Well, finally, I get to say this: I could be Savage.
My FC static had a spot for their final pre-vacation run at P4S, so I took them up on it, and after having seen part 1 enrage multiple times in Party Finder groups, I was able to get a clean two-shot on part 1 and a clean-ish…seven-shot on part 2. With that, I am tier-complete, in Sage full best-in-slot gear, and I finally get to tame this dumb fucking bird that tormented me in party finder P3S groups and ride him around in a show of dominance.
While I am going to expand on all of these topics in future posts (completing the tier will unleash my opinions, oh no), here are my general thoughts.
FFXIV Needs A Difficulty Ramp
FFXIV has very little to carry you from the normal endgame content you can queue for and run easily and the higher end. Extreme trials are kinda close to this, but the ramp is still quite sharp to go from normal trials and level capped dungeons to EX trials, then a much smaller jump to Savage, and allegedly a small-ish jump from Savage to get into the easier Ultimates (still not that brave, although I did the unlock for Dragonsong Reprise!). Getting into Savage feels daunting because it is, in large part because the game does not give you a learning curve to ride up to that point. It’s all easy casual content and then everything jumps massively. WoW has very granular difficulties that seem odd at first glance, but it lets players ride a smooth ramp up in difficulty at their leisure, with multiple points they can jump on at if they’re feeling froggy. FFXIV has content that is very simple and then has content that expects you to know how to play, and there’s little in-between.
Savage Is Difficult to Compare to WoW Raiding, But Has Parallels
Before doing Savage, I bought in to the idea that WoW raiding was harder all the time and that Mythic was a pinnacle higher than probably anything in FFXIV save for maybe the more recent Ultimate fights. Having done Savage now, I think the thing is that both games have different ways of scaling difficulty. WoW has mechanics and your rotational gameplay, and it often expects the mechanics to take precedent to a point where you stop what you are doing to do the mechanic. FFXIV has both as well, but most mechanics in FFXIV expect you to keep DPSing while resolving them. The difference I find is that while FFXIV mechanics are a dance – largely predictable and on a timeline that ensures very straightforward delivery, it can be harder in some ways to play an FFXIV encounter because the game doesn’t give you pause to do the mechanic without also hitting a rotation and managing the fight – you gotta do both. Even when WoW does this, it often does not have as tight of DPS checks as FFXIV Savage fights do, so you can play safe more often in WoW while in FFXIV, you have to get comfortable with being asked to juggle a rotation and movement around a defined mechanical ask.
Thus, I do think that Savage gets closer to Mythic raiding in WoW than I would have previously given it credit for. I do think WoW’s hardest fights fly higher in difficulty and are often more interesting in some ways, but Ultimates in FFXIV are the replacement for those, where each fight is a marathon of 15-20 minutes of steady focus and execution.
Predictable, Deterministic Loot Is Fucking Great, Learn This Lesson Blizzard
WoW’s loot systems are layers of randomness, which thankfully have been tamped-down in Shadowlands, but you can still often be waiting weeks or months for that one lucky drop. In FFXIV Savage, everything with an exception is a coffer. Not role-locked, just armor slot locked. I can run a raid as a healer, roll Need on a chest coffer I have as healer, and then use it on any other job to get a tank chest, physical ranged chest, etc. If I don’t get loot, I get a book, and after enough weeks, those books are currency I can use to just buy a piece of loot outright by choice. There are a couple of points of randomness – the first fight in Savage drops 3 coffers of accessories, but by slot and there are 4 accessory slots, so it can be a combination of different pieces that exclude what you might want, but past that, the drops are pretty steady, until the end boss, who drops a chest coffer, weapon coffer, and then a random weapon out of the whole table of 19 combat jobs currently in the game. Since weapons are the biggest pure upgrade you can get at any time, this is fine and good – because you’ll always get a weapon coffer that can be used by anyone for any job and then you’ll have a specific weapon that encourages specific rolls – Needs from the applicable job and Greeds for any alt players. It works out very well and feels good – I knew since my FC had pledged me weapon and chest that I was going to have BIS for Sage as soon as we got the kill tonight, and that was a good feeling. I knew what Materia to meld and was ready for them as soon as they hit my inventory. The power boost feels good and now I have until August to sit atop the Sage throne and work on improving my parses and getting to higher heights of performance at the job.
