About three weeks ago, patch 4.25 landed for FFXIV, which despite the absence of main story content, added a substantial amount of new features. Most notably, it’s the patch that finally introduces players to the Forbidden Land of Eureka, a brand new instanced area that’s been teased by Square Enix for way too long. And after three weeks, it’s already been reduced to yet another thankless grind with no incentive for low leveled players to jump in and join up on all the ‘fun.’
On paper, Eureka sounds like a novel idea: a large instanced area filled with dangerous monsters and a separate elemental leveling system. People liked Palace of the Dead’s separate leveling system, and since this is a brand new exploration area, Eureka sounds like it should be a hit. Monsters that don’t lose aggro once they’ve spotted you? Getting very little experience points for killing a monster that other parties are already attacking? An elemental-based system where you have to equip the right magicite to take advantage of a monster’s elemental weakness? These are systems taken straight out of Final Fantasy XI’s combat system that should definitely appeal to veterans. And yet, despite all of these great ideas, FFXIV’s new Eureka area is already wearing out its welcome.
Let’s start with the smaller things. As it stands, Eureka features a very unwelcoming barrier to entry, especially if you’ve already missed the window to join in on lower leveled farming parties. Getting your first five levels in Eureka is an extremely painful grind because A, enemies hit hard and gaining a single level even with chain kills could take you almost the better part of an hour; and B, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any low leveled players to group up with at this point because everyone else jumped into Eureka when it dropped and have already surpassed that initial speed bump. Because of the way the experience scaling works, higher leveled players can’t group up with lower leveled ones to boost them up. You’re forced to group with players that are around the same level with you.
And let’s be real, even if you were able to group up with low leveled players, the grind itself isn’t very fun anyway when all you’re doing is just killing the same mobs repeatedly.
The initial grind to levels 4 and 5 feel extra thankless as well, especially since you’re not even getting much out of it. Players are essentially grinding for experience points that don’t matter outside of Eureka, just for the chance to get in on the good stuff. The reason why Palace of the Dead’s leveling system worked so well was because players could play any job they wanted and level it all the way up to 70 to see what the end game rotations were like. It also helped that they could earn proper experience after every 10 levels for that respective job, and even take back some Gil and other goodies while they were at it. There’s a nice sense of reward and progression in Palace of the Dead, and that’s simply not the case with the initial grind in Eureka. You have to reach the max level for whichever job you’re bringing into Eureka, and after that, you’re forced to grind even more before you can start taking on the NMs (notorious monsters).
A little tip for low leveled players looking to get into Eureka: if you really want to get those relics, suck it up and grind your way up to level 5. After that, you’ll be competent enough to hop on the NM trains to get more experience points to carry you up to 20. More on the trains later.
Other little things hinder the experience as well, such as not being able to use your mount or teleport around the map with Aetheryte until you reach a certain level. It’s as if the game is deliberately trying to slow down the leveling process and pad it out by making you ‘earn’ basic in-game functions that were available to you right from the get-go in regular FFXIV areas.
So, what happens once you reach level 20 in Eureka? Is the payoff worth it? Well, I suppose that really depends on what you’re looking for in the game. For starters, there are relics that you can grind for, along with weapons and gear that go up to an item level of 355. But then again, with the Sigmascape raid dropping just a few weeks before Eureka was introduced, this immediately becomes a sub-optimal way of grinding up your item level in the game. Especially when Sigmascape is so much more thrilling, awesome, and more importantly, less time-consuming. And let’s not forget the fact that with the way FFXIV works as an MMO, your gear is going to be rendered obsolete within the next year when better stuff gets introduced.
Sure, the Eureka gear looks pretty sweet, but that also means that there’s no real reason to put yourself through the farming process other than fashion and wanting to hoard every valuable thing the game has to offer.
The content in Eureka itself at the moment is also lacking, and ultimately it falls back into the same trap so many other aspects of FFXIV have previously fallen into as well. Take one step into Eureka and you’ll immediately see your chat box being filled up with shouts looking for train parties and groups. Right now, the optimal way of grinding for rewards in Eureka is by grouping together and waiting for NMs to spawn after you’ve eliminated the mobs. The grinding process becomes a matter of about a hundred players banding together to repeatedly attack a monster until it dies, then rinse and repeat. If you’re a low leveled player, this is also the most efficient way of leveling up. You simply join the train (if you can get an invite), get one hit in on the monster, then just wait for everyone else to kill it so you can get your experience points.
It’s a mind-numbing process that feels thankless because of how minuscule the rewards are. And it’s a terrible shame as well, considering that the elemental magicite system actually feels rather innovative. Because every monster has an elemental affinity, players have to attune their magia board with magicite to match that element in order to take it down efficiently. The problem is, once you’re leveled up enough to join the grind train, that mechanic doesn’t really matter anymore. Unlike raids, grinding in Eureka isn’t a challenge that you have to be focused on. It’s simply a mindless grind that repeats itself until you finally have enough crystals for that good-looking armor set you had your eye on.
The FFXI elements don’t help much either. While the unforgiving mechanics of Eureka (insane aggro on monsters, de-leveling upon dying, etc) added to the tension players felt in FFXI, it’s important to remember that the rewards in that game were actually worth your time. One could make an argument that FFXI’s gear grinding process also involved waiting around for an NM to spawn before everyone banded together to beat it, but the drops you could get from beating those monsters would actually impact the way your job worked, and they weren’t simply gear or weapons that would quickly become outdated in a few months. Final Fantasy XIV simply doesn’t have a progression system that supports that kind of reward style. Everything is low stakes, and that really shows in Eureka.
Eureka has some great ideas, but it’s definitely being held back by the way FFXIV’s progression system works, and the ‘end game’ content that simply revolves around grind trains which require little thought. We know that Eureka is going to be expanded upon at some point, but for now, I’m struggling to see what the point of this new area is.