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Final Fantasy XIV’s Variant Dungeons, explained

Patch 6.25 is here, and brings with it a new type of challenge

A player’s character stands in front of the entrance to a Variant Dungeon in Final Fantasy XIV. Image: Square Enix via Polygon

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker’s patch 6.25 is here, and introduces Variant Dungeons with it. A bit similar to older duties in Final Fantasy 14, each of these dungeons tasks players with exploring mysterious paths and fighting dangerous enemies. Besides mastering a whole new system, Variant Dungeons have multiple difficulty tiers, which can challenge even the most dedicated players. Of course, you can get great gear and other items for your efforts. Here’s everything you need to know.

What are Variant Dungeons?

Light looms through the crack in a cave on a Variant Dungeon in Final Fantasy XIV. Image: Square Enix via Polygon

Variant Dungeons are duties players can run solo or in groups of up to four players. To start, you’ll need need at least one job that has reached level 90 and the minimum item level of 575. A characteristic trait of these dungeons is their branch system, which presents you with multiple routes, each one including different enemies and scenarios.

Every time you complete a different path, you’ll receive new pieces of information regarding the place’s lore. This info is registered in the Survey Record, which can be accessed on the V&C Dungeon Finder menu. Since paths change depending on the choices you make, you’ll need to run Variant Dungeons more than once and explore different choices to have a complete experience.

Another important system : Variant Actions. Whenever you’re in a run of a Variant Dungeon, you’ll have access to a set of skills meant to compensate for the lack of one or another job in the party. For example, if you’re playing as a monk, you can use the Variant Rampart — based on the Paladin’s mitigation skill — to protect yourself while tanking an enemy.

A white mage character’s menu in Final Fantasy 14 shows a list of Variant Actions. Image: Square Enix via Polygon

In case players are looking for bigger challenges, it’s not a problem. Once you complete Variant Dungeons, you’ll unlock Criterion Dungeons — basically the Hard- and Savage-level versions of the Variant Dungeon.

Criterion Dungeons come with stronger enemies and a more punitive system. In contrast with its easier version, parties can have only one tank, one healer, one melee DPS, and one physical or magical ranged DPS. Besides that, players can only be resurrected with the Variant Raise II skill.

As of the time of patch 6.25, players can only access the Sil’dihn Subterrane Variant Dungeon and the Another Sil’dihn Subterrane Criterion Dungeon.

How to unlock Variant Dungeons

On the left, a player’s charactetr approaches an NPC in a tavern in Final Fantasy XIV, while a map covers the right side of the frame. Images: Square Enix via Polygon

To unlock the Variant Dungeon system and enter the Sil’dihn Subterrane, you first have to complete the main scenario quest “Endwalker.” After that, speak with the NPC Osmon (X: 11.9; Y: 13.3) in Old Sharlayan. Only then players can accept the quest “A Key to the Past” from the NPC Shallow Moor (X: 12.0; Y: 13.3) in Old Sharlayan too.

Once you complete this quest, you can talk to Osmon in Old Sharlayan again to unlock the Criterion Dungeon “Another Sil’dihn Subterrane,” which requires a minimum Item Level of 610. Once you complete that, then you can unlock the Savage difficulty of the Another Sil’dihn Subterrane.

By running Variant and Criterion Dungeons, you’ll earn not only Allagan Tomestone of Astronomy and Causality but also Sil’dihn Potsherd and Sil’dihn Silver, which can be exchanged for items with the NPC Trisassant (X: 12.0; Y: 13.3). You can buy the Noir set as well as the Sil’dihn Throne mount with these currencies.

The Sil’dihn Subterrane’s routes, explained

A player character looks at a dark wall in a Variant Dungeon in Final Fantasy 14. Image: Square Enix via Polygon

Specifically, during Variant Dungeons, you can access new paths and new pieces of information depending on the choices you make. In the Sil’dihn Subterrane Variant Dungeon, there are a total of 12 paths that unlock the entries in the Sil’dih Survey Record.

While finding the moments where the path forked into a new course is not difficult, it’s important to keep a record of your choices during a route. Right at the beginning of the dungeon, you’ll be asked to choose from three doors. Each one opens a specific route that presents you with situations where you need to choose from one lever or another to open the way; alternatively, you may need to choose two items from a set of four. By writing down which option you picked in each situation, it’s going to be easy to open a new path the next time you run the same door.

While you wait for new dungeons to be added in future patches, you can go after your Manderville relic weapon.

Correction (Oct. 20): A previous version of this article misstated the item level you need to unlock Criterion Dungeons. We’ve updated the article to reflect.