Vana’diel Nights

Not harvesting.
Not harvesting.

I figured out that I should do harvesting and/or crafting for awhile in FFXI, gain some levels. My armor craft is 52 or so, and my mining 51, but none of my other Disciple of Land/Hand jobs is anywhere near high enough to do me any good in Heavensward. Gathering is the exact sort of brainless, mechanical sort of thing I could do while watching Hulu.

Having been informed that hard mode dungeons now gave experience, I almost took the plunge… but… there’s a new event going on! The Maiden’s Rhapsody. A mysterious traveler from a distant world has come to Eorzea to rediscover her mission, and her memories.

The world being Vana’diel, the game world of Final Fantasy XI. I played that for awhile. I’m sure I must have taken screen shots when I played back in 2004/2005 during one of my many breaks from EverQuest. I can’t find them, though. I don’t think I have loved and hated a single game so much. I finally quit to preserve my sanity. I can’t really explain it, but every FFXI player I’ve ever talked to knows what I mean by that. The game punished you so very much for every little thing. And then something would actually go right, and it was like the sun breaking through the clouds and warmth returning to the world. And then it would be three days trying to get a group for a BCNM. Or trying to solo the stuff needed for a level cap quest. Being begged to teleport people to groups, give them all three stealth spells (sight, sound, scent) to make it safely, but not being invited into that group. Etc etc etc.

Wow. The scars still seem fresh.

Ninja'd!
Ninja’d!

Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV have different game settings, but nonetheless have a lot of similarities. The races all have analogues in both games — storyline NPC Tataru seems to have given her name to the Vana’diel variety of Lalafell, the Tarutaru. The FFXIV Miqo’te lose most of their males and become the Mithra and… Yeah, the quest more or less revealed that Eorzea is a past version of Vana’diel, separated by several centuries and a few cataclysms.

Iroha, a samurai, the story goes, was sent back in time in order to find heroes to come forward in time to save Vana’diel. She made that backward hop, but she went further than intended. Not all the way to Eorzea, though. The trip to Eorzea, she did in her sleep. OR DID SHE? Since she can’t “wake up”. I just ran through the video I took of the quest (how do I always get the perfect screenshot? I record all the cut scenes). It is never firmly established that the worlds of FFXI and FFXIV are directly related, though they share some lore. I will just go forward insisting they are directly connected by way of something more substantial than Iroha’s dream quest for the power of Amatsu Kyori.

Since Iroha is stuck in our world, she decided to do some exploration until such time as her goddess allows her to return to Vana’diel. But, we know that Vana’diel is doomed. We can only hope that more NPCs make their way to Eorzea before the end of the month.

I wouldn’t mind if Iroha started teaching the lore of the Samurai. As long as some other teacher comes around the teach me the lore of the Red Mage :)

Picture is of my private room. Still decorated with all the Halloween stuff. The outfit is pretty nice. I’ll have to beg Kasul for some glamour prisms so I can wear this look for awhile :) I have ilevel 135 crafted armor, but it looks so dull.

Bomb Chair.

Chair goes boom.
Chair goes boom.

Kasul and I haven’t managed to be conscious and online at the same time FFXIV wants to be working for awhile. I’ve been spending time doing solo accomplishments. I’ve gotten paladin, warrior, dragoon, ninja, monk and dark knight to 50. That got me the “Warmonger” title. (Dark Knight wasn’t required for that, but I liked it so much). I don’t think I’ve done a dungeon since.

Back in some festival or other, I saw a lot of people floating around in bomb chairs. I didn’t think much of it, but I started thinking I would really like to have one of those. The wiki said you could buy it when you had max rep with the kobolds, garnered by doing the daily kobold beast tribe quests. Those took me a few weeks, but I maxed rep and got the bomb chair, just tonight.

I didn’t know if the bomb chair flew. I’d hoped it would, but I didn’t know. It does. I took it to Coerthan Western Highlands, and off it went.

So, go, me.

