The first Savage raiding tier of Final Fantasy XIV was released last month, during the chaos of CES 2022. And while that means I wasn't able to dive as deeply into it as I wanted (I was kind of busy), it's clear that everything I loved so much about the end-game model of the MMO is back -- exactly how I like it.
That might sound like a potential problem with the game, though. After all, a new expansion may cause you to expect all-new gameplay systems, especially if you're used to other MMOs like World of Warcraft or RIFT. But instead, it means I know exactly what I need to do, and I won't need to burn myself out grinding out a whole new system that I don't understand.
And for the game itself, it means that a lot more effort can go into the raid fights themselves, and Pandaemonium - at least its first tier - is extremely cool so far.
A classic system
In Final Fantasy XIV's raid loots, at least for the normal tier, each boss drops little tokens that can be traded for individual armor parts such as a helmet, a chest piece, shoes, etc. This is nice because unlike other MMOs, which may have the big raid bosses drop specific pieces of gear, it means that everyone that comes to the raid has an equal chance to get something, no matter which job they're currently playing.
Even better, each boss drops 8 of these tokens, which means there's potentially one for every player in the raid. That means, especially at the beginning of a raid's life-span, everyone gets something for doing the content.
That changes a bit in Savage, the hard-mode version of the raid. In there, specific pieces will drop off of each boss, along with a coffer, which can be used to create a piece of gear for its slot no matter which job. But only one of each drops when the boss is killed. Instead, every player will get a book, and you can turn in a number of these books for gear as you collect them.
So, even if you have bad luck and don't win any rolls, you'll eventually get the exact piece of gear you've had your eyes on.
This is such an elegant solution for divvying up raid loot that it's not really a surprise that it hasn't changed since Heavensward in 2015. And once you have the best gear you can get out of the Savage raids, you don't need to endlessly grind content you might not want to do in order to maximize the gear further - looking at you, World of Warcraft.
Thank you, FFXIV, for respecting my time
While I may have spent as much time as physically possible playing Final Fantasy XIV when Endwalker launched - I even live blogged that first hectic day - I'm already at the point where I can log in for like half an hour each day that I'm not raiding with my friends. And I can probably get away with not even doing that.
It's the one thing that makes sure that I will probably never really burn out on Final Fantasy XIV. The game respects my time, and I don't feel like I'm being penalized for doing things that aren't playing Final Fantasy XIV. Game Director Naoki Yoshida famously said that he actually prefers it if you play the game at your own pace rather than forcing yourself to play everyday, as spotted in this Reddit thread.
That means that for the first time, I've found an MMO where I can play the hardcore raiding content that I want to play, without feeling forced to play through a bunch of stuff that feels secondary to me. If I was still playing World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and it dropped right before Halo Infinite, for instance, there's no way I would have even started that game. But, I finished it this last weekend.
It's not surprising that Final Fantasy XIV is as big as it is today. Because it's the first MMO I've played in years that makes me feel like I'm playing a game, and not paying for a tedious second job. And that's what's going to keep me coming back for every patch -- and buying every expansion for years to come.