FFXIV – Finding Fun Without Instances

1322 wc

You’ve probably heard that there were one or two significant technical issues with FFXIV’s Stormblood early access over the weekend. Aywren summed it up pretty well. Even outside of the Stormblood content gate where I am, most times I tried to venture into an instance of any kind (dungeon, job duty, anything except PotD for some reason), I was disconnected from the server and couldn’t log back in with that character for up to an hour because of the dreaded Error 90002. This happened to me three times I think.

I couldn’t make any progress on my main Bard because I had to do the Antitower instance. So what do you do in a new FFXIV expansion when you can’t get to the new content or enter any instances?

Generally, when you can’t make progress on your main character, you switch to a different class/job and level that. My alt of choice right now is the Samurai, which I never would have believed would be my favorite of the two new jobs. I wrote it off the moment I heard it announced as a new job, thinking it would be some silly variation of the Monk or Ninja.

But Samurai is actually quite fun. If you like the complexity of the Dragoon you should definitely check it out. The only thing I don’t like is that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of “charge” ability so you have to keep running to keep up with the mobs (although I would swear I saw someone else jump to an enemy, maybe it comes later). [Ed: At level 54, you get a charge ability.]

How do you level a job without instances? I keep hearing that you can level using the Palace of the Dead, but I have yet to figure out how to do that. (I think it requires a group, and, you know, actually defeating the boss at the end.) PotD was about the only instance I could enter and leave without breaking everything, so I stopped by there a few times. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of that place yet, and so far every time I’ve tried it, I end up spending an hour in there only to get basically nothing out of it. (I think you only get tangible rewards if you successfully get to floor 10 and defeat the boss, which is rather difficult or at least time-consuming solo.)

Palace of the Dead in Quarrymill is a happenin’ spot.

You can level with side quests, but the amount of experience they reward is basically a flat-out insult. Battle Levemetes are a decent option but you only have a limited number that you can do, and they are a bit slow.

What else is there? I ventured out into the Western Coerthas Highlands (the first Heavensward zone) and found something I never would have believed existed: People were doing FATEs!

FATEs are similar to Rift’s rifts or GW2’s dynamic events. They are open world events that anyone can join in with no strings attached, and they reward pretty good experience for the time invested. Other than dungeons, they are one of the faster ways to level, if you can find an area where a lot of people are farming them in your level range.

That’s a big if. Prior to Saturday, the only place I’ve seen people farming FATEs reliably was around Camp Dragonhead, which will get you from roughly level 35-40 to 50 in relatively short order. I’ve done those FATEs a lot, and I always find them fun and even sort of relaxing in a zen kind of way.

FATEs! After level 50! I can hardly even believe my eyes.

But sadly, when Heavensward launched, people decided that FATEs in the new zones were dumb. I don’t exactly know why, but they were completely abandoned. It was a major bummer for me personally because I loved doing them, and as I mentioned, they are great ways to level alt jobs. I guess they didn’t reward enough experience in Heavensward. They were also pretty hard to complete solo in the beginning, if I remember correctly.

But they were back with a vengeance on Saturday, at least in Western Coerthas. I spent a lot of time flying from FATE to FATE, learning how to play the Samurai, and leveling from 50 to 54. It was like a blast of FFXIV nostalgia for me. And I also got a metric ton of Luminous Ice Crystals.

The problem is that leveling from 50 to 54 with FATEs is a pretty big grind and it gets thoroughly boring after a while. By level 54, you have to do a lot of level 50 FATEs to gain a level. (And, of course, there was no FATE farming outside Western Coerthas.) I wondered what else I could do without being able to work on my main.

I thought about leveling my White Mage up from 50, but as soon as I saw the outfit I had somehow acquired, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be seen in public wearing it.

Umm. Okay. That’s decent gear for a level 50 White Mage, believe it or not.

Still, I did level WHM to 51 with FATEs. It’s not very fun playing FATEs as a WHM, though. You have one DoT and one ranged damage spell, and that’s about it. (And am I crazy, or is Stoneskin gone?)

Then I decided to finally try out the Dark Knight job, a tank job which was added in Heavensward. Previously I had gotten as far as acquiring the initial Claymore, but had never actually equipped it. (At this point I was very grateful for the button which auto-selects the best gear for your job and level, which was added at some unknown point in the past.)

I tried to do the first job duty and that’s when I found out the technical problems affected every kind of instance. I was promptly disconnected, and couldn’t return to my character for about an hour.

When I got back in I went to Costa Del Sol and ran around doing some FATEs, mostly by myself. Sadly at level 30 you’re still a bit too low level to go to Camp Dragonhead. (I tried.) Then I did some battle leves. They aren’t quite as fun as FATEs but they get the job done. I also tried Palace of the Dead, thinking I might do better with a tanky job, but that’s when I got frustrated because your time is entirely wasted if you die in there.

Paradoxically trying out the Dark Knight job on the sunny beach.

I ended up getting DRK from 30 to 32. I have to say I was fairly impressed with the Dark Knight. I really like the move sets with the giant sword. It reminded me of the two-handed sword animations in Guild Wars 2, which I’ve always liked. Your character looks like they’re really weighed down by the massive size of the sword, and putting all of their effort into swinging it. I don’t care for the weird bowed cello sound that comes with every swing, though.

You might be wondering what I did during the times I couldn’t login with my main character. Well, I played my Rogue, of course. He just turned level 26, way back in the Waking Sands.

Locked out of main character? Play that neglected Rogue alt!

Speaking of level 26, is it my imagination or have they made subtle changes to the MSQ in the lower levels? For example, after rescuing one the Sylphs, I noticed that they referenced the primal Ramuh and even showed the big-bearded guy in one of the cut scenes. Did they add that because they added Ramuh much later in the MSQ? I don’t remember seeing it the first time through, but then I don’t remember much of anything that was in the early MSQ.

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