We all like to stop and smell the roses. And then we like to pluck those roses, bring them home, and melt them into component enzymes that will allow us access to a temporary attack power buff. Final Fantasy XIV is beautiful, sure, but you need that attack power bonus.
If it isn’t obvious, this week’s stop on my whirlwind beta tour is the fine art of grabbing items from the landscape and turning them into crafting fodder. Final Fantasy XIV had quite an interesting gathering system at launch, but it also had some pretty serious problems, and so the relaunch had to completely revamp the system while retaining the soul of the original version. No pressure.
Not a whole lot changed in terms of gathering between my time in San Francisco and my time in the beta, but I did have a great deal more time to try out the gathering system. So let’s take a walk on the self-sufficient side.
Since phases 1 and 2 were limited to Gridania, the only gathering class available was Botanist. This worked out just fine for me, as I had invested a lot of time in Botanist in 1.0 and was eager for another relaxing trip down botany lane. Especially if it would be slightly better than the experience had been in 1.0 because that was something of a mess.
I loved gathering in 1.0, more than I have in any other game, but it had two core problems. The first was that gatherers just didn’t have as many abilities as crafters or battle classes, meaning that you wound up more or less doing the exact same thing and didn’t get to port over tricks from one class to another. Gathering was also kind of strange in its implementation, with your timing on a hot-and-cold game determining how successful you were, plus a lot of hidden variables.
The 2.0 version starts by doing away with most of the minigame. Gone is selecting a place to begin harvesting followed by chasing a dancing bobber; you select your gathering location and immediately get a list with a variety of different items on it. The first time you go to harvest from a given grade of tree or shrubbery, the list will be filled with several unknown items, but the same location on a list for the same grade will always contain the same thing. You select the item you want to harvest and you click it, and you try to gather. There’s a percentage chance listed right by the item, so you know what your odds are right away.
Gather successfully and you get the item and some experience. Gather successfully multiple times in a row and you get chain bonuses, meaning more experience from each harvest and the chance to activate several of your gathering abilities. The abilities do mostly what you’d expect, with your first one increasing the odds of a successful harvest past the usual cap. (Normally even the easiest items have an 80% gather chance. You can get up to 95% with abilities.)
This all sounds pretty tedious, but it isn’t for a couple reasons. The first is that this succeeds at the core design goal, letting you have control over your gathering but not devolving into a timing-based minigame. If all you need is one specific sort of item, like logs, you can just focus on cutting down logs.
Second, there’s more strategy involved than is evident at first glance. Let’s say you’re trying to chop down some logs, but you have only a 70% chance of harvesting one on each attempt. You could just try for a log repeatedly and hope you get lucky. Or you could harvest something easier until you can trigger your first ability, then try to harvest as many logs as possible with the remaining time. This only gets more pronounced as you start picking up more abilities and try to build higher and higher chains — or rely on simpler skills that can be used with shorter and more manageable chains.
Akin to the hunting log for battle classes, a gathering log for gathering classes points you to the right area and grade for any given resource you have successfully gathered. It also allows you to track how many things you have left to find in a given tier, and much like the hunting log it gives you an extra little shot of experience.
Gathering levequests also return, and they’re largely the same with one major difference. In 1.0, several gathering leves just required you to go survey several points and would end with your harvesting a lot of items for your own use. In other words, you got all of the experience for a leve and all of the items of just going out and farming. This has been changed; levequest nodes now spawn only for leves and contain only items related to the leve. It’s a bit saddening, but the old way was ripe for abuse.
The real weakness that gathering classes still have is that there’s not much else to do. There are class quests for Botanists just as there are class quests for every other class, but otherwise it’s levequests, gathering logs, and grabbing stuff for your crafting classes. Even the class quests themselves don’t feel terribly imaginative, mostly asking you to gather a bunch of Resource X for some random guy. I suppose there are limits to what you can do with the medium.