Turn 9 down last night. Finally.
We’ve been dedicatedly plugging away at that fight for a long time. Months, since before I moved to Seattle. Having beaten it, finally, I feel like it’s something I can unpack in my mind. If you’re in my raid, or otherwise looking for an exciting victory post, it’s probably best to stop here. I’m about to not be terribly positive for a while.
It is almost, ALMOST, an exquisitely designed fight. It’s worth noting that it’s a single phase that has given us such trouble for so long– we started regularly getting to the final phase of the fight– which lasts from 46% until the boss is dead– about six months ago, and it was a wall. Prior to that, we could make appreciable if slow progress, and then we reached that final phase and it all fell apart. It’s a high technically demanding section of the fight, and messages appallingly poorly as well. There are raid-wiping mechanics that require you to see a tiny debuff icon within a second or two, targeting a random character, as well as critical mechanics whose only indication is a thin beam of light connecting to a single random character amid a slew of spell effects… at a point at which everyone in the group needs to be stacked up together. In addition to these “die randomly” mechanics, there’s also an abusive amount of damage going into the tank, particle effects amid the mess that require you to react instantly and run to one of two points on the edge of the circular arena (that lacks landmarks to orient yourself), randomly targeted area effects that can kill easily, and the need for the entire group to move together and separate at important moments, and know exactly when these moments are as they change second-to-second.
That’s one phase. It takes ten minutes, by itself, to describe, and it comes after four or so other phases, each with their own unique mechanics. There is zero room for error– if you’re standing slightly wrong or don’t react fast enough, either you die, the group dies, or both. We were doing this while heavily overgeared and with a not-insignificant buff– 20% to everything to help us along, and that’s what we’ve been working with for six months. It’s beatable, but requires the kind of technical precision that demands, essentially, rote memorization: just do the fight over and over, frequently enough to sear it into your memory. We raid one night a week, not enough to keep that flame kindled.
As a point of comparison, we cleared every other piece of content we had access to. Extreme primals, other portions of that dungeon, all got smashed before us in (usually) record time. Turn 9 was a wall, thanks to a particular design choice that required a very particular sort of group.
We went back into Turn 9 tonight with a single, slight difference: we were almost all level 60, not level 50, with the full array of expansion abilities at our disposal against a boss tuned for people ten levels lower. It still killed us twice, more a testament to the gentle gear curve of FFXIV than anything else, but still notable. We did down it on the third try, turning our superior power to this boss that’s haunted us for more than half a year. Dropping the boss lacked the usual elation we have on a new boss kill– this one lasted too long and was too personal.
As a game designer and raid leader, it’s something I paid really close attention to. No one objected to us turning on “overpowered mode”; there was no voice of dissension saying “hey, maybe let’s try this the proper way instead of just powering through it”, but when the boss died, there was no cheer of victory. We all, I suspect, just wanted to be done with it, to see something new instead of the same boss and the same arena that we’ve been staring at for months on end. It made for a victory that rung hollow, but it largely didn’t matter– the vibe was that people just wanted OUT. I’m in the same boat; I have been tired of that same boss for months, and the excitement of potentially winning had long given way for me to a desperate hope that we’d win THIS TIME, just so I wouldn’t have to dance this same dance yet again.
I worry that robbing ourselves of a proper victory will hurt the raid’s morale, but I’ve been worried about this boss destroying our raid for months now. It’s the dark side of the high points of raiding. For every glorious victory and sweet celebration, there’s a chance that the next boss will be the one that you stare at for months, unable to beat and unable to progress past, leaving you no choice but to either give up on moving forward or slam your face against until something changes.
Right now, though, I don’t secretly dread Monday Night Raids anymore, and I’m genuinely excited that we can do some new, interesting content. It’ll be hard, and probably kill us repeatedly, but it won’t be Turn 9.