Dawntrail's Dungeon Design Team Praised for Engaging Player Mechanics

Apps & Games / Dawntrail's Dungeon Design Team Praised for Engaging Player Mechanics
10 Jul 2024

Dawntrail's dungeons are all-time greats, and the only one that falls short is the introductory level 91 dungeon—which is more of an ease-in to the new design standard, anyway.

Before this expansion, FF14's bosses would often tackle players with the same set of rote telegraphs—even if you were completely unfamiliar with a fight, you could pretty much just stumble your way through by being able to recognize a stack marker. You'd forget about them the moment you left the place.

Delicious in Dungeons

Dawntrail's dungeon and trial bosses, by comparison, are immediately memorable. Every single boss comes out of the gate roaring with unique visual tells—which marry the old with the new, taking the player's understanding and throwing in something bespoke for flavor.

My favorite examples so far include a rotating conal AoE with added, electrified fences to dodge as you move, a set of spinning teacups you have to keep track of, and Takeshi's Castle. Those who have done the fight know what I'm talking about.

It helps these mechanics actually hit hard enough to kill you. Square has become far meaner with its damage numbers, though that's counter-balanced with more forgiving dungeon shortcuts—which'll spit you out right in front of the boss you messed up. This mirrors the studio's philosophy with its harder content (Extremes and Savages), where death is typically a minor inconvenience, and you can go again in moments.

Crucially, dungeon bosses also don't baby you anymore—layering their mechanics on top of each other with surprising speed.

For the unfamiliar: Final Fantasy 14 will often introduce you to mechanics in isolation first before combining them. In Endwalker, these mid-fight pseudo-tutorials were so slowly paced that the boss would only start doing interesting stuff when it was almost dead.

Not so in Dawntrail. Particularly in the level 100 "Expert" dungeons, the game's happy to let failure be your teacher instead. I have, while playing Dawntrail, said out loud: "Oh, you cheeky bastard" as my character either eats a vulnerability debuff or drops to the floor, ass-up, several times. Mischief is the word that comes to mind. The encounter design team is messing with us, and it's simply delightful.

The best thing is, these bosses aren't that much harder in the traditional sense. Once you get accustomed to their shtick, they're a slight step-up—but they straddle the line between being just difficult enough to keep your eyes open, while still being manageable for your daily roulettes.

Mischief is the word that comes to mind. The encounter design team is messing with us, and it's simply delightful.

One genius move on Square's part is how many of these bosses make use of mechanics from harder content in the game's history, but with their teeth filed down for public consumption—after all, why not? Why assume that your layman can only deal with telegraphs they've seen 100 times?

As for the more hardcore content, we'll need to wait and see. I've only beaten one out of two of Dawntrail's current Extreme trials, and while the difference is less noticeable I've still had a blast—one mechanic I adored was "Mountain Fire", a breath attack so fierce that even with a tank taking the brunt of it, flames still spread out either side of them, forcing the whole group to clump up behind them as the boss hopped around to melt us from different angles.

Despite all of my frustrations with story, I'm excited beyond belief for Dawntrail's patches. If Square Enix keeps this pace up, its dungeon bosses, Alliance Raids, and trials are going to elevate the entire expansion into a league of its own.

Update: 10 Jul 2024