Of course, in a lot of ways, this patch is smaller than its predecessors, though not in terms of content, obviously. No, it's a smaller patch by virtue of the fact that it's a pure content patch. New systems are in short supply, but new things to do are in abundance. It's a focus patch, in other words. Recent patches have vehemently focused on trimming up the mechanics and making sure that the game plays nicely with all sorts of content; this patch focuses instead on what you can do with all of your shiny abilities and classes and so forth. And aside from a couple of missed opportunities, it succeeds at that beautifully.
Hamlet defense is both what I'd consider a slight missed opportunity and a great success in two very different departments. I'm a bit disappointed, for instance, that the defense portion is really just meant as content for full parties rather than being at all variable. Yes, I know; party content is one of the things that the game is in sore need of, but there's no reason not to add things for solo players to do as well.
But that's a minor missed opportunity, and it pales in comparison with the somewhat surprising note that this update does hit: giving something for gatherers and crafters to work toward as active content.
I've talked before about the main issue that Final Fantasy XIV faced early in development, but let me recap: The main story and thrust of the game was focused on letting combat classes and non-combat classes all have equal access. This was pretty much an enormous mess and definitely not the best idea. Naoki Yoshida's refocusing the combat-related game on combat-related classes has definitely helped them, but there's also been a longstanding question of what in the world crafters and gatherers would do for an endgame. Yes, they craft and gather things, but to what end?
Hamlet defense helps answer that question. If you want to take part in an active set of missions other than leves as a crafter or gatherer, you go out and get to work in the defensive stage. It feels like a very reasonable course of action, and it helps diversify these classes into distinct roles. You aren't just crafting; you're making the necessary weapons for a local militia, and the game allows you to pursue that as a built-in goal. That's just plain worthy.
So there's a minor hiccup, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I'm more than mollified by the much more important note that the system does hit. And it's also a great excuse for me to get back to Botanist and Carpenter.
This is one of those things that I know exists but for which I don't have a lot of use right at the moment. Heck, I still haven't had the time to master the previous instanced fights or get my Paladin fully leveled. I've got little doubt that it's good stuff, but limited time and conflicting play schedules have kept me on the back foot for this content. I'll reserve judgment.
New quests and company ranks
This, on the other hand, I'm pleased with. The Grand Companies have really become the face of the game in many ways, and while they're reminiscent of the national organizations from Final Fantasy XI, they're really a separate thing altogether. I'm a little sad that the division between nation and Company hasn't been explored more, but I'm happy to see that this aspect of the game continues to be developed and fleshed out.
Part of the reason is that this is a fully functional content path you can follow regardless of playstyle without anything's feeling half-baked. (Compare the multiple ways to earn seals to the storyline quests. The latter removes all real player agency from content; the former has a single route and several paths to walk.) Another part, however, is the fact that the whole end of an era event is one that I'm following with excitement. I like the idea of developers doing something seriously world-changing through small quests, incidents, little events and almost transparent additions.
It feels organic. It feels like a lot of pieces that you could miss entirely if you weren't paying close attention. That gives more character to the world than if the whole Seventh Umbral Era story were just bookended with some obvious quests. It's obvious that everything is building toward a major explosion, but just what will happen is still up in the air. And if you aren't in the game now, you're just going to have to hear about it secondhand.
New crafter items... well, I've been lazy at crafting, so I can't make many of these, but I look forward to buying them, especially so that I can stop wielding the same Cobalt Winglet that I've had for ages, and maybe I'll get out of this Cobalt set. The new gear has a rather nice look to it. It's almost... Imperial.
Even without the new hamlet elements, the little additions and improvements for crafters make life more pleasant. That's even more reason to get down with some carpentry.
And of course, there are the usual bugfixes, touch-ups, and minor changes here and there. But they're all stuff I'm eager to play, so I'm sure you'll forgive me if I ask for your feedback to email@example.com here and now. (You can also use the comments, of course.) Next week, I'm going to look over at Final Fantasy XI's new roadmap.
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.