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 min/max, and I steer well clear of anything that involves ranking my skill. At least, until I tried my first savage raid in Final Fantasy 14.
I've played the MMO on and off since 2014, but I would always comfortably stop right before things got too difficult. Saying that, I do have vague recollections of queueing for Leviathan Extreme in goddamn duty finder back in A Realm Reborn—an endeavour that took 90 minutes to queue for and then a further 90 minutes to complete. I had no concept of "high-end" content back then, blinded by my desire for a fiery blue horse mount. I would never grind for the best gear, and never stray too far from my comfortable, casual path.
Then came Endwalker. Things were different. I wasn't the sole remaining member of a dead guild once occupied by my old work colleagues. I was on a new server, with a new guild that actually played the game. We journeyed through the expansion's story together, wrapping up in a little over a week. Then came the question: "When are we doing the extreme trials?" Again, my only experience of these was a single run motivated by a horse.
Tentatively, I agreed. We began with the second extreme trial, spending our Christmas week together clearing. I wasn't very good. My fear of healing outside of casual content had me switch from my white mage main to dancer. I didn't have my rotation down, mindlessly smacking whichever button was lit up, but I realised I wasn't too bad at memorising boss patterns. It was actually pretty damn thrilling.
January 2022 came and with it savage raids. Harder versions of normal story-based raids, and the second-hardest thing in the game after ultimate raids. This time, I was prepared. I'd spent time brushing up on my rotation, practising on striking dummies and lurking in Discord server The Balance. I meticulously researched mechanics, bought raid food and potions, and got ready to tackle 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 was going wrong and where. Nailing my rotation and figuring out when to help the healers with mitigations. Adjusting to all the different strangers who we met in party finder, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs on how things should be done. Some parties went better than others, of course. We hit enrage numerous times—an invisible 10-minute timer that wipes the party when it runs out—and it was disheartening to die with the boss at less than 1% HP.
But then we did it. We frickin' 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 for the normal version, but seeing it this time around was so much sweeter. I've 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 eventually defeating the boss was a surprisingly addictive journey. Seeing both myself and my friends progress, cheering each other on and consoling each other through fatal mistakes brought us all closer.
I'm still yet to clear a savage tier. The time commitment proved too much, and party finder burnout is real as hell. But nothing will beat the satisfaction I felt at clearing that first savage raid. Realising that yeah, I was actually good enough. Victory tasted sweet, but a newfound belief in myself was a whole lot sweeter.