I called some right and some wrong, but with the first live letter for patch 6.2 in the books, there is a lot to talk about, surprisingly – as relatively little was shared but it was enough to build a fair amount of hype.
Patch 6.2 of Endwalker, dubbed “Buried Memory,” is slated for late August 2022 and adds a mix of predicted and unpredictable content, some new and some expected features but in unexpected ways.
First, the easy and obvious – we get a new set of main scenario quests, continuing the tale started with 6.1 and moving further down the new path offered in FFXIV’s fresh new chapter as started with that patch. We got about two screenshots of the MSQ including Cid and Zenos’ old voidsent ally, and two more screenshots for the MSQ dungeon, The Fell Court of Troia (which appears to be on the 13th!). We get a new set of Tataru’s Grand Endeavor quests, this new sequence which requires the completion of the Secrets of Mhach Alliance Raid series from Heavensward (make sure you’ve done your Void Ark, Weeping City of Mhach, and Dun Scaith!).
We also get an Omicron tribal quest out in Ultima Thule, this time as a gathering tribe similar to the Qitarl in Shadowbringers. This seems like it might confirm that the Loporrits, shown as a Tribe prior to launch, would then be the crafting tribe for Endwalker, but that remains to be seen, given that a Loporrit is also present for the Omicron tribe (which was setup with the optional level 90 dungeons back in 6.0). The new trial was confirmed to be…a secret that won’t be known until patch day, with the only details being that we get both a Normal and Extreme version as is standard.
The new raid series in Pandaemonium, Abyssos, was confirmed, but with an interesting tweak. Post-launch raid tiers always launch together with both Normal and Savage difficulties on the same day, but with Abyssos, an experiment is coming – Savage will be moved out one week past the Normal mode to see what player feedback comes in. Right now, it is hard to judge because we don’t know the particular details of how this delay would affect the other inter-related rollouts that are traditionally tied to Savage – the new Tomestone, new crafted gear recipes, and the like – so my reaction is variable based on these specifics. If we get a week with the new Tomestones, new gathering nodes, and new gear recipes to make, I think it is a net positive change. Having your BiS pre-Savage gear be craftable, with timed materials, and competing for your attention with the actual content (which you need to run in Normal first to unlock Savage and then prepare for a ton of pulls on Savage) makes that first day run feel very congested, on top of the MSQ and other new content to do. If they just delay Savage but keep everything else on patch day, I think that would be very good. If the Savage delay also pushes new Tomestones and crafting/gathering for item level 610 gear back, that is less of a benefit in my eyes.
The relic weapon questline for Endwalker was unveiled as…Manderville Weapons? An unexpected twist to be sure – the Hildibrand quest will go from fun comedic sidequest you do solely for love of the game into a forefront piece of content done by players seeking the best weapons. The team seemed to confirm that this will require doing all of the prior Hildibrand content, of which there is a rich library from every expansion save for Shadowbringers, so you have a couple of months to sort that out prior to the introduction of these weapons in 6.25. The early screenshots shown for this in particular show Gerolt involved alongside Godbert Manderville, which actually kind of makes sense – the world’s finest smith with an esteemed goldsmith, working together, could perhaps actually produce pretty good weapons! I like the Hildibrand questlines a lot and so my only fear/objection to this is a simple one – if this takes some of the humor and shine off the Hildibrand quests, I would be disappointed. The new series in 6.15 was pretty great right off the bat, so I hope that pushing more players through them doesn’t cause the team to dilute what makes them enjoyable for those of us who’ve been there doing them already. One point that will be contentious about this change regardless of how anyone feels about Hildibrand quests – there is no field zone tied to this relic questline, instead tying it strictly to quest progress. Even though I’ve not been the biggest player of either Eureka or Bozja content, I liked having them as these other things I could do in downtime, but I am also somewhat glad because it should remove the odd nature that Bozja had for Resistance Weapons in Shadowbringers (you can do the grind outside Bozja! But you also need to do the quests in Bozja, which involve leveling up and doing that content anyways!)
