FFXIV – Void Ark and Weeping City

First there was Void Ark. I watched a guide on YouTube but I didn’t understand much of it, so I just jumped in. (It’s easier to learn mechanics first-hand.) It turned out to be fairly straightforward to get carried through there. Just like the Labyrinth of the Ancients raid at 50, everyone is so over-leveled that you hardly even see the mechanics, and mostly all you have to do is follow along, avoid AOEs, and pick up the loot. I got most of the Bard 200 gear (except the belt) and moved on to the next tier.

(I also got a ton of gear for alt classes, too, but I’m running out of places to put gear. Seriously, Square Enix, can you look into this? You’re usually very good about quality-of-life improvements, but storage of alternate gear is still a blind spot.)

Incidentally, the Void Ark Bard gear looks silly. My character looked like a 1950s bell hop.

May I take your baggage?

When I passed item level 205, I entered the Weeping City. It’s a totally different story. MTQ’s guide is split into two parts, which should give you some idea of the complexity of the mechanics. I watched both parts … and retained maybe 1/10th of what I saw. Once again I just jumped in. I knew I was never going to learn it without first-hand experience. These are public raids–they’re usually designed so that only half the participants really need to be well-versed on the mechanics to get through it. (As opposed to the “real” raids, where every single person needs to be on the ball.)

I actually got through the first two bosses without dying, but not so much on the last two. I went and ran right off the edge of the Ozmos platform with the marker, knowing full well that it would happen, while still somehow thinking that an invisible wall would stop me because there are always invisible walls in FFXIV right?

Anyway after I got out of there the guides made a lot more sense. Still, there are some pretty intense mechanics in there. (The Triangle shape on Ozmos is the one I have the most trouble with. It’s so hard to see when you get hit with that Acceleration Bomb thing.)

Looks relaxing, right?

One thing I’ve learned after going through Weeping City around 10 times now: The community doesn’t seem to know this raid very well, even after all the time it’s been out (6 months?). There’s almost always one alliance that wipes at some point, and there’s almost always a complete raid wipe one or more times. (Frequently on Ozmos.)

Another thing I learned is that the Bard boots never drop in Weeping City.

Okay, they finally dropped last night. The Weeping City gear still doesn’t look as good as the Centurio gear.

My next milestone is item level 235 so I can get into Dun Scaith. But first I apparently need to find a High-capacity Tombstone so I can upgrade my weapon.

And no, I still haven’t done the Antitower to continue the Main Scenario yet. PUGing 4-man dungeons is way more intimidating than 24-man raids, or even 8-man raids. In a 4-man dungeon it’s impossible to hide from all your newbie mistakes.

FFXIV – The Road To Void Ark

Thanks to a bunch of tips, I learned that what I should have been looking for as a Crystal Tower-replacement is called Void Ark, not Alexander. It took me a little time to figure out how to unlock it, because the quest that takes you to it starts out in Foundation with some random guy on the street who doesn’t look like he would ever lead to anything good. I found him from the 3.1 Patch Notes.

So Void Ark is unlocked, but of course it requires item level 175 to enter.

But thanks to another tip, I learned that those Clan Hunts I did for an experience boost also give you these things called Centurio Seals, with which you can buy a ton of item level 170 gear. It never even occurred to me to look around for a Seal vendor (I wish they would label NPCs as vendors). I already had a bunch and could buy some new gear right away. Over the course of a handful of days, I picked up the full set of 170 gear, which looks pretty spiffy.

Unfortunately it still left me at item level 168. I only had one of the 170 rings. I ran a few more dungeons and whatnot to put together enough Tomestones of Lore to buy an item level 230 ring and … I’m still one point short at 174.

But I expect with one more piece of 230 jewelry I’ll get to the 175 mark. It won’t take too many dungeons to get another 375 Tomestones. I’ll probably be doing that even as this post is publishing.

As far as the Main Scenario I’ve reached the next gate, which is The Antitower dungeon. It requires item level 175 180 too so I would have had to go through upgrading my gear anyway. Apparently I’m already into the 3.2 story, so it’s going faster than I expected. [Updated with the information I left out when I was writing at work.]

