In the Stormblood expansion of Final Fantasy XIV, not long after entering the Ruby Sea, you glimpse a complicated Jenga-looking tower in the distance, stretching impossibly up beyond the clouds. When I saw it the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to be inside it. You don’t put a wondrous structure like that in a game unless you intend to do something with it.
I could not have been more thrilled when the contents of this tower was finally revealed. It’s back, people. The Deep Dungeon is back.
What’s the Deep Dungeon? Well, it started with Palace of the Dead back in the Heavensward expansion. I wrote a glowing article about the glories of the MMO grind-and-loot fest that was PotD a few months ago, and believe it or not, the latest installment of the Deep Dungeon that came out in the 4.35 patch of Stormblood, Heaven-on-High, is even better.
To start Heaven-on-High, you have to have completed floor 50 of the Palace of the Dead. My previous article details where and how to start. You also have to have completed the main story quest “Tide Goes in, Imperials Go Out” (which is the last story quest in the area of the Ruby Sea before you move on to a new area). Then talk to an NPC named Hamakaze in the fishing village of Isari to start the quest “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” This short quest will lead you to Onokoro, where you can thereafter weave your way through the throng of eager dungeon delvers to speak to Kyusei to enter Heaven-on-High.
So what’s so great about Heaven-on-High? First of all, it’s shorter. I only ever completed up to floor 100 of PotD (there are 200 floors), because to do the last 100 floors you need to (A), have a fixed party, meaning the same four people stay in your party as opposed to getting matched with random people in the Dungeon Finder queue, and (B), not have a complete Party KO (all players in the party defeated) from floors 51 on. In addition to all this, if you have a Party KO anywhere between floors 101-200, you have to reset your progress back to floor 51 and start again. On earlier floors, if you have a Party KO, it only costs you ten floors, because you do PotD ten floors at a time. Not so on floors 100 and above.
Most of my Free Company members (the friends I play with) weren’t actively playing FF XIV when I was in PotD, so I couldn’t easily put a fixed party together, and a hundred floors of PotD is a large time investment. From what I can tell, not only can you not have a party KO while getting to floor 200, but you have to do it all in one go. A hundred floors of careful, painstaking dungeon delving takes a while, and you want to go with people you can trust, lest you take all that time only to fail and get nothing out of it.
Heaven-on-High is only a hundred floors. You only have to do from floor 21-100 without a Party KO, and there are great rewards for doing so. In PotD, there were achievements for beating floors above 100, in groups and even solo (I cannot imagine doing all 200 floors of PotD solo, but apparently it’s possible!), and the silver- and gold-trimmed sacks held some things you couldn’t get on lower floors: weapons you can also get from primal battles, replica Allagan weapons (replica means for cosmetics only), rare dyes, the Abigail barding for your chocobo, Grade V materia, and the Night Pegasus whistle, which summons an exclusive mount. Not bad.
But not only do you unlock Gold- and Platinum-haloed Sacks in the higher levels of Heaven-on-High (which contain exclusive loot like higher levels of PotD), you gain access to even more rewards when you beat floor 100.
- You unlock five new items available to purchase at the Confederate Custodian, a furniture item and four glamour items related to an Achievement and a mount.
- You will receive a Empyrean Reliquary, which you exchange at the Custodian for those new items.
- If you clear Floor 100 four times and exchange the four Reliquaries you get for doing so for the accessories and equip them, you can talk with the Cast-off Confederate to receive a few prizes. If you have the accessories equipped, you’ll receive the Juedi Horn, which summons an exclusive mount, and the Dressed for Heaven achievement, which grants you the title “True Hero.” Apparently, if you don’t want the achievement/title, it’s possible to have just the four Reliquaries in your inventory to receive the mount when talking to the Confederate, but I honestly don’t know why you wouldn’t want them after all that hard work.
So Heaven-on-High is shorter (not easier!), and won’t be as much of a time commitment if you want to try to beat the levels above 30. If you’re a more casual player, or just want to level up your character faster– a common reason to play a Deep Dungeon– you can just do levels 21-30 repeatedly. In PotD, you could only start at floor 1 or 51. Doing floors 91-100 repeatedly would have been more productive for leveling, but you didn’t have that option. Instead, people would just run floors 1-10 as fast as humanly possible, which is all well and good for leveling, but tough on new players. What fun is trying to get the hang of a new dungeon if the other players are rushing you? It really detracted from a new player’s experience.
