Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
Developer: Square Enix
I’ve never taken games very seriously. I’m not competitive, I don’t have a min/max, and I steer clear of anything to do with ranking my skill. At least, until I tried my first savage attack in Final Fantasy 14.
I’ve been playing the MMO off and on since 2014, but I’d always be comfortable stopping before it got too hard. That said, I have vague memories of queuing up for Leviathan Extreme in god damn it service seeker back in A Realm Reborn – an attempt that took 90 minutes to line up and then another 90 minutes to complete. I was then clueless about “high-end” content, blinded by my desire for a fiery blue horse. I would never look for the best gear and never stray too far from my comfortable, casual path.
Then came Runner. Things were different. I wasn’t the only remaining member of a dead guild once occupied by my old colleagues. I was on a new server, with a new guild actually playing the game. We traveled through the story of the expansion together and finished it in just over a week. Then came the question, “When do we do the extreme trials?” Again, my only experience with this was a single run motivated by a horse.
I cautiously agreed. We started with the second extreme trial, spending our Christmas week together cleaning up. I wasn’t very good. My fear of healing beyond loose content made me switch from my white magician to dancer. I didn’t have my rotation down, mindlessly smacking the lit button, but I realized I wasn’t that bad at memorizing boss patterns. It was actually pretty damn exciting.
January 2022 came and with it fierce raids. Harder versions of normal story-based raids, and the second most difficult in the game after the ultimate raids. This time I was prepared. I had spent time brushing up on my rotation, practicing hitting dummies, and lurking in Discord server The Balance. I meticulously researched mechanics, bought raid food and potions, and got ready to take on the hardest thing I’d ever attempted in FF14.
I spent over a week dying to mechanics over and over, trying to figure out who went wrong and where. Holding my rotation and figuring out when to help the healers with mitigations. Adjusting to all the different strangers we’ve met in party finder, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and beliefs about how things should be done. One party went better than the other, of course. We got enraged several times – an invisible 10 minute timer that wipes the party out when it runs out – and it was disheartening to die with the boss with less than 1% HP.
But then we did it. We fucking did it! The screen faded to black and a cutscene of the boss being felled played. It’s exactly the same as the one that plays before the normal version, but it was so much more fun to watch this time around. I never considered myself capable enough to play “hard” versions of the games I love, and yet here I was. The process of learning, improving and finally beating the boss was a surprisingly addictive journey. Watching both myself and my friends progress, encouraging each other and comforting each other through fatal mistakes brought us all closer together.
I still need to clear a ferocious level. The time commitment turned out to be too much, and the burnout of the party seeker is real. But nothing beats the satisfaction I felt in cleaning up that first savage heist. Realizing that yes, I was actually good enough. Victory tasted sweet, but a newfound belief in myself was a lot sweeter.