It’s also getting harder to say anything or post any screenshots about the story without a significant chance of spoiling things for people who haven’t yet played Heavensward. I already showed a spoiler in a previous screenshot without even realizing it. But then I noticed that Square Enix themselves put a pretty significant spoiler at the top of their Patch Notes for 3.5, so maybe I shouldn’t worry about it.

Now that I’m in the “endgame” I’m starting to think a bit more about how to play this crazy Bard. It seems to me that there might be times where it would be more advantageous to switch the new Ballad off, for example if there is a phase where a lot of prolonged dodging is required. Then again, if you know the fights well, you can often dodge without having to interrupt your abilities too much (I’ve learned this from the Demon Tome in Great Gubal Library). And most times when there is prolonged dodging the boss is invulnerable anyway.

I’m sure there are tons of Bard theorycrafting guides out there but I like to think about this stuff myself before I start consulting the wisdom of the Internet.

The New Guy

On a whim I decided to make a brand new character from scratch. With this character I wanted to play a Ninja, one of the two jobs I’ve never seen (the other one being Monk). I suppose I could have done this on my existing character but to be honest I’m sick of having to manage that Armoury.

At first I made a male Au’ru because I thought it had a neat running animation. Unfortunately every time I stopped running I had to look at this pose:

Ah, that stylish low-level armor in FFXIV.

So after about 10 levels I decided to use my Fantasia potion to change into a male Miquot’e. I don’t like the running animation as much but at least he doesn’t stand like he’s about to do ballet. Here is the new guy after finishing Sastasha as a Rogue.

The neato gloves and boots actually came from doing a couple of Novice instances.

It’s interesting to see the game again from the perspective of a fresh character. It feels like it doesn’t take as long to level as it once did, but maybe that’s my imagination. There are a lot of improvements to the low-level experience that weren’t there before. (Like, for example, you can finally skip that very first cut scene! That alone is a massive improvement.)

P. S. In LotRO news, I finished Volume 1 Books 14 and 15, so I’m finally done with the whole Angmar thing. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a boring slog at times. Someday I’ll get around to writing posts about it.

FFXIV – 3.0 Main Scenario Complete

A while back I said I was playing ESO again.. welllll, I sort of lost interest. (I think it’s because I find the quests very depressing, and it also seems like everywhere you go and everything you do is basically the same as what you did before.) So it’s mostly FFXIV and an occasionally foray into LotRO for me these days.

I finished the Aetherial Research Facility. I got a nice group with a very “professional” tank, who explained the mechanics concisely and non-judgmentally. Indeed it turned out to be much easier than I feared, and kind of fun. It was another one with a lot of AoEs to dodge, which I like. It’s sort of like a puzzle game, trying to figure out where to run so that you don’t get caught by overlapping or moving AoEs. They’re usually predicable enough that you can plan ahead, but random enough that you still need to think on your feet.

There was another 8-man trial immediately after called The Singularity Reactor. I went into that one completely blind, reasoning that it would be similar to the 8-man trials at the end of previous stories, which were among the easiest in the game. It turned out to be at least easy enough for us to get through on the first try, even with three of us showing filmstrips over our heads and nobody explaining anything. At the time of this writing, in fact, I can’t remember a single thing about the fight, except the spoilery cut scene after it was over.

So that completed the Heavensward 3.0 Main Scenario, as far as I can tell. I think it was better than the 2.0 story. (I say that partly because I can’t even remember the 2.0 story.) Most of the characters had good arcs, at least until [redacted].

As you might expect, reaching level 60 in FFXIV is just the beginning, particularly when you get to the end in version 3.5 instead of 3.0. If it’s anything like level 50, I’m guessing there are now 5 updates worth of extended Main Scenario questlines to go through, each with a new dungeon and/or trial in it.

In addition to that, there is the somewhat arduous process of running around to find and unlock all the level 60 activities you can do after finishing the Main Scenario.

One of the first things I found was Rowena in Idyllshire, who led me to unlocking the Anima weapon quest. Yeah, I probably won’t be doing that. Not without a really long Netflix series to binge-watch, at least.

After that I unlocked a level 60 dungeon Neverreap, and two Extreme trials, none of which I qualify for yet.