It’s also possible to get potsherds much faster this way in Heaven-on-High (items you exchange for more goodies), since you get them for beating floor 30. In PotD you had to beat floor 50 or 100 (so do floors 1-50 or 51-100 and then start over) or hope a bronze chest would drop a Gelmorran potsherd, which is rare. To get Heaven-on-High’s Empyrean potsherds, you can hope for one from a bronze chest or just run floors 21-30 and get one for every clear. Much faster.
Leveling your Empyrean Aetherpool Gear– the weapon and armor used exclusively in Heaven-on-High– is also much easier. As in PotD, your Empyrean gear improves by opening silver chests, which gives your weapon or armor a chance of improving. The stronger the gear gets, the smaller the chance a silver chest will improve it. This made the Aetherpool gear grind in PotD really long, because the only guaranteed way to get a point was to beat the floor 50 and floor 100 bosses . . . which meant doing 50 floors on repeat. But in Heaven-on-High, you can get guaranteed boosts beating the floor 30 boss. So again, playing floors 21-30 is the way to go. And as with PotD, you can earn the right to use your Empyrean Aetherpool weapon outside of the Deep Dungeon, though the process is slightly different. It’s a comparatively easy way to earn an iLevel 365 weapon (which is quite good).
Some of the Pomanders–items only for use in the Deep Dungeon that provide various bonuses– are different in Heaven-on-High, which I’ve really enjoyed. They took out the ones that shifted you into another being for thirty seconds and gave you a helpful ability: Lust for the Succubus, who had a stackable Vulnerability Up debuff, Rage for the Manticore, that killed enemies in one hit if they were vulnerable to knockback, and Resolution for the Kuribu, who had a ground-targeted AoE spell that dealt holy damage, stunned non-boss enemies, and disintegrated corpses, essential on certain bosses. Instead we get Concealment, which makes the party invisible to enemies and traps, Petrification, which turns all enemies on the current floor to stone for thirty seconds, resulting in a one-hit kill, and Frailty, which weakens all enemies on the current floor for two minutes.
I don’t know if the shape-changing pomanders were changed because they were too powerful or if players didn’t like being changed into a creature that only had the one ability, but regardless of the reason, I appreciate the new ones. Frailty takes the place of the Lust pomander, except instead of stacking a weakening debuff on one enemy, it affects everything on the floor, and works on the boss too, if you choose to save one for it. Petrification is like a better Rage, instead of one player that can one-hit kill for thirty seconds, someone can hit Petrification and the party can split up, taking out most if not all of the enemies on the floor. Concealment is a great emergency button if the party is weakened or just needs to get to the activated floor exit through a bunch of enemies.
In addition to all of this great stuff, we also get Magicite in Heaven-on-High! If you find some, you can call Ifrit, Titan, or Garuda to instantly wipe out everything on the level (hit a Fortune pomander first if you have one for more treasure!), and apparently in floors higher than thirty you could call Odin to do it. It also does a huge chunk of damage to a boss if you’d prefer, especially if you’ve hit a Frailty pomander to weaken it first.
Finally . . . Heaven-on-High is just prettier. PotD got gloomy after awhile, all that dark, underground dungeon delving. Lots of caves. In Heaven-on-High, you’re going up. After floor 30, I’ve seen screenshots of parties getting to the higher levels and getting in the open air as they climb the tower. The aesthetic is less dark, rough dungeon and more eastern temple, rock gardens . . . it’s really beautiful.
Even the trap that changes you into a harmless little animal for a few seconds is cuter; this time you’re a little otter with a hat and a lantern instead of a frog. And there are adorable little creatures that will give you a temporary buff if you find them and stand in their AoE.
Heaven-on-High is everything I loved about Palace of the Dead, and more. I could not be happier. I’ve earned a lot of great cosmetic stuff out of my haloed sacks already, including the absolutely adorable hairstyle, the Gyr Abanian Plait, which was my primary motivation for doing the Deep Dungeon this time around. But there’s still lots of great stuff to get, and I may even get to go to the higher, optional levels this time, which I never managed to do for PotD. It was just too difficult to get a group together for such a long dungeon. I hope I’ll see you in there, but I’ve already spent too much time away getting you hyped about it. Time to go get some awesome loot.
Picture credit: Micah in her awesome new hairstyle with Heaven-on-High in the background