Final Fantasy 14’s new Stormblood expansion contains a final boss that’s proving to be a major stumbling block for some, dividing the fanbase over whether its difficulty should be turned down.
The Royal Menagerie is one of several story trials in Stormblood, which constitutes version 4.0 of the main game. As the last one in the expansion’s new set of content, it’s a tough one. There are three phases against the boss, Shinryu; it’s set at level 70, the increased level cap introduced in Stormblood; and it requires all eight players in a group to be familiar with the various strategies required to take the boss down.
To win against the giant enemy dragon, players will have to stay stable on a floating platform, avoid waves of additional enemies, fill up a bar as quickly as possible and even work with a teammate they’ve been suddenly chained up to. It’s grueling, just as you’d expect an endgame boss to be.
But is it too hard? An outspoken group of players the game’s official forum and Reddit think so.
“I'm not saying subjectively right or wrong that The Royal Menagerie (end of SB story mode trial) should be nerfed, but objectively it screams nerf,” reads the opening post of a lengthy thread on the trial. “[Square Enix] can't have an instance at that difficulty as a part of story mode because it's going to gate people from content (same logic behind Steps of Faith). They will lose subs otherwise and it's bad for business.”
Steps of Faith, a trial from the main game, was similarly criticized for its required precision. After players cried foul, Square Enix patched the fight to reduce several enemies’ HP and damage, which made it at least a bit easier to complete.
Playing through Final Fantasy 14’s story quests isn’t required, but beating Stormblood’s final battle does unlock a new vendor who sells some powerful gear. And The Royal Menagerie is a fun fight, even according to those who’ve spent hours upon hours failing to beat it — it’s just that the reliance on teamwork and combination of mechanics can throw some people off their game.
“It gives the general impression that there is an enormous, cliff-like falloff in ability between the people that hammer into the content at the start of a patch and the people sauntering into it a couple weeks later,” a player on Reddit said of the battle. “I wouldn't want to be the developer that has to try and design content for such a wide berth.”
Players on the higher end of the scale think the difficulty is just right for a late-stage battle, though. Every thread of someone asking for a nerf or bemoaning The Royal Menagerie’s challenge is met with a vast number of contradicting replies.
“I feel like SE caves too much on lowering difficulty of fights,” another popular thread begins. “I believe they should stand firm and this fight should serve as a training system for players that want to be lazy and not do mechanics.”
The real solution might be toughing it out, according to some.
“This is purely a community issue,” a player said. “Steps of Faith was not nerfed because it was too hard, it was nerfed because half of every party would leave instantly. Many players who 'couldn't clear it' were only unable to because they couldn't find a party who'd stay, it was nothing to do with their skill level. The reason these challenging [trials] are blocks is because a significant portion of the community refuses to 'waste' their time to help others who are struggling.”
We’ve reached out to Square Enix about the trial and whether it has plans to lower the difficulty in the future. Stormblood’s available now on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
Update: Square Enix commented on the mixed feedback around The Royal Menagerie in a statement to Polygon.
“As with all of our content, we consistently monitor feedback from the Final Fantasy 14 community and report this information to our internal teams,” a representative said. “Currently, we cannot definitively say if any difficulty adjustments will be made to this particular battle due to the mixed reactions from the community, but it is a situation we will continue to monitor in the coming weeks.”