This is an expansion of some of my thoughts from the Podcast this past week, specifically regarding raiding in FFXIV. At this point I’m raiding one night a week, and would consider myself fairly casual, but the group I’m raiding with is awesome. After struggling with it for a few weeks, we cleared Turn 5 of the Binding Coil of Bahamut in mid-December. I’ve since cleared it 3 more times, twice with the same group and once with another group from our server. Some spoilers for the fight follow, so if you want to go into it blind, you should stop reading. (Also, don’t go into it blind. It’s a long fight with lots of moving parts, there’s plenty to learn even if you know what to expect.)
One of the things that distinguishes our raid group from many others is our continued tendency to ask why certain elements of strategies exist. When learning Turn 2, we experimented with killing different nodes to see what the options for clearing to ADS actually are. Killing a node removes that ability from ADS, but adds a buff. Rot passing is required (if you’re doing the fight traditionally) because killing the Quarantine Node (which grants ADS the Allagan Rot ability) grants an overwhelming haste buff which makes the fight unhealable. As a result of this asking why, we’ve gained a pretty good understanding of a decent number of mechanics in Turn 5.
There are an amazing number of mechanics that instantly kill you in this one, which is probably a part of why it takes so much to learn. The following things will kill you with no save if not handled properly:
- Conflagration (Phase 2)
- The wall of the arena (All phases, most relevant in Phase 3)
- Twintania’s big attack (end of Phase 3)
- Twister (Phase 4)
- Dreadknight (Phase 4)
- Hatch (Phase 5)
The only randomness in almost all of these is who is targeted, and almost all strategies aim to reduce or eliminate the effect of random chance in this. Regardless of who gets conflag, they always move to the same place. The “Divebomb dance” if done correctly allows everyone to dodge no matter who is targeted. (It has the added benefit of allowing people who don’t dodge well to not get flung into the wall.) You can’t tell who Twisters pick, so everyone moves. The threat of the dreadknight is reduced if no one (except the tank) is near the middle. Hatch can be completely eliminated as a threat if the off-tank takes every one in the final neurolink.
As a direct result of this, the ability for the fight to screw you via RNG is fairly low, and I’ve observed this for most of the fights I’ve done so far. Fights can be practiced, mistakes can be identified, and eventually, victory can be achieved. Even things that seem like they could be random (Titan jails 2 people) aren’t as random as they look (Titan always jails a healer and a DPS) and can be planned for. Some mistakes are more forgiving than in certain other games because all healers (and also summoners) can raise during battle.
At the same time, the required amount of personal responsibility for all players is far higher than many other games. Part of this is the 8-person group size for “hard” content, which means the loss of even one player means you just lost ~25% of the group’s DPS and might not make a DPS check because of it. Some fights (Titan, Leviathan, I’m looking at you) don’t allow for the element of recovery I mentioned earlier, because once you’re knocked off of the platform, you’re dead until the next attempt. I feel like these mostly balance each other out; random personal responsibility feels unfair (See: Teron Gorefiend in WoW’s Black Temple), but it doesn’t feel quite so bad here. Because fights really do play out the same way almost every time, it’s possible to reliably get farther with each attempt, and that’s something I didn’t feel like was always true in my previous raiding experience. Maybe my group really is just that awesome.