I wanted to find the “Alexander” thing I keep hearing about, which I am guessing is the new Crystal Tower public raid thingy. Crystal Tower was a big help to my gear progress in the level 50 days. I didn’t quite know what to look for, but I stumbled onto it anyway when I looked into that gigantic robot hand that came out of the shield in the Dravanian Hinterlands. I thought it was just going to be another 8-man trial the way they kept talking about primals, but the Duty Finder clearly marks it as “Alexander – The Fist of the Father” even though the quest text never mentioned anything about Alexander, Fists, or Fathers. I still don’t know who or what Alexander is. It’s always seemed like a strange name for an instance. (I thought “Turns 1-9” were strange names, too.)

There’s no danger of accidentally wandering into any of these places unprepared, by the way, because my item level is way too low. At this writing I’m at 142, and I think I need to get to at least 145 before I can even start doing any of this level 60 stuff.

At one time that seemed like an impossibly high number, but now it’s a huge flashing newbie sign. I unlocked the Stone, Sea, Sky thing (which is an awesome game feature with yet another inexplicable FFXIV name) and marched haughtily into the practice tutorial boss, only to fail the DPS check miserably. Talk about humbling.

I decided I would run through the Great Gubal Library until I picked up a substantial portion of the Conservator’s gear set, which is item level 148. I kind of enjoy that dungeon and it would be nice to have a complete set of gear for a change. I’ve been wearing a hodgepodge for 10 levels now. Of course the first time through, there was another Bard in the group, and of course he got the only Bard drop there was. The second time through there was nothing but Ninja drops. So maybe it isn’t the greatest idea in the world.

P. S. Two more Gubal runs last night and nothing. It’s getting less fun, so bleh.

FFXIV – Finally 60

It was a weekend of big achievements in Final Fantasy XIV. When last we left our intrepid Warrior of Light, she had run out of level 58 quests halfway to level 59.

I ended up doing some Clan Hunts, some Battle Levemetes (a word which I still do not think is a real word), and thanks to suggestions from Aywren, a handful of Beast Tribe quests for the Vath and Vanu. That got me to level 59, faster than I might have expected. (I also noticed that Beast Tribe reputation gains in Heavensward are about 10 times faster than … uh … non-Heavensward. What do we call non-Heavensward anyway? Surely not Vanilla FFXIV. I guess ARR or 2.0.)

Beast tribe quests got me to level 59.

I met up with Alphinaud and [redacted] and we went to a cave and met a stereotypical old witch surrounded by talking frogs. I was back in the Main Scenario! I was so excited. Then the old witch told me to go to the Great Gubal Library dungeon and get a book. Cue screeching car tires, followed by the sound of metal and glass crashing into a brick wall.

This grumpy old witch cliche wanted a book.

I watched a guide and Sunday I finally bit the bullet and entered the Duty Finder. As it turned out, I was more prepared for this dungeon than anyone else. I got to see an infamous “loldrg” in person. Personally I found the mechanics relatively straightforward and kind of fun (I like the ones where you have to dodge a lot, that’s probably why I liked the Bard in the first place), but they were too much for the dragoon, who died repeatedly on the Demon Book and the Bibliotaph. (In fairness, the Book would definitely be harder for melee DPS.) Losing the dragoon wouldn’t have been so bad, but the healer also had a tendency to die a lot.

After an hour we got through it, which I suppose is a credit to the determination of the group. But that’s way over my “omg I feel so trapped in here” threshold for a dungeon. That threshold for me is about 20 minutes, and it’s one of the reasons why I hesitate to go into FFXIV dungeons, which, case in point, sometimes last an hour.

All to fetch a book for the old witch lady.

The grumpy old witch left her book in a library filled with monsters and elevator music.

After that, the pace of the Main Scenario really accelerated. We went back to Cid who had made a whole new airship thingy which he dubbed the Enterprise Excelsior. (Of course he says “engage” too. And–nerd trigger warning–this Enterprise has two passengers named Biggs and Wedge.) Then there was an epic cut scene with fighting and explosions and tension and more spoilers and then I entered the final Heavensward zone, Azys Lla.

I never saw much of the Bahamut Turns, so I haven’t seen all that much of the old Alagan technology in FFXIV (otherwise known as super-advanced science-fiction technology). Well this new zone hits you full in the face with it, and it’s like stepping into a totally different, science fiction MMORPG.

