Ah, that’s the good stuff. I’m not going to lie, I was honestly a bit concerned about this patch for Final Fantasy XIV. Not just because of my frankly absurd level of work I decided to pursue in getting all of my alts geared up before the expansion (what was I even thinking there), but because this patch had to do a lot with a little up front. It was launching without a whole lot beyond the first half of the MSQ, the new Alliance raid, and the new custom delivery client. Sure, that stuff only had to deliver for a week, but it was still a lot to ask for.
C’est la guerre
More than any other dungeon, running through the Ghimlyt Dark is running through a war zone. It’s obvious where a lot of the inspiration here came from, honestly; the trenches, the wreckage, and the omnipresent fire and smoke feel like someone saw all sorts of iconic World War I movies and decided “yeah, we can do that in FFXIV.” This would feel bad if it weren’t all, you know, really good.
I find it interesting how much of the fights are also defined by NPC companions. Basically every notable leader gets some time to show off here, including a moment for Kan-E-Senna to take charge of the situation. It keeps the dungeon fairly easy, but it also contributes to the feel that you are fighting through this battlefield with the leaders in a way that a lot of games have tried without hitting.
My first instinct was to say that the bosses feel a bit rote, but even that seems wrong. The first boss and his spinning pizza slice impacts feels genuinely new, but also easy to read in a moment; the second boss is technically just doing the Ifrit charge trick, but it feels unique in how you handle it and how you see it approaching. And the last boss is neat twist on paired bosses and has some neat overlapping AoEs to dodge.
I wish that Annia’s dashes were a bit better telegraphed on that fight, though, as I have seen people die to that sequence despite good intentions and clearly watching other indicators. It’s a neat trick but has some drawbacks.
Overall, it’s a fun instance that at least does help liven up the existing Expert rotation. Considering it’s going to be the same one for the next six months in all likelihood, that’s a nice change. (Although there’s always the possibility of another dungeon with the next half of the patch… don’t assume that expectations won’t be subverted at this point.)
Oh, that expunging light…
This last bit of the Ivalice series is really leaning on that Final Fantasy Tactics fanservice hard, isn’t it? Sure, the story around it plays a lot with Final Fantasy XII characters and concepts, but the actual raid itself basically immerses itself wholly in characters, themes, and storytelling from FFT. And it’s… generally better-tuned than its predecessors!
The first boss has a unique trick that does actually seem a little counterintuitive, but you can actually see where the mechanics and concepts end right from the first shot fired. Meanwhile, the second boss is a bit harder without being overwhelmingly so, and the third boss is a more traditional gatekeeping challenge; he’s got a pile of mechanics, but most of them are fairly easy to understand as sort of a new spin on the overall Ozma fight concept. And the last boss actually saves the phase transition elements!
None of this is to say that it was easy doing this one blind; it took an hour and a half with no foreknowledge of the raid. But it never felt like things were stonewalled or people were just constantly dying to completely obscure mechanics. The one big failing it has is a lack of any real breather periods; the two trash pulls are both fairly mechanics-intensive, and its two most intense bosses are more or less back-to-back assaults. But it feels less overtuned than Rabanastre or Ridorana felt at their launch, so I’ll count that as a win.
Meaty, meaty story bits
The fun of this update’s stories are that both the Ivalice questline and the main scenario quests give us tons of lore to chew on. For one thing, the Ivalice questline establishes without a doubt that this is a permanent and important addition to the lore of the game world. This is a bit different from the past. Where the Crystal tower series consciously expanded the existing lore in a specific direction to mirror an old game, this is more about grafting the world of Ivalice wholesale onto Hydaelyn, so it feels more like a graft instead of an organic inclusion.
However, the net result is including things that were always conceptually in play, so it doesn’t feel too jarring overall. And I would expect that what we see at the end hints at more movement in this particular storyline in the future, although I doubt it’ll be the new 24-person content. (New endgame raids? New trial series? More expansion teasing than it might seem? Lots of possibilities.)
As for the actual first half of the MSQ… well, it sure does feel like the first half, but there’s so much at play to sort out lingering fan theories or give rise to new ones that it’s hard not to be engaged. We’ve still got only the slightest hints of where we’re going next, and it feels like an open field with lots of potential developments even while “throw wide the gates” currently feels like a set of foreshadowing arc words. Expect some very literal and heretofore unexpected gates, in other words.
The same old pig and dance
The custom delivery client is where the gushing ends because it’s really just the exact same story we’ve seen several times before. In terms of custom deliveries, it’s Zhloe without the sort of awkward charm she exhibits. (Yes, she shows up at first, but we already did her story arc.) It feels like a questline that’s not expanding things so much as just repeating the same routine.
From a functional standpoint, of course, that’s fine. It’s the first time we have a delivery client who isn’t a bright-eyed young woman, so that’s different. It just feels like the same story and mechanics with a new set of items, actual cookie-cutter content compared to the panoply of new things that frequently gets accused of being such. The delivery system is light enough in impact that it doesn’t massively bother me, but it does mean that it feels like a fairly light addition.
Then again, considering the expansion’s rebuilding promise, perhaps this is meant to be a bit of a breather anyhow.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, it’s time to talk about my first impressions of Blue Mage!