We’re still at the very beginning of the Heavensward storyline. Iceheart has joined Alphinaud and Tataru in our little NPC band. She told us (and showed us) how the old Saint Shiva thing got started. The moment when Shiva and the dragon decided to … you know … was uncomfortable for many reasons.

Ravana and Shiva
Ravana and Shiva

I don’t know why Iceheart wouldn’t just turn into Shiva all the time, but she seemed oddly reluctant. I figured she’d just have to power up when we walked in to meet Ravana, the primal of the bug people. We’d stashed crystals there in preparation, but while they were enough to let her transform into Shiva, she didn’t have enough power to cause Ravana any problems.

They needed Kasul and I, and six other random people.

So I watched the video, read the walkthrough, and it didn’t sound too bad. But it was. There’s a DPS check near the beginning. Like the Odin fight, if you can’t pass the DPS check, you will lose. And we lost again and again. But we really needed this for progression! Usually, progression fights aren’t that tough!

Once everyone realized that yes, this was a DPS check and no, we did not have DPS, we disbanded. We got someone from the free company to come in as a DPS and we went in again. We won on the second attempt.

See, there’s a bunch of adds that pop up near the start. Butterflies. They flap around a bit, then land and begin to cast a spell. If they finish casting, they summon one of Ravana’s swords, which multiply Ravana’s ultimate that he will soon cast. Most of the adds don’t have much health. Two of them do. Now as far as swords go, one or two is fine. Three or more doom the raid.

I had this thought that we were supposed to let the high health butterflies do their thing, and that would be okay as long as all the low health ones died. I had a whole bunch of ideas, but… it’s a DPS check. On our winning attempt, we had just one sword, because we had the DPS.

I’ve replaced all my vitality jewelry with strength jewelry, and I’ve started staying in my offense stance as much as possible. I had a bad case of /r/ffxiv for awhile, and I went to tank school on Reddit. Since then I’ve heard it lots of places. Tanks need to DPS. As much as I want to be a damage sponge and let everyone else do the hard work, I gotta DPS. That was one of the reasons I spent so much time leveling dark knight — a strength-based DPS tank was something I needed some time to learn. Do it wrong, and you’re a paper tank. Do it right, and people don’t really notice, but it probably helps with some DPS checks. Like Copperbell (Hard).

Not that I do hard modes any more. Kasul and I finished them all up, but since they don’t give any xp, and the loot is not useful, there’s really no need to do them. I think I heard that at 60 they start giving out tomestones of law or something, but… I’ve reached level 56 largely by soloing quests. Not really sure I need tomestones I can only get once I have essentially completed the storyline. The Free Company to which I belong is waaaay ahead of me in progression.

Dusk Vigil
Dusk Vigil

Dusk Vigil was, I think I remember, an optional dungeon. Still, completing it would give us the last aethyr current we would need in order to fly in the Coerthan Western Highlands. So totally worth it. The dungeon was easy enough; I don’t think we had any trouble, even though three of us were new.

Quite a shock when we came to meet Ravana the next time and it was actually _hard_.

It’s been almost a month since we last grouped; I think it will have been a month next time we finally meet to play FFXIV. When Kasul was logging in every night, it was fun to go there and just spend time with him, but now that it’s just me… I don’t have much motivation to play an MMO alone. Getting the “Warmonger” title and the bomb chair were my two independent goals in the game. I would love to finish the HS storyline — heck, I’d like to learn how to raid and see those parts of the story. But I’m too late to the game to do any of those things.

I might switch grand companies again, go join the Gridania one. That gives me an incentive to do dungeons and earn seals to rank up. The Maelstrom were a little disappointing in that there weren’t as many expensive furnishings to buy as there were in Ul’dah. I keep on buying useless consumables to keep my seals below max.

Hard Mode Night #1

Hullbreaker Isle

Kasul and I are going through our list of hard mode dungeons and clearing them out before continuing with the Heavensward storyline. There hasn’t really been a reason to do these dungeons before now. Since the launch of the expansion, superior gear is easy to come by, so the dungeon won’t offer any upgrades. And, I found out, once you’re post level 50, you don’t even get any experience. So, no experience and no upgrades means very little incentive to queue up for a dungeon.

