Final Fantasy XIV finally launched a dungeon system I was very excited about, so when my friends invited me to partake in it with them I jumped on the chance. The new dungeon was called “The Palace of the Dead”. What made it unique compared to any other dungeon was that it had you progress through randomly generated mazes, and it was divided into floors. Each time you completed one, you progressed to the next floor. To go along with this, it also assigned you back to level 1 and had you level up within the maze. It also replaced your gear and you would improve that while in the dungeon itself.
Upon logging back into the game I had to complete a very short quest that just consisted of “talk to this person, then this person, and then you’re good”. We then all met up in town and prepared for our journey.
They had done this before, but for me it was my first time. A new window displayed prominently on the left hand side of my screen in a retro format. I enjoyed the little sprite that represented my Paladin class. I also noted fields for a weapon and armor. My sword and shield were not representing by a blue glow, as were my comrades weapons. I was a bit disappointed with this. I was expecting to enter Terminator style, coming through a worm-hole in nothing but my undies and having to acquire gear from within. This was not the case as the armor you had on remains on display. As you open chests they simply have a chance to increase the level of your weapon or armor, but aside from that don’t seem to do anything significant. There are apparently rewards for hitting +30/+30 and higher tiers, but I was far from that.
The floors themselves were a bit of a yawn to be honest. The early ones are quite small, and the enemies are your standard fair. I’m not sure if it was me tired of the playstyle or the dungeon itself. FFXIV does have a slightly slower than normal combat style. The cooldowns are just fractions of a second longer than most other MMOs, which gives it a monotonous feel after only a short while. I was expecting to have to scavenge for gear, evaluate upgrades, and ration potions. Instead, we were able to steamroll the first set of floors (they are cut up into section of 10) within 20 minutes. It was in a maze format, and you had to first activate a totem like device before going back to the teleportation, but again I was expecting something a bit more significant here. It was arranged in blocks, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as they are interesting. Cruma Tower from Lineage 2 was largely based around a grid, but it was grand and large and each floor felt like an adventure. Palace of the Dead just set you on a race to get through it, as spurred on by the 60 minute time limit.
On the 10th floor of each tier (floor 10, 20, 30 are the 3 stages we completed) there was a boss. Wonderfully animated and interesting, bosses are a fun aspect of FFXIV. These also were just the lower level bosses, so I won’t be too critical here. There also seems to be a little story with the Palace of the Dead, as each time you enter, and then finish a section, there appears to be a witch like character watching you.
All in all, I was disappointed… It was not the experience I was expecting. Perhaps I misunderstood the articles describing the upcoming system. Or maybe my expectations were just too high. I was looking for a fun and unique dungeon, and what was delivered was the same old “run through as quickly as possible and bash the boss” formula. Bummer.