My journey through Skyward has slowed down considerably. I have other games to play and review. And in general, the steam that powered this expansion prior to the encounter with The Vault has waned significantly. That is not to say Skyward The sluggish back-end pace wasn’t interrupted by a few bright spots.
After this Lose the shark elephantI did not think Skyward could still hurt me. But when Haurchefant’s father, Lord Fortemps, gave me the broken shield of his fallen son, I lost it absolutely, not because of the memory of our loss together, but because of the tearful, sad look on my character’s face. Skyward is six years old, I don’t know what technology is running the game’s engine, but I’ll tell you it’s pure witchcraft. This is an MMO that must be run on millions of devices of varying performance for more than 20 million people. And yet I can see the literal tears in my character’s eyes. This is the kind of facial animation you’d expect in a prestigious AAA single player game developed by Naughty Dog or Sony Santa Monica for the PS5 … in a six year old MMO. Damn it.
Beyond being stunned FF14In the facial animations, there was another moment in the bowels of the Great Gubal Library that rekindled the spark I felt playing this game when Shark elephant handed me cups of hot, unspecified liquid to drink.
I recently decided to quit my other jobs and focus solely on leveling my astrologer as it became increasingly difficult to level all of my jobs evenly and go through the main story quest. As I and other Healing is difficult and stressful, but by and large very rewarding. However, that change also meant that whenever the main story quest (or MSQ) mandates a trip through a dungeon to proceed, your girl will have to heal, and it’s tough.
My first dungeon after this change was the Great Gubal Library. I had been warned that the dungeon is tough on healers, so I checked out a couple of YouTube videos explaining the bosses’ layout and mechanics. Queuing for a dungeon to cause damage can take up to 15-20 minutes. As a healer – two seconds. I made the right choice in choosing my AST.
Party members do not normally speak in dungeons that go beyond a short “hello” at the beginning and “GG” at the end. Everyone is there to do a job, collect loot and get out. But, fearful that my evolving healing skills would not be up to the snuff, I decided to break with tradition and let my group know that I was new to the dungeon. After I spoke, the tank did too and told us that they too had never seen this dungeon before. The perpetrators – two black magicians – were silent. The first part of the dungeon went well until we faced the first boss when our progress stalled.
Fuck the book. You know the one. We just couldn’t kill this book. Either I died or the tank died after being caught in its attack on the insta-killing area. I was so embarrassed that I considered faking a breakup and coming back to complete the dungeon in one of my damage classes. But I felt sorry for the Panzer who kept complaining in the chat about how bad they were and how sorry they were dying so much that I stayed at the party doing my best to teach the Panzer what I learned from my YouTube research. Eventually I stopped dying and wondered when and how to move, but the tank still couldn’t understand. Those who caused the damage became frustrated. One of them left the dungeon upset, which was actually the best thing that ever happened, because they were replaced by a bard who saved our expedition.
This bard was patient, kind, and very knowledgeable. They called when to start moving to avoid Book Boss’ insta-kill attack and put down enough damage to put the boss down for good. We “cheered” and “/ cried” in chat, grateful for this Heavenly Party member, and with her help the rest of the dungeon was a breeze.
This bard saved our dungeon run. Other players would stop instead of patiently leading us to victory. It felt like being in a Shonen anime – our party, united by the fire-forged bonds of friendship, overcame seemingly insurmountable opportunities.
Dungeons shouldn’t be difficult. They are loot piñatas attached to an EXP fire hose. But every now and then FF14 chooses violence by throwing players in an inexplicably difficult dungeon boss encounter for shits and giggles, and I love it. As an MMO player, I usually only feel this great sense of achievement in the end game, when the content is explicitly designed in such a way that it is extremely difficult. When these experiences morph into normal content it feels like getting adrenaline pumping at times – they are a reminder of why I love this game, even if it’s slow.