If you read my last article, you know I got back into FFXIV recently and noticed I had some catch-up to do when it came to my character’s item level, the thing that would allow me to play higher level dungeons, which is probably my favorite part of the game. Luckily, the catch-up wasn’t as time consuming as I feared, so I took a look around to see what else was new in the game since I was last playing regularly. I stumbled on a new “dungeon” called The Palace of the Dead.
I think I’m in love.
If you’re into MMOs at all, you know that FFXIV is probably the worst one in a decade (the original release in 2010) and also, magically, arguably the best (A Realm Reborn in 2013 and subsequent expansions). Somehow, SquareEnix took what can generously be called a complete disaster and re-imagined it into a great game, complete with lots of varied gameplay and options and an amazing story, rival to any of the more beloved Final Fantasy titles.
You want to play solo? Great, you can do that almost exclusively if you want, the story quests are genuinely awesome. Want to mostly craft? No problem. I’m also jealous, you must be rolling in gil (in-game money). You want to play dungeons and raids? Sure, just do the quests to unlock them first, but yeah, grind to your heart’s content. You don’t even need to be dependent on your friends playing, FFXIV has one of the fastest and most reliable dungeon queue systems I’ve ever seen in an MMO to find people for you to play with. You want an awesome endgame weapon but don’t like dungeons and/or depending on other people? Do the Anima weapon quests, mostly solo. Options galore.
And one of the newest (well, it came out in patch 3.3 in the Heavensward expansion, so maybe not that new) is the Palace of the Dead. You play the main quest until you complete the level 17 quest “Into a Copper Hell,” ensuring you have some idea of how the game works, how your class plays, and how dungeons work. You pick up a sidequest in Gridania called “The House that Death Built.” This leads you to a town in the Black Shroud called Quarrymill. Talk to the guy surrounded by PCs. He tells you that local law enforcement is investigating this strange labyrinth, and asks if you’d like to help.
That’s all there is to getting into grinding heaven. I imagine my compatriots in The Cartographers Guild, when they read this, will start laughing. It is no secret that I love grinding. Not Korean-level of MMO grinding, mind you, where you can put hundreds of hours into growing fruit or something. Even the Anima weapon grind in this game got to be too much for me.
I’m talking about the kind of grinding that is all about loot. Oh, yes. You can enter by yourself, with a fixed party of people you bring with you, or be queued into a matched party. So far, I’ve entered with a matched party. The Palace changes every time you go, so it’s never stale, new enemies, new layout, new treasure locations, new traps. You do ten floors at a time, nice bite sized pieces great for the mother of a toddler who might wake up from her nap any minute.
You could walk into the dungeon in your skivvies. I’ve seen people do it, no joke. It doesn’t matter what level you are, what your item level is, nothing, because you get exclusive aetherpool armor and an aetherpool weapon that you use while you’re in the Palace. It levels up when you find silver chests down there that have a chance of raising one or the other by a point.
The gold chests give the party “pomanders”, buffs helpful again, exclusively while you’re in the Palace. They can make you hit harder or take less damage. They can show you the map for that floor. They can make more treasure. They can make enemies drop more treasure. They can help you find hidden treasure . . .
Starting to see the appeal? The matched party throws in whoever is queued at the time, so you don’t have to wait for a tank or healer to queue. I’ve been down there with four healers, including myself, and we did just fine.
Eventually, by sacrificing a few aetherpool levels that you can just go earn back, you can get a very nice version of your weapon to use out of the dungeon, and then later, by sacrificing a few more, you can upgrade it, giving players yet another option for getting a high item level weapon. This gets you the exclusive title “Lightbringer”, which is how I stumbled across this in the first place, because I want that title!
And, to top off the easily accessible, bite-sized dungeon with typically very little wait time to get into, some of that hidden treasure you get is yes, totally random, but sells great on the auction hall if you don’t like or need it. There are minions (pets), cosmetic clothing you either have to craft or pay a bundle for on the auction house if you’re not a crafter, barding for your chocobo, weapons that you can normally only get fighting primals (really hard bosses), and more.
Some of the treasure is completely exclusive. There’s a mount you can only get in the Palace of the Dead. And a hairstyle. And an orchestrion roll (something that lets you play the Palace’s music on the Orchestrion in an inn room or your Free Company’s hall, if you’re part of one).
I can’t get enough of the Palace of the Dead. I don’t play game content when BabyGMR is awake that I can’t put down at a moment’s notice– so certainly no dungeons or anything where other people are dependent on me– so this has really made me look forward to her naptime lately. I’ve spent the last few baby naps intently getting through ten more levels in the Palace and loving every minute of it.
FFXIV isn’t perfect. But among the things it does well is the fact that it provides a lot of options to let you play the game the way you want to play it. It really does try to have something for everybody. I didn’t know I needed a dungeon like the Palace of the Dead. But apparently, I did! Happy grinding, everybody.