But, there’s the challenge :) We mostly had fun doing the four dungeons of the evening; Hullbreaker Isle, Sastasha (Hard), Wanderer’s Palace (Hard), and Stone Vigil (Hard).

I learned early on that the moment I explain to the party that I have never tanked a particular dungeon, that some DPS will decide that I have somehow just asked them to run ahead and pull. Also, being new to a dungeon means that the DPS have to play a game where if the tank is hitting something, they must immediately switch to another mob and unleash all their cooldowns to ensure I lose aggro on these other mobs.

I haven’t gotten the memo when I’ve been playing DPS, but maybe perhaps that’s because I haven’t played a DPS class in a hard mode. I should give it a shot, get a screen shot of the popup window telling me to avoid the tank, run ahead, and try to draw aggro or force the tank to use all her MP casting Flash over and over.

I got so mad at the DPS. They’d never talk, just silently diss me.

ANYWAY.

Hullbreaker Isle was pretty fun, I think the highlight of the night. Lots of mobs from Bloodshore, as well as a smattering of types from Brayflox. Black mage disconnected toward the beginning; the rest of us started clearing trash toward the first boss while waiting for him to return. When he did return (and thanked us for not kicking him), Kasul and I headed back to get him, while the ninja ran forward and started soloing a couple groups of trash. He suddenly realized that Kasul and I were no longer obediently following him and dragged them all back down to us. Though he had only a sliver of health remaining, Kasul kept him alive and I taunted everything off him.

You would THINK he would slow down after that. You would be wrong.

First boss was a gorilla with a taste for bananas, and tricksy lemurs that wanted them all for themselves. Second boss had bubbles you jumped into. The final boss was THE KRAKEN! LET LOOSE THE KRAKEN! We had to jump from islet to islet killing tentacles, or rather, the ninja did. The rest of us just did things our slow way, and eventually THE KRAKEN!!! returned to Poseidon.

Sastasha (Hard)

Plenty of deja vu in Sastasha, hard mode. The dungeon is much the same as normal mode. Captain Madison has overdosed on his HGH (human growth hormone) and is now a larger, but just as cowardly, version of his own bad self.

First boss would randomly stun me so that I could not stun away the attack that would smoosh another player. Frustrating. Second boss was the Captain, lots of adds. And then — THE KRAKEN! LET LOOSE THE KRAKEN! Yeah, same boss as Hullbreaker, but the tentacles weren’t as much fun. Though hentai fans would probably have a field day. I don’t think either of the DPS were terrible this time.

Wanderer's Palace (Hard)

Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) was Kasul’s favorite dungeon of the night. The map was a simplified version of the normal mode map. We had a bard. Like most bards, he managed to stay entirely unaware of the actual battle he was in, and thought he was in a battle where you ignored the mechanics and stayed on the boss and tried to stay far away. At least he wasn’t like that bard I got in Brayflox last night who thought that every encounter required running around in circles, drawing adds, while focusing on a single mob and ignoring fight mechanics. That same bard also asked if we could rest after every fight so that he could regain MP lost from singing a song that benefited precisely nobody but decreased his already low DPS. But enough complaining about bards.

First boss required DPS to kill spears launched into the ground that boost the boss’ burn attack. We wiped because the DPS was not killing the spears, even though I said at the outset, kill the spears. Second attempt, I dragged the boss to the frickin’ spears and started killing them myself, and hey, they don’t have much health, it was EASY to keep them cleared! DPS got the hint and we flew through it after that.

Second boss had a roguelike mechanic where the totems could have a good or a bad effect. All you have to do is go to a totem, see what effect it has, and if it’s a good one, say that such and such a color was good, or alternately, such and such a color was bad, and we should let the boss take that one. The DPS was, as usual, shackled by a silence spell and could not report on the effects of the totems. I don’t know how we survived that fight. Maybe at some point we could try acknowledging the fight mechanic instead of just always “lock DPS on boss and ignore whatever else may be happening in the room”, which seems to be the default mode for DPS.

