Final Fantasy XIV - Duty Commenced

I adore Final Fantasy XIV. I love this game enough that I’ve invested almost 1,000 hours into it since July, powering through the Heavensward, Stormblood, and Shadowbringers expansions. I haven’t quite made it to Endwalker yet, but I’m getting really close.

So it’s safe to say I’m in this for the long haul. There’s just one thing holding me back: The solo duties are Terribly designed and frustrating.

In concept, solo duties are fine. They give you playable story sequences that don’t require you to queue up for a dungeon or raid, which is actually pretty nice. However, some of these duties are just nightmares, and they tend to get worse toward the end of Stormblood (a trend that continues into Shadowbringers — without spoiling anything, I’m specifically thinking of the ending of 4.1 and a particular fight about midway through the Shadowbringers expansion).

While there’s a lot of variety in earlier duties, a pattern begins to emerge once you’re deep in the expansions: You’ll have several minutes of cutscenes, followed by 15 minutes of gameplay, then two more minutes of cutscenes. After that, you’re tossed into a boss battle, where for some reason you’re given a skill that you’ve never had before, and you have to use it at the exact right time or else you fail the duty. And if you fail the duty, you’re sent back to the very beginning.

There are two things Square Enix could do to mitigate the frustration. First, there should be a checkpoint system. I don’t know why in 2021, a video game would toss a segmented gameplay section at you without giving you a single checkpoint. This is something game developers figured out like a decade ago, because forcing a player to replay massive chunks of your game feels like a punishment. People generally don’t like this.

Second, Square Enix should maybe cool it on the new mechanics. Sure, it can be fun to get to use a super powerful skill that you don’t normally have access to, but when I see that button prompt pop up in a duty, I spend the entire thing sweating bullets over whether or not I’m going to use it at the right time. More often than not, I don’t.

I know there are people out there who actually enjoy solo duties. For me, they’re the worst part of Final Fantasy XIV, and they really don’t need to be. When the rest of this game is so meticulously well designed — when the story is so well written and the music is so well composed — the flaws in the solo duties stand out so much more.

Seriously, Squenix, would it kill you to give me a checkpoint now and then?

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