Final Fantasy XIV Lets You Run Dungeons With NPC Heroes Now, And It's So Much Better Than Real People

Running through a brand-new dungeon in an online game with random strangers is nerve-wracking. I worry I will screw up and get us all killed. I fret about doing enough damage. I get grouped with jerks who know the run by heart and expect everyone else to as well. Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers expansion Iets me run through new dungeons with non-player characters from the game’s story instead of other players, and I couldn’t be happier.

Shadowbringers is structured most Final Fantasy XIV content. The massively multiplayer game is filled with hours of questing that you can play solo leads to a group dungeon or trial, which must be completed with other players.

Once the dungeon or trial is overcome, it’s back to solo stuff. It’s a solid formula that keeps the focus on the player character as the game’s hero, joined by other players as companions in times of dire need. If one has friends in the game, these brief activities can be a lot of fun. But far more often I find myself using the duty finder, which groups random players together.

The Trust System, introduced in last week’s expansion, gives players tackling Shadowbringers’ dungeons a new option. Rather than grouping with others, players can tackle new dungeons with a group of computer-controlled story characters.

These characters, mostly heroes who’ve fought alongside the player in cutscenes since the game launched in 2013, finally take active roles as party members. As each new dungeon opens these heroes loiter outside, waiting for the player to approach them and form a party.

Young elf Alphinaud heals the party while his twin sister Alisaie helps my Dancer character do damage. Series bad-arse Thancred, recently switched to the expansion’s new Gunbreaker class, keeps monsters’ attention focused on himself as the party’s tank. Different characters become available as party members as the story progresses, each with their own role to play.

I’ve played through three of the expansion’s dungeons with my computer-controlled companions, and I’ve had a blast. Each character plays their roles perfectly. Monsters rarely take their attention away from the tank. Healers keep me alive, quickly resurrecting fallen comrades. Trash mobs—lesser-powered enemies the group encounters between boss battles—go down easy.

In boss battles the Trust System almost feels like cheating, as the computer-controlled characters know how to avoid special attacks better than real players would.

There are downsides to running dungeons with non-player characters. They don’t take the risks regular players do, taking each encounter as it comes rather than gathering multiple groups of creatures together and nuking them all at once.

That makes runs slower, which isn’t great for players concerned about keeping up their experience points per hour. If the player dies during a Trust System dungeon it’s considered a wipe, sending the whole group back to the entrance and resetting the fatal encounter.

The positives, however, greatly outweigh the negatives.

  • Story characters will make comments during dungeon runs, adding an extra layer to the game’s narrative.

  • I can stop and go to the bathroom any time I want.

  • I don’t have to shout “I’M IN A DUNGEON” when my children call for me from the other room.

  • I never have to wait in a queue. For the healers and tanks in the audience, the queue is a place damage dealers wait while a party forms.

  • Not a single story character has called me “slow and stupid” or started a vote to kick me from the group for making a mistake.

  • Trust dungeons are an excellent way to practice dungeons before playing with real people, skipping the awkward “first time here” phase.

This is the most comfortable and relaxed I’ve been playing through a massively multiplayer online game’s new content. I’m sitting at the entrance to the expansion’s fourth dungeon as I type this, and I feel no trepidation or dread. I’m excited to work my way through another group adventure with my best in-game friends.

I’ll still play with other people. My Free Company (guild) is full of very nice players who I love doing runs with when the chance arises. Weirdly, the developers at Square made the odd decision to make all of the Trust System characters de-level to 71 once the player hits the level 80 cap, forcing players to run through older dungeons with them repeatedly in order to power them back up.

There’s a chance I’ll hit 80 and decide the effort is just not worth it. But for now my computer-controlled friends and I are getting it done, one duty at a time.


    I would probably advise you to use the trust system if nothing else for some of the unique banter / dialogue

    the rest I'll put in spoiler for those who haven't finished the main story

    after you finish the main story, only Alphinaud, Alisaie, Thancred, Urianger, Y'shtola, and Ryne are available and they all start at 71. you can't do higher level dungeons if your trust party isn't appropriate level so there's a good chunk of grinding involved

    You mean to tell me that it’s an MMO in which I can experience the content at my own pace and don’t have to deal with other people who are often the most immersion-breaking part of any MMO and I don’t have to deal with other players who have done it a million times and get annoyed when I want to actually stop and listen to dialogue?

    Well, I’m sold. If I can get through the entire game without having to interact with a single other player outside of looking at them, then this might be the first MMO I ever buy - because it will allow me to strip out the multiplayer part.

    I like playing with randoms D= I have found many nice people and the nice ones outweigh the bad ones every time. As I'm new to a lot of the dungeons in Heavensward, I just let my group know. Usually they explain the Boss' mechanic for me and help me out.
    I'm not against the trust system, but I also found FF14 to be the nicest community.

    Taking the Multiplayer out of the MMO, makes sense.

      I think it just proves something that MMO designers finally seemed to understand.
      Gamers don't want to player with thousands of randoms.

      They actually want to play with a handfull of people they're friends with, or failing that, play solo.

      Basically a single player experience you can enjoy alongside your buddies. That seems to be what people actually want, if the stats are anything to go by.

        There's something to be said for playing around others without necessarily playing with others. There's still a social and conversational element there both ways.

        Yeah very true, I mean I mostly play MMO's solo such as story grinding and daily quests, but the to do dungeons with robots just seems a little abrasive. I mean I know that PUG dungeon groups more often then not always have hick ups and some kind of problems arise, but that is where chatting it out and working on those problems with other players really makes the experience. But on the other hand every now and then you will get a knob being an elitist that doesn't realise some people are new players and might not understand the mechanics of certain fights.
        Also your correct in saying if you play with a couple of mates and they aren't on being able to fall back on a AI team mates is kind of a win.
        Anyway thanks for the reply, hope you have a top day.

    I liked the Henchmen system in Guild Wars a lot because it was a great option if you wanted to just quickly run through things on your own or didn't want to wait for an entire party so it's good to see someone else implementing it. I'm getting super tempted to get back into FFXIV the more I read about the new things they've added...

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