We aren’t likely to see any new tribes until the next expansion, but that doesn’t mean now is a bad time to talk about the various tribes and which ones are really cool, and which ones are… not. Thus, we start our ranking at the bottom and work our way up. So let’s kick things off with the worst tribe that’s currently in the game, but you’ll have to click past to see what it is. Go on, take a guess.
Any time I do rankings like this I start by sorting a list freshly, because there’s no assurance that my feelings might not have changed since the last time I considered stuff. But there was no real doubt in my mind that the Lupin would wind up at the bottom, and for one simple reason – there’s basically nothing written about them whatsoever in a place where we really ought to know something about them.
Like, the fact that there’s an entire beast tribe forging an identity as “servants of Doma” is incredibly interesting at face value. But the story drops this on us and then does nothing with it. The closest thing we have to a storyline around the Lupin is just a questline focused around how they’re usually strong and they can smell stuff really good. There’s no sense of an overall character or presence; you could remove them from the game entirely without any damage to the story. The one reason I had hoped for Lupin instead of Namazu quests is to make them worth caring about.
Alas, Lupin remain… well, what they are. Which isn’t much.
You might think that this is because of the Sylph having a much more cutesy-boop design than the other tribes, but you’d be wrong. That’s one of the things I like the most about the Sylphs, because not every tribe should be a withered pile of scales and feathers and claws. Sylphs feel appropriately alien, and that’s one of the things I just finished expressing affection for.
No, my issue with the Sylphs is essentially that they offer nothing to Gridania’s story in terms of conflict and feel like the most unambiguously friendly beast tribe, which is quite frankly boring. For all of their promise, Sylphs feel like the least alien tribe, just friendly forest sprites that the story has to contort in order to make into a threat. Yawn.
Honestly, this tribe might be getting a bit higher on my list just because of my affection for FFXI and Aht Urhgan in general, becaus FFXIV does not do much of anything with the Qiqirn. They’re there, they’re rats scurrying around, and they basically just seem content to let these be straight expies from FFXI. It’s hard to develop many positive feelings about them as a result, because nothing is done with them. Again, much like the Lupin, it feels like they’re ultimately superfluous.
While most of my evaluations up to now have been on the negative side, the Ixal are where I start genuinely liking the tribes, even though they still get ranked on the bottom. At their core, the Ixal are fun to consider, jealous birds who miss the sky and consider themselves undisputed masters of all they survey.
What puts them at the bottom? Well, for one thing, the Ixal suffer a bit from having an unclear reason for being at odds with Gridania. The core of the issue is that they come down to raid Gridania incessantly, but the conflict would end if they stopped, and there’s no real reason to perpetuate it beyond animosity. They lack, say, the imperious detachment of the Yagudo from FFXI.
And that’s what ultimately hurts them. The Yagudo are such marvelously weird opponents that any bird tribe is going to get compared to them, and the Ixal don’t stack up well in that comparison. That’s just the way it is. It’s a little unfair to a different tribe, but it’s impossible not to feel that the comparison is there to be made.
11. Vanu Vanu
Yes, that same comparison comes up when we deal with the Vanu Vanu. The difference here is that the Vanu Vanu are presented with a different sort of conflict which makes them feel more distinct. Rather than being in conflict with a nation as a whole, the Vanu Vanu are opposed to one another, and Ishgard is just wandering into the middle without knowing how to sort that out. So the whole thing feels distinct, and also serves as an apt metaphor for the expansion as a whole.
Unfortunately for the tribe, while there’s a unique conflict there, the whole thing never graduates to being terribly interesting beyond that fact. I never felt I was particularly hooked in with the Vanu Vanu stories, and the beast tribe quests didn’t seem sure if these were supposed to be silly or serious with the cultural dance-fighting.
It makes me a bit sad that we’ve had two separate bird beast tribes, and neither one of them really stacks up to one of FFXI’s better tribes. Next expansion, perhaps.
One thing that’s always bugged me about the Amalj’aa design is that it’s really unclear what animal they’re supposed to be based on beyond “desert lizards in general.” Perhaps that shouldn’t bother me, but it does. But then, that’s always one of the problems of the Amalj’aa; there’s just not a whole lot to hook into with them, a sense that they’re a vague threat to travelers and anyone passing through without really understanding.
For example, the implication is that all of the Amalj’aa serving Ifrit are tempered, but there’s no real sense of how the Brotherhood of Ash avoided that fate or what the Amalj’aa would act like without Ifrit around. There’s a gap there, like the cultural divide exists mostly to justify having quests for this otherwise hostile group. And while there are neat implications there like the idea that Amalj’aa is as much a cultural designation as a racial one, it never materializes into much.
So why do they wind up outranking other tribes? Well, they are pretty cool once you ignore the stuff swirling around them. More than any other group mentioned thus far, you understand exactly why the Amalj’aa are doing what they’re doing, and you have a sense of long-term goals and motivations. That’s worth some points.
Of course, there are several more tribes beyond those, but there’s only so much time in a given week to cover these things and we’ve got fifteen tribes to cover in total. Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; next time, we’ll keep rolling on with the ninth-place entry.