The second volume of Final Fantasy XIV’s Encyclopedia Eorzea was the only item I wanted to get on the floor of the fan festival a few weeks back; alas, it was sold out when I went to buy it, and thus was I forced to order it online and wait for its delivery. And then fight with UPS when their driver repeatedly failed to deliver it properly, which was less fun (those of you who follow me on Twitter got to catch that part). But now it’s here, and it’s mine, and it’s still an utterly impossible piece of work to review beyond a single fixed point.
What do I mean by that? Well, let’s put it thusly: The second volume of the Encyclopedia Eorzea contains two pages discussing verb tenses and syntax for Dragonspeak.
Volume I of the Encyclopedia Eorzea, which I was over the moon about when it came out, was both a reference book and a lore book. It added a lot of information that had not been written down beforehand in any form, but it also was recapping a lot of information covering from the 1.0 launch to most of the way through Heavensward. It laid down bits and pieces of lore that obsessive readers such as myself knew, but the average fan might not. It was trying to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
None of this made it bad, but it means that all of this is stuff the second volume doesn’t have to do. It has to recap about one expansion’s worth of story instead of nearly three. It doesn’t have to explain thirteen combat jobs, it needs to explain two and offer more insight about the others. It doesn’t need to cover all of Eorzea but can instead focus on what’s been added.
In short, it benefits from needing to fill the same amount of space with less pre-existing material. This means that a lot more of the stuff that people like me would want from the book is in here, stuff like huge sections on language or on the details behind each job’s new weapon options, even in cultures that generally don’t feature the job in question as a going concern.
And this is what makes the dang thing so hard to talk about because for some players the idea of reading two pages of small script about the backstory of Dalmasca sounds miserable. For others, it enriches the world in ways that would feel clumsy at best if they were forcibly inserted into a quest. Even more so than the first, this is the high-powered flashlight on the parts of the world that were alluded to but not explicitly stated in quests and surrounding dialogue.
This also gives us a chance to get a deeper look at things which are otherwise not totally clear. The book lays out in detail that the Raen population is not confined to Sui-no-Sato (a misconception because that’s the only Raen-only settlement in the game), the way that primogeniture works in Hingashi and Doma, and the details of the beast tribes like the Seeq and Bangaa (imports from Ivalice that are smoothly integrated into the world as a whole). It also includes several sections written from a resolutely in-world perspective, asking whether the very notion of “beast tribes” isn’t a function of Imperial propaganda.
My personal favorite section is the lengthy portion recapping every dungeon in the game and some of the more notable bosses within each. This was the sort of thing that the first book didn’t have the space for, but the second one can and must dive into. But the result is that you find out the answers to several “what the heck was that thing” questions that aren’t going to be answered otherwise. Did you wonder what the deal was with the handful of Tengu in a couple dungeons? They’re explained here. Curious about the second boss of a given dungeon? It has good odds of being in here.
Sure, it doesn’t cover everything. Each dungeon gets a page, usually covering both versions in a single breath when possible; there’s not enough space to really dissect both versions. The section on languages is also a bit shorter than I would like, since it mentions over 200 languages spoken on the Three Great Continents but only lists Eorzean, Hingan, Dravanian, and a handful of beast tongues.
Yet, again, the lack of details is just as tantalizing. If you read a lot of roleplaying books, you’re no doubt familiar with the difficulty of making something vague enough to be flexible while also detailed enough to be useful. We don’t get more than a few paragraphs on the Amalj’aa language, but we learn that it is made up purely of metaphorical concepts arranged in careful syntax, which is enough to communicate an idea for how these hulking beastmen speak among themselves. And, frankly, that idea is probably more interesting than a list of phrases would be.
Most of the flaws of the first volume come back for the second, as well. The font is still small in several places, no doubt due to the sheer amount of information to be conveyed. The table of contents is a darn sight better than it was last time, but navigation can still be a bit of a challenge (I do appreciate that it singles out the stuff that’s specifically meant as addenda to the first book). And there are some minor omissions and typos here and there, stuff that’s not horribly distracting but exists.
The number of Hamilton references remains high throughout, just in case you were worried about not getting your fair dose of Lin-Manuel Miranda fanboyism.
We’ve also got a few teases of particular interest to lore fans. I can’t help but notice that in addition to Blue Mage having its roots in the New World, the “additional reading” segment lists a (in-universe) diary of exploring the New World as something worth examining. It seems like a lot of reminders all arriving at the same time, really…
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t actually matter much how good the book is. If you were a lore fan, you wanted it, and so the real question becomes whether it justifies a second volume existing. The answer, then, is that it does so with aplomb. If you liked the first one, odds are you’ll adore the second. Personally, I like it even better than the first one, just because it has to cover more ground in ways that are of particular interest to me.
Now, it’s time to start clearing space for the third volume. I’m hoping that’s just as inevitable now.