The Mog Log: A tour for May

In times past, I've generally discussed the various update tours of Final Fantasy XI separate from this column. This time around, I'm trying something different because I got to take the May version update for a spin not so long ago and there's some interesting stuff to discuss that came out of that tour, stuff I wouldn't really be discussing normally as my Vana'diel-endgame-fu is pretty weak at the moment. So that's the preamble for this week; if you really don't like this way of doing things, let me know and I'll not do it again. Cool? Cool.

The May version update, as regular readers may recall, was an update with a roadmap that left some questions in my head. Is revitalizing Dynamis really a worthy goal? Will Voidwatch be enough to tide over players? How will everything balance out? Why can't I transform into a baby chocobo at will? So getting a chance to see the content firsthand was enlightening, both for the questions that it did wind up answering and the questions that it didn't.

Dynamis II: Dynamis Harder

Our first stop on the tour was Dynamis - Xarcabard, which has long been a cuddly soft zone filled with friendship and important lessons about mortality. The changes to it and the other five "core" Dynamis areas are all ostensibly aimed at bringing these areas closer in line with... well, let's just say it. They're meant to make Dynamis a little piece of Abyssea away from Abyssea, not in a completely straightforward fashion, and not in the sense that they'll replace the newer zones, but it's hard not to get a strong sense of the more instanced regions with the time limit changes and the increased emphasis on clearing through the zone.

By and large, it works. Increased drop rates are the sort of thing that many players will be happy about, and the fact that enemy spawns wandering the zone are up to snuff for high-level characters will certainly help improve the relevance of the region. (You also no longer have to fuss about with statues and the like.) The fact that the tuning allows for players to enter without needing a huge alliance is also a nice change -- as time has gone by, the enormous groups that used to wade through Dynamis have become a thing of the past, so it's nice to see more opportunities for players to get to experience the content regardless.

Our main focus was the newly upgraded Dynamis Lord, himself an upgraded Shadow Lord. It was clear very shortly into the fight that this improved form is the sort of thing meant to bring back traces of the old days of boss fights, namely, the part where the boss's standard hits have the force of a Saturn V rocket. He is an optional boss, though, so it's not like players have to be eviscerated if they don't want to... of course, the same was true of Pandemonium Warden back in the day, and look how well that turned out.

If there's a central flaw here, it's that a lot of players might not really want to spend more time in Dynamis. A lot of hoops have been removed so that players can get into a vastly improved experience, but even with upgraded Relic drop rates and less irritation, some people might just not want to wander around in the Shadow Lord's nightmare any longer. It was such a big part of the endgame for so long that its revival may be unwelcome. But that's a minor negative -- all of the actual changes seem solid and likable.

Voidwatch and other notoriety

Our next stop was on one of the new Kindred Seals NM battlefields, "Whom Wilt Thou Call." If you don't get the reference... well, what the heck is your excuse? I'm pretty sure that both of the films are available on Netflix streaming by this point, and if you have to go watch them right now, by all means go for it. It'll be four hours well spent.

Anyhow, the references didn't stretch far beyond the names and models of the enemies, but I do appreciate the nod. (Final Fantasy XI does references in a nice and subtle fashion, something I appreciate when the obvious contrast is World of Warcraft's sledgehammer nonsense.) The most notable element of this fight was the fact that our target NMs leveled up the longer we took in battle, meaning that the fight gets harder the longer you take to kill all four enemies. That being said, BCNM fights have always had gimmicks to make them more interesting, so it's not precisely groundbreaking.

Last on the list was Voidwatch, which is essentially an upgraded and expanded version of the Voidwalker Notorious Monsters that we saw early last year. By following a tiered system of unlocks, players can square off against increasingly powerful monsters, earning cruor and experience along with a nice satchel of loot for participating. The NMs also utilize the weakness-triggering system found in Abyssea, by which successfully hitting a changing weakness will result in greater rewards after the battle is over.

Both of these battles were familiar in general terms, but they still serve to flesh out the game's expanding endgame. With a lot of the older endgame content hitting obsolescence as the level cap rises, there's a definite need to recover some of the diversity that was present through the many years of a level 75 cap.

Overall, what I saw was solid. It wasn't, sadly, as inspiring as some of the later storyline content -- instead of getting a big shot of interesting cutscenes, it's mostly content that fills needed holes in the game's extant structure. That's not a bad thing, but it does raise certain questions that I've asked before. Of course, if you can't find any more story content to do in the game as it stands, you've been far more diligent than I.

As always, I welcome feedback mailed to eliot@massively.com or left in the comments field, especially as I'm intentionally mixing the format up a little bit here. Next week I'm inclined to stay in Vana'diel just a little bit longer, as I'm itching to give Grounds of Valor a more thorough run on my own.

From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.

This article was originally published on Massively.