We got a small PvP update, confirming that Series Two comes with 6.2, which will mean a new Series Experience grind, new malmstones, and new rewards to come. They’ve previously said that prior series rewards would remain obtainable, but that was before the specific rewards and changes that came with 6.1, so it remains to be seen how accurate that ends up being. They are making some adjustments to queueing, specifically trying to cut down on the increasing prevalence of players queueing simultaneously in an effort to be in the same match (and defeat the forced solo-queue in the process). Lastly, Rival Wings returns in 6.2, which will be fascinating to see with the job changes made in 6.1 PvP!
The updates to continue bringing old content into a soloable, single-player friendly format roll on, with the remaining MSQ-required ARR dungeons being updated and the first handful of Heavensward dungeons being updated (stopping at the Vault, so just shy of the full 3.0 base MSQ). With these changes, we see new Duty Support NPCs for this era of content, two of whom are already duty support elsewhere in Alphinaud and Estinien, but one brand new character to this role – Ysayle! The very-annoying Steps of Faith trial (running the dragon down the bridge to Ishgard) is being removed, converted into a solo-duty like Lahabrea and Rhitatyn were in 6.1.
The Island Sanctuary was unveiled at last, albeit in a limited form. The island itself is quite large, with each player being given one for free. The intention is completely disconnected solo content with its own reward structure – there are materials you can gather on the island which do not take up your normal inventory space, and there are tools and various things you can craft with them. These items do not require crafting or gathering experience, although that wording might imply that you would need the base jobs, at least. There is farming to be done, with different crops than those with a house can plant, a critter collection minigame with rare variants, and all of these systems tie into a Sanctuary currency, rewarded from trading in the fruits of your island labor. The idea seems to be that the Island Sanctuary is completely separate from other players – short of inviting your friends and FC-mates to check out your island, nothing involves other players, competition, or the like – it is just you, at your own pace, doing what you want to do from the available slate of activities. Provided that the available building options are pretty large and varied, I think this seems like a real fun way to engage with the game outside of just raid logging or running roulettes.
Before I talk about my highlight announcement, there were also a lot of quality of life updates announced. The biggest of which is a doubling of Glamour Dresser capacity to 800 pieces of gear. This is good and I’m quite happy they’ve been expanding this over time, but at the same time I just want WoW’s transmog system for storing gear appearances or the Guild Wars 2 appearance options, and anything else is a stopgap on the way to that in my eyes. My hunch is that the engine revamp in 7.0 would be a good opportunity to try and implement something of the sort and I think the team is trying to keep things from being too limiting in the interim (yeah, I’m coping for now, L+full glamour dresser+loves dying my gear metallic). The Actions pane for your character (the Spellbook equivalent where your abilities live for the WoWheads out there) is being revamped to show the combo linkage clearly and visually, and to show the levels at which traits upgrade or change certain actions right in that main actions pane. The team confirmed that there was a revamp on the table for both Astrologian and Dragoon, but that has been shelved for the time being in favor of looking at another central problem to combat in the game – working to adjust Critical and Direct Hits. Currently, certain jobs and abilities gain no benefit from abilities that buff these stats and choose not to take them (mostly DH in this case) on gear as a result. Warrior, for example, has a fair few abilities that are guaranteed critical direct hits, so taking DH on gear tends to be a smaller increase to DPS and when the group’s DH is buffed by party skills, it doesn’t yield as big a benefit for them. Samurai have this at the very high end, where the pre-6.1 parse meta usually involved a Samurai with a Dancer partnered to them, as Devilment from the Dancer would give a high amount of crit to the Samurai and was hugely impactful on kill times. Revamping these stats and ensuring that there is some benefit always to be had from higher values on gear is a good call and something the game has needed – the outliers that don’t use DH tend to make keeping an omni-set per role somewhat difficult, as playing a non-Warrior tank as your main one means that gear set and the accompanying Materia melds are weaker when playing Warrior with it, and vice-versa for the other tanks when maining and melding towards Warrior BiS.
The Adventurer Plate and portrait system are coming out of beta (did you know they were a beta?) and being implemented with some changes in 6.2. Firstly, old photos will have to be recreated, as the new format will not work with existing portraits. Secondly, they’re working in a lot of changes like portraits by gear set, Instant portraits in Doman Mahjong (with dungeons still to come), new poses, new decorative elements, and a feature for copying pose and camera settings between portraits.