Last boss was similar to the dragon in Brayflox normal mode; just had to keep kiting him around the edge of the room. Kasul easily kept up with the DOOM mechanic. DPS eventually understood they had to kill the Sacred Idol when it spawned.

The cut scene at the end was precious :) All the tonberries that had been enslaved by their Sahagin tormentors came with their little knives and cut up the final boss.

Stone Vigil (Hard)

Stone Vigil (Hard) was dungeon where the DPS decided they didn’t need to understand the mechanic; just choose a target and mush buttons until the enemy dies or you do. Like the normal mode dungeon, there were interesting little encounters in the corridors that were as memorable as the boss fights. The dragon that would randomly pop up to nuke you in normal, now stays and fights. The sprite traps are replaced with flocks of dragonlings — building up to a mini-encounter where dragonlings swarm over the parapet while you drive away another dragon with cannons.

First boss was similar to normal mode first boss; keep behind the boss. New to this encounter were adds that buff the boss if he is too near them when they die. We wiped first time because DPS weren’t sure what they should do with these adds (KILL THEM? MAYBE?) or maybe they expected me to grab them, even though the fight mechanic is that I have to be far away from the adds so clearly I am not going to be killing them. I did explain this at the start, but the silent DPS just stared in wonderment at the flapping of my Miquo’te mouth and marveled at the sounds that spouted forth. What could they mean?

Second try, everyone got the point, and we easily won.

Second fight was a room with four cannons. You’re supposed to help out everyone else, clearing their adds before returning to the boss, and interrupting his room-wide attack. Again, it took a fail before people understood that there is a mechanic to the fight, and it does need to be followed.

Last fight was straightforward, pretty much a tank and spank. Except not so much on the tanking. Even though I kept aggro throughout, the boss would ignore me and go attack someone else. Not the DPS fault this time. More fun happened when the boss cloned himself. But, we didn’t have any particular trouble with it, since the mechanic here was “just target the boss and keep mashing those keys!”. Right up the DPS’ alley.

When we compared notes afterward, I said I liked Hullbreaker best, and Kasul enjoyed Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) the best. While writing the night up just now, I came around to Kasul’s view — Wanderer’s Palace was just more atmospheric and more fun all around.

We have another night or two of hard modes to do. Kasul hasn’t bought Heavensward yet, so I’m a little ahead in levels (52 now) and in Heavensward. My 52 paladin quest requires me to go to a zone to which I do not yet have access; I guess it is story locked. Since I don’t want to get ahead in the story, I’ve put paladin on hold for a bit, and started a dark knight. While still working on leveling the Monk so that I can get my second DoW title.

Did my first dungeon run — Halatali — as a dark knight last night. I’d made some HQ plate gear with my armorer so that I’d have SOMETHING. Run went pretty well. I am used to, as I’ve said, the sort of easy mode tanking you get with being a paladin. I haven’t started boiling down the DRK mechanics into macros, so there was a lot of hunting and pecking as I tried to keep up with the appropriate abilities and cross-class actions from my warrior and paladin jobs. Defense seems, at this point, to be a weak point, but we’ll see how it goes.

Vindicated!

Steps of Faith took a couple of tries
Steps of Faith took a couple of tries

I’ve been somewhat snarky in this blog and especially in the game about some of the folks we’ve encountered. The reluctance of the Crystal Braves to do pretty much anything. The motives of most of the NPCs.

I’d been saying for weeks that the Crystal Brave Lalafell Yuyuhase was suspicious. He so very much was. I’d been saying for WEEKS that Wonder Twin Alphinaud was being handed titles and commendations for no reason. Alphinaud was being fed pablum to keep him docile and away from the truth. The very first time I saw the Sultana’s handmaiden, I said she was a spy. She was — a spy, and an assassin.

When the Syndicate promised the mercenary company Brass Blades could defend Ul’dah while the Immortal Flames were occupied elsewhere, I said this was a bad idea. And it was.

When the membership of the Crystal Braves ballooned from a few disaffected adventurers to a fully-fleshed out army, I thought that seemed suspiciously quick. It so very much was.

