Thoughts on Story Dungeons in FFXIV

No, not dungeons that you have to run as part of the main story quests–dungeons that, in and of themselves, tell a story through their mechanics and the ways in which your party interacts with the zone.

As I was writing up a prior post on FFXIV’s content release cycle, I remembered my absolute favorite thing about another MMO I used to play, Everquest II; namely, some of the dungeons in it (usually 1 or 2 per expansion cycle) were significantly longer, more difficult, and more elaborate in terms of zone design than the other, regular dungeons. Those who played EQ2 may remember Estate of Unrest, Erudin Library, Tower of Frozen Shadows, and others in the same vein. For the many more who didn’t, think of each one as something like a zone dedicated to being a mini-adventure game, where you had to solve the zone’s puzzles (along with, of course, fighting mobs) in order to progress through the zone by unlocking doors, summoning mid-bosses to fight, and so on.

The nature of the puzzles varied between each dungeon. Unrest was more akin to games like Myst, with a lot of item collection and environmental interactions that led you through a haunted manor and its surroundings, while Erudin Library was pretty much a zone-wide game of Clue that you had to solve in order to fight the final boss, with different results each time. What they all had in common, though, was some hook that made them more than just a prettily-decorated corridor that you ran through in a straight line from entrance to final boss, with exactly two mid-bosses along the way and a few trash packs between each mid-boss. They also tended to be on the challenging side in terms of both trash and bosses, requiring groups to coordinate and work together in order to be successful–but, notably, they were not raids. They were designed for single groups, and they didn’t require any particular group composition in order to be successful (something more important in EQ2, which had much greater variety in terms of class roles than FFXIV does).

In addition to being generally fun and interesting to play, I think something like what I’ve described would fit a particular need I see that has thus far gone unaddressed in FFXIV: deep, challenging content for light parties. For full parties, we have both ends of the difficulty spectrum covered–for the purposes of this post, let’s leave aside arguments about how well the middle is treated, please–but I think most people would agree that all of the light party content that has been released is definitely on the easy side. More than the difficulty, though, is the complexity and depth; quite honestly, I’m tired of the trash-trash-trash-boss-trash-trash-trash-boss-trash-trash-trash-boss corridor formula. New dungeons are worth doing a few times just to enjoy the scenery and new boss mechanics, but that only lasts so long.

Admittedly, even the most complex, challenging dungeon runs the risk of becoming old after the hundredth time you run it, but at least to me, that’s a lot better than never wanting to see Hullbreaker HM (insert your least favorite dungeon here) again after the second week into the patch. This also ties into the reward structure for the dungeon; right now, dungeons are simple, quick, and easy because we’re expected to run them over and over, day after day, for tomestones. In keeping with the EQ2 source material I’m drawing the idea from, I would propose a several day lockout on any story dungeons, with rewards in the form of direct item drops or high-value tokens similar to Alex pages/parts, rather than tomes–and, correspondingly, not part of any roulette. That way, dungeons of this type would become something extra to do when available rather than something you might feel you have to work into a daily checklist along with your roulettes, beast tribe quests, scrip gathering, and so on.

So, thoughts? Does this–some number of lengthy, challenging dungeons with unique zone mechanics–seem like something people would like to see in FFXIV? Even at a rate of only one per expansion, it seems like it could do a lot to break up what can be a somewhat repetitive content structure, and I think there’s a lot of room to do some more in-depth exploration of parts of FFXIV’s world. Imagine a story dungeon going into the floating city of Nym (the ruins you can see in Outer LN, not WP), for example, or exploring deeper into the ruins that, according to lore, Qarn was built on top of.

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