Aw, jeez. Not only do I have an extant interesting question posed to me by a reader, I had another interesting question posed to me over the course of the last week. They're both questions that deserve a lengthy answer, with the full complexity and subtlety of a column devoted to them.

But I'm not going to be talking about either of them this week.

See, I had the good fortune to run through the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak while it's still pretty much new content. And there's some confusing stuff going on in there, some awesome moments, and more to the point no hard written information in a central space to refer back to. So I figured this would be as good a time as any to put together my notes about Final Fantasy XIV's lower-level raid for public viewing, so that other players can hopefully assemble a more definitive guide over time. And besides, who wouldn't want to talk about a dungeon that sees you exploring the Empire's chthonian machinations?

First of all, I can't speak definitively to the challenge level of the encounters, but I can say that the dungeon is going to be pretty rough for a party at rank 25 exactly. Most groups consisted of at least two or three enemies at 35, with some larger groups at 32. All of the enemies are aggressive (naturally), and while their may be some sort of level-matching going on, I doubt it was much. (We had a 46 Lancer, a 30 Conjurer, a 30 Pugilist, and a 28 Gladiator. There's no real way to average that out to 35.) Most of the enemies were of the higher-damage varieties -- puks, roselings, wisps and chigoes were all over. That being said, they didn't seem terribly durable despite that -- my weaponskills still hit for a reasonable amount of damage.

When you first enter the dungeon, you'll notice several little green markers on your map. Some of these are just bits of flavor that give you a hint as how to approach the dungeon, but there are also two devices that mark off part of the dungeon. These devices each require four photocells to activate, and until you do so, a good chunk of the dungeon is blocked off to you. There are two of these reachable from the beginning, a northern and a southern device.

The photocells appear throughout the dungeons around areas of heavy plant growth. They do not show up on the minimap, so it's easy to miss them, or mistake the little glowing lights for something else. Nevertheless, once you get used to the dancing yellow light floating right about eye level (at least for a tall miqo'te), you'll know exactly what you're looking at. Targeting it just produces the usual "???", but attempting to interact with it allows you to pocket the photocell. There are four scattered throughout the dungeon, and when you've acquired a full quartet of them, you can activate one of the devices and bring down some of the magitek barriers.

Full disclosure -- both of my runs in the dungeon have seen us activating the northern device. I don't doubt the experience is similar if you activate the southern one, but exact drops and environment may vary slightly. Still, by the time you've seen enough of the dungeon to get all four photocells, you have a clear picture of what the enemies are like and what you're looking for.

Once you bring down the barrier, there are still areas closed off to you, and at least at the northern device you're essentially locked out of going back to the first half of the dungeon. Instead, you're left to look for another four photocells to open the boss chamber, with a couple of additional enemy types joining the mix. Opening the second device lets you in for a cutscene and a fight against a notorious monster -- in our case, both of the fights we faced off against a diremite broodmother and her army of mitelings.


Fair warning -- even against a 46 with buffs, the monster hits pretty hard. If you're in a lower-level group, I'd recommend hitting the monster with Absorb-ATK, Absorb-ACC, Moonrise, and as many stacks of Concussive Blow as you can manage. As with any notorious fight, the whole thing gets much easier if the target is properly crippled. Watch out for the little mitelings, too, as they can pack quite a punch.

Once you've finished gutting the monster, two chests appear with rewards for the group. I've seen some nice caster armor, a shirt for DoWs, and a Marauder axe with some caster stats for hybrid builds. All of the items are Rank 30 required, meaning that if you're at the minimum you'll have a little time to go before you can really make use of the toys.

What works? Well, the whole thing is atmospheric as heck -- the music is engaging, the layout is good, and the Garlean devices feel appropriately surreal and powerful. I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more story drops here and there, but the whole experience felt very true to a Final Fantasy dungeon from beginning to end, right down to the little victory cutscene and fanfare that plays after the notorious monster is defeated.

And surprising as it might seem, that time limit works wonders. I know that this has been one of the more contentious aspects of the implementation, that you can only stay within the dungeon for a limited time, but the fact of the matter is that the hour limit really keeps you moving rather than just ambling along. The first time through, we cleared it out with five minutes to spare -- the second time, we were up to about 20 extra minutes, and that was after some exploration and attempts to open up a different device after the first one. The forward momentum provided by the timer is a nice touch.

Also, the rewards seem to fall into the same mold of rewards from Final Fantasy XI -- powerful, but not so powerful that you absolutely must be wearing this piece of armor. I'm really glad to see that tradition continue, allowing players who can't necessarily farm for a given drop to still have options. (Yes, I realize there were pieces of equipment that were brokenly good like the Leaping Boots, but by and large there were a lot of different options for a given level band.) So that's nice.

Downsides? Well, the dungeon is pretty brief, and you only have one major encounter with a boss. There are probably going to be times that no one gets anything searingly useful, which is always a risk with the slay-and-pray model of dungeon rewards. More to the point, however, there's not a whole lot of incentive to do the dungeon again after you've cleared it the first three times -- you can get a quest completion for each of the three Grand Companies, but outside of farming drops running the dungeon becomes almost perfunctory. Perhaps there's a different way to clear it that yields more or better rewards, I don't know yet.

But overall, it's a fun dungeon, and because it's straightforward enough running it for farming a drop isn't too tedious. I'm definitely going to be putting more time into it when available, and I've had a lot of fun with each of my runs to date. (A special thanks goes out to my fellow shellmates in the Eorzean Guard, who provided not just support but also some very entertaining roleplaying before, after, and during the run.)

As always, thoughts and questions are welcome in the comments or mailed to eliot@massively.com. Next week, I'm going to get back to the topic of duoing in Vana'diel, and the week after that I'm going to answer a question about why FFXIV isn't for everyone and who it might work best for.

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.
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