The Fun of Discovery (and Other Inchings in XIV)

The past two weeks in FFXIV have been fun. It’s definitely been about discovery for me. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring and seeing where it would take me. The game holds up so well to that kind of gameplay that I really feel like I’ve totally reorganized how I approach the game. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started out with a plan. I knew I was going to be working more than usual, so I decided the best way to optimize my playtime was to login every day to do my leves. That was a tragic overestimation of how long I’d really get to play. After getting home, doing dinner, dishes, and setting aside time for my wife, that two hours of so of questing was just too much. On top of that, I started to feel pressured, since not completing them all means less XP all around for that week. Doing leves became a grind of gogogo then logout.

So I gave it up and set a new plan. Instead of doing it all, I decided to go the purest route for advancement: exploring and killing what looked fun. This has resulted in more than a few deaths. I don’t mind, though, because, frankly, I’m having more fun seeing what the world has to offer than I ever did in the little bubble leves hold you in.

For example, did you know that there are some truly dangerous mobs that tend to stalk all around the newbie camps? Or that there’s a deep cave system in the north of Ul’dah? Or that there are other cave systems not marked on the map at all? I feel like Lewis after he kicked Clark to the curb.

That’s not all.

I’ve also discovered the nuance built into the crafting and gathering systems. For example, when mining, you have to decide how deep on the vein you’d like to strike. Depending on where you hit, the materials change. If you’re tapping on the outside, you’re more likely to succeed but will probably only get secondary ingredients, like Rock Salt. If you aim low and deep, you’ll probably find higher quality ores and crystals but are much more likely to fail if you skill level isn’t there.

Armoring is the same. Now, full disclosure, this may just be in my head because I haven’t kept records of each attempt, but it definitely seems like there’s some logic built into the crafting process. If you’re making a bronze helm, for example, you’ll probably want to use a hammer since it basically a big, domed piece of metal. If you’re making chain, however, you’re better off using your pliers to form the little rings. I’ve been using basic tactics like that and gotten much better at finishing products even slightly above my skill level.

More importantly, I’ve been advancing quicker! I only found out this week that story quests are opened by your class rank instead of physical level, so it’s only recently I’ve really been really pushing to advance rank. Leves are great for skill points but most especially so when you’ve outleveled them and can bump up the difficulty rating (or are playing with a group). For me, still working at Camp Drybone ranks, I’ve been going much quicker just by finding groups of orange-level mobs and taking them on. The skill points are good and I’m not dying much at all.

If you try this, I’d recommend going for a lower difficulty unless you’re a tank.

Overall, it’s been a nice couple of weeks. The atmosphere in-game seems to be settling as much as it is in the blogosphere. We’re all finding our places and making the slow inch-march forward towards new zones and new challenges. There’s a really fun game here if you’re the kind of person who can click with it. If I’ve learned anything this week, it’s to play for the moment. There’s no point sticking to something when it feels like a grind. Pull up stakes and find a hidden spot not included on the map. Those other people, rigidly sticking to their leves? They’ll probably miss it entirely while you reap the rewards.

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