Taledji Aledji was always presented as a straight-up villain. I had to admit that I was surprised when he was unceremoniously cut down.

But I want it written down… every NPC of whom I was suspicious, turned out to be well worth that suspicion.

EVERY one.
EVERY one.

The Scions of the Seventh Dawn have been betrayed before. They’re a long-time target for anyone looking for a quick score. Minfilia and Alphinaud kept everyone together, somehow, and found some new friends. Now most of them are gone, at least for now, and it was a much smaller Scion crew that trudged into Ishgard. Alphinaud, Tataru, and me.

Yup, we’re in Heavensward, now.

And Kasul, too!
And Kasul, too!

The night started with Iceheart using her Saint Shiva-drawn powers to remove many of the ancient barriers that had kept Ishgard safe from Dravanian (dragon) attack. This echoed the dragon Midgardsormr’s stripping from us of Hydraelyn’s Blessing of Light. Where Midgardsormr did this to inspire us to greatness, Iceheart was straight up looking to destroy Ishgard.

This culminated in an assault on the approach to the main gates, the Steps of Faith, guarded only by the last of the hastily-strengthened wards, a bunch of cannons, some explosives… and a few dragon killers.

The dragon Vishap led the Dravanian attack. He’s a huge dragon who shrugs off most of the raid’s attacks. Victory only comes from skillfully using the cannons, chains, and dragon-killing ballistae to take out Vishap and his hordes. The very last trial, pre-expansion, is the one that doesn’t hinge on tanking, healing, or dps.

Our first time in, we failed twice and people bailed. We signed up for a second time and this time we drew people who knew what to do with the cannons and stuff, and we easily defeated Vishap.

After that, we were praised by the Ishgard ambassador, Aymeric, and returned to Rising Stones as heroes. Kasul had to log early, so we decided to meet again the next night to finish up A Realm Reborn.

Hard to know who to root for, here.
Hard to know who to root for, here.

What awaited us back in Ul’dah, at the ill-fated “celebration” of the saving of Ishgard (TOTALLY CALLED HOW SUSPICIOUS THAT WAS), was a bunch of cut-scenes as Ul’dah was shaken to its very foundation by the betrayal by the Syndicate, Crystal Braves and Brass Blades, and the likely death of most of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. So much attention was paid to the difficulty of escaping from Ul’dah. Both Kasul and I were confused by their reluctance to teleport; they were in some cases RIGHT NEXT to an aetheryte. We KNOW NPCs can teleport; it’s not just a PC thing.

I don’t know whether the writers were just being lazy, or if this was some sort of stratagem to make the Ul’dah traitors believe that they had destroyed the Scions. Anyway, we, for some reason, decided to pin ourselves down in hidden tunnels, requiring all the other Scions to die in battle against the Crystal Braves. Apparently, they CAN fight, when it’s for evil. We just never gave them the right motivation.

That was a fun hour and a half of clicking through cut-scenes. Even after, we sat through the closing credits, hoping for a post-credits scene. Our patience was rewarded; we got TWO cut-scenes. Raubahn, disarmed, in a cell…. and Urianger, the creepy elf, answering as the Archon the summons of the Emissary, Elidibus, the white-robed Ascian. Is Urianger an Ascian? Probably not… but he comes when they call.

Even the NPCs can't figure out what we're for.
Even the NPCs can’t figure out what we’re for.

So, it’s been a little over four months since Kasul and I started our adventures in FFXIV. Kasul has taken Summoner and Scholar to 50, as well as Miner and Botanist, and Leatherworker, Carpenter and Weaver to fill out the roster.

I’ve taken Paladin to 51, and Warrior, Bard, Dragoon and Ninja to 50, Monk to 32, and White Mage to 30 as of this writing. I’ve earned the “Seeker of the Blood” title for doing the level 30 quests of all the original Disciple of War classes. I was working toward this all along :) I’ve also started an Astrologian, and will start Dark Knight as soon as I can find out where the guildmaster for that one is. I have been staying out of Ishgard, mostly, because I want to explore it with Kasul. I was kind of disappointed in how similar Astrologian was to the other healers; the “draw card” ability, at level 30, doesn’t seem so useful. I’m sure it will become key later on.

