Hello Eorzeans! Welcome back to Secrets of a Realm! I am your archeologist Lukile Bravestone.
When Final Fantasy XIV was released, it was released half-finished. With patches expected to fill in and unlock content as time went on. Pretty standard stuff. However, because FFXIV didn’t go as planned, most of this content was left behind and never unlocked. These areas was always hidden in caves. Just out of reach, blocked by an invisible wall.
In Central Thanalan, south of Halatali, you’d find these openings in the ground.
Most people would probably shrug it off as map decorations. And to some degree it was. Most of the holes were too small to enter, and some were just flat out blocked. They were really oddly blocked off too, cause the holes clearly didn’t lead anywhere, but they still felt the need to put up invisible walls to prevent players from walking inside. But then there was this one. This one was open, and players were able to walk inside. The tunnel would carry on for short while, until you’d encounter a brass blades soldier Vhaso Tayuun, telling you that the tunnel is closed by royal order. Behind the npc you’d find a lone pteroc. If you ignored the warning and continued to walk you would quickly run into an invisible wall – the tunnel clearly continuing down. In the chat log you’d get the ominous message
“You cannot proceed any further”
1.0 Eorzea had loads of caves that just didn’t lead to anything. Literally. So when a cave entrance suddenly has an invisible wall – well, you would most likely be staring down a dungeon entrance.
Well let’s take a look inside.
The Dark Descent
Once the invisible wall is crossed, the tint changes to a faint yellow. The dungeon has no visible torches or other light sources, and upon crossing the instance border, the minimap changes to a plain white. This dungeon has no map. We’re on our own guys! Right off the bat, it’s very easy to see the similarities from Cutter’s Cry here, with the sandy ground, and the brown cave walls. Taking a left at the entrance, we encounter a downward slope turning left. Following the slope, we get to our first open room in the dungeon. In this room, we’re presented with these blue glowing stones – the same stones found in Cutter’s Cry. But there is something here that immediately caught my attention. These things.
Ant eggs. The same eggs you’d find in Cutter’s Cry. We push on, and in the corridor leading out of the first room we encounter more blue rocks and… mushrooms? As well as these white eggs we found before. The next room is almost twice as big as the first room and has a falling dust animation from the ceiling. Along the side of the room, we have this small body of water. This room is big, and has lots of the same plants, eggs and blue rocks we’ve seen before. The whole room is semi-circular, and has water on one half and sand in the other half of the inner circle. The outer circle being where you walk and fight. Moving on, and we’re back in a copy-paste world until we reach this location. And by now you’ve probably realized that this dungeon is just blatantly using Cutter’s Cry assets.
But I wanted to clarify something about that. Cutter’s Cry was not released until way later in FFXIV’s life. Patch 1.21a to be exact. Sand Caves came bundled with the game at launch, albeit locked up. So technically, you could say that Cutter’s Cry is using Sand Cave’s assets!
So this room is basically the first boss room in Cutter’s Cry, where you fight the Myrmidon Princess and Marshall. Though here’s where things get interesting. These spiderwebbed things starts showing up. Now these also existed in Cutter’s Cry, but at a later stage. There are also three doors in this room. One straight ahead. And two sealed doors, sealed with the same stuff you’d find in Cutter’s Cry – which you’d teleport through via the shifting sands. This dungeon does not have shifting sands, and going by the open door ahead, was never intended to have them. So let’s go through the left side door first and see what we can find.
We enter a room similar to the circular room with the water we encountered earlier, but the rocks here do not glow. The room goes on for quite a while, not showing us anything of interest, until we are given a choice to either continue following the room, or branch off up this hill. Let’s check this out. Okay… I have a feeling we’re going to get lost. We enter into another corridor, with two options, left or right. Heading left leads to a dead end, where there probably would have been mobs to kill. Walking to the right I found another entrance. Following that route brought me to the same room I came from, but at an earlier point. This is a classic 1.0 dungeon design. Loads of routes leading to the same area. After a while I started to realize that I was getting lost. These caves are massive, and the copy-paste is so well done, I think I know where I am until I realize that I’m just in a copy of a place I’ve been before. This dungeon is massive. After making it back to the boss room, I decided to check the right door. And surprise surprise. It’s just the same stuff as the left door.
So let’s just continue through the open corridor straight ahead.
Following this route, the dungeon just goes on and on. and the further you go, the less decorations you get. Eventually, there is nothing, and you end up here, at the second entrance near the Amalj'aa encampment. We’ve basically just walked through a mirrored version of the first entrance.
But I wasn’t satisfied. This dungeon felt so much bigger. I had to investigate. I went back into the circular room from the right side, and carried on. I eventually found another downward slope. We’re going deeper. Much much deeper. This slope spiraled down for quite a while until you reach a long sandy corridor. The dungeon continued for a long time, with loads of branching paths. Eventually I found this room. The doors to the left and right do not lead anywhere – in fact, they are placed so that you can’t even approach them, so this must be the end of the line. Possibly where the intended NM was supposed to rest.
So how was this dungeon supposed to function? Well looking at how it was designed, it does seem like it was intended to function similarly to the Mun-Tuy Cellars. With identical entry points, the same corridors leading to the middle from both sides. Only when reaching the center, you’d be able to branch off and go deeper into the dungeon. This is the same design we see in the Mun-Tuy Cellars. They basically only made 50% of the first level of the dungeon, then mirroring it at the middle. The lower levels seem less copy-paste and does seem like it could be leading to a NM room, which leads me to believe there might have been plans for a Natalan-esque system with an end boss to unlock the gold chests. It is also evident that it would sport its own Aetherial Gate, as there is a large empty room close to the entrance near Halatali.
I really have to emphasize just how big this dungeon is. It seems like it was more or less complete. Not once did I encounter a missing wall or a premature dead end. It took almost 2 hours for me to cover this dungeon, and I still believe I’ve missed some of the many branching paths. Though the dungeon does suffer from the 1.0 dungeon design mentality of copy pasting premade modules into a nice pattern and slapping some mob clusters in there. We don’t know much about the sand caves other than this though. The Pterocs in the initial tunnel entrance does give us a clue to what we’d fight in there, as well as the ant eggs. It would seem like the Sand Caves was abandoned and reworked into Cutter’s Cry instead – a shorter, more streamlined dungeon with an actual goal at the end. I can imagine getting lost in these caves and cursing the twelve that I can’t teleport back because I don’t have enough anima. It’s also super creepy to walk around in this dungeon all alone, knowing that I’m walking inside a dungeon that always lurked below the ground in 1.0, just waiting for players to enter.
We've reached the end of this episode! Thanks for reading!
I’ll be back next month with another episode – we’ll be taking a closer look at the Peacegarden dungeon! Now if you excuse me, I have to find the exit…. See you next time Eorzeans!