AKA: 5 reasons to subscribe to Final Fantasy XIV.

Can you judge an MMO by the quality of its instances? Well, kind of. Obviously the usual MMO staples have to be taken into account, like do they have guild support? Is the world well designed and fun to explore? Is the story and lore worth sifting through? Thankfully, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn already nails these points, and with its fast-paced hotbar based combat you would hope there would be some satisfyingly fun dungeons and instances to tear your way through on your quest for rad looking loots…

…and while it’s true not all the dungeons are created equally (Dzemael Darkhold and Cutter’s Cry are simply woeful), there are some here that will likely stick in my memory for as long as I’m able to game. Here are the top 5 most awesome, inventive, fun, addictive and/or beautiful dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV.

5. The Sunken Temple of Qarn – Stone Faced

Let’s face it; the Sunken Temple of Qarn is nobody’s favourite dungeon. It’s arguably the first dungeon for new players that has a large difficulty spike with bosses that have unconventional mechanics, the amount of times you have to guide the Avoirdupois mobs onto switches to open doors borders on ludicrous, and those damn bees can go to hell if I can be perfectly honest.

As beautiful as Qarn is, you sadly spend roughly 1/3 of it underground.

As beautiful as Qarn is, you sadly spend roughly 1/3 of it underground.

So why is Qarn even on this list? Well, because it’s the dungeon I’ve undoubtedly played the most…and why is that? Because it keeps bloody showing up on my low level roulette! At the time of writing, I’ve had Qarn show up on the roulette 4 days in a row. To say I know this dungeon like the back of my hand is a criminal misrepresentation of just how familiar I am with it. Thus, it’s always quite stressful seeing that some people still don’t know how the Doom mechanic works on the first boss, and that the second boss targets random players: a fact some morons are quick to blame the tank for. Still, I must thank Sunken Temple for being a key dungeon in teaching me how to tank properly and calmly, making Warrior easily my favourite job in the game.

4. Hullbreaker Isle – Flinging Poo and Taking Names

This dungeon is as fun as it is breathtakingly gorgeous; Hullbreaker Isle is one of those dungeons that tells a story through its environment. The party makes landing on the island’s beach and is immediately ambushed by vicious wildlife. Mobs include giant birds, chimps and enough bees to ensure Nicolas Cage won’t touch this game with a barge pole. As you move into Hullbreaker’s thick jungle you’re greeted by the first boss: a sasquatch who has a love of bananas and of throwing his own poo.

Hullbreaker Isle's transition from beautiful to bleak is quite striking indeed.

Hullbreaker Isle’s transition from beautiful to bleak is quite striking indeed.

Some deep caves, a giant sea worm and a leg-breaking drop later (seriously, how the adventurers don’t make pancakes out of themselves after this jump simply baffles me) we come to the Kraken. Yes, the Kraken. Representing an early endgame challenge, the Kraken’s tentacles must be beaten to a pulp before his HP debuffs and damaging whirlpools exhaust the party. It’s an interesting fight and also very intense as you hop from platform to platform hoping the beast doesn’t target you for his whirlpool attack. As the rain pours and the ocean batters the rocks you stand on, Hullbreaker Isle is concluded in pretty epic fashion.

3. The Keeper of the Lake – Bad Dragon

One of the most recent dungeons to be released for Final Fantasy XIV, The Keeper of the Lake isn’t the prettiest dungeon, nor is it the most challenging. There aren’t a ton of mobs to deal with and it can be run in a relatively quick amount of time. The Keeper of the Lake gets the bronze medal for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a light party dungeon that feels more like a raid. Keeper of the Lake requires teamwork more so than most dungeons in the game, and while a good team is enough to get through it with relative ease, it’s definitely an instance where communication is key. For example, managing the imperial soldiers and deciding when to unleash their Magitek robots before the gunship boss fight was an extremely tense affair. Swinging the robot away from the party so his line AOE would avoid them was pretty damn satisfying, too. However, the second and most important reason Keeper of the Lake makes the list, is this…

"'ello mate."

“‘ello mate.”

…the final boss, Midgardsormr. Or rather, the aspect of the dragon that crashed into the lake along with the airship it wrapped itself around, losing its life in the process. However, Midgardsormr returns with a message for the Warrior of Light; that their plight is futile. The boss fight carries this theme remarkably; the music and the two slumbering dragons adding a sombre tone to the battle. Again, while it’s not the toughest fight, all party members must be on their toes to avoid Midgardsormr’s demanding AOEs as well as to pick up the Ahriman adds that spawn in the centre of the room. A magnificent end to a very unique dungeon.

It definitely looks better on the outside...

It definitely looks better on the outside…

2. Snowcloak – The One That Made Me Sleepy

I won’t lie, I hated Snowcloak when it was released as part of Patch 2.4: Dreams of Ice. Other members in my free company (shout-out to everyone in Touch My Kitty!) were praising it as one of the best dungeons in the game, but I personally didn’t see what all the fuss was about. On my first run, I thought the bosses were awkward, had too much health for their own good and the dungeon itself having some particularly annoying sections (especially the mob rush towards the end).

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However, I happened to get the dungeon recently on my high level roulette. As the dungeon loaded in I groaned, recalling my initial dreary impressions. But as the chillingly ambient music played and I engaged the first set of mobs, something clicked. I felt simply entranced by Snowcloak from start to finish, helped in no small part by the breathtaking background music and the minimalist yet beautiful design of the environment.

1. Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) – Save the Tonberries

The original Wanderer’s Palace is a unique and very fun dungeon to run. Between bosses the party would be chased by a giant Tonberry stalker who would hit players with a rather spicy slash attack should he catch up to you. Thus, the party (especially the tank) had to manage mobs efficiently, and even pull more than they’re necessarily used to just to save time and put distance between them and the ever looming Tonberry threat. Despite the disappointing final boss, Wanderer’s Palace remains one of my favourite dungeons in the game…

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…or it did, until Patch 2.5, Before the Fall Part 1, introduced us to Wanderer’s Palace’s younger, hardened brother. As far as I’m concerned, Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) is the best dungeon in Final Fantasy XIV. In a strange twist of fate, the cute Tonberries find themselves the victims of an ambush courtesy of the Mamool Ja. The mercenary tribe tries to enslave the Tonberries into making it a steadfast fortress, and your job is to infiltrate Wanderer’s Palace and save them. The music in this dungeon is simply epic, and continues to play right up until the final boss.

Yes, it’s a fairly linear dungeon with relatively straightforward mechanics. But the design of the environment, the music, your very objective even. It all comes together to form a truly special dungeon that I’ll always be happy to see on my Expert roulette. Oh, and the tank loot looks pretty sweet, too.