I mentioned a few days ago that I follow the same somewhat ridiculous process every time there’s a new Final Fantasy XIV patch. Every morning I clear as much as possible while stressing over whether or not I can possibly get everything done, and by the evening I’ve done nearly all of it. There’s still stuff from patch 4.4 I haven’t quite gotten through, to be fair, but I cleared Omega, finished the MSQ, cleared both dungeons, started in on the Doman reconstruction… most of what I was going to do was done on the patch day itself.
New dungeons mean new mechanics, hooray!
As much as I love FFXIV dungeons in general, they have had a bit of an issue for a while wherein it felt like most of the mechanics were… routine. If you’ve been playing the game for a while, you were familiar with allof the basic permutations on the dungeon mechanics. So part of what made me happy with this batch of dungeons was the fact that they contain, to my satisfaction, tricks I have not seen in the game in terms of mechanics before. Or, at the very least, not common mechanics.
The second and third bosses in the arboretum, for example, use some different tricks, and making sure you’re standing over the grates sometimes and watching the floor actually gives the fight a unique feel on the final fight. Or pacing out knockback mechanics, something that fundamentally gets used in the second bosses of both new dungeons. They’re intuitive enough that it never feels frustrating, but also novel.
On the other hand, I feel like the Mist Dragon is a little bit overtuned at the moment. It’s not an impossible fight, but either due to inexperience or undergeared healers, it seems very easy for things to go wrong and turn dicey in ways that seem unusually harsh for a normal dungeon. And the speed on that charge is indeed brutal and a great way to lose a fight you were pretty certain you had won, to boot.
Ultimately, though, I like the fact that both of the dungeons are doing something new with their boss fights, and that covers a multitude of sins. They’re not perfect, but they feel fresh, and since we haven’t been in them for several months now that just helps keep people attentive. There also aren’t any egregious points of irritation that I’ve seen yet, stuff that you just know people are going to be screwing up on a regular basis. Although knocking the mud pie around seems like a prime candidate.
The end of the Omega line was always going to be an interesting experience from a narrative standpoint. Since the first two were leaning so heavily on nostalgia, it seemed like a given that the third was going to have to seek out new ground… but it also needed to keep some ties to series nostalgia, or it would feel like a hard swerve. And it also needed to feel like a satisfying conclusion and explanation for Omega, the closest the game has had yet to a wholly unrepentant antagonist.
In terms of story? I’m mostly sad that we didn’t get an explicit reference to Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains, since that felt like a pretty huge influence on what we ultimately were told. But the sentiment was there, and it also wound up being a wonderful slice of nostalgia for people with fond memories of Chocobo Dungeon 2. So I’m satisfied with it, even though that last bit doesn’t overlap with my personal nostalgia.
As for the actual bosses, I’m impressed that the designers managed to make Chaos feel like a unique fight while not inventing abilities for him wholesale. The second fight is a bit less great, though, relying rather heavily on some odd tells and feeling like something that will be easy to screw up almost unintentionally. I do appreciate the time and space given to our antagonist, and while the last boss feels a little bit like a cheat, it’s also novel in terms of execution and mechanics.
The last boss also has some implications for the larger game based on rumors and supposed leaks, but I’m not getting into those this week. You’ll have to wait a little longer on those.
Ultimately, it was a good, fun conclusion, and it managed to avoid most of the pitfalls of Alexander’s conclusion. So good on the development team for giving us a solid wrapup to one of the expansion’s big narrative arcs; I’m curious about who we’ll see next in the agenda.
Oh, right, the main story
Yes, here is where more spoilers live. If you haven’t yet finished the main questline, I suggest you do so sooner rather than later.
In part, this installment of the MSQ felt like something from the original re-release in the worst way. Yes, all of the characters were more defined, but an awful lot of time was spent on a side-trip to the Azim Steppe that, from a narrative standpoint, accomplished almost nothing. It didn’t teach us anything new about the characters involved, it didn’t introduce any real complications, it didn’t do anything. I like Sadu and Magnai, there’s a few great lines in there, but all of the stuff on display is stuff we already know about.
That’s not to say I’m not fond of this portion of the story; it has a certain energy to it that the last two patches largely lacked, which I appreciate. While previous patches felt like extended wrapups we didn’t precisely need, this feels like things are back in motion, like an author’s moment of saying goodbye to the localized B-plot. But it suffers from having chunks of the patch story being stuff we didn’t need to see or act through, things that narratively serve no particular function.
And then we get to the conclusion, and things pitch into high gear again.We're sticking all of this behind a spoiler tag, just in case. Click to show it all!
More interesting to me, though, is the fate befalling the Scions. And I do not honestly think this is meant to be an attack; I think it’s a warning, and something far stranger.
It’s right after Thancred’s line that the warning starts up claiming that this way lies Calamity. And we’ve had hints of this before; the Warriors of Darkness came from a world where light overwhelmed darkness, purging life from the realm just as surely. This feels like it’s meant to be a warning, an attempt to save people… which brings to mind the idea that we’re not going to Garlemald because that’s how we bring a Calamity about.
Think about it. What if the Ascians are in a more precarious position than we think? What if the title “Shadowbringers” isn’t referring to some big bad, but to the players, making sure that well-intentioned light doesn’t scourge the world clean of life? We’ve heard of that happening once before, but it’s entirely possible that we may have to make a hard swerve not to avoid defeat, but to avoid a fatal victory.
It’s something to consider and worth chewing on. Pity that it involves a chunk of wasted time first.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to talk a little bit about datamining, leaks, what we know, and what we don’t know yet no matter how much people might want it to be so.