Final Fantasy XIV: A Visual Guide to This Week's Patch 3.4 Release Protip: Grab a drink and/or snack before opening this. 09.25.16 - 9:56 PM
It's patch season again for Final Fantasy XIV! As usual, that means about 24 hours of maintenance, and a truckload of new and updated content that Patch 3.4: Soul Surrender will bring. As always, you can read about nearly every last detail in the official (but still preliminary) 3.4 Patch Notes, as well as on the patch promotional site. But since we've just added 70 new images to our FFXIV gallery, let's take a visual tour through the highlights!
Alexander: The Creator
Patch 3.4 marks the finale of the Alexander raids that began last year, with The Creator. After two tiers of battling through the massive mechanical construct, it looks like we'll somehow be facing Alexander itself in this round. Eep! But as you can see, the final tier boasts some gorgeous visuals, and the gear available is a pretty classy combination of black, white, and gold. It's more than a little incentive to tackle this metal beast.
The Warring Triad: Sophia
The second major battle in the ongoing Warring Triad (see: Final Fantasy VI) series will pit us against Sophia, the Goddess. In the two Live Letters leading up to this patch, producer/director Naoki Yoshida has commented on how the graphics team worked really hard to push FFXIV's visuals to their limit, and watching this battle in the trailer, I think they succeeded. The fight also apparently has some not-so-obvious mechanics that everyone may not figure out right away, so expect a challenge. A beautiful challenge.
New Story Content
The Dragonsong War arc that began last June with 3.0 finally concluded in Patch 3.3. Soul Surrender is meant to take the story in a new direction, with a spotlight on the Warriors of Darkness. These anti-heroes have made appearances in most patch updates, but have been secondary to the war against Nidhogg. It seems like whatever they're up to is going to have broad consequences, and will eventually lead us to whatever the next expansion will bring. In addition to these main scenario updates, there will be new side stories and quests with the lovable Hildibrand, and the Saint Endalim's Scholasticate.
Fascinatingly, Patch 3.4 will finally bring Alphinaud's twin sister Alisaie back to the main story — she was exclusively used in 2.0's Binding Coil of Bahamut raids, so anyone who didn't do those haven't seen her in a very long time. Apparently some pieces of dialogue in the patch will differ depending on whether or not you ventured through the Coil with Alisaie or not, which is a nice touch.
Apartments & More
The long-awaited apartments feature is finally making its debut in 3.4. A shortage of housing plots has always been an issue since the feature debuted, and there's plenty of people who want a room to call their own, but don't necessarily need a full housing plot costing tens of millions of gil. Apartments will be the same size as private rooms within houses, and will cost slightly more (500,000 gil vs. 300,000 gil), but again, won't require you or your Free Company to first buy land. All apartments are accessed through an all-new apartment building in each of the three housing zones, and even have a cool lobby (seen below) for residents and friends to hang out and socialize.
Along with apartments, everyone will have access to a new furnishing: Aquariums. Available in three sizes, with varying fish capacity, it will allow you to display your prized fishes in style. The jukebox Orchestrion will now have a playlist function, so instead of setting a single song to loop in your living space, you can choose a selection and order for songs to play. Speaking of which, I really need to craft one (or better yet, ask someone else to craft one) for my room...
Grand Companies & Squadrons
Ever since Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launched three years ago, players have been able to rise through the ranks of their chosen Grand Company. Curiously, there have always been several inaccessible ranks denoting higher tiers of service. At long, long last, the next level will be available, along with an all-new gameplay mode: Squadrons. By visiting your GC's Squadron Hall, you can recruit would-be soldiers and send them on missions to gain EXP and even bring back spoils of war. It sounds and feels more than a little like the missions you could send party members on in Final Fantasy Tactics, which means I am stoked to try this out. You can recruit up to eight characters at once, and choose which ones to send on a variety of missions. Different party makeups and each team's 'chemistry' will affect their success, so it will pay to experiment and maintain a balanced group.
Since these missions, and new items available with the new rank, will cost Grand Company seals, the maximum amount of seals you can carry is finally being increased, from 50,000 to 80,000.
