The way we were, the way we are
Before Tuesday, the endgame pattern was simple: Run Amdapor Keep over and over until you're capped for Mythology for the week, then farm Castrum Meridianum for more Philosophy. Ifrit and Garuda were worth doing for weapons, but if you could reliably down Titan, it was better to just do relic quests rather than farm him for a weapon.
The reasoning was straightforward. Seven AK runs and a few Ifrit or Garuda runs would put you at the cap for Mythology and leave you with around 600 Philosophy for more Darklight equipment (or to trade for crafting ingredients). CM was the fastest way to get more Philosophy, since you could skip most of the instance and the whole thing required about as much coordination as a trip to the gas station. The main reason for not doing all of this would just be a bit of laziness or general apathy, something I can hardly blame anyone for.
Now the balance has changed. Both AK and Wanderer's Palace offer you 100 Philosophy in addition to Mythology -- 40 in AK, 30 in WP. There's no longer any reason in the world to run CM after you've done it for the story, even if you're farming Philosophy, since AK and WP are both as fast if not faster and offer some actual loot drops. Yes, it's loot that's strictly worse than what you're working toward, but I've assembled a full set of Level 60 gear for my Bard, and I haven't bothered leveling that job past 30, so it's certainly a shot in the endgame arm.
Primals have also seen boosts in stones but not anything else. This isn't problematic, exactly, but Garuda unfortunately remains one of those stumbling blocks for a lot of people. I've watched too many people more or less lose it after a wipe rather than just relax and clear the boss on the second try.
What works really well
At the moment, Final Fantasy XIV has one of the most stress-free endgame scenarios I've ever dealt with. For my style of play, it hits just about perfectly.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have no grand interest in Binding Coil of Bahamut. What's nice is that the game doesn't particularly care if I go there. There's plenty of stuff for me to do in four-person groups right on down the line, and the best upgrades up to that point are held not by drops but by stones or quests.
Seriously. Walking around in a full set of AF2 with a Relic weapon is a matter not of luck but of persistence. You can get some nice upgrades in the interim via luck, but you don't have to get good rolls on Hoplite gear to have a Darklight tanking set.
The actual endgame content is pretty good, too. AK is honestly one of my favorite instances all around, even though Wallace's gnat buddies are a bit random and obnoxious. I'm very happy to see WP move in to replace CM, since CM was tolerable but boring and WP is fun and exciting. WP's boss fights require a bit more coordination, but I think some of the lack of practice comes down to people having been more trained for chain-runs of AK over WP.
Moreover, there's a neat effect as you get more and more ensconced in the endgame rotation: You get better all around. I've got most of the various set pieces for every job present in AK, meaning that gearing up those jobs will be significantly easier than if I had started fresh. I've got huge piles of Mythology stones sitting around that I haven't yet spent, partly because I'm saving them for Relic +1 but partly because I can. The best you really need in the sub-Coil game is Level 60 armor and a Level 70 weapon, and you only really need the latter on Titan. Everything else helps a lot but isn't strictly mandatory.
The weak points
Final Fantasy XIV's endgame is sometimes like a club. Once you're in, you're golden, but getting in can be really rough.
AK, for instance, is not all that hard. You can do it in full AF with white accessories. But you'll really want to have some party members who are better geared than you are to help make up the difference. Your upgrades from AK will be substantial, but getting them the first time is rough, especially when you're learning the fights. WP is the same way to a lesser degree, as is the Ifrit fight.
While all of these fights are designed to be done at that level of gear, most people don't actually want that challenge; they want a farm. You're not doing Ifrit because you want the thrill of fighting a Primal; you're doing him because you've got full Demagogue and want your staff to match. Consequently, you get a lot more ragequitting than is strictly necessary, and the net result is that it's easy for newer players to feel as if they're not up to snuff.
The other problem, really, is weapons. Getting a Level 55 weapon isn't hard; Grand Companies and WP fill that gap. But getting anything better requires slay-and-pray on either Ifrit or Garuda or spending a whole lot of money on an HQ Level 70 weapon. Considering a given Primal has only a 11% chance of dropping the weapon you want, and that's assuming no classes are doubled up... there's an uncomfortable weapon gap between Level 55 and Relics. Hopefully 2.1's dungeons address that.
Also you might get bored of doing the same few things over and over, but I'll take 40 minutes of AK over a slow slog through a raid any day of the week.
Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org as always. Next week was going to be a market lesson, but as I'm currently devouring the Halloween event, I'm going to talk about that next week and move the market lesson to the week after.
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.