An epic cut scene paved the way for the final zone.

Wisely, I don’t think they mean for you to spend much time in this zone. The Main Scenario propels you rather rapidly through the quadrants, and the pacing combined with the cool energetic music in the background makes you feel like you’re nearing an epic conclusion to the Main Scenario. I zoomed through this zone.

Until I got to the aptly-named quest “Heavensward” which requires you to be level 60. And naturally, I was only halfway there. It was kind of a bummer to let all that forward story momentum I’d been building die. It was like, okay everything is leading up to this massive final confrontation, but oops, no you can’t do that yet. Come back later!

I was determined to reach 60 before I went to bed, so I did some more Beast Tribe quests and another run of the Great Gubal Library (in which I got an oddly drab new tunic), then a random Trial in the Duty Finder (which for some reason always comes up on The Chrysalis for me), and I reached level 60.

And suddenly we’re in a science fiction MMORPG.

The “Heavensward” quest, not unexpectedly, led to another dungeon, the Something Something Complex Aetherial Research Facility. By then it was getting late and I was too scared to do another dungeon, so that’s where I left it. This one is probably going to be a heavy story dungeon, too, so it’s doubly scary. Nobody wants to sit around staring at that one person in the group with the film strip over his head for ten minutes at the beginning of the instance.

I did get my final Bard ability, though, which unfortunately looks pretty anti-climatic. It’s an instant cast ability that does extra damage when your DoTs are up. Sounds great and useful, up until the point when you read the “60 second cooldown” part. Boo. I also unlocked Wondrous Tales or Tails or whatever, which sounds a lot like “busy work” to me.

I might have gotten more done, but on Monday (a day off for me), Square Enix brought down the game all day for the 3.5 update.

FFXIV – The Level 58 Slump

I’m a little miffed that I’ve run out of level 58 quests in the Dravanian Hinterlands only about halfway to level 59. Alphinaud and [redacted] stopped talking to me about the Main Scenario almost immediately after I ascended to level 58 and entered Idyllshire, which is apparently the new Mor Dhona. They now want nothing to do with me until I get to level 59.

So I did every level 58 quest I could find around Idyllshire and the Hinterlands, mostly involving the gobbies’ loony adventures building their city government. After that, I followed two racist refugees from Uldah in their misadventures of gobbie mistrust. I thought for sure that somewhere in those quests I would unlock Saint Mocianne’s Arboretum, which is clearly marked as a dungeon on my map, but nope. That blue dungeon icon is still there, and I guess I’m supposed to pretend I can’t see the rather obvious entrance.

Now I’m sitting there in Idyllshire with half a level to go, wondering what to do. Did I miss something? The only thing I can think of to do is grind The Vault dungeon or Leveling dungeons until I get to 59, but I don’t particularly want to. I don’t remember ever being at a point in FFXIV before where I *had* to do dungeons to progress. I mean, maybe I had this problem when I originally hit 48 and 49, too, but I don’t remember it. For alt classes I would usually do FATEs around Camp Dragonhead from 40-50 (actually more like 35-50), but as far as I can tell there’s nothing like that in Heavensward.

Tonight, after I wrote the above at work, I re-discovered the Battle Levemetes and Clan Hunts in Foundation, but they are slow and not very efficient in terms of leveling. But it’s about all I could find that didn’t involve a Duty.

By the way I have not enjoyed the quests around the Hinterlands. Well, the quests themselves are fairly amusing, but there is a *lot* of running back and forth, which is really time-consuming when you can’t fly yet.

In terms of land mass, the Heavensward expansion reminds me a lot of the Storm Legion expansion in Rift, and not in a good way. They made the maps *gigantic* in comparison to the launch maps, presumably to impress people or in FFXIV’s case to make flying more important, but what you actually end up with are these huge maps that take forever to get across, which are mostly empty of content. I’d just as soon developers not make bigger maps unless they plan to fill them with more points of interest.

