Savage modes for the Deltascape fights have been live for a week now. World first teams are taking a well-deserved break from their grueling launch schedule — the very first clears of the entire raid tier all rolled out within twenty-four hours of launch. For the rest of the raiding population, the climb to the peak that is Exdeath (Savage) continues. This week, we’ll talk about the first two encounters in Deltascape (Savage) and the overall difficulty of the raid tier.
Is Deltascape too easy?
We were told to expect that Omega’s first raid tier would be comparable in difficulty to Heavensward’s final raid tier, Alexander: The Creator. Now a week into the the first Stormblood tier, players seem to agree. Deltascape (Savage) overall may even be easier than The Creator (Savage) and is definitely not a repeat of Gordias or even Midas. For newcomers to the raiding scene and casual teams, this is a welcome change. To increase the number of raiders in the game, the introductory raid tier should absolutely be easy enough that prospective raiders don’t get frustrated and quit on the first boss. Reverting to Gordian raid design would undo everything that the final chapter of Alexander did to nourish a shrinking raid population.
So, what does this mean for hardcore raiders or even midcore raiders that blew through the first few fights without any trouble at all? Halicarnassus and Exdeath’s Savage incarnations are difficult, but even their learning curve is gentle enough that skilled raiders can expect to clear the raid tier within a month or two, if not sooner.
Naoki Yoshida has stated that the team plans on rolling out “Super Savage” encounters on odd-numbered patches. Judging by his comments, Super Savage will be more like the original Savage design introduced after the Second Coil of Bahamut — punishing, unforgiving, and rife with ways to torture the unprepared. Given how odd-numbered patches usually don’t have any new raid content beyond 24-man raids (which are made for random Duty Finder groups and not premade raid teams), this just might be the solution to the problem of designing for a game that has both casual and hardcore raiding teams. Under this schedule, every facet of the raiding population gets something new every patch.
So, that’s enough about the future. Let’s talk about the fights we actually have right now, starting with the very first encounter in the Deltascape.
Most of what you need to know about this fight is that in the first two seconds of zoning in for the first time, my co-tank calmly stated, “I need to test something real quick,” and jumped off the edge to his death. Alte Roite apparently attended the Titan School of Encounter Design, as most deaths will come from someone misjudging the distance from the middle and sliding right off, a dragoon descending from the heavens just to Elusive Jump to his demise, a minor position adjustment turning into a domino effect of people dying, and so on. Thankfully, unlike Titan and his ilk, you can resurrect players that fall off, which considerably reduces the encounter’s difficulty.
Alte Roite is an ideal introduction to “endgame raiding” and likely the best that we’ve had in the game. The fight’s repeated mechanics are great for teaching novice raiders how encounters can vary between Normal and Savage — and how executing a fight’s gimmicks and strategy is more important than maximizing damage per second when you are progressing. It’s also clear when and why you fail against Alte Roite; falling off is instant death, getting clipped by a fireball increases damage taken for a minute, and overlapped Levinbolts will dramatically increase damage taken. It’s also nearly impossible to get someone else killed outside of a precious few mechanics. Coincidentally, the mechanics that might kill someone who didn’t make a mistake are all recycled from Normal mode and are considerably more lethal.
Alte Roite is a fantastic primer for teaching individual raiders to be responsible for themselves and executing mechanics. You can’t just pass off a job to the one person who knows how to do it, and you also don’t have to worry about the whole raid getting held up because the random select mechanic will inevitably target the one person who has no idea what’s going on.
This does make Alte Roite a loot piñata for more skilled raiders; world first raiders cleared him within two to three pulls. Other teams with a lot of raid experience are unlikely to struggle against Alte Roite much, if at all. The fight mostly comes down to learning the various patterns for his attacks and assigning spots for people to go to for certain mechanics. Even with some deaths, it’s easy to bounce back and clear without risk of encountering his enrage, and it will only get easier as players acquire more gear.
I encourage teams to do this fight blind, at least for the first few pulls. Alte Roite’s mechanics are simple enough that they can be solved through trial-and-error, particularly because a lot of them are recycled from Normal, just with an added twist. For example, Alte Roite will freeze the platform and make players slide around in Normal, but in Savage, you can fall off, and the encounter demands faster reaction times from players. The whole Alte Roite encounter is designed in this manner. Doing the fight without knowing in advance everything that’s going to happen makes it a lot more enjoyable, and it’ll help bolster a team’s critical thinking skills and ability to strategize on the fly.
All that said, Alte Roite is unlikely to be anything more than a bump in the road within a few weeks of raiding. If anything, Alte Roite is more likely to be remembered as the mount that drops from clearing the raid tier than as an actual proper boss.
Unlike Alte Roite, Catastrophe is more certainly going to give teams trouble. A lot of the mechanics are brought over from Normal and aren’t changed much, but some of the new ones are a little more difficult to wrap your head around. Healing checks can be especially brutal for the unprepared, as Catastrophe really likes to slam everyone with unavoidable damage while overlapping with other mechanics. Tunnel vision too hard, and someone is likely going to die.
Despite all that, the predictability of the encounter and lack of randomness keep the encounter straightforward; everything happens at set time intervals and will happen mostly unchanged from pull to pull. This allows for more punishing, potentially raid-wiping mechanics that emphasize being responsible for both your own survival and that of your party. Catastrophe is more difficult than Alte Roite, but certainly manageable for anyone who got past the forgettable dragon.
The fight also repeats a lot of its mechanics and splits them between tanks/healers and DPS. This makes it easy to plan in advance for what each group will do to handle a mechanic. Keep everything consistent, and you’ll be able to work around Catastrophe’s unusual gravity mechanics without much trouble. All it comes down to is practice, not reacting to the unexpected or randomness of huge mechanics that will wipe the raid… glitches involving probe placement notwithstanding. (If this is happening to your team, try to place the probes closer to where they automatically appear in Normal mode. The glitch seems to only happen if you try to place probes too close to the outside of the arena.)
My complaint about Catastrophe is how the designers made two tanks mandatory for the fight. I’m not against maintaining the “standard raid composition” of two tanks, two healers, and four DPS, but the tank swap in Catastrophe’s Savage mode felt hastily tacked on or at least a little inelegant. Contrast with the other fights in the tier, even Alte Roite, and it’s easy to feel like you’re missing something about when to swap. The interval between the third “auto-kill” stack and when your previous stack of the debuff would fall off is way too close. It almost feels like they intended for Evilsphere (the tankbuster with a cast time) to give a stack of the tank debuff to make tanks swap before the cast begins, but then at the last minute decided to change it.
Nonetheless, Catastrophe is definitely an interesting fight and represents a variety in fight design that was sorely needed in Final Fantasy XIV. Even on Normal mode, Catastrophe stands out with some clever uses of height mechanics. My personal favorite mechanic would be the spheres that will petrify you if you’re up in the air paired with the quicksand on the ground. Despite your immediate reflex to go into the air to avoid the quicksand, you have to wait just long enough for the petrifaction spheres to go away. The game doesn’t need every fight to have a weird gimmick like Catastrophe (or its distant relative, Lakshmi), but it does keep the more conventionally designed fights from feeling stale. Even if Catastrophe isn’t my favorite encounter, it’s good to see the developers branching out and promises future innovative raid design.
Next time, we’ll be looking at the third fight in Deltascape, Halicarnassus, and whether or not the fight is an unreasonable increase in difficulty from Alte Roite and Catastrophe.