with Famitsu, and it looks like we’re going to get the first stage of that with 3.4 — you’ll no longer have to worry about character facing, just be in range of your foe. In other words, this means you can keep moving around a target without worrying about losing auto-attack damage for those periods when you’re not directly facing it. Good news for bards and machinists in particular, who are perhaps more reliant on auto-attack damage than most.
Some Extreme Primal fights will be added to the recently added Raid Finder. These Trials aren’t quite full-on raids, but still have quite a lot of complexity, so it will be good to have a means to organise learning or clear parties other than Party Finder.
The UI will have a Countdown feature added. Exactly what this does remains to be seen, but it’s apparently intended to be a replacement for macros that some players used, perhaps to announce when certain abilities come off cooldowns.
The final chapter of the Alexander raid cycle is coming this time around: Alexander, The Creator and a Savage counterpart. Last chance for them to get this right after a somewhat lukewarm reception from much of the player base.
There’s a new trial that sounds as if it will be a second member of the Warring Triad, since it’s called Containment Bay P1T6, much like the previous Sephirot fight. Apparently the foe this time will be Sophia, the Goddess.
New dungeons include Xelphatol, the Ixali homeland, and a Hard mode variant of The Great Gubal Library. Still just two rather than the three ARR got with each patch, though this isn’t surprising any more.
PvP is getting a duel mode that can be done in the Wolves’ Den in a new part of the map. You’ll be able to queue for dungeons while dueling, which is nice, and there will be no time limit; matches only end when someone wins or leaves the duel area.
PvP will also get a Custom Match feature allowing two light parties to set up a clash against each other, and a Spectator mode. FFXIV’s PvP is actually pretty good, so it’s good to see it getting some love.
The roguelike-esque dungeon Palace of the Dead will get an update in patch 3.45, bringing it to 200 floors total. There will be a job-specific ranking system based on a score you build up as you play. Floors 51-100 will be about the same difficulty as the current floors and bring the dungeon’s story to a close. Above floor 100, things get much harder but they’ll be worth many more ranking points.
Grand Companies are getting an update after being dormant pretty much since 2.0. A new Grand Company rank will finally be available, Platoons will become available and have some sort of missions attached to them, and new gear will be available, presumably this time geared to level 60 characters.
The Platoon system looks to have something to do with raising NPCs, and you’ll be able to go into content with these NPCs from the sound of things — you can make a team of one player and three NPCs.
A new game feature is Wondrous Tails, which involves helping a young Mi’qote girl create something by completing objectives in a book. No other details were given.
Gold Saucer is getting an instanced Triple Triad battle hall for each data centre, allowing you to find opponents from other servers and thus expanding the minigame’s scope considerably.
RTS minigame Lord of Verminion will also be added to the Duty Finder, allowing you to queue up and find opponents that way.
Housing updates will include the introduction of the Apartment system, presumably functioning something along the lines of Final Fantasy XI’s Mog House system. It looks as if there will be a public lobby in each building as well as instanced rooms for players, and there will be 1536 apartments per server, assuming 3 buildings (one for each of the Eorzean cities) with 512 rooms each. They will cost 500,000 Gil, so much cheaper than current housing. Hopefully they won’t all get bought up to be resold!
A system called the Double Cross Hotbar will be introduced for controller players. It’s intended for people who don’t feel they have enough available buttons when playing with a controller and want to be quicker to get at certain abilities. You’ll be able to double-tap a trigger to access the extra buttons, and it can be used in conjunction with the existing Expanded Cross-Hotbar for even more available buttons. Essentially it adds an extra 16 button slots, and you’ll have the option to keep these visible on screen at all times, and adjust the transparency of the hotbar you’re not using at the time to make it clear what actions you have available.
The Double Cross Hotbar stuff looks like a great quality of life improvement for the game. Is it wrong that this is one of the things I’m most excited about? It will certainly make more complex jobs more straightforward to play with controller. Apparently Yoshi-P and his team are pretty excited about it too, as I think they spent more time showing it off than anything else in the Live Letter!
The exploratory missions to The Diadem are getting some minor updates, including the ability to queue as a gatherer rather than having to change once you get there. It will also start dropping item level 235 gear, making it potentially worthwhile again. A brand new exploratory mission — hopefully with lessons learned from the Diadem — will come in patch 3.5.
The new Allagan Tomestone endgame currency will be Tomestones of Scripture, and the gear they purchase is rather Sharlayan in its look, particularly the Dragoon’s rather fetching robe and hat combo.
An online status for role-players will be added. FFXIV doesn’t seem to have that many RPers in my experience, but that doesn’t mean they’re not thete, so having a means for them to find each other will be good. You’ll also be able to use hyphens in character names at last — no more errant apostrophes!
Finally, The Rising event starts today. Last year this was an awesomely meta event in the game where you could warp out of Eorzea and visit the writers’ room to meet the development staff. It was an extremely cool moment, and gave the feeling that the FFXIV team love and are grateful for their players.
Exciting times ahead for the game, then, and I’m well and truly back on board after my short break from it. Events like this remind me why I can never quite quit it.