FFXIV – Unexpectedly Hard Dungeon

Last night I only had time to play one game, so I decided to play some FFXIV again, as part of my as-yet unannounced goal of catching up with the Main Scenario before the expansion arrives. I was stuck at a point in the Main Scenario where the next quest requires level 58, but I was only at about 57.8. So I thought I would do a few quests to start getting a feel for my character again.

Then I remembered the Duty Finder, and especially the Leveling Dungeons Duty (which I still think of as the Low-Level Duty). I popped into a queue, thinking I would get into something like Sastasha or Haukke Manor or one of the other low-level dungeons and have a leisurely stroll to level 58.

Imagine my surprise when the queue popped five minutes later and it was The Aery, a level 55 dungeon!

I’ve done it before, more than once, months ago. But did I remember anything about it? Hell no! I spent the first few minutes trying to figure out how I managed to get into a dungeon that I’d never seen before. Then I realized that I had (almost) all of my abilities, so not only did I have to remember the dungeon, but I had to remember how to play the new-fangled Wanderer’s Minuet-style Bard.

It ended up fine, with no wipes and no deaths. As we got to the bosses I started to remember the mechanics, and managed to avoid at least some of the damage. The healer easily made up for any of my missteps there. By the end I sort-of had my rotations closer to where they should have been. But it was a lot more stressful than I expected, and by the end I was a nervous wreck. I got a neat tunic to go with the pants I got before, so that was cool. (They are too low level now though, but I could use them for glamours.)

I still didn’t get enough experience to hit level 58, so I finished a couple more quests and that put me over the top. Now I’m ready for another Bard quest and the next part of the Main Scenario.

Speaking of glamours, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but FFXIV seriously needs a more modern wardrobe system. Carrying around fifty thousand sets of gear to get the look you want is not cool. (Also not possible due to inventory restrictions.) Even World of Warcraft, which was previously the undisputed worst at customized wardrobes, got a transmog update! That pretty much leaves FFXIV as the worst wardrobe system, at least in terms of user interface. If we can’t get a wardrobe system, can we at least get a place to store unlimited sets of gear?

P.S. I’ve played a couple of ESO dungeons in the past week too. What a world of difference there is between a FFXIV dungeon and an ESO dungeon!

Audiobooks, NaNoWriMo, and other Miscellany

This is one of those rambling posts about everything and nothing, because I don’t have much to say. Just writing for the sake of writing because I was bored at work.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks again, trying to use up my credits. I recently finished Stephen King’s 11.22.63, which was beautifully read by Craig Wasson. He’s the actor who played the lead in that weird 80s movie Body Double. Now I’m listening to Stephen King’s End of Watch, which is beautifully read by Will Patton. Later I might listen to Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, the beauty of which I know nothing. [Editor’s note: I spent a lot of time wording and re-wording that last sentence, and I still don’t think it’s right.]

Unfortunately audiobooks (and regular books) eat into my gaming time. I can’t play any game that requires attention while listening to an audiobook, so the only productive gaming I’ve done is playing through Dark Souls 3 again so I’ll have a character ready for the upcoming Ashes of Ariandel DLC. (My five or six existing characters from my old PC apparently cannot be transferred to my new PC.)

Where I've been in Rift for the last 50 days.
Where I’ve been in Rift for the last 50 days.

I try to log into Rift every day to pick up my Starfall Prophecy pre-order token thingy. I spent 20 tokens already on a massive bag, and I have another 30 or so tokens now, but I discovered to my annoyance that you can only buy one bag per character. So now I guess I’ll try to collect 50 tokens so I can buy the silly squirrel mount that I’ll probably never use. That means I’m actually rooting for them to delay the expansion as much as possible. More delay means more tokens for me!

As Eri alluded to in her post, there isn’t much to write about in the news either. One Tamriel sounds cool, but unfortunately ESO is one of those MMORPGs that requires my full attention to play it (others in this category are The Secret World and SWTOR). At least I finally installed it on my new PC. The FFXIV Bloodstorm (or was it Stormblood?) expansion was announced by showing a Street Fighter video, but as yet there’s not many details to talk about. Mostly the announcement only reminded me of how far behind I am in that game.

I never played Red Dead Redemption, so the collective Internet freak-out over Red Dead Redemption 2 means nothing to me. Since they aren’t making a PC version, I probably won’t ever see it. (Although I still plan to buy a PS4 someday.)