Crafting and gathering are getting an unexpected update, as rare materials used for non-combat items are being added to Aetherial Reduction, which should make Aethersand farming more of a going concern even into the patch.
And, perhaps most exciting, they are finally, finally adding the ability to request repairs from other players. Repair in FFXIV works right now in two ways – either you talk to a mender NPC or you can repair your own gear with sufficiently-leveled crafting and Dark Matter of the appropriate rank. In 6.2, players will now be able to request repairs from other players, which is nice outside of dungeons and raids, but especially valuable inside that content, where a raid can sometimes be completely derailed by a player’s gear breaking, especially on a duty like P4S with a door boss checkpoint that you lose if you have to leave to repair and come back.
Finally then was the big news I was hoping for from the live letter, and I got more than I expected.
In the 10-year forward look Live Letter, Criterion dungeons were name-dropped as a feature to come, with the intent being scaling party size from 1-4 players. What we have confirmed now is that this idea has split into two distinct features, the Variant Dungeons and the Criterion Dungeons. Variant dungeons are the scaling group size mode, with them requiring level 90 players and offering the option to run in premade with 1-4 players or to be matchmade, which will always give a full 4 player group. There are no role restrictions, and you can change jobs inside the dungeon, with enemy power levels scaling to the group size (this will be interesting to see if it maintains challenge in a 4 healer group compared to 4 DPS). The variant in Variant Dungeons is both group size and route – the dungeons offer branching paths and will take a few playthroughs to see the full map on offer. The first dungeon is located in Thanalan, titled the Sil’dihn Subterrane, and an NPC will accompany you through this first one.
However, then we got the real big news for me – Criterion Dungeons are themselves a path of this system, which is designed around offering specifically challenging dungeon content. Criterion Dungeons are offered in both a Normal and Savage mode, and while they use the same map from the Variant dungeon, make several key changes. The route is locked for the Criterion modes, locked to a fixed and standard light party composition, and with major limiters compared to standard content in FFXIV, the biggest of which is that raising downed players in the dungeon is locked to a fixed number of raises through a content action, which means that a group comp that brings DPS raisers like Red Mage or Summoner cannot add more raises, which means that a group can, eventually, be down a player for the rest of the run. The Savage mode makes additional changes, with resurrections prohibited altogether. If the group wipes, all enemies are revived, and the dungeon will have a timer that will increase the power of enemies if the group fails to meet it. The Variant mode and normal Criterion mode are queueable and can match you with a group, while Savage Criterion requires a full premade group.
This is…well, with early details, something I am very, very excited for. With these modes, the team is offering a side path that neatly addresses two issues I’ve certainly had with FFXIV dungeons – making them more interesting with varied paths and exploration as a gameplay item, and increasing the difficulty of the content prior to EX trials and Savage raids, giving what should, hopefully, be a smoother way to learn your job at level 90 and get comfortable with higher demands of play skill. The incentive structure and actual content remains to be seen, and this will shape my opinion further, but they’ve got some time to roll this out.
That leads to the major point I found somewhat bothersome about this patch. Similar to 6.1, while this live letter goes in-depth on a wide array of features, the patch launch in August is going to be fairly light on content. The QoL changes discussed will be there, as will the MSQ and new raid tier, but nearly everything else is being held for 6.25. The tribal quests for Omicrons, the Manderville Weapons, the Variant and Criterion Dungeons, the Island Sanctuary – all locked behind a further wait. The Tataru quests do appear to be a 6.2 launch, which is good, but I do find the staggered launch somewhat meh. That being said, with a new raid tier on Savage, I know my personal play is likely to be consumed by raiding for that launch window and beyond, so it isn’t a huge dealbreaker, but it is an obvious content rationing done with business goals in mind, and I’m always somewhat leery of that.
Overall, the patch looks like it has a pretty good mix of content, and provided that things like the Criterion Dungeons shape up as well as possible, this could be an all-time great patch that sets the game onto an even better path going forward.