FFXIV Raid Tiers Are Too Short
This one is an obvious complaint, but here I am – a part of the difficulty ramp complaint I made above is also that the average Savage tier has little room to progress difficulty up or down. In WoW, a raid tier is 9+ bosses usually, so there is a lot of room for skill expression to make its way into the game, with middle-tier bosses that serve to test your mettle for what is still to come. In FFXIV, the first two bosses of the four-boss tier are straightforward enough to learn and get comfy with, and then the third boss ramps sharply into a fucking wall – especially this tier, as Phoinix demanded a very large increase in raiding aptitude and execution, with the last boss keeping on that track and adding in a sharp DPS check on top of the execution checks needed. A big part of the difference is how each game sees high-end raiding – in FFXIV, it is a small part of a tapestry of activities one can do, while in WoW, it is designed to be a huge time sink (in a positive way, like hours of gameplay on offer). FFXIV expects you to finish a raid tier quick enough and then farm it for loot or move on to something else, while WoW offers each raid tier as a major focal-point activity that is there to offer hours of repeatable gameplay and rewards. That being said, I would love to see larger raid tiers in FFXIV and a smoother difficulty ramp within each tier.
FFXIV Raid Bosses Are Fun But Somewhat Formulaic
I really have enjoyed raiding in Asphodelos Savage and I’m excited for Abyssos come August. However, I think a critique that FFXIV catches a lot (rightfully) is that raids are on a pretty distinct formula. Each fight is a square or circular room with a wall you can self-mutilate on, each fight starts with a groupwide AoE or tankbuster before the sequence of mechanics truly begins, most fights use some form of light party or buddy-system stacking for a split damage mechanic or some form of baited AoE, and there is a roster of regular and recurring mechanical designs the team loves – chains, limit cut, Protean AoEs, chariot/dynamo, knockbacks (FFXIV fucking loves knockbacks), and towers. It has tankbusters that can be resolved either properly through a tank swap or through cheesy use of tank invulnerability abilities, and the game is built on a damage meta where everyone does DPS including healers and healing is not about actually healing but instead about properly managing oGCD healing spells while continuing an uninterrupted string of your two-button DPS arrangement.
I say all this and it sounds derogatory, and it kind of is, but this basic formula gets a lot done. I think raiding Savage is fun and enjoyable, but I can see why some veteran players have a sort of wear when someone like me comes in and doesn’t have the shared vernacular of years of prior raids with similar mechanics and designs. I do think that the formula needs a bit of a shake-up, because it is predictable – playing Sage most of the tier means I have a paced opener that includes some forms of group damage mitigation for the inevitable opening AoE!
FFXIV’s Raid Gearing Means That A Clear This Late Feels Sort of Bad
I’m elated to have finally gotten a P4S kill and the loot I’ve been wanting. That being said, FFXIV’s raiding design is built to make each new tier a fully contained experience unto itself, so having an item level 600 BiS right now is great, but in August when patch 6.2 is likely to launch, it will mean…nothing! Okay, it won’t be completely meaningless, but the normal loot in Abyssos will be 610 item level to start, with Savage there at 630 and a 635 weapon. I’m a mighty Sage today and will be for two more months, but come Abyssos, the scales reset and Normal raiding and crafted gear will push 10 item levels higher than the BiS that just took me months to earn.
Sure, this is a problem (for a given definition of “problem” haha) in WoW to a point, but WoW’s tiering structure often builds on what came before for high-level players. My Heroic raiding, Mythic 15 clearing raid group there starts a new tier at a slight advantage, especially starting in Normal, because on an item level basis, they’re higher than the loot dropping there. In FFXIV, that advantage is minimal and before Abyssos Savage, every single piece I currently have on is getting dumpstered in favor of crafted gear and Normal loot from the new tier. So, am I happy to have cleared and have my current BiS? Of course, it feels great and I had a lot of fun. At the same time, I know that there is no longer-term value to having my current BiS, unless I step into Ultimates (which….I kind of want to, but I have a gut fear of them!).
This cycle is a part of what makes FFXIV a casual-friendly game – there’s no advantage that lasts longer than a two-patch cycle in terms of gear, and a lot of the players not doing Savage will get a big powerup leapfrog from their current mix of 580, 590, and 600 gear from upgraded Tomestone loot to 610 normal stuff, but for those who did Savage this tier, the jump will be smaller but necessary all the same for the progression to come in the next tier.
Savage raiding in FFXIV is not something I envisioned myself doing, nor taking to it as I have, mostly through Party Finder groups of strangers. Yet, it has been an enjoyable experience that has given me a lot to think about and a lot of fun, and I’m still not done with the tier in full yet. In spite of the gearing woes I mentioned above, I still need 1 piece each from P1S and P3S for alt job BiS lists, and then I want to start weekly reclearing P4S to build up the weapons and chestpieces for all my jobs until my gear is sitting at 600 across the board. Will I get there before 6.2? Maybe, depending on if patch 6.18 removes the weekly loot lockout, but maybe not. However, it is a long-term goal I want to try for, and if nothing else, I am much better prepared for the tier to come, with proper firsthand experience of how Savage works and what it asks of me as a player.