If I've made one thing clear in numerous reviews and other work on USG, it's that I love Final Fantasy 14. And with the Shadowbringers expansion, I think the team at Square Enix is bringing the MMO even closer to the rest of the franchise. It's a class act of an MMO, wrapped in a fantastic storyline. The problem is that you essentially have to start from the beginning of A Realm Reborn to get the full impact, and that's around 150-200 hours worth of playtime.
Not everyone has those hours to spare, making it really hard for me to recommend Final Fantasy 14 to others. It's a high wall to climb. Other long-running MMOs like World of Warcraft have tweaked and cut their story content to fit into a shorter amount of playtime, lessening the number of side quests needed to level and generally squishing levels altogether. I doubt the latter change is coming to Final Fantasy 14 anytime soon, but the former should be on table.
In a recent Letter From the Producer Live stream, Final Fantasy 14 director and executive producer Naoki Yoshida addressed the problem. The stream itself was in Japanese, but Final Fantasy 14 community team member Matt "Bayohne" Hilton recounted the Q&A portion of the stream in English on the official forums. While a lot of the questions involved near-term additions and balance change, Yoshida also tackled future ideas, including a more compact main story scenario.
"The New Game+ that is currently in development also requires a lot of resources, so we're currently allocating resources there," said Yoshida in regards to level sync being available in older sidequests. "As a side note, we're working on adjusting the A Realm Reborn main scenario to be more compact, and are aiming for patch 5.3."
The next major patch will be 5.1, which is likely coming in late October or early November given Square Enix' consistent patch schedule. That patch is going to offer bigger balance changes and adjustments, alongside new playable content. Yoshida said that Trusts, the new Shadowbringers feature that lets you run dungeons with AI companions, will be moving forward, but it's unlikely to work with older content.
"Regarding Trusts, we had many ideas such as fighting primals together, or changing Castrum Meridianum and Praetorium into a 4-player instance and battling alongside Raubahn. However we cannot possibly implement all of them, so in patch 5.1 [we've] made it so you can go to the new MSQ dungeons with Trusts. We also plan on making MSQ dungeons work with Trusts in future patches as well. As a side note, while progressing the MSQ in 5.1, they will come with you as part of the story mode, and so you won't have to worry about having to level them up through the Trust leveling system," the team explained.
Players can also look forward to new Beast Tribe quests, an Extreme version of the final Trial in the current main story quest, and several changes for gatherers and crafters. Certain recipes are being adjusted, stealth will be changed, and desynthesis will become "100% guaranteed, no need to level up skills." If you're a Discipline of the Land or Hand, Square Enix hasn't forgotten you.
Finally, the planned Alliance Raid is coming in Patch 5.1, which is based on Nier: Automata. The raid, YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse, is being developed with help from Nier Automata executive producer Yosuke Saito and director Yoko Taro. One fan asked when the gear from the raid would be shown, and whether players would be able get a glamour of 2B's distinctive katana.
"Actually, I happened to check the models for the rewards today," said Yoshida. "I provided some feedback, but they were very well-made. We made the decision to make the costumes wearable by both genders, so please look forward to it! A katana weapon would be limited to certain jobs only, so we haven't planned for them at the moment, but we may consider it if highly requested. I think we'll have a guest with us for the 5.1 Letter Live to talk about YoRHa, so please look forward to it!"
Players also had several questions about running older content, given that more new players are focusing on Shadowbringers' endgame. Yoshida admits that getting weapon drops from older Extreme trials is "not good enough", since they use a loot system that's nothing like the Eden raid tokens. He also explained that lessening the grind for weapons from Eureka is "something we're currently discussing, and we plan on working on it." Finally, Square Enix is currently working on allowing smaller parties to take on the Great Hunt, which is the trial that pits players against Monster Hunter's Rathalos.
A host of other smaller changes were also mentioned in the Q&A. Astrologians are in a better place after recent healing improvements, but it's unlikely they're getting some of the more interesting cards back. "If we make certain cards significantly more powerful than others, then we'll just return to fishing for the good ones, so we decided to simplify it. We plan on continuing with this style for now," said Yoshida. Ninja, Summoner, and Samurai have a "high priority for changes" in Patch 5.1. Ninjas are getting more changes to smooth out their rotations and improve the feel of the job. Tanks overall seem to be in a good place according to the team, and any balance changes will come after seeing Savage raid performance.
All in all, it's a good laundry list of changes coming to Final Fantasy 14. Square Enix thinking about pruning the current main story quest is fantastic, even if Patch 5.3 probably won't be released until around May 2020. While we wait though, Patch 5.1 sounds like it'll continue to add life to Final Fantasy 14, with the new Nier alliance raid, more Extreme trials, and further Eden raid content.