You’re a guy that loves video games because of the great and interesting stories in them. You’ve been playing this new game, on and off, for almost a year now. The story’s been gathering pace and after a few missteps and struggling through a grindy phase the story is finally building to a crescendo. You’re invested in the story and its one of the only reasons you’ve made it this far. You’ve finally reached max level. You psych yourself up to take on the last two dungeons.
Unfortunately, the game is an MMO and one of those M’s stands for Multiplayer and that means you have to rely on other people to help you clear and because you’ve taken your time playing the game at your own pace it turns out that most people have already finished the game and done those last few dungeons a hundred times. They don’t care that it’s your first time and that you are invested in the story. All they care about is getting through the dungeon as fast as possible to get the loot or tomestones (endgame currency) at the end.
The first level 50 dungeon is Castrum Meridianum and is for 8 players. It contains many story cutscenes which you can see in the video below which was recorded when I ran the dungeon solo last year.
Before I recorded this I had never watched the scenes in full because the XIV community encourages you to skip them when you run the dungeon in order to save time. They rightly point out that the scenes can be viewed elsewhere at any time however in that medium they are viewed without context, without build up and drama. In my opinion viewing the final scenes in this manner is a disservice to all that has gone before, to the hours, days, weeks and months you’ve spent getting to this point. It’s speed reading the cliff notes of Shakespeare.
The developers of XIV have finally in recent patches tried to fix this problem. Given that the game is about 5 years old at this point they are rather shutting the barn door after the horse has already bolted but the effort is appreciated all the same. Their solution has been to force users to view cutscenes and disable the story skip button. Its an inelegant solution and despite offering large rewards for completing the dungeons it has meant that nobody actually runs the dungeons any more. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do wish they’d come up with this 4 years ago when it would have been of benefit to me.
My first time through Castrum Meridianum can best be described as unique. It’s a relatively open plan dungeon which requires you to know where you are going and what you are doing. I didn’t and so I was carried. I didn’t watch many of the cutscenes because I was unprepared for the way my party would act, charging into battle whilst I was stood motionless watching the first cut scene, a message displaying that I would be locked out of battle if i didn’t exit the scene.
I may as well have stayed watching the scenes because I was useless and superfluous in battle. Moving through the dungeon there are sets of turrets which I had no idea how to use and the strategy at the time involved drawing enemies to these turrets in order to kill them. I was just running all over the place like a headless chicken either ahead or behind but never on the same page as my party mates. Somehow we completed the duty no thanks to me.
The next and final dungeon of 2.0 was The Praetorium. Again a video of a recent solo run is included below.
Following Castrum I was pretty annoyed that I had been forced to skip the cutscenes and resolved that I would just watch the scenes this time and if the group wiped it was their own fault for not waiting for me.
As it turned out I didn’t even get to the first cutscene before I got left behind. The way the dungeon is laid out is in small sections which make it easy for speed running party’s to avoid the majority of enemies along your run. The first such section requires you to simply run from the start point and hit a switch to move on with any enemies engaged being left behind after the switch. This is very simple to accomplish if you are aware of what the strategy is. However on my first occasion I of course did not know this. I engaged the first group of enemies as I would any other dungeon and watched as all my party mates disappeared as they hit the switch. All the enemies focused on me and killed me and I had to go to the start and do it all over again. My party didn’t wait for me and proceeded on.
It was whilst I was attempting this first group of enemies a second time that my party, by now a distance ahead, triggered the first story scene which precedes the first boss battle. I stood and watched this in full. By the time the scene had finished my party had already killed the first boss and had moved on. I attempted to catch up but was unable to do so before the next set of story scenes which I again watched. By the time I had finished this scene another had been triggered and another and another. By this time even if I wanted to I would not be able to catch up and I started getting messages from a future boss battle playing whilst I was watching an earlier scene. It was all a bit confusing.
Nevertheless my party managed to finish the dungeon without me having to do anything but watch the cutscenes. Some might enjoy being carried through content in this manner but I felt cheated. Cheated out of my first time experience of this dungeon which I would never get again, of my first time clear of the game. As I mentioned above the only time I’ve managed to complete the dungeon properly is a solo run nearly four years later with vastly overlevelled equipment.