Just to make a point, I am going to start off this column by answering the question factually, and the answer is “no.” Final Fantasy XIV has had the same number of trials, raids, and dungeons as in prior expansions. We have not gotten a new open-world area to grind FATEs in as we did in the prior expansions, but we have gotten Variant/Criterion dungeons, which offer the same basic dynamic, and unlike in Shadowbringers we also got a new Deep Dungeon. We also have Island Sanctuary, and while there isn’t a separate quest line for trials we have instead gotten Tataru quests that fulfill the same need. There! Sorted. Same amount of content. Column over, right?
Of course not. The thing about saying that there’s a lack of content is that even if you can lay things out end-to-end and prove that there’s plenty of content, that isn’t really the problem. My point there was to answer the question less for the purposes of proving that it’s not true but more for establishing a baseline. We can demonstrate clearly that there is not actually a lack of content. So why are there people who feel there’s less content to do, and why does this sense persist?
Now, obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but I think there are actually reasons that is the case, and first is a fact that’s so obvious a lot of people reading this won’t even think about it: If you’ve been playing this game for a while, you have been playing this game for a while.
This fact should not be discarded or ignored. The upgrade and gearing pattern for the game has been pretty fixed ever since Heavensward. Sure, there have been minor variations, but it’s not hard for people to be in the same basic place as me insofar as you’ve been doing this for like a decade now. There are no upheavals to how gearing works. You can set your watch by it. Here we are, yet again, and we are doing the same basic dance as we were doing ages ago.
But that doesn’t explain most of it, just a facet of it. And I think part of it comes down to the fact that you don’t really need to do Variant or Criterion dungeons all that much. If anything, the endgame for this expansion has become more optional than it ever has been… and that’s a good thing and a bad thing.
To explain that, we’re going to need to break things down a little bit, starting with noting that what I’m talking about here is not the things required to be able to participate in endgame activities. You can jump into Savage with just a gil expenditure or a friend willing to help you with that. It’s not hard. Instead, we’re looking at just Shadowbringers and Endwalker in terms of what you “need” to do.
In Shadowbringers, you have a weekly Allagan tomestone to cap out on. You have weekly tokens to get either from the normal raid or the alliance raid. You also need to get through all of the latest Bozja content to keep up with your relic weapons, which usually allows you two options between either having to grind through old content or going through the new stuff – but you still have to go through the new content at least once or twice because the next patch will require it. And for some things it’s easier to farm Bozja compared to farming old content for a bit.
In Endwalker, well… you have the tomestones to cap and a weekly token. That’s it. Our relic quests have thus far all required the unlimited tomestones, and those are things you get while doing the prior content. Done. Have a good night.
From a practical standpoint, yes, this is a good thing. It means that if you don’t particularly enjoy Variant or Criterion dungeons, you aren’t forced into them. If you do enjoy them, you have rewards you can earn from them and then… well, then you’re done. There’s no need to dive back in over and over. And it avoids awful scenarios like the random anima drops from the base game or being stuck running Brayflox (Hard) a few dozen times for each relic upgrade. Heck, from a practical standpoint there’s very little difference between running Brayflox (Hard) over and over and just… earning tomestones.
But the thing is that running a specific thing several times might not be practically different, but it is emotionally different. The reward for running a specific dungeon repeatedly means that everything else you’re getting is essentially a bonus. Now, you don’t even really need to do anything special to farm for your relic weapon upgrades. They just come along as you play normally.
Again, I want to stress that from a practical standpoint, this is a good thing. You have fewer mandatory chores and thus can engage with more stuff that you want to. But that also belies the fact that sometimes chores are kind of how you grow to like things. I definitely did not care for Delubrum Reginae at first, and I would never call it one of my favorite instances, but it was unique. It provided a very different experience. And most of its rewards were indeed secondary to its primary purpose… which did, in fact, mean that it was another thing I had to do and engage with, regardless of which rewards from it I actually wanted.
By contrast, once I had all the stuff I wanted from Sil’dih, I stopped doing it. Haven’t touched it since then. Why would I? There’s nothing else I need or want. It is surplus to my requirements. And while that hasn’t reduced my playtime, it has meant that it did not wind up in a regular weekly rotation for me for a few months.
You may have an easy time saying that this just means you can spend your playtime doing other things. But for some people, that means less time spent playing the game. And for those people it’s going to feel like there’s less to do because there are fewer things they have to do.
And those people are not wrong. They haven’t somehow failed to understand how the game is meant to be played. Playing while engaging primarily with required activities does not mean you are making a mistake; it just means that you prefer to play a game with a defined task list. This is a valid way to play a game, and it’s even advantageous if you’re splitting your time across a bunch of different tasks. It just means that if the list of tasks goes down, your engagement does too… and that you might feel the game suddenly has way less to do.
My personal feeling is that reducing the list of mandatory tasks is, ultimately, a good thing. But that doesn’t mean there are no side effects, and if you play for the tasks… well, you did lose those. It’s true.
This is also why it’s important to understand the difference between emotional responses and factual ones, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to actually take another look at Bozja because this column got me thinking about it. What is worth pulling from that content and what… well, isn’t?