So let’s talk about politics! Wait, no, let’s not. But I feel it’s my duty to remind everyone to stock up on batteries and water for the post-election riots.

How about that Westworld? After three episodes I’m prepared to say: I’m losing interest. I have a hard time getting invested in a story when it’s not clear what the objectives of the main characters are. It’s not even clear whether a story is taking place. Stories typically have a beginning, and I haven’t seen a beginning yet. All I’ve seen is backstory. Remember the good old days when every episode of a series had a beginning, a middle, and an end? Now every episode is a middle.

NaNoWriMo? I’m preparing for it, in my usual disorganized fashion. I happened to see a tweet from Alternative Chat mentioning she had both a book cover and a tag line for her project already:

That boggles my mind. I have nothing whatsoever, except the vague idea that I want to set the book in Belgium in the first year of World War I, and I want one of the characters to be an American war correspondent, and I want a plot reminiscent of the adventures of E. Alexander Powell and photographer Donald Thompson in Fighting In Flanders. I don’t know if I’m going to write in first person or third person, past or present tense, or what the story might be, or who’s going to be in it, or who’s going to win in the end, or who’s going to live or die, or how I’m going to deal with the fact that I don’t know German, French, or Flemish, or anything about military operations or occupations or relief efforts, or much of anything about life in 1914. The only real goal I have is to avoid getting too bogged down in the general horror of World War I. Unless it works better to do so. At this point I’m trusting that a story will reveal itself as I’m writing.

FFXIV – Palace of the Dead Discovered

ffxiv_09302016_203352

Most of my gaming over the weekend was preempted by other media consumption. First it was Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, which I could not put down between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, until I reached the third part of the book and had to have a break. (It’s a convenient stopping point, the reasons for which should be fairly obvious upon reading the table of contents.)

And then Sunday night I noticed that Deadpool was on HBO prior to Westworld, which I hadn’t yet seen. It wasn’t that funny, since surprise is essential for comedy and most of the gags were predictable, but I thought the serious parts were pretty good. (I have zero knowledge of the comic book on which it’s based.) I found it somewhat amusing to see Collosus in the movie, which was a character I played a bit in Marvel Heros, seemingly a million years ago.

Then of course I had to watch Westworld, HBO’s new thing, which was suitably creepy. I’m not sure how they’re going to make a whole series out of it though without going into cliche territory. (I haven’t seen any of the original Westworld incarnations, though for some reason I can’t even explain I instantly recognized the “Westworld” name as a famous science-fiction property.)

Amid all that, I managed to play a little bit of FFXIV, and mainly worked on the main scenario. Lately Alphinaud and Tataru (probably spelled those wrong) have been concerned with finding certain people who went missing pre-Heavensward. However, when the scenario took me through Gridania, I got distracted when I stumbled onto a new-to-me quest that took me out to Quarrymill and opened up the Palace of the Dead, that new randomized … um, thing. I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s kind of like a rogue-like instanced mini-game.

ffxiv_10012016_094607_cropped

It’s a fun diversion, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know what I’m doing because after three tries*, I’m still “failing” my duty (by dying). With the last two attempts I made it easily to the 10th floor where a big nasty boss awaits. Said boss pummeled me to death very quickly with his unavoidable room-wide AoEs and massive hits. (I did this solo, because if there’s a solo option, I’m usually going to take it.)

My current theory is that since the boss was level 20, I need to make sure I’m a lot higher than level 20 before I get to it. Clearing all the upper floors only put me at roughly level 20 when I got to the 10th floor, which I suppose means I need to spend more time farming levels on the upper floors by waiting for mobs to respawn and clearing them out multiple times. That doesn’t sound particularly fun, but it’s something I could do while watching Netflix.

At this point, though, I don’t really see the point of it other than to get achievements, because the only “real” reward (usable outside the instance) I got was a bunch of health potions. I can only assume the rewards get more meaningful when you get way down to the lower floors. (A recent post from Aywren confirms this.)

* Technically it was four attempts, but I’m not counting the first one since my UPS shut off for some reason almost immediately after I entered and I didn’t even get beyond the first room.

Update: Added the link to Aywren’s post which I forgot to do before publishing.