Giants in mining tunnels, exploding oozes and more in the second half of Ragar's healing tour of ARR's early dungeons
This last weekend Square Enix added in the Duty Finder to the Closed Beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, allowing players to queue for dungeons, four-man guildhest quests, and Trials from anywhere in the world. I decided to spend most of that weekend trying out the various dungeons to see how well they stacked up compared to what's available in other MMOs. Well, that and because I was tired of being stuck on the "Finish the Sastasha dungeon" part of my main story quest.
When I left off yesterday, I'd switched to healing as a Conjurer due to lengthy tank queues (yes, I know DPS have it worse) and proceeded to clear the first two dungeons ARR had to offer. I was impressed with how good the dungeons looked, both in terms of general appearance and the cutscene tours leading in, and the side chests littered across the dungeon helped provide incentive to explore rather than just riding the loot train in a single linear path like I'm accustomed to with many MMOs. Unfortunately though these two dungeons are meant as starter dungeons, so the mechanics never got complicated enough to make me feel like my abilities were being taxed. They're a good warm-up for inexperienced players and someone who might be a bit rusty, but I was looking for something a little more interesting than "occasionally summons adds". Time to see what else ARR's Duty Finder has to throw at me with the next few instances.
Copperbell Mines: Finally Some Actual Fight Mechanics!
After clearing Tam-Tara, I went to turn in my main quest and collect my reward. Imagine my surprise when the next step turned out to be… “Go clear the third dungeon”. This does lead me to something I want to note for any solo MMO players out there looking at ARR as your next game. There are many things you can do as a solo player in ARR, from crafting and gathering to questing and FATEs. Your class quests and many of the main story quests are even soloable. There will be some points, however, where you will need to either group up with some friends or make use of the Duty Finder if you wish to proceed. In addition there are a few mechanics of the game that are only unlocked once you complete these three dungeon quests and your first Trial: the Retainer system (a minion that holds items/Gil for you and can serve as a storefront for your various goods while you’re off doing other things), joining a Grand Company (the three city-based organizations that have equipment and services for you in exchange for earning seals from them), as well as your very own Chocobo mount (unattainable without joining a Grand Company). While it’s possible that these three services may be available through other means later on for players such as crafters and gatherers, who don’t run dungeons, for the moment the only way to use these services is to do this group content.
Prior to going into Copperbell Mines, I actually did a couple more Sastasha and Tam-Tara runs. Partly it was to fill in some gaps in my equipment, but also to get Esuna at level 18 in case there was anything to cleanse in the third instance. When I hit 18 during a Sastasha run, I found out that the dungeons use the same Level Sync system as the FATEs out in the open world; the level range for that dungeon was 15-17, so anyone trying to run this dungeon from 18+ will be scaled down to level 17. All of my abilities were still available, but my stats were scaled down to be content appropriate. Considering that Copperbell Mines starts at 17 or 18 though, this wouldn’t be an issue when I stepped into the third instance.
Copperbell Mines started off for the most part like the first two instances: I’m in a hole in the ground with pulls of no more than three or four monsters and healing hasn’t been too particularly hectic. Going down the elevators and using blasting powder to blow open new passages was a nice touch, but nothing that exciting. Things started looking up though once we made it to the first boss room.
When you enter the room, you just see a couple of trash mobs like you’ve already been fighting – the only indication that this should be a boss room is the glowy purple door boundary that signifies boss rooms. Those trash mobs go down and more pop up to take their place. You kill them, more pop up, etc. Soon you’ve got a swarm of trash mobs and now your party is faced with its first actual challenge: your tank has to keep up group threat, your DPS has to switch to AoE attacks, and the healer needs to keep everyone up. Eventually the tide of trash mobs starts winding its way down and things start looking like they’re calming down… then the giant guy pulls a Kool-Aid Man and bursts through the wall to attack the party. Still nothing that daunting for anyone who’s played many MMOs, but now the game’s starting to throw some spike damage and endurance fights into the mix so I’m starting to feel a little challenge as the boss fight involves more than being a stationary HoT on the tank.
The second real boss of Copperbell Mines is actually where things get the most complicated for the instance. Coming into the boss room, you’ll see a giant ooze monster. Attacking him does no good other than building threat since he’s invulnerable to attack, so the tank goes to work on the ooze while the healer tops him off. After a little while a bomb monster will spawn in the room (Blasting Cap’s the name, I believe). If he stays alive long enough, he starts to cast a self-destruct attack and a giant red circle appears underneath him. When the Blasting Cap appears, the tank needs to go drag the ooze on top of him and wait for that self-destruct attack; the moment he sees that red circle, it’s time for the tank to book it out of the circle while trying to keep the ooze inside. Assuming you pulled that off successfully, the ooze should have split into two smaller oozes that are still invulnerable. Seems simple enough, right? Just rinse/repeat with that explosion until the oozes start taking damage and you’re good to go. The question is though: what do the two DPS do in the meantime? That becomes evident with the second Blasting Cap spawn.
Shortly after the second Blasting Cap shows up, another trash mob will spawn and target the bomb. If he’s left up long enough, the Blasting Cap will die without self-destructing and the tank and healer will have to keep the fight going longer. If everyone plays their role right though, the ooze becomes attackable after three splits and then you can quickly AoE him down for victory and two loot drops. All told, a much more complicated fight than we saw during the other two dungeons but still easily handled. That’s not to say it’s impossible to screw up though – during two of my Copperbell runs, I had tanks who couldn’t quite make themselves move fast enough out of the self-destruct and that’s when we learned that explosion will one-shot anything and everything in it. We still managed to survive though; apparently after the ooze splits, I drop combat just long enough to get off a Raise on the tank. These weren’t pretty fights to say the least, though they probably would have been funny if someone had the Benny Hill theme playing while I was kiting everything around the room waiting for the tank to get up. Ugliness of that fight aside, it was time to move on and head for the final boss of the dungeon.
When you make your way to the end of the mines, you see a giant man with a big weapon waiting for you. The beginning of the fight feels fairly simple with no spike damage or attacks to avoid. Soon enough though the boss runs to one of the walls in the room and starts beating on it, giving you free reign to put in as much damage as you can before the wall comes down. Once the wall’s down, his attention turns back to the tank and a smaller giant comes charging out of the hole in the wall. This mini-giant ignores the party and makes a beeline for the wall on the opposite side of the room. This would be where ARR introduces the “burn down the add then return to the boss” mechanic to dungeons. Soon another mini-giant comes out and heads for the wall, followed by another after that, etc. The longer those mini-giants stay up, the more damage they do to the other wall. Let them do enough damage and they’ll eventually break through, allowing a swarm of other mobs into the room to attack the party. Luckily this never occurred while I was running the instance, though I have heard some stories from other players that it’s not a pretty sight to behold. When I was in Copperbell, the DPS in our groups always seemed to be on top of switching to the appropriate adds and burning them down before anything bad could happen. That’s far more than I can say for what came next in my tour of the Duty Finder.