Another all-new feature, Wondrous Tails, debuts in Soul Surrender. This infinitely adorable Khloe Aliapoh — the Miqo'te girl seen below — wants you to risk life and limb on various trials to inspire her to create new stories of her own, and she will reward you with... stickers! Wait, don't roll your eyes yet. If you look at the other image below, you can get an idea of how it works: By opening up the girl's journal (different for each player), there are 16 battles/trials/raids you can complete, and each one awards a sticker. By collecting enough and by completing rows in a 4x4 grid, you can earn rewards ranging from tomestones — including the brand-new tomestone of scripture —, minions, up to all-new high-level gear for battle, crafter, or gatherer classes. There's a lot of incentive here for everyone.
Even better, as an encouragement to help others, clearing duties with new players earns you "Second Chance" points, which will let you redo a completed duty and mark another as complete in its place: Handy if one item is a raid and you simply lack the manpower to complete it. These points also can shuffle the position of the stickers on the board if you want to try your luck and see if it completes a line.
You'll be able to pick up a fresh journal every week, but your old one won't "expire" for two weeks, giving you a bit of breathing room if you need extra time to finish something. I think this is one of the most interesting new features, as it seems to overlap enough with dungeons and raids people will already want to do, so it becomes a cool bonus (on top of the cool bonuses already in place like roulette and Challenge Log bonuses!)
Nearly done here! I'd be remiss not to mention the two new dungeons. Each patch introduces a harder version of an existing dungeon, and given previous patches, people predicted 3.4 would feature a hard version of 2.4's Snowcloak. And we were all wrong! Instead, we'll be seeing a hard version of Heavensward's final pre-level 60 dungeon, the Great Gubal Library. The poor library, commonly referred to players as Google Library, is easily overlooked now as many players prefer to level up to 60 in other places. Along with the creepy new library is the all-new Xelphatol. Astute players will know this as home of the Ixal race (it has, in fact, been marked on the in-game FFXIV map for years), so this should be an interesting place to step into at long last.
All of this, and yet there's more: Patch 3.4 will also debut entirely new gear sets with the new high-end Allagan tomestone of scripture, feature all-new crafted gear and weapons, and of course, offer new gear from the dungeons, Sophia, and Alexander battles. There will be new minions (including an adorable piglet), new mounts, chocobo barding, four new hairstyles, which all seem to be available for both male and female characters, and a myriad of smaller but welcome features, like reporting in-game spam directly from the chatlog when some schmuck sends you a private message (no joke, this is one of the best features of the patch).
PVP will be expanded with the addition of a new 1-on-1 dueling zone, letting you pit yourself against your friends or whoever is fool enough to challenge you. You can now set up custom matches in The Feast, with two parties of four from amongst your friends. This update also comes with Spectator mode, allowing even more friends to watch from several different camera angles, including from the perspective of each participant. It should prove valuable in seeing how others play and helping each other out with strate... oh, who am I kidding, you're all just going to use it to make fun of your friends' play styles, aren't you?
Controller players will have a new W Cross Hotbar, allowing, with a double-click of shoulder buttons, access to eight more slots for abilities. The Gold Saucer will also see some updates, the most important being a cross-server Triple Triad Battlehall, allowing all players in the same data center (i.e. regional servers) to battle one another in Triple Triad matches. Hopefully this is partially to test server loads and is a precursor to cross-server parties in the main game!
Patch 3.45: Anima Weapons, More Deep Dungeon
We even get a look at the mid-cycle Patch 3.45, which contains the usual next grindy set of quests for each job's Anima Weapon. This patch will also bring a huge update to the randomized floor system of the Deep Dungeon. This feature debuted with 50 floors of increasingly-harder content, and the update will add a massive amount of new floors and game mechanics, bringing the total to 200 floors! Talk about replay value. There's no word yet on when this patch will drop, but based on past history, mid-to-late October seems like a safe bet.
Whew, that's all I've got for you. Look for Final Fantasy XIV Patch 3.4: Soul Surrender on Tuesday! We — by which I mean I — have not yet even reviewed patch 3.3, thanks to an abundance of other goings-on at RPGFan. Have you noticed the daily stream of updates from our podcast, review, and music teams? These people are unreal. A constant stream of updates means I find myself busy supporting them all with visual assets, which is totally my excuse for my lack of review. So instead, look for a combined 3.3/3.4 review sometime in October. I'll try to make it worth the wait! Until then, check out the Soul Surrender trailer right here, and the full gallery of updates below!