Wisdom of Nym: Preparing for Final Fantasy XIV's patch 3.5
So perhaps you can look at the timing of this patch intentionally. It can be a weaker patch and no one is paying attention. If "weaker patch" meant much for FFXIV, anyhow.
At this point we don't have the patch notes, but we do have the trailer, and that means we have some idea of what we're going to be dealing with once the patch goes live. So let's talk a bit about that before we're analyzing raw gameplay, because I feel like it deserves more space in the sun than it has had.
Oh, right, the Empire
The fact that we're seeing the Eorzean Alliance attack Baelsar's Wall (from the look of the trailers) sends an interesting message. One can conclude that either Eorzea needs to attack... or that Eorzea thinks it's strong enough to win now. Neither one is a good position to be in.
While I haven't been in love with the Warring Triad story up to this point, one of the things that it's done very well is serve as a reminder that our victories over the Empire have thus far amounted to little more than defensive wins. The death of Gaius van Baelsar did not buy victory; it bought a temporary reprieve due to the fact that Gaius in particular was obsessed with taking the rest of Eorzea. Regula van Hydrus has done an excellent job of showing how little the Empire as a whole cares about us. We're not off of the list, we've just moved lower on the priority list, and this is what we're dealing with while low on the list.
Obviously, this will not last over the long term, especially not if Nero tol Scaeva is resurrecting Omega, which is also rather strongly implied. And it's all too easy to imagine that the Eorzean Alliance takes this as a good opportunity to try and push against the Garleans, which would end... badly. Almost immediately.
The game has, in large part, done a good job of portraying a plausible struggle between a much larger force with much larger concerns and the patchwork nations of Eorzea, but the next expansion was never going to permit that degree of ignorance. In Eorzea, the Garleans are interlopers who are extending far beyond their normal reach. In Ala Mhigo, they have kicked back on the couch and do not want us there. Considering how bloody the little we've seen from the MSQ already looks, I wouldn't be surprised if Stormblood starts off with a pretty major tragedy or two, much like Heavensward. Sure, this time we won't be betrayed by our allies... but we will be dealing with enemies punching far above our collective weight class.
Also, based on what we've seen from the previews, I'm willing to now agree with the speculation that the mysterious Lady in Red is quite possibly Yda. I'd expect to see some sign of her in the trailer if she was a new character, but we've just got our familiar suspects in the trailer; that doesn't mean she's not, just that it seems more likely.
Dun Scaith, land of references
Look, there's no way in the world that I'm not going to be happy about a Deathgaze boss battle. That just doesn't happen. I don't care that theoretically we should all be killed instantly when fighting him due to Level 5 Death, I'm just happy that we get to face off against one of the franchise's weirder bosses in an appropriate setting. Once I saw that, my excitement for this particular capstone increased significantly.
From a narrative standpoint, it seems like the other bosses to be fought are pretty straightforward, as we've got the Queen herself along with Ferdiad and Diabolos running around. Not fighting one of those feels like a loss. It's not that the latter two voidsent have been given a great deal of characterization, of course; it's just that we've fought them before and both implied that this was a temporary setback, so a more final showdown seems narratively appropriate. Even if the odds of a Diabolos-egi are pretty low (look, it worked in Final Fantasy XI).
Of course, just because this is the last raid in the series doesn't mean that everything will be tied up in a neat little package at the end of the day. It's entirely possible that we'll find things still not wholly resolved after the fact... I can write a convincing story myself where Diabolos is destroyed and Scathach appears to be destroyed as well, but Ferdiad and a much-diminished Scatchach head off into the yonder as yet another bit of recurring antagonism. Look, we've dealt with a lot of repeated antagonists in this expansion, we need a few more running around at this point.
Really, if there's any disappointment to be found from the previews, it's in Scathach's design. I had been hoping for something suitably weird for the Shadow Queen; instead, she looks pretty much like Calcabrina +1. That's mildly disturbing, but it's still fundamentally a slender conventionally attractive woman with an eerie face. Compare that to Echidna's beautifully grotesque design and I can't help but be a touch disappointed.
More beast tribes?
If one thing alone surprised me from the trailer, it's the fact that we're getting more exploration of the beast tribe quests after having wrapped up with the various factions some time ago. I'm still not in love with what we got for tribes here; the Moogles don't really fit the narrative, and the Vanu Vanu quests abort rather suddenly. But then, perhaps that's what the "real" conclusion is meant to wrap up anyhow.
One can, of course, reliably extrapolate that this is going to be a regular thing from here on out. Obviously, we only have one new tribe coming with Stormblood, but we're not exactly hurting for extant tribes that we can still explore in more detail, with the Gigants, Goblins, and Qiqirn all being ripe for exploration in the expansion. Heck, even the Mamool Ja could work, if the developers wanted. Or another side of the Ixal; we're heading out into the right region for more Ixali, after all, and otherwise we won't have any bird-people at all.
The one downside is that we've probably already hit the cap on all of these reputations, so it lacks the allegiance that made the end of the tribes in 2.5 quite as impactful. But even that is a pretty minor thing.
Of course, next week we'll have the patch notes, which will give us more detail to pour over and hard numbers that should prove fascinating. I like doing my patch note columns. For this week, however, you'll have to just leave comments below or mail them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should probably also finish up that beast reputation if you haven't done so already. You've got a week; you'd be surprised how much progress you can make in just one week.