I’ve also got Armorer to 50 (almost 51 now), and Mining to 50. I haven’t really worked on the gathering and crafting professions. I do want to be able to make my level 54, ilevel 133, armor. But I don’t know what will drop when we get into the Heavensward dungeons, either. I may not need to make anything. Still, my armorer skill was key to completing the Free Company airship, the Millennium Bismarck, so it’s probably a good idea to keep it leveled.

Rating the classes I’ve played. I came to play a Paladin, and I enjoy being the boring “tank’s tank”. I like the wide variety of “oh crap” defensive and taunting abilities. Sure, I don’t do as much damage or self-healing as a warrior, but Paladins are meant to stand at the front of a group or raid and provide a safe environment for everyone else to do their jobs. I like that.

Warrior is very tactical. Positioning and such is more important. Some of the abilities I got really distressed Kasul, so I stopped using them (I miss you, Berserk!). It’s said to be a better soloing class, but I never have any issue soloing as a Paladin. When I play Warrior, I find I want to be playing Paladin.

Dragoon was my DPS class of choice, and I wasn’t disappointed. I love the animations, and I really feel effective in boss battles. Toward the end of the A Realm Reborn plot, we encountered the dragoon who was the antagonist during the dragoon job quest, and he remembered me, which was nice :) I look forward to being a dragoon in Heavensward. Dragoon mobility and single target DPS is just amazing.

Bard is a support job. It can do some damage, and excels in AE damage, but that can often generate problematic amounts of aggro. The various songs were of some use, but in normal groups, not really vital. When I am a Paladin, I like having a Bard that sings the running song between fights, and there HAVE BEEN cases where I requested a specific song from the Bard. So, leveling a Bard basically made me appreciate them more when someone else plays one.

The Ninja only came into its own late in the leveling, when there’s enough variety in the mudras to add some tactics to fights. I macro’d some of the lesser used mudras so I wouldn’t have to remember them, but the bread-and-butter mudras I do by hand. For most fights, I find that pausing ordinary attacks to run through a mudra is arguably not worth the time. The later mudras, that increase attack speed, make no-go zones on the ground, and some crowd control, are of some use. Positional melee dps in general has issues when a lot of bosses and normal mobs let those PBAEs out.

I have not finished leveling the Monk, so I can’t really talk about it. I actually enjoy the ramp up of power as the abilities flow into one another, and I don’t feel as if I’m wasting my potential dps by backing off to do mudras.

Healing is the most stressful of the three roles in a party. If anyone isn’t doing their job well, it’s the healer who has to make it work. If the healer isn’t doing their job well, nothing happens. Secondly, none of the mage jobs can stand alone. White Mage requires a fairly deep investment in Arcanist (which is required) and Thaumaturge in order to have the necessary abilities. Astrologian requires Thaumaturge, Conjurer and Arcanist to fill in the holes of the native class. (Astrologian, for instance, doesn’t come with the required “Protect” spell).

Both White Mage and Astrologian (only level 30 each so far) work similarly; put the tank on focus target, the enemy on target. Focus heal the tank, nuke and debuff the mobs, sleep enemies in big pulls if the party doesn’t have any AE damage (forget this if your tank is a Warrior or Dark Knight!). These healing classes are very technical. I think Scholar might be easier to play, because of the healing pet, but I don’t know. Kasul tells me that most people don’t appreciate the healer in a party, even if they do a great job. I like the egoboo that you get as a tank.

The various main classes don’t stray too far from the templates found in other MMOs. Dragoon is largely unique to the Final Fantasy series, but otherwise….

What Final Fantasy XIV has going for it, is the story — the story is unparalleled among the MMOs I’ve played, even that of FFXI. If the story doesn’t grab you, then the classes aren’t really unique enough to keep you. On the other hand, given MMOs with fairly unique classes and less well-defined roles like Guild Wars 2, I like having the well-defined roles of a more traditional fantasy MMO.

Still having fun!