Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is approaching fast and the biggest question the goes around buzzing through the heads of potential customers is "What is the endgame like?" Legitimate question considering past titles, much like Star Wars: The Old Republic and even the past rendition of FFXIV had little to no endgame content at launch. Naotoki Yoshida, FFXIV's director, put out his 48th 'Letter from the Producer' and he gives us a glimpse of what to expect:
Completing the main scenario will get players to level 50, but the adventure doesn't end there. Being an online game, there'll be regular updates to continue the story. So even if you reach the level cap shortly after release, there's no reason to think you've hit the top. Considering all the plans we have for the game, you may want to get comfortable and prepare for a long stay in Eorzea.
As predicted, the main story will take one class to level 50. I guess this is to ease those who are not hardcore MMO'ers into the game as well as cater to the chunk of players who are mainly in it for delicious FF lore and do not wish to be burned out by additional grinding needed just to complete main questing. For this system to work, however, you will need a TON of additional content completely dedicated to the full-on, hardcore MMO fanbase or heck, something to entice people to stay in your game. If something holds your hand to max level, there's an assumption that the content after the cake walk will get progressively harder and more exciting. All of this is explained.
FFXIV will use several systems but one of them is the tier-based dungeon system. There are a lot of beautiful dungeons in the main questing scenarios and it would be a shame if they were wasted in one run through. It turns out you will be able to revisit past dungeons on Hard or even Extreme difficulties with new layouts, monsters, the works:
Let me use the phase 3 Ifrit battle as an example. Although this battle is a level 20 encounter in the main story, after reaching level 50 you can take on a harder version. Anyone looking to earn weapons from the primals will have to overcome these higher level fights.
In 1.0, we were given hard mode battles for these primals. Hard mode required level 50 already and were pretty difficult as-is. Yoshida has confirmed the return of extreme-mode which will take what was hard about 'hard mode' and kick it up even further. Trust me, Square Enix knows how to ramp up difficulty, especially when it comes to FF MMOs (looking at you XI!). Most of this will be smaller, 8-man content, so it's mainly something to do on off days when your guild is relaxing. Good gear can also be found from these missions and it's likely, but not confirmed, that Duty Finder will be used for this since E3 2013 used an 8-man duty finder to put parties together (2 tanks, 4 DPS, 2 healers). I hope so, so at least people who don't want to be in guilds can still get sweet gear.
The battle system in FFXIV was well-received in Beta Phase 3 but apparently we have not even gotten a taste of all the mechanics. Who knew the Titan fight would have the gigantic beast head butting his victims into oblivion, sending them into a Soul Calibur-esque ring out of doom.
Big raiding zones
The next thing confirmed at launch are two pure-endgame raiding dungeons: The Crystal Towers and The Great Labyrinth of Bahamut, both of which are 24-man content.
For those of you who played Final Fantasy III, yes, it's the same one. The Crystal Towers, or at least as far as we know, is a series of tiered floors with high level monsters and a boss at each stage. To progress to the next floor, you have to have beaten the previous level. Pretty straightforward. No word so far on whether or not we will encounter a super boss every 5 or 10 floors or if this content will be available via duty finder, for those who do not have a Guild/Free Company. One interesting thing is Square plans to add additional floors and tiers during the games life span which leads me to believe there will be some sort of lore associated to it, much like Nyzul Island from FFXI's expansion: Treasures of Aht Urhgan.
For Bahamut's Labyrinth, it will be similar to The Crystal Towers in that it will be a series of raiding dungeons, but it is tiered higher, meaning it's far more difficult, and entrances to it will be spread out all-over Eorzea. Starting in one area might send you to the entrance of another, so there is some puzzle aspect to it (It's a labyrinth after all). I'm guessing this will be less-limiting in that your party members don't need a particular floor to move on to the next level. I'm almost certain there will be lore associated with BL as it is rumored, and most likely, going to lead on to the super Bahamut fight at the end of it. One of the questions raised by 1.0 players as well as incoming FFXIV players is what happened to Bahamut and Lousouix? Guess we'll find out here.
Much like the Crystal Tower, Square plans to add additional entrances and "floors" to Bahamut's Labyrinth during the game's life span. I think this is likely because the ending to the story will not be available at launch and additional content for this arc will come in as the story for A Realm Reborn comes to a close and the next expansion rolls out.
Lastly, Relic Weapons will make a return and can be obtained through their own quest line for each individual class. These weapons are some of the best, both stat wise and style wise, that you can get so every Eorzean, hardcore and casual alike, will want to acquire one. Don't worry, it's not like FFXI where the weapons took years to obtain (I think) but it's no walk in the park either. This is just additional content for you to try and make your character stronger as well as give you something else to do since most of this content is low-man raiding and/or one-time go for big raids. Also, you can only have one relic quest line up at one time so devote yourself to one weapon your sure to be proud of.
So there you have it, folks. FFXIV launch-endgame in a nutshell:
1) Tiered 8-man dungeons
2) 2 super raiding dungeons (24-man)
3) relic weapons
That's on top of the story plus being able to level every job on one character. So far, there seems to be more content than the average MMO launch and I can't wait to try it. Stay tuned for more information! A Realm Reborn launches on August 27th worldwide and is entering open beta soon. No word on the official date for OBT yet but stay tuned here if it pops up!