The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV's dungeons

If this is too long and you didn't read it, Sunken Temple is indeed as bad as they say.
My interest in Final Fantasy XIV is not purely about racing to the endgame, but I am well aware there is an endgame. And while I'm easily distracted by the pursuits of other goals such as leveling Arcanist, I'd rather be on the early side to the party. There's nothing wrong with not being the first at endgame, but I'd prefer to beat the rush, if you know what I mean. So my playtime has been focused a bit more toward getting to the end of the story quick-like.

This also means going through a lot of Final Fantasy XIV's dungeons. I'm not quite up to the last rush, but considering a lot of people I see are still moving into stuff I left behind a while ago, I'm still a bit ahead of the parabola. So let's take a look at the dungeons along the path from level 1 to level 50 after the initial set (which I covered back in beta).

Yes, this is central to a boss encounter.Halatali

The first three dungeons require a visit, but this is the first dungeon in the game that's optional. There's a quick quest explaining what it is and why you should go there (there's stuff in there), but if you want to reach the level cap without ever stepping inside (and without ever filling out your Grand Company hunting log), you can feel free. That having been said, there's some good stuff in here, and it's another step up of the mechanics that were present in the first three dungeons.

All three bosses require dealing with adds, and that means that all three are really requesting that DPS players step up their game. Tanks can easily hold the bosses with few issues, but DPS can't be on cruise control either. It's a theme that is lightly addressed early on and reaches a climax much later, so look forward to that.

The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak

I remember when this place was the new hotness. I've still got treasure kicking around that I picked up from this dungeon in 1.0, some of which is still great, some of which... not so much. The overall layout hasn't changed too much, although the back-and-forth just to fight a single boss is helpfully gone. It's still filled with puks, landtraps, and diremites, along with a few ochus and mushrooms for variety.

Where Halatali asks DPS to step up to the plate, this dungeon is all about putting extra pressure on the healers. There's a lot of poison thrown around and damage that even smart DPS can't avoid, forcing healers to accept that they're not going to have everyone topped off at all times. The emphasis on Esuna gets a bit obnoxious if you're dealing with a lot of melee, though.

These stairs are not part of a boss encounter, but you do have to be aware of them.Haukke Manor

Haukke has the unfortunate drawback of being right below the next dungeon, which means very few people want to run it. It also has a disproportionately crazy final boss, with far too many adds that can overwhelm tanks pretty quickly. It also has charming atmosphere and some reasonable treasure for its level, and it's the first dungeon where entering as a job rather than a class will have tangible benefits beyond stat allocation, so there's that.

This dungeon also requires you to do a bit of marking, on the second boss if nowhere else. The first two boss fights are dull, and most of the trash is forgettable, but the final boss can spit out huge numbers of adds in short order and winds up feeling just a little disjointed. A more restrained approach might have been better here. You have to see it at least once as part of the story, but most people won't go back.

Ishgard shouldn't get to have all the dragon problems, dude.Brayflox's Longstop

This is probably one of my favorite dungeons, although the random drops kill me in here. This is the second dungeon to contain a unified set of armor for each role (Battlemage, Infantry, and Cavalry) and also one of the most treasure-laden dungeons available, with good odds of getting five greens and four aetherial items on a single run. If it dropped tomestones, no one would ever leave. I still probably won't leave for quite some time, as despite my best efforts I haven't seen an Infantry Shirt drop once in my several dozen runs.

Better yet, each of the four bosses is multifaceted without being overly complicated. The first boss is pretty dull, but the second two require DPS players to be alert beyond simply "attack adds"; the dragon at the end requires everyone to be alert, quick, and reactive. Add the goblin-saving mission in the middle and it's impossible not to be happy that this is a part of the mandatory progression.

The Sunken Temple of Qarn

Screw this place.

Sunken Temple of Qarn is apparently a dungeon designed to make me hate my job, this game, dungeons, group content, bees, boss fights, trash fights, ancient ruins, and video games in general. As I write this I have run it precisely once because two fellow RPC members were kind enough to accompany me in, an act of selflessness which means I now owe them a great deal of my blood. Running it again sounds about as pleasant as reliving the day that I was informed my father had died unexpectedly in his apartment.

The problem here isn't that the dungeon is mechanically complex; it's that a lot of these mechanics give you absolutely no control over what happens. You can legitimately pay attention to everything you need to do and still find yourself wiping more than once. It's an optional dungeon but not really because your Grand Company hunting log sends you here. And while I understand all of the goals of the mechanics in here, this is one of the only places where all of the mechanics combine to form something that is distinctly not even remotely fun.

Cutter's Cry

Brayflox is memorably fun, Qarn is memorably awful, but Cutter's Cry is just... there. This dungeon has precisely one redeeming feature, and that's the final boss. The layout is annoying (as are the random sand explosions) and the treasure is nothing to write home about. Boss one is irritating as both a healer and a tank, and boss two is trivially simple.

The chimera at the end, though... this is where it gets interesting. Aside from requiring you to duck his cone effects that emerge at 45-degree angles from the front (enough to hit the tank in front while also catching unwary DPS on the flank), he also has three abilities to observe. One requires you to run away from him, one demands that you collapse onto him, and the last one sends a bolt of power for players to run from before it explodes.

It's complex and requires a lot of management of position without ever relying upon adds or cheap tricks. I absolutely love it. It's a shame it's also in a dungeon that I otherwise will happily ignore from here on out because seriously, no point.

If there's something more Ishgardian than a Dragoon going to fight some dragons I haven't found it.Stone Vigil

The first dungeon in which you can start picking up endgame currency, Stone Vigil is more like Brayflox than its predecessors. It's not a treasure extravaganza, but the bosses are the right mix of challenge and fun, the layout is clean without being simple, and the pulls along the way aren't something you can face on autopilot. A solid dungeon all around.

The second boss really puts the truth to how important good DPS play really is; the boss is trivially easy to tank to the point where I just stood in the doorway tanking without even moving on my first run through. Running later as DPS it became a lot trickier and more involved. The last boss, meanwhile, will really force everyone to play at peak -- there are lots of mechanics so that everyone stays active, but nothing that's cheap or overly ornate. Fun place, really.

Dzemael Darkhold

This place was brutal in 1.0. It's still pretty intense now, but somewhat less so. What does drag the overall experience down a bit is how many patrols wander through the place, often out of sight until they crash into you face-first. It makes the paths between the bosses far more stressful than they need to be.

As for the bosses, the first one requires players to move between safe zones while managing adds and the otherwise invulnerable boss, a mechanic nicely foreshadowed before the fight by showing off the boss along the way. The second is fairly boring, but the third is another very mobile fight requiring a lot of effort from the whole party without ever being cheap. There are adds (after a fashion) and even an instant-death attack that's as fair as you can ask for in an MMO.

And this is only the stuff leading up to the endgame runs. Five more dungeons remain from here on out.

Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to eliot@massively.com. You know the drill by now. Next week, it'll be time to discuss the main story content, and the week after that I'm going to talk about how gil rules everything around you.

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.