Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Hands-On with the First Dungeon

6 Jun 2024
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During our time playing the preview build of Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail at the North American Media Tour, we were able to delve into one of the upcoming expansion’s dungeons. We went in several times with trusts and kept our eyes peeled for any promising changes to the formula that has become the norm for any FFXIV dungeon.

You can also find more coverage of the Dawntrail Media Tour here.

This article is based on play of an in-development build of Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail, and content in the final version is subject to change.

Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers including dungeon name, mechanics, and bosses.


Ihuykatumu

We start out the dungeon being pulled upriver on a barge by a manatee-like creature. For what reason? Who knows for now, but we seem to be either chasing down, or racing a Mamool Ja whom Alisaie names as either Zoraal Ja or Bakool Ja Ja, so it might have to do with the race that Wuk Lamat mentions at the end of Endwalker. Since our Trust companions are 91 (and we’re capped at 92), this must be the first dungeon in the series of leveling dungeons for Dawntrail, which means we likely jump right into helping out Wuk Lamat. Besides Wuk Lamat and Alisaie, Alphinaud, Krile, and Erenville join us on our barge, confirming the members that make up Team Warrior of Light, at least for now.

The initial encounters are very straight forward, creatures appear…and you murder them. However, they do cleverly introduce more monsters by way of sabotage from the other boat you’re pursuing! Further meddling breaks the harness keeping your poor sea stallion in check, and Team WoL is forced to pull over to the river’s bank while the other group zooms ahead. Then, it begins to rain.

Erenville and Alisaie stay behind to try and fix the boat, while you, Wuk Lamat as an “Intrepid” (Warrior), Krile as a Pictomancer, and Alphinaud as a Sage go on ahead to try and find an over-land route to our destination. This brings us to our first boss: Prime Punutiy (who appears to have a resemblance to the type of creature that was pulling our boat) The mechanics here aren’t hard by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a variety to them that’s a little refreshing. For example, the boss will call for back-up in the form of four other Punutiy pals, each of which will tether to a single player. Each player has to deal with the AoE that gets assigned to them, but not all of the AoEs are the same, so you need to keep an eye out to see what everyone gets. That said, if everyone just moves to a different corner, the mechanic solves itself, but the effort to make something interesting is there! The effects for certain moves the boss does also have a level of detail that we’re not used to. When Prime Punutiy does his draw in mechanic, grass, water, and even whole trees fly across the conal AoE into his mouth.

After this first boss, we head into a series of caverns that look like they’re being reinforced by giant barrels or maybe even old ship hulls. Light sifts into the darkness via openings made by small waterfalls that dot the walls of the cave, making tiny, underground oases. Someone, likely goblins if the lights attached to them are any indicator, have conveniently left ladders (like the ones from Bozja) that we use to climb our way up through the caverns.

At this point we experience even more treachery, this time from our friends that aren’t on Team WoL, and are forced to take an even longer route, which leads us through a group of interesting monsters that mimic the party members appearances before we eventually make it to the next boss. Our next boss…who is taking a nap. Krile suggests we sneak by, but Wuk Lamat doesn’t think it’ll work, and so we decide to be rude and make him up. Turns out he’s a botanist and a dancer, so he plants seeds and dances to make them grow and attack us! This is probably the most interesting mechanic here. All the ground indicators are familiar, it’s easy enough to decipher that the vines are going hit the ground in the direction the assigned arrows are pointing, but you might have to do a little visual geometry ala billiards to find the safe spaces. The boss, Drowsie (a fitting name) dances again and the vines grow and hit a second time in the same direction, but with wider lines of AoE. And they hurt. A single vine hits for half your health (if you’re not a tank), two would put you on the floor. This might be a good indicator of why we’re seeing defensive buff enhancements in this expansion.

Once we climb out of Drowsie’s Grotto, we’re above ground again, on the cliffs above our beached barge. Following the colorful, lush cliffside path past some uneventful mob encounters, we start to see creatures already dead and strewn across the pathway. Suspicious? Yes, absolutely! At the end of the avenue of death we at last reach the final boss battle, and the reason for all the dead creatures along the way (aside from, you know, the ones we killed).

I beg you, before you start this fight, and during also if you can spare a moment, look at this monster-bug’s wings. The effect applied to them to not only make them translucent, but also allows them to shimmer like actual insect wings! It’s genuinely beautiful. Super-kudos to the graphics team on this one.

Apex Predator Apollyon is a bad, bad bug. So much so, that during the course of the fight, other animals from the dungeon come to battle him alongside you. Unfortunately, they’re not as tough as we are, so a raid-wide AoE kills them. Apollyon then takes the time, mid-fight, to eat them. We’re told by a new-and-improved, center-screen, “watch out!” type message that feeding on the various beasts buffs the boss’ attacks, though we don’t ever really see the unbuffed versions. This was a fun fight, with mechanics that actually brought a level of challenge that felt appropriate for a dungeon.

Over all, the formula for your average FFXIV dungeon is very much still there. The “trash” mobs between bosses are interesting in the context of their small, story or world-related quirks only, and the bosses have a very straight-forward rotation to the series of mechanics they throw at you. That said, at least one boss mechanic per fight felt fresh, designed with the purpose of actually, maybe, being difficult for those players not paying attention, and in some cases, like Drowsie’s butt-shaking, they were just fun and amusing. Additionally, in the case of this dungeon, it seemed like each boss fight got progressively more challenging, which isn’t something that’s been so obvious for a while in dungeon content. We’d assumed that we wouldn’t see the “challenge” increases that they’ve been promising until at least 7.1, but maybe we’ll see them a bit earlier than we thought.