Final Fantasy XIV, and while we're still waiting for the arrival of our full personal housing and the addressing of the hot mess that is the Hunt, we do still have new dungeons. More than that, we have three really good dungeons. Since everyone knows I am an absolute glutton for dungeons, it's almost shocking that I haven't talked about these yet.
Unlike the first two sets of added dungeons, this set doesn't really have a loser in the lot; even the worst dungeon is just kind of meh alongside its contemporaries, not actively bad. So whether you've just been waiting for me to talk about them or you've been Hunt-spamming for weeks and haven't even thought about any other form of content, let's talk about Stone Vigil, Tam-Tara, and Hullbreaker Isle long after I would normally yammer on about them.
Stone Vigil (Hard Mode)
Let's start with the worst dungeon because Stone Vigil isn't actually all that bad. It's the loser of the first batch, definitely, but it's less a matter of "this dungeon is awful" and more a case of "it's just not as good as the others," which is kind of a good position to be in.
In fact, in some ways it's sort of a spiritual successor to Pharos Sirius; most of the strain here will be tied not to tanking or DPS, but simply healing through the number of unavoidable attacks. The Jura Aevis has a big scream that can't be stunned, pacified, or silenced, which is irritating as heck as a tank but does make for a challenge to just keep up through the healing. Wyverns can't be stunned or pacified, either, so they just have to be soaked. I think a lot of the reputation these dungeons have for hitting hard simply comes from the sheer magnitude of these hits which can't be avoided, only mitigated.
What really sinks the dungeon is the bosses. First one isn't so bad, although the return of Swinge was not something I needed in my life, but the second and third bosses are pure gimmick fights. I did not really miss running Castrum Meridianum and turning into a glorified turret control, and if I wanted to fight monsters in TERA, I would still be playing that game. I suppose it's nice to have a justification for Sword Oath every so often, but even so.
That being said, the instance is well-tuned overall, and the bosses are neither total jokes nor unnecessarily frustrating. It's the weakest of the bunch, but it's not actually bad.
The Tam-Tara Deepcroft (Hard Mode)
In terms of sheer atmosphere, this is everyone's favorite dungeon, and I can totally understand why. The design team has been trying for a while to really get a feeling of horror into the game with both versions of Haukke, Lost City, and even Wanderer's Palace. Tam-Tara is the first place it's been successful, and how.
Cluttering the place with voidsent and mites is a nice touch, although the orb minibosses generally verge into "annoying" territory. Especially the last pull with squidface, who is in some ways more interesting than the second boss (especially if you tend to run with two ranged DPS). I like the Dantalion sub-sections, though the spirits floating through the hall are irritating to pull and tank reliably with their Curse spam.
Its biggest weakness is simply that the bosses are lackluster. The first boss is just a slightly different twist on the usual "kill adds" formula by forcing the boss to kill them, the second could honestly be a normal enemy in terms of impact, and it's only the last boss that really feels iconic or notable. Second does get a bit more interesting if you have to be a bit more careful with positioning to avoid dropping damage fields on the feet of melee damage, to be fair.
As a note, you can run into the candles on the last boss without a problem, something that's useful during the many AoE blanket fields before the Grooms-to-Be show up. And you can be forgiven for making references to Game of Thrones when the big ability hits. (Or Billy Idol. Or both.)
While the bosses might be a bit lackluster, though, the overall experience hits the sweet spot of being challenging without frustration and crazy atmospheric. It's not my favorite of the dungeons, but it's darn close, and it's really, really good.
Hullbreaker, let's face it, is a plain old-fashioned romp. It's a testament to the game that this can exist alongside two other dungeons with very different feels while still being totally consistent. You're fighting pretty much nothing but wildlife; there's no scheme unfolding or cosmic threats, just lots of critters all around and a general sense of blue skies and fun.
Biggest weakness? Well, that mimic section is irritating, and you do have to take a plunge down the hill after the second boss. The second boss also qualifies, really. He's not hard, even, and I've managed to kill him with just me the tank and a random DPS still standing after a couple of bad rounds. But he has a tendency to kill members somewhat unexpectedly, which rather dampens one's enthusiasm.
But even that isn't so bad, and the rest of the dungeon is gold. The first boss puts a spin on killing adds and how to manage boss abilities, the second boss (despite flaws) puts a nifty twist on wanting to be captured, and the Kraken is just great. The whirlwinds feel like a bit of overkill, but the overall fight is a lot of fun and very mobile, feeling big without feeling overly complex. It's almost enough to make me not unhappy that it didn't turn out to be Ultros at the end.
Of course, all of these dungeons still offer the crafting materials that no one wants in loot tables, and that's a notable downside. But they're a lot of fun to play and more fun to roulette than the last set of Experts. Dungeons in 2.4 will almost certainly be a letdown compared to this lot, although I'd love to be wrong. They're fun times.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, assuming we haven't heard more about 2.35 to discuss, I'll be offering some opinions and views about Crystal Tower up to this point and what we know for the future.
Chocobo Dash! (And other projects)
We're still dashing away, yes indeed! Episode 15 covers the Producer's Letter, and a number of the statements made during it that are... well, there's no two ways about it: They're astonishingly tone-deaf. Meanwhile, episode 16 is a bit shorter and covers a smattering of topics as I recover from a bit of illness. It also made Reddit decide that it didn't like my co-host, apparently.
Over in the Final Fantasy Project, I took care of living on a submarine, then got a better airship and went to town on lots of summons. Almost done with that game!
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 other Monday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.
The Mog Log: Exploring Final Fantasy XIV's 2.3 dungeons
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